The spiritual qualities represented by Advent—Hope, Peace, Love, Joy—belong to us already. If we invite them to be actively present in our awareness, we’ll discover that during the Holiday hustle and bustle we are free to choose how we feel and we will express our self (whether we choose to be naught or nice!). Open-Mindedness, our focus during December, is a spiritual practice that will increase the momentum of our awakening to these qualities within us like nothing else.

Though open-minded often seems to be about our being simply more tolerant of the passing situations and events in the world, and less bothered by the behavior of others. This “type” of open-minded is incomplete, i.e., our mind isn’t quite open all the way! We’re still left with mental residue that leaves us (more or less) still a little bit intolerant and bothered. It’s like the saying, “forgive but never forget.” What is remembered hasn’t been completely forgiven. Open-Mindedness is a spiritual commitment to a complete lack of judgment; to a willingness to forgive and forget that gives us a better view of life where we don’t see as much to be tolerant of or bothered by.

It’s been said, There is no love without forgiveness, and there is no forgiveness without love. The Lord’s Prayer, in the passage, “forgive us our debts (trespasses) as we forgive our debtors (those who trespass against us, indicates that self-forgiveness (and, therefore, self-love) can only be experienced to the degree we forgive others, especially those we’re sure have wronged us in some way. If we choose to keep a record of all those who have trespassed against us, if we choose to keep a running tally of the mistakes of others, we prevent our self from knowing our self as Love, the Unconditional Love that keeps no record of wrongs. Our experience of the Self of Love within us is measured by our willingness to let go of all judgment, through forgiveness, so that we can love others as that Self. We can’t have one without the other.

If we’re holding a grudge against anyone (for any reason) that judgment lives in our mind, and our mental focus on it holds it in place. Judgment is a living thing, an energetic barrier in our mind that grows higher, thicker and more solid the longer we hold onto it because we feed it with our mental and emotional energy. Everyday we wake up singing our “somebody done me wrong song,” we’re fixing breakfast for our negative thoughts that will energize them all day long, and allow them to grow stronger. That is why it’s always good to forgive sooner, rather than later. But later is better than not at all because our holding on to the anger and resentment caused by unforgiveness is (as the saying goes) “like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

Judgment is dark matter that blocks the Universal Light of Love in which we live from our awareness. Until we let judgments go, and unclog the flow of Love within us through the healing power of forgiveness, we’ll remain “spiritually constipated” because the Light of Love will be unable move within us and remove the waste our unreleased negative thoughts have placed there. The nature of judgment is to judge (period). Our judgments don’t care who or what is judged. They roam around in our mind judging everything and everyone, including our self. The more judgments we have, the more critical of our self we are, and the more we question everything we say and do. We go to work and get involved in conversations with coworkers. We go to a social gathering and get involved in conversations with acquaintances and friends. Then we judge how it all went. We go over and over in our mind what we said, what someone else said, and assign guilt or blame if we judge something didn’t go well. Sometimes it seems as if our thoughts are choosing us and thinking inside our head without our permission, and causing us to feel anxious, un-peaceful, and unloving.

If we don’t practice letting things go (sooner rather than later) it’s easy to forget we always have a choice to look at what we want to see. Deep within our soul, whether we’re conscious of it or not, we all want to see Life as It is created to be—filled with hope, peace, love, and joy for everyone no matter what they’ve done. We’ve all made mistakes, but not one of them has been recorded in the Book of Love. If we’ve been making a list  of wrongs (and checking it twice) it’s time to throw that list away.