Trevor Ellestad learned how to find peace in the midst of life’s jagged pieces. Want to know how he did it?
My first lesson in true forgiveness came at the cost of my favorite teacup. There on the kitchen floor, shattered and scattered, disparate and dissolved, was my Higher Power’s greatest gift –nothing. No anger, no pain, no frustration, no sense of loss or guilt could be found.
Just this one simple thought remained: I should immediately stop washing the dishes and begin disposing of the jagged bits of pottery below me.
But I just stood there pondering how strange it was that I felt nothing, because I had only my memories to compare this situation to—only the many times I had broken something special to me and been enraged. I had so many questions: where is the deep sense of remorse and loss I should be feeling right now? That mug was special, right? That cup had a purpose, didn’t it? But there were no answers. I had clearly made a choice to react differently in this situation and this choice came surprisingly quickly, and most importantly, it came unconsciously.
Little did I know at the time but this simple act of forgiveness would begin a chain of events that would define the type of spiritual solution that I had been seeking all my life. It was the first step in many that would eventually lead me to A Course in Miracles and a complete redefining of what it meant to live in this world.
For years, I’d been looking for the power to manipulate the darkness in my mind; I desperately wanted a way to cease the deep depression and anxiety that plagued me, but I felt as though I had tried everything. Like so many of us, I just wanted to retain my grip on the light. I knew it had been possible for others, I just always assumed that, for me, this relief would come from an outside power. Believing I was an effect of this world, a victim, I thought my relief could only come from a change of fate or a divine intervention.
Standing above years of false assumptions and shattered pottery, I let it sink in that I was being exposed to a new truth. If I could choose to have an absent reaction to a broken cup, surely I could have a similar reaction to the bigger things too. From that day forward, I would return in my mind to this kitchen contemplation, when I was so precariously poised on the edge of walking on broken glass and becoming a more peaceful human being. Even more miraculous, was that when I genuinely practiced this form of peace and forgiveness, the severity of any one event over another was dampened. Broken china or a broken heart, power to choose between pain and forgiveness remained.
We are taught to believe that seething anger is justified, that revenge is deserved and that our passion and drive is a determinant of our level of success. Perhaps it is to some degree, but only because we have defined it to be so. We think that we can think ourselves out of anything, without stopping to think that we might have nowhere to think ourselves out of in the first place. We are searching for peace and meaning in the “big moments,” the milestones. The marriages, graduations, births and deaths, our only signifier that time is moving forward and that we are apparently moving towards something better. But what if we are wrong? What if underneath all the cognitive pain we are trying to escape from is the peace that many of us are seeking? Is it so malignant to believe that we might already be in heaven?
Each second of this life is a choice between pain and peace. Each moment that we perceive the world around us, we are offered a simple elementary true or false question. Simple perhaps, far too simple for some, but yet it remains: every moment in this seeming reality, we have power over one thing—our perception.
So next time you feel as though you are at the hands of a world that wants to punish you or that you are at the effect of someone else’s actions, ask yourself what it would be like in that moment to choose love instead of fear, anxiety, anger or sadness. Ask yourself, can I access a place of peace and inner guidance instead of being at the whim of the emotions that I think define me? Is it possible for peace to innately belong to me instead of believing it can only exist in an unattainable place outside of myself and far away?
And just keep practicing. Because I assure you, it only gets easier. Life will start to get a little lighter every day, or at the very least… a lot less dark. You just might have to buy yourself a new teacup every once in a while.
Photo: Flicker/Leo Leung