It is always fun to take different approaches, to look at things in different ways. Sometime during the past year we looked at the question of whether forgiveness is still important and we have also spent some time in the past talking about old stories. I want to revisit those themes today, but I wish to throw into the mix a couple of examples of individuals who have given absolute and full commitment to their awakening processes through addressing these two techniques.
Let’s start by taking a look again at stories. Everyone has their stories. It might be one about your upbringing and how it has affected you. It could be a tale of your unfair treatment at the hands of a friend or an employer. Maybe it is a story about who you think you are (or are not), about your strengths, or weaknesses. Your saga likely contains descriptors concerning your gender, nationality, race, age, religion, or political party or beliefs. These all might be a part of your story or, better stated, your stories. The only thing you can be absolutely certain about with your history is that it is not true. It does not represent either the truth of you or the truth of the world. These memories are all fantasies, illusions. It is not my purpose today to go into more detail about why these are illusions. If you would like to explore more about stories and dealing with them you might want to read this message.
Stories are absolutely connected with forgiveness. In your story, particularly if it is not an absolutely happy one, there are some “bad guys” and a “victim”; the latter is likely you. If you believe the story to be true, forgiveness becomes nearly impossible. You are trying to forgive something that never happened, to undo a wrong that was never committed. The forgiveness process is then primarily a task of recognizing that you are holding an untruth and letting it go. Whatever it is you incorrectly perceived as happening to you was a projection of your own guilt. The “other” has nothing to do with it. The forgiveness process has only to do with yourself, and you are innocent; there is nothing to forgive. As long as you hold on to the untruth that you did something that requires forgiveness, or had something done to you, that requires forgiveness, you will never get there. You have simply judged yourself for no reason, thinking a story was true.
What I want to do now is to provide you with a little inspiration in the form of two very different models coming from different paths who likely awakened through the process of releasing stories and through forgiveness. The first one may be familiar to some of you. His name is, or was, Bill Thetford. In his story, he was a highly educated and successful clinical psychologist and the head administrator of the hospital connected with Columbia University in New York. The reason you might be familiar with him is that he, along with his employee Helen Shucman, was responsible for the scribing of A Course in Miracles. For seven years they worked in secret with this project. The information came as an absolute surprise to them though they had asked for another way to live with the chaos of their professional world. Though the pair was fully committed to completing the transmission of the material, they were otherwise usually at each other’s throats. Bill and Helen completed the process and then drew to them those who would help edit and then release the book to the world. At this point Bill chose to retire, to leave the intellectual confines of New York where he had lived for 25 years, and to move to a more relaxed scene in California.
Bill had chosen to become a full time student of the Course, perhaps its first. At the same time, Helen said that she could not do that. Bill moved alone to Tiburon, north of San Francisco, finding himself mostly surrounded by Course students. He began to work with the forgiveness process. Bill had a lot of work to do. His life had never been spiritually focused and he had innumerable stories to clean up. After five years of fairly intensive focus, he chose to move to an even more relaxed and supportive community near San Diego. Now, nothing else mattered but letting go of all judgments, all blame. He focused on everybody from his former life. Bill was relentless in clearing the slate with all, with taking full responsibility, with forgiving himself. He made contact with some people from his past stories and apologized for his former behavior. Those who knew him during this period reported that he became more playful, happy, fun-loving and egoless. Bill completed that process and then in one moment on one day he left his body. The world perceived a physical death, but the doctors reported it as being painless and instantaneous. Bill spent ten years with this process. He pretty much started from scratch. Though he had spent ten years helping to bring the Course to the world, his work did not really start until he retired.
The second example is quite different, though he did share with Bill similar professional work being a doctor of psychiatry. Hew Len was a Hawaiian and a practitioner of an ancient island spiritual tradition called Ho’oponopono which teaches, among other things, taking personal responsibility for everything in one’s environment. Dr. Len began a job as the psychiatrist in a hospital for the criminally insane. Most of the inmates were locked up all day because of their violent tendencies. These were men who were not deemed to be sane enough to stand trial for their crimes. The staff he inherited had low morale, with many sick days being taken. On his first day Dr. Len greeted his staff, entered his office, closed his door, and did not emerge until the end of the day. He repeated this behavior daily while the staff grumbled about their lazy and incompetent new boss. But here is what went on behind closed doors. Hew’s office had a filing cabinet containing records on all the inmates. He began by pulling out the first file and reading everything concerning the man’s biography, diagnosis, and offenses. When he had a reaction to any information in a file, he took responsibility for it, realizing he could only see things that were his projection. Hew’s job was to work with his own personal forgiveness on the issue until no judgment remained for the inmate. He would proceed in this manner until he finished the file. Then he would go on to the next file and the one after that, eventually going through the entire filing cabinet. He did no one-to-one counseling. The staff meanwhile was going nuts, but here is what began to slowly transpire in the hospital. One-by-one, patients began to become less violent. Not as much medication was required. The inmates were able to spend more time out of their cells, being allowed into the common rooms. Staff morale began to rise. Workers reported greater job satisfaction. The patients began to be released, deemed to no longer be insane nor threats to society. After a couple of years the hospital was closed; there were not enough patients remaining to justify its continuance.
You may be sitting there saying to yourself, “Sure. How could that possibly happen?” This is the power of absolute forgiveness. This could come about only because in his heart of hearts, Dr. Len knew that only agape love is real and all else is illusion. He refused to entertain the falseness of his projections, choosing instead to be fully responsible for them, shedding the untruths for the underlying Divine love. His unconditional self love spread to all those in the institution, patients and staff alike. They did not even need to be in direct contact with Hew to feel his energy. It was not his job to heal his patients, but to heal himself. The most selfless thing you can do is to take care of your own process. In doing so you cannot help but to touch everyone around you.
So these are two stories. As you are choosing whether or not to make this kind of forgiveness the centerpiece of your life, I want to remind you that no story is in the now. They are all from the past, and the past isn’t real. When you hold on to a story, however that might manifest – non-forgiveness, blame, victimhood – you are living an illusion. You are not experiencing the now. Whatever happened in that story is not happening now, unless you bring it into your now. What these two individuals did was to notice when they were tracking mud on their carpet, to be aware when they were bringing in old stories and acting as if these were actually part of their now. Your job in the forgiveness process is to be absolutely present. In the now there is nothing to forgive. Even if somebody were to walk up to you and hit you in the eye – though you might have an immediate response of pain, anger, judgment, or desire for revenge – it is now, now. That event took place in the past. It has become a story. Actually it always was a story. It is all your creation. As you are able to release the story, everything surrounding it dissipates: the pain, the anger, the judgment, and the desire for revenge. It will be as if it never happened. And it never did. Don’t take my word for this. Try it out for yourself. How valuable would one punch in the eye be if it led to your awakening, if it supported you in always being in the now, in living fearlessly? What if it taught you to always take responsibility and to know that everything that happens is perfect?
All that you need to do is to start with one person and one story. Stay with that story until you have fully assumed responsibility and forgiven yourself. Stay with that person until no stories are left, until you have released them from all blame and judgment, until all projection has ended, until you accept the untruth of the story and have only gratitude for its part in your awakening. You will probably be ready to move on to another person to continue the process. Enjoy!