I am eating an early dinner, or more like a late lunch, with my son this afternoon and I’m telling him about my intention to write a Sacred Contract with myself. As is often the case, by explaining to him it becomes even clearer to me. Speaking the words aloud helps clear away the fog and this is something I don’t want to rush.
I have a practice I call ‘sitting in silence’, which is exactly what it sounds like. I sit in silence. Without anything distracting me I explore what emotion is thrumming through me. I take the time to sink deeper and deeper, beneath the surface and thoughts that try to distract and dissuade me. My favourite place to practice this is in my bathtub. For me there is something about being surrounded by water that helps bring clarity.
By taking the time to reflect and ruminate, to sit silently soaking in a bath of Epson salts while tears of pain and sadness run from within. By letting the emotions simply come, or come simply, without judgment, as with passing thoughts in meditation. By asking the right questions, “Where?” Why?” “What?” the fog of distraction slowly dissipates.
Where do these emotions come from, from what wound do they bleed? Why are they rising to the surface now? What lesson do they bring and what am I guided to do? Slowly, as the tears ebb and the bathwater wrinkle-prune my fingertips the truth settles in and I know what I am meant to do. Forgive.
It will take a book to explain the deep, strong roots of the wound, where the need for forgiveness first grew alongside. When the long-held and deeply loved illusion of my marriage and my world both peeled away slowly and exploded suddenly and violently around me. A period of time that began with a second and lasted 18 months. A time in the past that continues today. This moment began yesterday and will continue tomorrow, but here, right now, I can work on healing my yesterdays and tomorrows.
As we eat too greasy fish and chips in the fading, much welcomed, all too infrequent Vancouver sunlight, I explain to Patrick what I have come to realize about my Sacred Contract. It is less about a singular goal and more about a process. And it is much bigger and much more important that I had originally thought. What was I thinking? It makes me laugh now – a joke played on myself by my Self. I invoke all that is inherent in the word “Sacred” and expect to get away with small intentions? Funny how life can trick us into doing what we were meant to do all along.
The idea of writing a Sacred Contract with myself began to grow on our flight back from the recent Sages and Scientists Symposium organized by the Chopra Foundation. Alison Rose Levy wrote about it for the Huffington post here. It was an amazing weekend of learning, growth and connections. At first I imagined my contract to be a way of keeping a commitment to myself. By actually writing the words down in the form of a contract and then witnessing and signing it I would be compelled to adhere to it. A Sacred Contract above all else must not be broken.
I pick a piece of haddock free from the greasy fried batter and try to explain to Patrick the evolution of my Sacred Contract.
“I came to realize….I became conscious, that what I was thinking of as my Sacred Contract was actually just a series of steps….” I’m frustrated because I can’t find the right words, but Patrick knows exactly what I mean.
“A plan of action,” he inserts, pushing his plate away from him.
“Yes!” I smile back. “That’s exactly what it is! I wasn’t writing a Sacred Contract at all!” Which is not to say that all was lost. In fact, what I found was that I now have a Sacred Contract and the guidance to follow it. Guidance in the form of a Plan of Action.
The seeds of awareness are often planted long before we hear the bugle that calls us awake. In my case, for the knowing birth of my Sacred Contract, the seed was planted just over a year ago and the strong, persistent little plant pushed its way up from the earth of my own denial two weeks ago. It was going to grow despite the thickness of my blindfold. I would feel it in my mind’s eye if not clearly in front of me. It slammed into me and burrowed a hole in the scab of a time-to-be-healed wound and the blood that flowed became tears that will turn toxically bitter if I don’t do the work now. The work of forgiveness.
Two weeks ago, on a day not unlike today, with the sun shining warm unexpectedly after too many days of grey Vancouver rain, my son Patrick took our dog on a forest walk to take some pictures for his upcoming photography course. He returned satisfied and with a happy, tail-wagging dog and said, “I ran into dad.”
Someone who had been in my life since I was seventeen years old and I haven’t seen in over two years. Someone I haven’t spoken with in over four years. The someone who led me to the edge of an abyss and pushed me over when he chose to betray our marriage vows for two years with another woman, before I woke up gasping for air and the truth. Someone who has then chosen to cut me from his life so completely that I no longer even know his phone number or email address. That someone.
“Did he have his dog with him?” I asked.
“No,” Patrick replied. “He had Susan with him.” And with that, the little fledgling plant of forgiveness punctured into my wound.
‘Susan’ is The Other Woman. Someone from the same small hometown as Kevin and I. Someone who went to the same high school. Someone I used to run into and talk with at the local grocery store. Someone who I used to think was one of the sincerely, genuinely, nice people of the world. Until she wasn’t.
Until I learned how complicit she was in the deception and betrayal. Someone I haven’t “run into” since she ran away with my husband. Someone none of my four children have even met before now.
There is much, much more to the story than what is written here, but it is necessary to include even a brief illustration of the personal apocalypse that is leading to such a powerful transformational journey. I am finding it difficult to find just the right snippet of thread to unwind, because the spool is so knotted and tangled. Part of the work of the transformation lies in patiently and truthfully working those knots free and unraveling the truth. In separating the facts from the ‘story’. Forgiveness.
And so my Sacred Contract is the work of Forgiveness. Finding, feeling and embodying forgiveness. For myself. For Kevin. For Susan. For all of us.
My Plan of Action is simple.
- Maintain my daily meditation practice
- Incorporate a practice of compassion meditation
- Journal daily
- Share my journey into forgiveness via my blog
When my world first fell away and I found myself at the very sharp edge of just wanting the pain to end, the mantra that kept me breathing was, I will show my children what is possible in a time of crisis. Those words still guide me.
I do this for my Self.
Terri Anne Taylor