In St. Francis’ Tomb


Jul 09

image from Franco Zeffirelli’s Brother Son, Sister Moon

Something really remarkable happened to me last week, and I’d like to unpack it and see where it takes us. I had the chance to be in the tomb of St. Francis of Assisi. We had just arrived in Assisi and were visiting the Basilica. Somehow, I had gotten it in my head that Francis’ tomb was elsewhere, and I wanted to visit it the next day. Well, it wasn’t and there was the entrance of the tomb, and ready or not, I was going in.

Now, Francis (or Francesco) has been a major spiritual hero of mine since I was a kid, and his example and loving spirit had saved my spiritual butt on several occasions over the course of my life. And there I was walking down the steps to where his earthly remains lay. I was immediately entranced by the beauty of the place and powerfully impacted by a sense of presence. This presence was the only thing that kept me from sobbing like a baby, but tears flowed like water down my face anyway. I sat there in silent prayer and meditation for a while, and kicked out a few petitionary prayers—one for a dear friend who is suffering from leukemia. But mostly, I just meditated.

I felt my heart center heating, as the tears continued to flow. I left deeply moved, in love with Francesco all over again. But here’s where it gets interesting. Later that day, when I was meditating again, I noticed that some old resentments I had been struggling with for some time were gone. Nada. Instead, there was a sense of love and compassion for the individual against whom I had most unwillingly held this resentment. In my meditation, I began to contemplate what the nature of forgiveness is. What came to me was that we can really let go when we are no longer identified with the part of us that was hurt. As long as that feeling of being hurt is part of what we identify with as our “self,” it will cause us pain and tie up our psychic/emotional energy into a knot. But when our sense of self expands so that the knot is not “me” the subject, but rather an object held in a larger context, it loses its stinger. Then, with conscious awareness, we can untie the knot and free up that energy for our positive growth and evolution. And the funny thing is, or so it seemed in my meditation, the energy that is thus released and transmuted is not just available for our personal growth, but for the collective good of all beings.

Or so it seemed in my meditation. What followed was a sense of warmth and expanded openness that has stayed with me. I think this is important to understand in our Integral Recovery work. It has long been understood in AA that one can’t hold onto resentments, as they lead to relapse. We can put these resentments in the same category as unresolved trauma. They cause a constant unrelieved stress, consciously or unconsciously, and neurologically, this stress produces the negative brain chemicals CRF and cortisol, which cause the cravings emanating from the reptilian brain stem that, sooner or later, lead to relapse and possibly death. So it’s a big deal.

How we deal with these resentments? The first step is to have an interior practice such as meditation (if you don’t want to wait years for powerful results, I recommend Holosync), where we create a space for the feelings of resentment to arise in awareness. Then we just hold them in awareness, both in our mind and bodies, and allow them to release. Sometimes it’s easy, and sometimes it takes more work. But it must get done, both if you want to stay sober and if you want to continue to grow and evolve spiritually and emotionally.

Remember, the master is the one that sticks with the practice. As your interior practice deepens into more and more essence, all the quadrants of life are experienced as more translucent. And as this depth and light permeate your experience more completely, the former shallow side of the pool simply loses its appeal. In my case, I seemed to get some help from Francesco—and of course, in an Integral model, there has to be a place for miracles.