“The Biological Impact of Forgiveness”
“Living in such a way that one’s life becomes one’s practice.”
One thing I suggested you do this week is pay attention to those things that you found annoying, to even write them down and reflect on them to see if you could learn something about yourself for having done so. When I was in France a couple of years ago I did this in a very focused way. Not having a car, I walked a lot and therefore encountered a lot of other walkers. Sometimes the walking space was limited, not wide enough for two people to pass without one having to yield. Time after time, I felt it was I who was doing the yielding. It was like a game of chicken! Who was going to back down first? Were the two people going to collide?!
Part of what was interesting to me about this was that quite often the people I encountered walking toward me were teenagers. I began wondering if they were less aware of the space, given their age. I also started drawing conclusions based on gender. Females seemed more likely to yield some space when walking alone. Solo males much less so. Was this biological, I wondered, akin to marking territory? In wider walkways in which a group was walking toward me, rarely would an individual, male or female, make room for me.
Why did I find this annoying? This became the most fascinating part of the experience as it was the part that taught me the most about me. I discovered that I believed that I wasn’t being valued by other walkers, that I wasn’t being respected as a person, and that in some cases it seemed I did not even exist for the others. Did they not see me? Was I invisible? There are few things worse than not being seen. Consider the idea of being shunned or being given the “silent treatment.” Ouch!
So I tried shifting my experience. I practiced having each encounter be an opportunity for me to practice the kind act of letting others go first, that doing so was actually a kindness to me. Practicing this, it was like a soft spot opened up in me and expanded. I can best describe it as a warmth that emanated from my belly. It would wrap itself around those walking toward me, then gently carry them past me before unwinding and slowly dissipating.
In this week’s inspiration message I focused on psychoneuroimmunology, which gives me another way to understand that warmth. I have come to see it as a chemical reaction inside of me that strengthened my immune system. Imagine! Each time I encountered a fellow walker coming toward me I had the opportunity to improve my health! That’s incredible.
So this week’s theme was to forgive. And in practicing forgiveness we bolster our immune systems, we improve our health, a kindness to ourselves.
Link to Book: “My Grandfather’s Blessings”