When my partner David Wallace and I first fell in love 14 years ago, we had this wonderful phrase that we’d use when we had to deliver a piece of bad news – “Forgiveness in all things, right?” we’d say, and then launch into the tough nugget – “They were out of your favorite food, so I bought this inferior brand instead.” “I couldn’t decide which color to get, so I bought all ten.” “I know you’re trying to lose weight, but Ben and Jerry’s was on sale.” It was a powerful (and lighthearted) way for us to remind ourselves that this partnership we were building was intended to be a place of no-judgment, unconditional acceptance. And it really did help to establish that.
Fourteen years later, as with all relationships, judgment and conditional acceptance occasionally creep in to our relationship. (We’re human, after all, not puppies.) But we still trot out that phrase to deliver difficult news, and it always brings a smile to my face.
I was thinking of this yesterday as I led a Fourth Chakra workshop at Kripalu. The Heart. Anahata, in Sanskrit. The energy center connected to love and compassion, non-judgement and unconditional acceptance.
The world right now feels as if it is sorely lacking in this. With the news full of daily reminders of how low we can go as a species, it’s a challenge to cultivate a kind heart toward those who seem shamelessly devoted to greed, self-aggrandizement and the obliteration of human decency. How do I continue to cultivate a healthy and open heart in the face of cruelty?
My priest and friend Fr. Joel Warden said to me years ago when I was going through a horrific divorce, “Forgiveness doesn’t have to mean you want to have dinner with him.”
Eighteen years later, I still don’t want to have dinner with my ex. Likewise, I will probably never want to hug Donald Trump. But I also know that it would be good for the health of my own heart if I could endeavor to see those that do me harm – intentionally or unintentionally – as a little more human.
So, here’s my suggestion for mindfully observing our national holiday devoted to the celebration of gratitude, open hearts and good will. Sit down and make a list of all your resentments. The big and the small. Everything from the guy who cut you off in traffic to the head of Isis, the worst politician of the moment, and your ex. Take ten minutes and write them all down, get it all out on paper, acknowledge it all, and then do a metta meditation practice (the practice of loving kindness): Hold each one of them in your heart for a moment. See them as young and innocent children if it helps. And send them – for just a moment – a little unconditional love. At the end of this, check in with your own heart. Take some deep full breaths, feel the lungs press up against that amazing muscle of the heart, and thank IT for its willingness to expand, to open, to forgive – even just a little bit – in all things.
And then remember, “practice, not perfection.” After all, we are human, not puppies.
Have a holy holiday, friends. Happy Day of Thanks.