Scott Farrell comments:
When a fallen warrior surrendered, the Code of Chivalry obliged a medieval knight to spare his foe’s life. Today’s knights in shining armor may not have occasion to show mercy in such a way, but this knightly virtue still plays an important role in our lives in the form of patience, tolerance and forgiveness. As Prof. Seaward shows us in an excerpt from his book, Stressed is Desserts Spelled Backward, releasing grudges and anger isn’t just an exercise in emotional tranquility, it is an important element in the physical healing process as well.
Much stress is caused by deep-rooted anger and resentment, poisons that, if left unattended to, corrode our system, literally making us sick. That’s why part of an effective stress-management program involves practicing forgiveness. Forgiveness is a component of the human spirit that acts as a bridge to connect the mind and body. If unresolved anger is toxic to the spirit, then forgiveness is the antidote. Where anger is an insurmountable roadblock, forgiveness serves as a tall ladder to climb above and transcend the experience. For forgiveness to be complete and unconditional, we must be willing to let go of all feelings of anger, resentment, and animosity. Sweet forgiveness cannot hold any taste of bitterness — the two are mutually exclusive.
Joanne is a physician living in the southeast corner of the country. Although trained in Western medicine, Joanne’s intuitive side brought her to the front door of the field of Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI), where mind, body, and spirit meet in the dynamics of human life. Like most people who become physicians, she entered because of her desire to help people. Pain is one of the things that physicians try to alleviate in their patients, and Joanne is no stranger to pain.
In 1997, the back and neck pain she had been experiencing for over a decade became so intense that she literally could not sit. She tried a host of known modalities in her profession to cure it — pills, physical therapy, acupuncture, craniosacral therapy — none of which seemed to work. One day she awoke to find that her right hand and arm were numb. An MRI revealed several bone spurs in her neck, distorting the spinal cord. A neurosurgeon detected nerve damage clear down to her feet. On his advice, she reluctantly scheduled herself for surgery.
“I did not want to go through with the operation,” she explained to me at a workshop. “I am well aware of the mind-body connection, and as I lay there I wondered why the mind-body techniques I practiced — mental imagery, etc. — didn’t kick in.
“One day I was lying on my living room floor listening to the Caroline Myss tape Why People Don’t Heal, in which she was talking about forgiveness as a key element to the healing process. I asked myself, ‘Who do I have to forgive?’ I combed my past to see what lay lurking in the shadows, some unfinished business that I had yet to attend to. Then it came back to me.”
In 1984, Joanne and her boyfriend Lee took a trip to Grand Cayman Island. Toward the end of their stay, they rented a car and drove to a remote beach, a romantic, secluded paradise.
Late that afternoon, while combing the beach for shells, they were accosted by a man with a knife who had murder on his mind. In a bloody fight for their lives, both Joanne and Lee were badly beaten and stabbed. A swift kick to the face of their assailant finally allowed them to escape and get help, but the emotional trauma later manifested itself as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for both Joanne and Lee.
“I came to see that I was hanging on to some remnant of this event and it had become immobilizing. So I lay there sending thoughts of forgiveness to this man. I prayed for forgiveness and then I sent thoughts of forgiveness to myself. As I did this, I noticed the pain became less severe. I knew immediately this was the connection. So I continued with this. Although I had previously wished my assailant dreadful tortures in prison, what was called for was unconditional forgiveness. I felt that knives would no longer be a part of my life. I believed that the bone spurs had been zapped. As I lay there, I was overtaken by a joy more profound than any I have ever known.”
Joanne explained to me that here isn’t a doubt in her mind that her condition was related to the feelings of resentment she harbored for her assailant. Now it was time to let go. Having done so, the end result was, as it always is, wholeness. Her neck pain never returned.
“I would like to thank my forgiveness, which A Course in Miracles defines as the realization that we are not separate — that everything is connected. What was once a curse is now a blessing, for which I am forever grateful. I hope to share this lesson with many others.”
Forgiveness is one path of the healing process.
Unresolved anger is a toxin to the spirit, forgiveness is the antidote. Every act of forgiveness is an act of unconditional love, and it is through this love that inner peace resides.
© 2003-2004 Brian Luke Seaward, PhD.
This article excerpted from Stressed is Desserts Spelled Backward by permission of the author. Brian Luke Seaward, PhD., is executive director of Inspiration Unlimited, a health promotion consulting firm in Boulder, Colo., and is a faculty member of the University of Colorado, Boulder. His new book, Quiet Mind, Fearless Heart, is due out in November, 2004. Learn more about his writing and programs at his website, www.BrianLukeSeaward.net