commentary · health

Past or Presence?

Whether by accident or with malicious intent, every cat has undoubtedly experienced a pull of the tail. Think about it…cat tails seem to have a mind of their own, moving like whips or snakes depending on the cat’s mood. They play chicken with doors, rocking chairs, and small children; and then it happens…the tail gets caught or pulled and a cat will react.

Does the cat purely react physically, or is he harboring ill will toward the person who crossed him, planning revenge when it is least expected?

“Our animal friends non-reactive and forgiving natures can teach us positive lessons on a daily basis.” Eckhart Tolle (1)

While a cat reacts physically to the pull of the tail, contemporary spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle speaks to a more cerebral reaction of an animal faced with a distressing situation. Within the realm of memory, an animal is non-reactive and forgiving.

*Artwork by Donna Estabrooks

Whether an animal’s brain is unable to process resentment is a moot point; the reality is they recover quickly from adverse situations. They move on cleanly, hold no grudges, and are not held prisoner by their own minds to relive the past when it suits them.


Unlike humans, animals do not bask in the bad moments of their lives over and over, begrudging that person or thing that hurt them. They love unconditionally and without memory of wrongs. Animals, like cats and dogs, exemplify exactly the way humans should live.

“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Buddha (2)

Have you ever held on to resentment…I have, and it’s not pretty. Not only does holding on to a bad experience effect you physically, i.e. stress, in one fell swoop it hits the trifecta; mentally, emotionally, and spiritually challenging your very being, placing your character at risk of being altered.

Based on the spiritual teachings of Eckhart Tolle, Buddha, and Jesus, and keeping Karmic Laws in mind, we find that forgiveness seems to be the universal answer to solving the problem of resentment.

“Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of non-forgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.” Eckhart Tolle (3)

I had one point in my life where I obsessed about two people in particular, holding disdain for them every time I thought of them or saw them. I relived the past moments that upset me over and over, retelling myself how awful they were, and therefore how good I was. I became obsessed, until I noticed the change in me.

*Artwork by Donna Estabrooks,

The person I allowed myself to become was a stranger and I knew the only way to regain myself was to forgive, so I did… just like that. Hard to believe but it’s exactly what happened. Instantaneously I found peace and freedom from my obsessive thoughts. Who knew the key to unlocking forgiveness was so accessible!


“Forgive others not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.” Buddha (4)

Carrying the past around is like dragging an anchor behind you; it’s cumbersome and painful, it leaves you weak not strong, it makes you incapable of truly experiencing the present.

“Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you deny the other person’s responsibility for hurting you, and it doesn’t minimize or justify the wrong. You can forgive the person without excusing the act. Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with life.” (5)

I have reached a point in my life now where I try to look more at my present day and less at past events that enraged me at one time. I grant pardon, excuse, absolve, and acquit those who may have done me wrong. I acknowledge the wrongdoing, but I don’t obsess; I try my best to let it go.

Unless someone directly asks for forgiveness, those doing the forgiving usually do it quietly. In my case, those who upset me are totally unaware of my feelings and therefore unaware of my forgiveness. I forgive because it’s right spiritually for me, but I also I do it so I can experience peace.

Luke 23:24
“Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (6)


Saint Francis Cathedral   Prayer Garden             Santa Fe, New Mexico

So, what is the key to forgiveness…remembering we are all human. We all say and do hurtful things; no one is without sin, no one is “perfectly” good, and we all have different personalities and character traits. As soon as you accept those truths, you may still feel hurt or frustrated by others, but you will also be granted the key to forgiveness. With knowledge comes choice!



Laws of Karma

“The law simply states, what you put out in the world by words, thoughts, beliefs and/or actions, will return to you in the same manner it was given.” This is Newton’s Third Law of Motion: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”(7)

In some ways, it seems a bit selfish to forgive, but if you believe in Karma, you may want to entertain the idea that throwing a bit of forgiveness around can only be a good thing. If you question the logic, just take a look at our domesticated friends and open your heart to the possibility of living a happier life. And while you’re at it, remember that forgiveness of self is a non-negotiable requirement for living fully in the present moment as well.

*Artwork by Donna Estabrooks
“Forgiveness of the present is even more important that forgiveness of the past. If you forgive every moment – allow it to be as it is – then there will be no accumulation of resentment that needs to be forgiven at some later time.” Eckhart Tolle (8)

Interesting Reads:

*Biography of Buddha

*A New Earth – Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose











This post is not meant to be a cure all for people who have experienced extreme cases of abuse. Seeking professional counsel is highly recommended!







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