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  • Rev. Charles Perry

Forgiving is a Stretch!

My wife, Laura, is a distance runner. Last weekend, she ran the Birmingham 26.2 half-marathon; she is always in training for her next half or full marathon. As I have been doing PT (physical training) regularly since I joined the National Guard 32 years ago, we now often work out together, although I am not quite up to her longer (8-9 mile) training runs.

Part of being an athlete is caring for our bodies when we are not actively training, and from time to time we both need massages. Last week, after a long run, Laura was working on my legs, and in particular, the IT bands, which are a series of connective tissues that run down the outside of the legs. She pointed out that mine were “the tightest she’d ever seen”. At one point, she found a couple of knots that held so much pain and tension, when she dug in her thumbs I about went through the ceiling. And that got me to thinking….

So often in life, we are carrying around pain and we don’t even know it. I had no idea that my IT bands were as tight as they were, much less that I had some spots that were actually that filled with tension and pain. But how many times in life does someone touch a sore spot of ours, or strike a nerve? And what is our normal response?

All too often, when someone does dig into a sore spot, we react from the pain in the moment, and lash out at the person who has stepped into the land mine we had buried somewhere in our sub-conscious. What would best serve us, however, is if we were able to not react to that pain, but to acknowledge its presence, and then begin the process of rooting out the cause and working out the underlying issue. What is interesting is that in many cases, these “knots” in our consciousness may show up in our bodies, as well.

Many of us carry tension in out upper backs, shoulders, and necks. How many of us find that by the end of the week our shoulders have creeped up to our earlobes? It may be the effects of one big “injury” we have been hit with, but it may also be the accumulation of stressors from dozens of small incidents. Either way, we end up as tight as my IT bands after trying to keep up with Laura on a long Sunday afternoon run.

One of the useful tools we have in our meditative work is to locate a tension we are feeling in the body. Sometimes when we have identified that we have an issue that is bothering us, a very useful technique is to turn within, and ask ourselves where we feel that particular issue in our body. Then, by breathing into and releasing tension in that part of the body, we can help begin the process of emotional healing, as well. We may even find that massaging an area will actually release emotions – we may be brought to tears when the part of the body we have been holding tension in is massaged. The mind/body connection is powerful, and we can use it to benefit the health of our bodies and our minds.

I am now working to proactively stretch my IT bands, so that they don’t end up as tight and knotted as they were. But how do we “stretch” our consciousness? One of the best ways is through the work of forgiveness. We may not be able to immunize ourselves against all the hurts that life throws our way, but we can avoid turning those hurts into hidden “land mines” by doing the healing work of forgiveness. Many have asked, “How do I forgive?” Depending on the depth of our hurt, forgiveness may seem like an impossible task – but walking this path of forgiving will take us into the most beautiful and transcendent freedom we have ever experienced.

Right now, at Unity of Birmingham, we are learning the practice of forgiveness by using the techniques taught in “The Book of Forgiving” by Desmond and Mpho Tutu. Please join us this Sunday morning at 11 AM as we dig into the first two steps of the Fourfold Path of Forgiveness. Lace up those sneakers, and I will see you at Unity!

Much love and many blessings,

Rev. Charles

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