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I was hurt but did not want to admit it.  I want to be loved, connected and to belong in my community.  I am a minority in my country and sometimes I am different.  I am not the same race and religion of the majority of the people in my country.  I felt like a stranger in my own homeland.  My entire faith and its followers were constantly held accountable for the actions of a few people. 

My nature is to follow rules and to avoid rocking the boat.  Despite my best intentions, I was feeling insulted.  In my interactions with my friends and neighbors, I felt belittled.  Many groups of people were hurt by the events on September 11, 2001, including Muslims.  Since that day, every Muslim was somehow responsible for bad acts committed by any other Muslim.  Because of my faith, I was called a terrorist and told that I supported the tragic events.  For years afterwards, I saw life as unfair,constantly reading articles that were inaccurate and insulting to the one-fourth of the global population who call themselves Muslim.  I tried silence, thinking silence meant safety.  I soon realized that silence is not safe, silence is futile.  I watched as the next generation, my children, endured the same type of discrimination that I have experienced.  Connection and conversation within our communities would have helped this situation, but I had no idea how to start.

While consumed by my own thoughts I was invited to an event at my children’s school.  Many other parents stated that the speaker had an amazing ability to mold young minds.  I attended to learn how my children’s minds were being influenced.  During the presentation, the speaker talked about his nephew who was autistic.  The speaker became emotional.  One summer day, three boys took his nephew to a field and told him it was a good idea to eat dirt.  The autistic nephew started eating dirt and the boys urged him on.  As a result, the childwas hospitalized, fighting for his life.  It was clear to me why I had attended this talk.  Anyone who is different can be bullied and excluded.  I had focused on religious discrimination, but I could feel the pain of having a nephew bullied.  I could see now that everyone has been hurttheir own particular circumstances.  I wondered then whethermy hurt was different or more important.  My circumstances that day were guiding me to my purpose, and I had a thought that changed my life: “What if it was meant to be this way?”We all hurt in our lives and this pain gives us clarity into our real mission in life.

Whenever I am searching for an answer or resolution, it often manifests in the most unique way.  The weekend following the lecture on the autistic child, I was watched a special with Dr. Wayne Dyer.  Dr. Dyer was lecturing to raise money for the local Public Broadcasting (PBS) channel.  Coincidently, his talk included the topic of forgiveness.  Dr. Dyer stated that forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet flower sheds on the heel that has crushed it.  I felt more clarity.  Forgiveness did not mean the absence of pain.  I felt a weight liftfrom my shoulders and the tension in my chest relaxed.  I could acknowledge the pain and still forgive.  Somehow, I had thought that forgiving meant holding the other person accountable for their actions.  I saw that forgiveness really mean enabling myself to let go of the event and move on.  Life was there to hold everyone accountable.  My job was to forgive and move forward.

There was only one clear path ahead for me: to forgive and to send thoughts of love to those who have hurt me.  I realized that I had been so focused on my own feelings that I was missing the opportunities to help others.  I started sending prayers and healing to all those at whom I was previously angry.  When I heard news about the Middle East or an incident here in the United States, I thought about the struggle and hopelessnessthat a criminal would need to feel to commit a hateful act on such a large scale.

The act of forgiving was freeing.  I was not angry anymore and the events of the world ceased to control my emotional states. I was able to see all who had been wrongedsimply for being different.  I remember the peoples I had seen on my many road trips throughout the world and these memories touched me.  I sent thoughts of kindness to the native peoples of Australia whom I encountered during a road trip across the country.  I sent thoughts of peace to the native peoples of the United States when I took a cross-country road trip to the Grand Canyon.  I sent love and light to anyone that had suffered,and this giving reduced my distress. 

What I learning in the process was the gift of polishing my soul.  I was able to see my impact and began to believe that I could create a legacy.  With a heart full of anger and hurt, none of these options were available to me.  I was able to see that my ego and need to be right were the source of the problem.  Yes, there are people that hurt others, but our response to their actions creates our own reality.  I had forgotten my old habits of cultivating the gifts of humility, the art of purifying my heart, and just simply smiling at those I meet throughout the day.

We all have a cause that ignites our hearts.  Holding grudges just gets in the way.  Forgiving is the quickest way to the freedom and permission we need to create our dream world around us.  We just need to be in service to our individual causes because when each of us elevates our service skills, the whole world gets better. We need to recapture the passion we had when we were young.  As kids we did not judge or hold onto disagreements.  We made friends quickly and forgave friends quickly.  Why not chart a direct course to peace by forgiving someone right now?  Because for me, the daily practice of forgiveness is a path to igniting my heart.