“It’s important to know where you come from and what you stand for in this world”.

I was interviewing a young Maori carver and the power of this blew me away. He was in his early twenties, I was in my mid twenties. I was writing for a careers magazine. A lot of years later this still strikes me as a powerful grounded view of life. This young man’s comments went much deeper than the standard career interview.

Initially the senior editor had wanted an interview with a tattoo artist about the moko (maori facial tattoos). I rang around looking for possible leads but didn’t get far. I was getting strange reactions, they felt like walls. I didn’t know why. I was born in New Zealand but went to high school in Australia. It is part of me but there is a lot I don’t know.

Then I spoke to a woman at the Tourism Office in Rotorua who gently suggested other artforms to investigate. I asked her about the tattoos and the reactions I was getting and she told me. In the past the pakeha (white settlers) had beheaded maori leaders with moko and sent them back to England as trophies. Because of this, the facial tattoos, a mark of great honour, were stopped.  We shared a powerful silence over the horror of this and I thanked her.

I’ve been thinking a lot about forgiveness lately. I’ve just been back to New Zealand to visit my grandmother who is nearing the end. She’s slipping in and out of dreams about her life in it’s various stages. You can almost see her coming to terms with the different parts of who she has been. Her children thanked her for the gifts she had given them. I know that the relationships haven’t been all that easy, so this is a time for forgiveness.

Visiting my homeland is often a strange experience. The landscape stirs my heart. It is wild and green and the sky is grey. It is blustery and wet. The earth is rich and volcanic and rutted with craters. It’s pretty, certainly, with it’s green hills and rocky streams but the coastline is powerful, the sand is dark, volcanoes dominate. I love the wild moodiness of this land and sea. Going back there is like plugging into the electric current of who I am.

I have done things that need forgiveness. My ancestors have done things that need forgiveness. If I hope to be forgiven I must also be willing to forgive. I need to give up attachment to pain, open my eyes to the past and choose to forgive in a very deep way. My country has seen many horrors and much beauty. There is a tangible power in it.

Knowing where you come from is about belonging and honesty. With eyes open to the truth, the strength to forgive deeply means the power to choose what you stand for. Forgiveness is a way of living, a choice. To practice forgiveness means choosing to be powerful in a good way. It means letting the electric current of energy flow. To be “current” is to be living now.

I have wasted a lot of my life feeling sorry for myself. Knowing where I come from is part of knowing who I am. Forgiveness is moving into myself.

Know where you’ve come from and what you stand for in this world. Choose what to stand for. Free people get to choose.

Where do you come from? What do you need to forgive? What do you stand for?