I’m standing at the hospital bed of one of my dearest friends. There are tubes every which way, machines making noises. I don’t know if he will “pull through” or not. So I take this precious moment as an opportunity to bless him, kiss him on the forehead, whisper my prayers to him, and sing him a sweet song that we used to share.
He doesn’t move or make a sound. The machines keep to their rhythmical, mechanic sound.
My heart is breaking. I’ve known him for more years than I didn’t know him. He has been a part of our family. He is like a brother to me.
As I’m standing there, I think, “We all are just a breath, a step, a moment away from life changing in an instant.”
And I wonder: how is it that any of us can be cruel to each other? At the grocery store, on the highway, in the classroom, in the bedroom, on social media?
We are here for such a short, short time. Even if we live to be 100 years old, it’s so short in comparison to the span of time. We all have a date with death. Some day. Some time. And so I think of Mary Oliver’s words: what will you do with this one short and precious life?
Will it be to extend compassion or further separation and disconnect? Will it be to forgive or pull away and hold onto our grudges?
A few weeks ago, I recorded this forgiveness meditation.
Every year in December at Georgetown University, I lead a Forgiveness workshop where I lead a meditation similar to the one I am sharing with you in my shop. I remember the first time we decided to offer this forgiveness workshop as our December offering. I thought, “I don’t think anyone is going to come.” As it turns out, it was the most well attended workshop that first year! This indicates to me how all of us have hurt others. All of us have been hurt by others. And all of us want to feel a sense of connection, letting go, and freedom.
I was waiting for the right time to share this meditation with all of you. Being alongside my friend as he “touches the hem of death” showed me that it was time to share it with you. I don’t want us to wait for a tragedy to happen that quickly and traumatically sifts out anything that absolutely doesn’t matter and leaves us holding only what is precious. I believe we can live with a deeper sense of intimacy, lightness, and freedom right here and right now.
After I went to visit my friend, I was driving home. It was late at night. I was alone in the car. It was dark and quiet. I didn’t have the radio on. I needed the holiness of the quiet. And then, all of a sudden, I felt a wave of Presence wash over me. And I heard, “Please forgive me.”
My heart opened so very wide and I felt such a deep well of Love — love for my dear friend and the Love that holds us all in the palm of the Divine’s hand. There was nothing to forgive. I, too, asked for forgiveness for anything I did or failed to do. And I felt this Presence of Love softening my worries – like candlelight in my soul.
The next day, I couldn’t respond harshly to my family when the morning didn’t go right as we got out the door to school. I couldn’t honk at others in rush hour traffic.
A new and even deeper softness has washed over me. I refuse to be unkind. In any way. And I see how I have been unkind – even when I could justify it. And I see the utter needlessness of it – to be right, to armor my heart.
I know I will be unkind again — I am human. But I am making a vow — a Vow of Forgiveness:
~ When I feel the desire to be unkind, or I begin to act in a way that is unkind or say something unkind, I vow to wake up in that moment and remember that all each of us really wants is to be loved, to love, to be touched, to belong, to know we are good, to be seen.
~ I vow to pause, put my hand on my heart, and say, “Please forgive me” — to my own heart first and then to others.
~ I vow to love all the parts of me that I tend to treat not so kindly.
~ I vow to extend kindness and regard to all those I meet.
~ I vow to go gently, to soften, and to be fiercely devoted to kindness, love, compassion, and delight. And that includes caring for my own self. It includes having the wisdom to discern that sometimes the kindest act is to love ourselves and others so fully that we let go.
I don’t know what will happen with my dearest friend. The next few days will tell. But I know that I am clear. I feel free. And I know that somehow, he feels my love and feels free, too.
Dear ones, This holiday season, if you feel the call within you to cultivate even a drop of forgiveness – for yourself and others – may this Forgiveness Meditation support you in your journey. It’s one to come back to again and again. It’s 30 minutes, friends. Let it soak into your awareness and heart little by little, “clearing you out for some new delight,” as Rumi would say. May you have your own vow of forgiveness to support you in coming back home to what deeply matters, and resting in Love.Blessings,