Knowing how way leads on to way...
My path seems to be heading one, clear direction--toward letting go of old stories, taking each day for a new day, and the heart of both those things--forgiveness.
I don't think there's a person alive who can honestly say they have forgiven everything of everyone and have, likewise, been completely forgiven, by themselves or others.
I was brought up in a Christian household, and I was tuned in spiritually from a very young age. I can't help but to think of God, the Creator, in the best of Christian terms. I've met good Buddhists, kind-hearted atheists, devout people of all creeds (or non-creeds) but for me, the stories of the Bible, and especially, The New Testament, are personal to my own journey.
On the other hand, I'm a very independent person, and I believe God gave us a brain to use it. I decided some years ago that I was going to wipe my slate clean and start at the bare bones of belief--which is complete and utter disbelief. I got in touch with the nagging, Why don't you answer my prayers when I need you most? Why do you let us suffer? Why don't you show yourself? Why do you make this so hard--part of my thinking and decided to give it full light. I also decided that I would start to build a new foundation and that no rock or brick would be set in that foundation that wasn't something I fervently and truly believed. It had to be personal. It had to be real because everything depended on it.
As you can imagine, with that kind of thinking, I'm a very independent Christian woman. I'm also independent politically. I don't believe in becoming part of any group-think organization. I seek truth wherever I find truth. I don't live in fear of other's ideas. I love other's ideas, and I love for those ideas to challenge my own. I'd be afraid if they didn't. When everyone starts to agree, I get nervous. Working with animals has only solidified my beliefs, and I find that I feel closest to God in the barn--maybe because animals are truthful--100 percent truthful. This may sound strange to some (or not), but I value an honest atheist belief over a dishonest christian belief any day of the week.
My recent journey has brought me to the book, The Healing Code, by Alexander Loyd, PhD, ND, with Ben Johnson, MD, DO, NMD. My mom read it first, and when she was here visiting last week, she told me about it and then ordered it for me. I was surprised at how much of it had to do with what I was reading about horses. In fact, the authors said it has even helped some people work with animals.
The book explores the physical aspect of stress--a certain kind of stress--on the body. Basically, how living in unforgiveness/bitterness, relives traumatic, stressful events for us, both consciously and unconsciously, and that stress keeps our bodies in the fight or flight mode. When your body is in that mode, just like with horses, it conserves energy to keep up the most vital functions, like breathing. One of the things that gets shut down in order to conserve energy is the immune system. They also say, and when I read it to my husband, he agreed, that stress trauma is stored in the cells of our body.
I've written on my blog about how I came down with melanoma at the age of 34 at the most hopeless and stressful time of my life--I've always known it had something to do with the way I handled my issues of the heart.
In fact, I sought a counselor during that period of life because I was in a situation I didn't think I could forgive. She told me that bitterness was like taking poison then waiting for the other person to die. I had to think about that for a few minutes to understand it, then the light bulb went on--So, it's like ME taking poison, then waiting for the other person to die, but the other person is actually living very happily and totally unaware and unaffected by my bitterness...it's my own life I'm destroying.
Even though I got that loud and clear, releasing bitterness was beyond me. I couldn't pray it away, think it away, wish it away--it just did not go away. Instead, a sense of pride seeped in and I thought, You know, I've lived a pretty damn good life, and I don't deserve this. I'm a good person. I've prayed, I've studied, I've done pretty much everything everyone's always told me to do. What kind of God would let me suffer like this? From there, I entered the darkest days of my life.
Okay--back to now--I'm not there anymore--nor do I ever want to be back there again. The melanoma is, thankfully, gone. But, honestly, the forgiveness has not been complete. And, add to that, I found I wasn't so perfect after all, and I have a few things of which I need to forgive myself. I will say, I don't think you can forgive yourself until you've forgiven others. There's a scripture that goes something like, As you judge, so will you be judged. I've always taken that to have two meanings--a larger spiritual one and also a personal one.
There is a section of this book titled: The Heart Knows Only the Present Moment. Is that horse wisdom, or what? But they're talking about the human heart. They're saying, even though something happened in the past, if you haven't forgiven it and LET IT GO, it's just like you're reliving it again--in the present! Your body is reacting to the trauma of the event and will go, either consciously or unconsciously, into the fight or flight mode. You won't be able to ward off cancer or colds or any of the many illnesses that attack your system. You may also have eating disorders and a dysfunction in processing the food that does come into your body.
It's hard to let go of the past. The last time I wrote about forgiving and forgetting with our horses someone wrote back that maybe it's not good to forget--maybe that's nature's way of protecting us. But I have to wonder, is it protection if it causes us to feel bad and our bodies to work incorrectly? Is it protection if it causes us to live in fear? I've heard it so many times, I've forgiven, but I'll never forget. I'm sorry, but to me, that's not forgiveness.
Do you remember about seven years ago when a gunman went into an Amish school and killed the children there? Something happened after that that I'll never forget. First, the Amish group came out and said they completely forgave the shooter and rallied around his widow and children; they even held and comforted the shooter's father as he wept for his son. Second, they razed the schoolhouse to the ground and built another one on another piece of land and called it, The New Hope School. The reason they gave for doing this was that they believed in forgiving AND forgetting. (There were some people who criticized them for this.)
I want to tell you a little story from my Christian tradition--in my own words:
Once, Yeshua (the real name of Jesus) was invited to have dinner with the top religious people of his day and age. It was a great honor. These were "Godly" men. They lived righteous lives. But as he was relaxing after dinner, a woman (it is said she was a sinful woman--the Greek word is hamartolos or one who has committed a specific sin) who lived in that town heard he was there and wanted to see him.
She wasn't invited, but she came in anyway and knelt at his feet and cried. As she cried, her tears wet his feet, so she wiped them with her hair. She'd also brought a jar of perfume--very expensive--probably worth a year's wages--and she used this to perfume his feet.
Well, the host, Simon, was kind of disgusted, and he wondered at whether Yeshua could really be a prophet if he didn't understand everything--all the sins this woman had committed--and if he did, why he'd let her touch him like that.
Yeshua understood what he was thinking and asked him, Simon, If two people owed money to the same person, but one owed him five hundred dollars, and the other fifty thousand, and he was to forgive both of their debts, which one would love him more?
Simon answered, I guess the one who had the bigger debt.
Jesus said, You're correct. Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, that person loves but a little.
I don't want to try to tie this whole post up because I don't think it can be, and I hope I haven't appeared "preachy" with all this--this is just where my life's path has meandered. This book,The Healing Code, shows how the human body and mind functions best when it lives in the present and lets go of the past. So, maybe forgiveness and living in the present--taking each person and animal for who they are today--is as good for us as it is others. It certainly can't hurt.