The message Holly shared for this particular mantra began with a brief litany of regretful, horrifying, humiliating things that she had done "under the influence." And like so many recounts of similar events that people used to confess in AA rooms (with a few tragic exceptions), these mini-scenarios had all the elements of a dark comedy. In a group setting where decorum was demanded, I would have had a tough time wiping the smile off my face. From Holly's perspective, the aftermath was excruciating. Mustering forgiveness for ourselves, letting ourselves off the hook, can be such a sticking point.
Whenever I'm leading a guided meditation and the focus moves to our heart chakra, I always offer the mantra, "I forgive everyone for everything—especially me. I claim my innocence and that of every soul." I'm sure now and then in the silence someone might be thinking, "In a pig's eye."
In her groundbreaking book The Courage to Heal, author Laura Davis made a point of saying that survivors of childhood sexual abuse don't have to forgive to heal. It's optional, and one woman's story even emphasized how her hatred and anger toward her grandfather fueled her life. And I thought, "Really? Optional for what definition of healing? Forgiveness is freedom—ours, not theirs.
I understand that forgiveness may not be the first thing that happens in a very deep and complicated healing process. But the exponential power of the ultimate F-word came through in my mid 20's in the aftermath of a home invasion and rape. Nothing brutal involved, but it doesn't have to be. I was a wreck, a walking zombie. I felt as if I had been torn from the dimension where everyone else lived and I was wandering around an empty soundless world, completely utterly alone. My only companions were a ten tons of self pity and pure hatred for that fuckhead monster. Eye for an eye, my ass. I wanted to hurt him a hundred times more than he had hurt me. The self-pity felt very familiar but the hatred was boiling me alive from the inside, like an acid drip in my soul.
It only took a couple of weeks of living in that state for my Inner Wise Self to chime in and offer some guidance on the way out. While her helpful revelations are too lengthy for a blog post, the Cliff Notes version involved coming to terms with the self-abuse that my own blind rebellion had been raining down on my head—and forgiveness. Clearly, I had to find a way to forgive—everything. The past and the fuckhead.
I remembered something I had read about forgiveness that stuck hard: You don't have to know how, you just have to be willing. I could do willing. I'm all about willing.
The breakthrough came quickly enough with a vision of this guy as a toddler, innocent with big eyes. I was a toddler too and we were both there with a bright light, a God-like being towering above us—so much Light, so much love. And I complained to high heaven about what he had done, and the Light listened compassionately and then took the little boy's hand and walked away with him. And I got the message: You are both my babies. I'll take care of this one, no more worries or nightmares. Just be at peace, little one. Everything is going to be all right.
I will say it took replaying that vision a few times over. For a while it was over and over and over but then the need for it loosened up. Before long I was back in the world again with a sense of being protected and loved and guided, not terrified or paranoid or broken. But I didn't return to the world that I had left behind. This one was expansive and bright, opening almost immediately to the joy and laughter of my new best gay friend Dwight, my trauma healing twin, my forever love, my heart's delight, my brother from another mother.
Within a few weeks two other miracle workers took center stage, my beloved spiritual teacher and an ancient, hauntingly sweet romantic love that felt for all the world like the beloved. Within a few months my entire life went nova in one gigantic starburst. I had a new job with higher-minded co-workers and more money, the cutest apartment of all time, and I was caught up in a whirlwind of new activities and goals and interests and hobbies with lively new friends.
I hesitate to tell this story because misogyny and violence against women is so rampant on our planet, so vile, so unforgivable. Any mention of experiences like this are cringe-worthy and so hard to be with on any level. And we all know that the traumatic effects from an attack can linger for a lifetime. But I do believe that very deep wounds call forth healing from that very deep place. And sometimes grace or good fortune or God knows what steps in and enables us to play the role of the mythical Phoenix bird, our broken damaged self going up in flames and a shining new body arising from those ashes.
Pain may set the stage for our transformation but forgiveness is the heart flame that burns away "what is not me" and allows us to remember who we really are. And we are, indeed, already redeemed.