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Wise Words
Our authors and book editors offer these choice written selections for your contemplative reading and inspiration.

Leigh Fortston: Embrace, Release, Heal


The act of forgiveness is perhaps the most powerful medicine we possess. It’s also the most elusive. When we feel hurt, betrayed, deceived, abandoned, abused, dismissed, or disrespected to any degree, our immediate response is to fight or flee. Fighting is associated with courage, while fleeing suggests protecting ourselves. Forgiveness requires that we surpass the instinct to fight and redefine the meaning of self-preservation.

To rise above the understandable reaction to fight or flee, we are charged with making a deliberate choice. Ordinarily, we don’t exercise that choice. Instead, we tend to want to duke it out, to dominate, to win; or maybe we want to walk away enraged or victimized in order to justify and fuel the anger and resentment we wear like armor.

Being treated badly, regardless of how slightly or severely, insults the native and correct understanding that we are absolutely worthy of being treated with respect, kindness, and love. That we should be honored is inborn knowledge. When we are not, the ego goes wild and tends to engage with glee in the blame game.

Cancer gives us plenty of reasons to feel angry and victimized. It may be the diagnosis itself, the painful and debilitating treatment, or the loss of our normal lives. We may also feel hurt and outrage at the expectation, imposed upon us by others, that we will die.

Then there are the frustrations of dealing with the current medical system, complete with insurance companies that double bill us or numb hospital bureaucrats who charge such exorbitant prices that we end up having to sell the ranch. Regardless, the cancer industry has forged a nearly nonnegotiable road for those who get diagnosed.

If those feelings of anger, resentment, victimization, and powerlessness somehow contributed to the creation of the disease, now is the time to dig down deep and begin the process of releasing. Chances are good that we didn’t experience these feelings for the first time just after the diagnosis; these are probably old and familiar members of our inner emotional tribe.

To heal, truly and deeply, we are charged with somehow, in some way, bypassing the urge to retaliate, to cast blame, or to further ignite the justifications for remaining a victim. We must find the still and certain center of our hearts, the place that wants to release the grievances and find peace. It’s the deepest part of our heart that knows, without doubt, that we are divine and there is no need to fight or blame. When we feel a tug to be still rather than to fight or flee, then we’re closer to that center, a territory so subtle and sublime that it can easily be overlooked.

Giving up the battle is a hard concept in a culture that thrives on drama and adversity. Before I grasped this concept, I judged a friend whom I saw backing off from an argument with a coworker, a situation where my friend was clearly in the right and the coworker clearly in the wrong. I inquired why she was submitting, and she said, “I asked myself if I’d rather be right or at peace. I’d rather be at peace, so I’m letting it go.” The ferocity in her eyes showed that this wasn’t the easiest choice, but it was the best one. Plus, she was telling me in no uncertain terms that this was none of my business.

Each of us is responsible for finding the sweet spot where forgiveness dwells. Each of us is in charge of how deeply we let our upsets, anger, resentments, and sorrows run. We have the choice—always—to let those heavy emotions go. Forgiveness is the way.

It is essential to enact forgiveness with every grudge or judgment that surfaces, because in order to truly heal, we must admit once and for all that we are not victims. Rather, at our core, we are powerful, pure, loving, blissful, peaceful beings. Playing the victim keeps us bound to the laws of the ego. When we forgive, we sanction who we really are. We no longer need or want to be the victim, because forgiveness takes us beyond the rigid dictates of right and wrong. It delivers us to compassion and the acceptance that we occupy a complex world in which every point of view can be understood.

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