Our oldest daughter has two dads. For all the years growing up, her dad and I were in constant conflict. Every time we came together we locked horns. Our relationship was bitter and contentious. I was angry and resentful.
From the outset, the menace of alcoholism hung between us and cast a pall over our family. We were all held hostage to the ravages of alcohol. I did not know how to deal with the situation or where to turn for help. The more I resisted the more difficult things became and we all suffered, most of all our daughter.
A hidden part of the conflict was my relationship with my own father and what had gone unresolved between us. There was a pattern repeating itself and I struggled to understand it.
The light didn’t come for me to forgive my daughter’s dad until many years later–after I forgave my own father.
Late one afternoon walking to my fire circle lost in thought, my inner voice abruptly cut in stopping me dead in my tracks.
“You need to forgive your father.”
I wasn’t even thinking about my father. We hadn’t spoken to each other in over a year. My throat closed and hot tears stung my eyes.
Forgive him? For what! I’d forgiven him over and over again. I was done with it. “There’s nothing more to forgive,” I blurted out to no one.
After several beats the voice said, “Forgive him again.”
I dropped my shoulders, shook my head, and croaked, “I don’t know how.”
That night at the fire I opened a ceremony. Using psilocybin mushrooms, I set out on a shamanic journey. The plant medicine opened my mind and heart to see what I had not been able to understand.
When used in a sacred way, magic mushrooms are a powerful tool for taking the ego offline. The intelligence of plant medicine expands awareness and helps us to move past the ego’s resistance. The barriers to our inner vision dissolve. What we are unable to see about ourselves in ordinary consciousness becomes available.
I was deeply under the influence of the medicine when the voice came back with startling clarity, “You blame your father for everything that you think is wrong with your life.”
Direct hit. New awareness flooded in and instantly I knew it was true. I’d never seen this about myself before. I was appalled yet fascinated by the revelation and couldn’t turn away.
“Who else do you give away your power to?” The voice asked.
I felt like an insect pinned to a cork board with no escape. But my mind was open. I was fully awake, scanning my life, searching for answers. Now I was looking.
“When you forgive your father you’ll see a long line of people you need to forgive, beginning with yourself.”
And just like that a procession of people began to cross my mind. A long line of people.
“That one, and that one, and especially that one,” the voice continued.
Suddenly I was aware of a great weight upon me, the burden of being unforgiving. Petty grudges and small minded negativities came to mind. I remembered bitter resentments toward people who weren’t alive anymore. Harsh thoughts and cruel judgments came to light—things I would never want anyone to know about.
Forgiving my Father and Myself
With sudden insight it dawned on my open mind that I gave away my power everywhere I withheld forgiveness. Instead of being responsible for my experience, I made the choice to suffer. Suffering sapped my strength and sucked the life out of me, because I let it. I had allowed my vital life force to be siphoned off. What a waste!
A silent inner judge, casting blame and guilt, meting out imaginary punishment. The jury was in and the witnesses were on my side. It was nothing short of insanity. Whatever the incident, whenever it happened, whoever was involved, it didn’t matter. My reaction, justified or unjustified, with or without the agreement of others, didn’t matter.
What mattered was that in choosing to withhold forgiveness, I chose to suffer, projecting my suffering onto others. It was diabolical. Who would do such a thing? Why would I do this to myself and others?
I began to see that the one person who most needed my forgiveness was me. I needed to forgive myself for my confusion and anger, for my ignorance. I needed to forgive myself for everything I held back and stuffed, for not standing up for myself because I didn’t know how.
In that moment of revelation I understood that I needed to forgive my father and myself. The only way out was to release us both and free myself. The moment I forgave my dad, a fundamental shift was set into motion. A sea change occurred in my life, in me.
The Way to Love is Through Forgiveness
After the medicine ceremony, I actively began to forgive others. It didn’t matter how long the list was. I practiced forgiveness as often as I could, everywhere I looked. The practice of forgiveness took me to some dark places that went a long way back in time. I had to take a deep look inside myself to get a handle on the scope of the problem.
I realized that I didn’t fully love myself. I thought I had to be better or different to be loved; that I wasn’t enough just as I was. As I forgave others, along the way I forgave myself. As I healed my relationship with myself, I began to heal my relationships with those closest to me. Love and acceptance were key.
Forgiveness is deep work. It’s the only way out of the insanity of the world we’ve created in our own minds. The way to love is through forgiveness, and without forgiveness, the way to love is blocked.
The Miracle of Forgiveness
About two weeks after my shamanic journey, I got a call from my sister, Tracy. She said, “Tommy, I think we need to bring dad home.” Without hesitation I said, “Yes,” recognizing the energy of forgiveness at work. Our dad was in a bad situation that was getting worse. My heart had been opened and I forgave my dad wholly and completely. Had my heart remained closed, I would never have seen my dad again. We brought him home and our relationship began to heal.
All of that happened the year before our daughter’s big wedding. Our whole family came together for the occasion, including our daughter’s dad, whom I hadn’t spoken to in several years.
The day before the wedding, without really planning to, I made her dad a special gift with sage, tobacco, sweetgrass, flowers, leather, and my best feathers. At the rehearsal dinner that evening, in full view of our extended families, I presented the gift to him and said, “There’s been a lot of water under the bridge between us. It’s in the past and all forgiven now.”
And just like that it was all forgiven. The healing process that began with my ceremony the year before with my dad, continued to shed its light with our daughter’s dad. He found sobriety and I found forgiveness. It was the greatest wedding present.
Today we have a loving, congenial relationship. We share holidays with our grandkids. We’re Papa Mike and Papa Tom. We break bread together and have genuine love and respect for each other’s journey. The past is gone and all that’s left is a blessing. The power of forgiveness made it possible.
Everyone who knows us would call it a miracle.
Love and Blessings,