Moon Over Maui

A Jewish Mystical Journey through the Year

Healing Stirs within a Hardened Heart

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Jan• 17•12

Tevet is melting in the sky. This morning it hung just above the evergreen trees before setting midmorning beneath the horizon. I’m a bit saddened to see Tevet’s waning crescent. I’m filled with the deep healing of this moon. Like a dear friend who’s leaving after an emotionally charged yet intimate visit, I’m happy-sad to see her go. The greatest gift of Tevet was the invitation of this moon cycle to feel my anger and, through that exploration, to sense deep and (somewhat) disturbing emotions that have lain dormant within me.

Ten years ago, Rabbi Jonathan Omer-Man suggested to a roomful of students that they read James Hillman’s essay on betrayal. “Until you experience betrayal,” he said, “you are not yet adult.”  Somehow, I never looked up that essay back in 2002. But this Tevet moon, I came across my note-to-self to do so. And, with the ease of the internet, I found it here.

Something happened as I read Hillman’s essay on betrayal: Knots of nausea loosened. Strings of denial started to come undone. Truth was awakened: Betrayal is elemental to my life fabric; denial a lifelong reaction to it.

I’ve always grappled with my hardened heart. In many ways, this rich life-giving organ of mine is juicy and open and filled with love; however, there are people to whom my heart is so securely closed that it hurts. I’ve been confused by my paralysis, my inability to truly forgive.

 

In self inquiry and meditation, as well as with spiritual teachers, friends, and intimates, I’ve held the question of how to move closer to forgiveness. In his 1975 essay (reprinted in 2002), Hillman says: “Events where one wants to forgive one simply can’t, because forgiveness doesn’t come from the ego. I cannot directly forgive, I can only ask, or pray, that these sins be forgiven. Wanting forgiveness to come and waiting for it may be all that one can do.”

My breath and heartbeat quickened in recognition and hope.

I continued to read. Another sentence stood out as if exaggerated in font size: “The experience of betrayal is for some as overwhelming as is jealousy or failure.” A small match of discovery struck against my buried experiences. An emaciated torch turned toward the primordial dust and stink within my psyche.

My palms clammy, my sinuses open, my heart sounding loudly within the echo chamber of my decaying memories. My head was twirling, threatening unconsciousness.

“Just as trust has in it the seed of betrayal,” Hillman wrote, “so betrayal has in it the seed of forgiveness.”

 

My eyes dilated. I drew my breath inward, paused, and exhaled, allowing time for courage to gather. The seed of forgiveness within the betrayal itself. The movement within me was quiet; the soothing salve incontestable. The untouchable touched.

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