This afternoon my buddy Joe and I are hopping into a zipcar to Trenton, NJ to check out a Miracle.
Specifically, MIRACLE IN RWANDA.
It’s often said that all of yoga philosophy can be summarized as “Letting Go.” Whether it’s about clinging to the past, worrying about the future, or getting attached to fleeting desires, we have to let go to find the happiness we seek. Perhaps the most powerful form of letting go we can experience comes through forgiveness.
A few years ago I co-created and directed a play called MIRACLE IN RWANDA with my wonderful friend Leslie Lewis that’s been touring the world to great acclaim. At this writing it’s played more than 150 performances over six continents and is still moving audiences to tears and thunderous applause. (Stay tuned as there’s exciting talk of new NYC avenues for the play this fall).
Miracle In Rwanda tells the story of Immaculée Ilibagiza.
Immaculée’s family was brutally murdered during the slaughter that began in Rwanda in April of 1994 when over 1 million people were killed in just three months.
Amazingly, for 91 days, Immaculée and seven other women huddled silently and cramped together in an undiscovered extra bathroom – one with a floor that was only two feet wide by three feet long! – in a local pastor’s home. Years later when Sixty Minutes profiled Immaculée, she and the other survivors returned to this very site, barely able to fit standing together in this tiny space.
In the course of our play, Leslie Lewis brilliantly depicts our friend Immaculée experiencing the entire range of human emotions.
Her terror escalates as literally hundreds of machete-wielding killers search the house where she is hiding again and again. Calling out her name, they are determined to find and butcher her as they have all the other members of her family.
Immaculée moves beyond her intense fear into rage and despair, somehow in the end managing to find a deeper spiritual connection than she ever thought possible.
Immaculée is often called “our generation’s Anne Frank” – yet one who we are thankful survived a holocaust.
I believe that the true miracle of her story is her ability to choose her spiritual focus and to let go.
Astonishingly, she somehow manages to find it within herself to forgive even those who had murdered her own mother and father and brothers.
The facts of Immaculée’s story are so incredible – the brutality of the murders and the squalor of her conditions – that countless audience members have had the same response: if she can forgive something that horrible, maybe I can forgive someone I haven’t been able to forgive in my own life.
Almost all our injustices and grievances pale in comparison, allowing her journey to inspire our possibilities.
Interestingly, Immaculée is very clear that one of the primary motivations behind her remarkable attitude is not some kind of theoretical, saintly altruism, but rather the fact that forgiveness simply feels better than holding on to rage and hatred.
Paradoxically, letting go is the most self-serving option you can exercise because it’s the only way to truly free yourself from your own misery.
I’ve observed so many people in my own life – including myself – who may have gone through a wrenching break-up or a divorce, but for a long time still had not let go of the past.
The ink might have dried on the legal papers long ago, and every trace of the ex may have been removed from the visible environment, yet inside the battle continues far longer, unabated.
I’ve also known colleagues who’ve quit their jobs and traveled to India, yet still maintained the same level of resentment they had felt at their former bosses, just as if they were still only working a cubicle away. Time and geography may soften things a bit, but the heart must truly let go in order to be free. Otherwise, you’re stuck in an endless tug of war, never to enjoy the next round that life wants to offer you.