The Alchemy of Forgiveness

Who can ever forget the story of the Andalusian shepherd boy who follows a recurring dream in search of treasure at the pyramids of Egypt? Written by Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist continues to top reading charts around the world. Many readers resonate with the inspiring message given to Santiago many times over in his journey:

“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

One of my all-time classic favourites, I relate with the physical, mental, financial, and emotional struggles Santiago encountered. Like him, I experienced making very difficult, life-changing decisions to pursue what my heart felt was my personal destiny.

In the story, Santiago meets an alchemist, a person who practices the medieval chemical science of transforming metals into gold. The alchemist, in his wisdom, teaches the shepherd boy to realize his true self. As they travelled together through a territory of warring tribes, Santiago demonstrates his ability to merge himself with the soul of the world. He turns himself into a simoom to continue on his journey.

The plot turns when he finally arrives at the pyramids and gets robbed. There he learns of the treasure he searched for all along sat deeply buried at the church where he first had his recurring dreams. He returns to his home in Andalusia, finds his treasure and reunites with his love.

Allow me to share an allegory about forgiveness.

Everyone Will Hurt in Life

A famous quote goes, “No one goes through life unscathed.” Whether caused by death of a loved one, job loss, or a major life transition, the roller coaster that bowls over are but natural, almost expected as life throws these things at you. After some period of adjustment and grieving over the loss of something or someone, we accept what is. Eventually we move on as we heal over time.

But what about that agony that was inflicted upon us, not by life, but by a certain someone whose words or action caused us so much grief? That someone could have been our best friend once or a school bully way back in our younger years at school. Someone we trusted within the family, a lifetime partner who left us, a close colleague, anybody who has seriously hurt us, whether deliberately or unintended. With so much pain and misery experienced, we sever ties completely.

Whether a sincere apology was sent or not, the invisible walls have already risen to protect us. We are comforted with the knowledge that we will never suffer the same fate in the hands of another as we have learned the lesson, our hearts have somewhat hardened, and we have closed that chapter.

I, too, have my own experience of that excruciating thorn in the heart—don’t we all? I spent a lot of energy on reflection, spiritual reading, prayer, meditation, tears, and forgiveness exercises. Regularly imploring God’s help on this one as I also have many recurring dreams like Santiago.

The energy of being injured stays with us, even though we brush them under the carpet. It lurks in the subconscious and unconscious layers of the mind and in the deepest recesses of the heart. We may have outwardly accepted the apology, but how do we really feel inwardly? We still feel the hurt, some resentment, a bit of bitterness, and regret. Perhaps aloof about the memory and when in their presence.

Parable of the Little Soul

The story turns for us here. I once read a parable about a Little Soul in heaven from Neale Donald Walsch’s Conversations with God. He lived in bliss with God and wanted to experience himself as light. God agrees to surround him in darkness so he can experience himself. Feeling exhilarated at the chance and to make the most of his time on earth, Little Soul wants to experience himself also as One Who Forgives.

In God’s kingdom, Little Soul could not find someone to forgive because all the other souls lived in God’s perfection and light. A Friendly Soul steps forward and he makes a pact with Little Soul to play the villain in Little Soul’s life so he could have something to forgive. Excited, Little Soul calls him an angel, and asks why Friendly Soul would play this part to help him grant his wish. Friendly Soul replies, “Because I love you and we have done this dance many times over in many lifetimes.”

Before they make their journey to earth, Friendly Soul asks this one favour of Little Soul: “In the moment that I do the worst to you, in that very moment, remember Who I Really Am.”

And so they make their journey to earth.

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Forgiveness is an art of letting go

The Power of Forgiveness

We experience ourselves and see God in others through our relationships here on earth. They bring out the divine qualities we always have had, and are: love, truth, patience, desirelessness, humility, gentleness, fearlessness. We cultivate and refine these further in truly forgiving others.

Love because true love does not remember the injurious act in any spiteful manner.

Truth because we know in our hearts that had this person known that the relationship would sour, they would not have done what they did. We remember Who They Really Are, and the divine presence in everyone and every being.

Patience because as humans on earth, we all make mistakes. So we practice forbearance and self-control from retaliating or adding further insult to injury.

Desirelessness because we forgive the other without the need for an explanation or compensation.

Humility because, we too, have been the cause of another’s grief and misery. We immediately acknowledge their hurt and apologize to them; if we are not given that chance, we work on this inwardly.

Gentleness because only through gentle kindness towards ourselves and others do we remain open and loving with no conditions.

Fearlessness because we can live and crossover at the moment of death with peace and confidence, having cleared our hearts of any emotional debts.

The depth of the wound that scarred us determines our ability to realize our true selves and demonstrate our oneness with the other person’s soul and that of the Universe. It is how we can continue in our personal journey.

This is the alchemy of forgiveness:

You and I are one
We are not separate
If you hurt me, you hurt yourself
If you love me
You love the entire Universe

And here we can each find our buried treasure.

Forgiving others and, most importantly, ourselves is a key practice in the art of letting go.

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