Conscious Forgetting

To forget means to aver from memory, to refuse to dwell — in other words, to let go, to loosen one’s hold, particularly on memory. To forget does not mean to make yourself brain-dead. Conscious forgetting means letting go of the event, not insisting it stay in the foreground, but rather moving it off a stage, allowing it to be relegated to the background.

We practice conscious forgetting by refusing to summon up the fiery material, we refuse to recollect. To forget is an active, not a passive, endeavor. It means to not haul up certain materials or turn them over and over, to not work oneself up by repetitive thoughts, pictures, or emotions. Conscious forgetting means willfully dropping the practice of obsessing, intentionally outdistancing and losing sight of it, not looking back, thereby living in a new landscape, creating new life and new experiences to think about instead of the old ones. This kind of forgetting does not erase memory, it lays the emotion surrounding the memory to rest.

— Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD, Women Who Run With the Wolves, p. 402

Asking to be Surprised

I have a good friend who says to me that we tend to think we can second-guess God. We say, “God’s will will be A, B, or C — only to have the answer be God’s will is H, heliotrope, which never occurred to me.”

When we believe in God and put our faith in God, we are asking to be surprised. God is all-powerful and works on our life from all corners. We may think “Now is the time to focus on my career,” only to find that God has decided “Now is the time for me to find a fulfilling personal relationship.” We may decide “Now is the time for me to find a personal relationship,” only to discover that God has decided to stabilize our career. God’s version of what is good for us is far more far-seeing than our own. We can seek to cooperate with God, but we do well not to argue too hard with God’s sense of timing.

Few things create more misery than a fight with God about the seasons of our life. When we hold out, stubbornly insisting on a certain blessing that we feel God is withholding, we miss the many blessings that God is in the process of bestowing. When we are saying, “I want this now,” we miss that that may be coming to us instead. We may be asking God for a romantic relationship in a period when God is focused on building up our grid of nonromantic friendships. We may be yearning for a special someone to make us feel more special while God is working on giving us that feeling for ourselves, independent of our romantic status. We may be asking God, demanding of God, that we be given someone to make us feel less lonely when God is in the process of teaching us how to be comfortable on our own.

— Julia Cameron, Faith and Will, p. 21-22

What Crisis Is All About

When we’re beset by crisis, we also begin to recognize our own vulnerability. We see that in one realm or another we, ourselves, could use some assistance. And so, from the chalice of our own need, we start reaching out for help. That’s because once we’ve been taken apart by life, we are more humble, more open, more willing to both give and receive. We take bigger chances. We speak up. We reveal ourselves. We ask. We break down. We accept comfort. Words. A blanket. A meal. In time, we realize that something amazing has happened: that the more we reach out to others, the less lonely we feel ourselves. Somehow, even in the midst of our chaos, we are actually feeling loved. And the beautiful thing is that, the more love we need, suddenly the more we have to give.

Learning to love, loving more, that’s the bottom line of what a crisis is really all about. Through it, we are being asked to expand beyond the inordinate focus on ourselves — our obsession with what we need, want, and desire — to notice what we can share, how we can serve and be of help to one another. In short, we are being asked to enlarge the circle of our love. Of course, it’s not always easy to do this. It may be unfamiliar. But when we do engage, when we see and hear and respond to one another, life starts to seem less scary. The more you get and give help, the more it seems that you will actually make it through your own unbelievably painful passage. You sense that there really is a new future. Even in the heartbreaking present you realize that you’re not alone. Not only that, but instead of wearing out your biceps holding up a thousand-pound iron defense shield in front of your heart, you can let down your guard, let down your hair, give up your pride, have a good cry, and, in gratitude, receive the love that’s coming toward you.

— Daphne Rose Kingma, The Ten Things to Do When Your Life Falls Apart, p. 169-171

Beginning to Forgive

To begin to forgive, it is good to forego for a while. That is, to take a break from thinking about the person or event for a while. It is not leaving something undone, but rather more like taking a vacation from it. This prevents us from being exhausted, allows us to strengthen in other ways, to have other happiness in our lives.

This is good practice for the final letting go that comes with forgiveness later on. Leave the situation, memory, issue as many times as you need to. The idea is not to overlook but to become agile and strong at detaching from the issue. To forego means to take up that weaving, that writing, to go to that ocean, to do some learning and loving that strengthens you, and to allow the issue to drop away for a time. This is right, good, and healing. The issues of past injury will bedevil a woman far less if she assures the wounded psyche that she will give it healing balms now and deal with the entire issue of who caused what injury later.

— Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD, Women Who Run With the Wolves, p. 401

The Silver Lining

So many of our catastrophes never come to pass. We project disaster and we do not allow for the working out of solutions that will happen as the days tick forward. We think that the worst will happen, only to find out, living through it, that what happens actually may be far closer to the best.

What I am talking about here is the silver lining. We may get tired of trying to look for one, but the truth is that one is always there. Inside every adversity lies opportunity. Take the dicey matter of finances. We always think that what we want is more money, when what we may really want is a gut-level assurance that God will provide — and this is something that often comes to us not in periods of abundance but in times of shortfall. It is when we do not know where the rent money is coming from that we notice the “miracle” that puts the cash into our hands. This is not to say that we need to manufacture misery in order for God to rescue us, merely to say that when we are rescued, we have a tendency to know the face of our rescuer and that face is God.

It is during hard times that we come to rely on God and that is a reliance that we can encourage in ourselves at all times. We do not need to be broke to ask God to help us with our money. Consider the flow of the natural world. Supply comes just where it is needed. We can ask God to be for us such a source of supply. We can ask God to make us attuned to our financial seasons, to cue us when we are free to spend and when we should curtail our spending. We can ask God to take away our fear of financial insecurity and to direct us as to where, from what corner, our prosperity might best come from.

We live in an abundant universe. Our share of that abundance comes to us as we rely upon God. Whenever we make our employer into our source — in other words, when we make our employer into God — we enter a period of fear, for our reliance is not squarely where it belongs. We are intended to rely upon God. God intends us good, and we are tutored by God daily in how that good can come to us. God moves in mysterious ways, but his ways become less mysterious as we try to draw closer to him. When we believe that we will be cared for, we fixate less upon exactly how.

— Julia Cameron, Faith and Will, p. 20-21

A Great Gift

Perhaps forgiveness is really a confluence of these things. It is a growing empathy for the shared humanity of the offender, a growing understanding that the decision itself will also release us, and a growing enlightenment as to the power and need of forgiveness in the world and in our hearts.

Like any gift, forgiveness can bring joy to both the giver and the receiver, and the one who gives pays the highest price. But perhaps the extreme costliness of this particular gift imbues forgiveness, of all human actions, with the greatest potential to image forth the divine.

— Catherine Claire Larson, As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda, p. 92