My journey to forgiveness started with meditation. I grew up in the Sufi tradition (the metaphysical interpretation of Islam) which emphasizes the importance of an equally strong spiritual foundation to building one’s career. When Tariq was alive, I worked as an international investment banker traveling the world, stayed and ate at 5-star hotels and restaurants, and enjoyed a joyful social life. That suddenly and abruptly came to a full stop with Tariq’s death. I routinely flew in from London, changed suitcases, and flew to Tokyo with plenty of stamina. Upon his death, it literally took all my willpower to climb out of bed. All that limitless energy had evaporated.
My spiritual teacher gave me the sage advice, “How you respond to this tragedy is going to determine the rest of your life!”
I was in the prime of my life, in my early 40’s and feeling healthy, happy, and successful. I thought about it a lot and asked myself, “How DO I move forward?” I could not sleep nor eat, my internal system went haywire, I lost the will to live, and the only thing I could do was to meditate. In those early days, I meditated about 5 to 6 hours a day—a meditation practice I had started and honed in over the previous 20 years. It was in a powerful “download” from my meditations that I realized that if I did not forgive, I would remain a victim for the rest of my life and would probably wither into an illness or take my own life (which at one time I did consider).
I wanted that full life back! We all do! I recognized that living as a victim was going through life on crutches. Who wants to do that? Living in hatred and resentment often manifests into fatal illnesses like cancer. Essentially it is self-abuse—I often jest that you might as well take a whip and flog yourself. In seriousness, clinical studies have clearly proven that forgiveness promotes good health. This data comes from several reputable sources; Stanford has a forgiveness project ran by a good friend, Fred Luskin, who teaches, “Amend the way you look at your past so you remind yourself of your heroic choice to forgive.”
The wise advice above, that how I responded to Tariq’s tragedy would determine the quality of the rest of my life, played in my head like a broken record. I desperately wanted my full life back. I responded with forgiveness and set myself free from the self-abuse caused by holding onto all the anger, hate, blame, and resentment.
Now, I have a very full, meaningful, and fulfilling life again, operating at my zenith! How did I do that? The short answer is spiritual resiliency
! What saved me was that strong spiritual foundation I had developed through meditation over the previous 20+ years. Forgiveness towards the offending party can be one of the toughest challenges we mortals face. Often, we stay mired in anger and deep resentment when we experience a hard hit. Do you want to spend the rest of your life in hatred or peace?
For people that are spiritually fragile, forgiveness is like a dirty word. After being hit or betrayed, they may actually be offended by the idea of forgiving the person or people responsible for the hit they have taken. On the other hand, spiritually resilient people understand the profound power of forgiveness. They practice it and understand that forgiveness is a gift to themselves because it can free them from residual anger and pain left by an intrusion or harm experienced in a situation or by a person. As taught by Lewis Smedes: “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and find out that the prisoner was you.”
When you understand the real meaning of forgiveness you will send your spiritual resiliency through the roof. The precursor to forgiveness is compassion, the precursor to compassion is empathy. Commit to strengthening your empathy, compassion, and forgiveness muscles–they will serve you well to navigate and thrive from life’s hardest hits.
In closing, an important lesson to learn is that all emotions have a frequency. Anger, hatred, resentment, judgment, greed, avarice, and bitterness are low-frequency emotions. Happiness and abundance do not flourish in minds and hearts that are operating from these lower frequencies. Whereas goodwill, friendship, trust, empathy, compassion, gratitude, love, and forgiveness are high-frequency emotions. This is where happiness and the fullness of life reside. At any given time, it is not complicated to know from which frequency of emotions you are vibrating.
Forgiveness is a blessing, and a blessing is when preparation meets grace. Preparation is about enhancing your spiritual resiliency–I teach and continue to work on this as a daily practice. Having done this work for 25+ years, I am spending more time in the higher frequency emotions and I am happier, healthier, and in the full flow of life. You can too!
Peace and many blessings on your journey forward,