Kind promise: I will forgive with wild abandon

I’ve been listening to Jon Kabat-Zinn on pain. He encourages us, as we feel uncomfortable, not to run away from it. Instead, he speaks of turning toward and opening to the sensations in our bodies.

Illustration of a goatI use the phrase “internal gesture” to explain a shift in mental attention. Put your consciousness on your left foot. Think about how your foot feels. Think about your toes. Keep your attention on your foot as you take a breath. Now shift your attention to your right shoulder. How does your shoulder feel? Be aware of your shoulder joint, the way your arm hangs from your torso. Think about your muscles as they stretch across your bones. Keep your attention on your shoulder as you take a breath.

Moving your attention from your foot to your shoulder is an internal gesture. Forgiveness requires an internal gesture.

Last night, my daughter and I had a misunderstanding. This morning, I am still ruminating about it. Ruminating is the right word. It’s the word we use to describe the goat chewing its cud. It eats grass and swallows it down into one stomach but then brings it up and swallows it down again. That’s what I’ve been doing with the misunderstanding. I review the situation and think, “how can she look at things that way?” I move on to something else and then find myself remembering the situation again. I think, “how can I have been so insensitive?” So I go through my day, ruminating about those few minutes yesterday.

It was an uncomfortable situation so part of me wants to stop thinking about it. When that rumination brings it up again, I want to slap it down. Forgiveness invites that I turn toward and open to it. I’m not going to make plans about how to deal with it. I’m not going to have a big conversation with my daughter to rehash it. When it arises in my thoughts, I make an internal gesture. I remind myself of my promise to forgive with wild abandon. I forgive her. I forgive myself. I forgive the universe, the fates, God, our culture… Anybody or anything I may be tempted to blame for those uncomfortable moments last night and the rumination since.

I don’t run away from my feelings nor do I analyze or treasure them. I turn toward and open to them as they arise and dissolve. I remind myself of my intention to forgive. From forgiveness, next steps become clear. Maybe I have amends to make. Maybe I want to do things differently. Compassionate words and actions come from the spaciousness of forgiveness.