Excerpts from The Good Karma Divorce  by Judge Michele Lowrance

How did I end up in this nightmare? I am a stranger to these dark

emotions now living inside me. Who am I? When did I cross over the

line, and will I ever cross back?

From across the bench I hear the whispers from their hearts. Beneath the fluorescent glare, the parties appear hostile, their arms tightly folded

as if in straitjackets. A deputy stands behind them, menacingly, with a gun.

These two  people, who had once flirted, courted, and exchanged wedding vows, now seem to regard each other as kryptonite. I can see their hands


trembling; my black robe often has that effect. Each comes to court with

an agenda. Each seems determined to achieve vindication by convincing

me of the other’s loathsomeness. Then, and only then, can they ensure that

the court punishes the guilty party for the personal wreckage they suf- fered. With the steam of hatred coming off their bodies like smoke from a greasy hamburger, they will attempt to raise children together.

What did I want for this  couple? I wanted them—a husband and wife

who had damaged each other,


who had even devastated each other—to

realize their anger would destroy them and infect every aspect of their

future. I wanted them both to realize that this was what was happening.

It fi nally struck me: they did not yet realize this. They had no idea of the

extent to which their anger and resentment would injure those around

them, as it damaged their own hearts, souls, and destinies. They had

relinquished their strength by relying only on their attorneys and the

court system to determine their future, oblivious to their own power

over this potentially treacherous divorce process. There, in that forty-

foot-square courtroom, this  couple would either fuse with their anger,

resentment, and bitterness or follow a path leading to peace through

wisdom, understanding, and eventually forgiveness. They were facing

a fork in the road that would change their lives forever.

The  couples I see in my courtroom are desperately searching for

emotional release; they smuggle their pain into their testimony, even

when it is not relevant to the topic. They do so at every opportunity,

hoping that somehow the court will know how to lessen their agony.

In the end their desperate emotions remain unattended and unsatis-

fi ed. The sight of  couples who participate exuberantly in a demoli-

tion derby always disturbs me. In an attempt to alleviate pain, even

though the pain is transitory, they lash out, and irreparable damage

is done. The court system was not built to house these emotions, and

attorneys are not trained to reduce this kind of suffering.

In many ways

my job is not just to decide futures or manage chaotic emotions, but

to construct a master plan for broken families. What is the best ap-

proach to this process that is ultimately life-changing? How could

it be shifted from a life-destroying ordeal to a more positive, trans-

formational process? My professional and personal experience with

divorce, combined with my studies in Eastern philosophy, led me

to consider the law of karma and how to effectively apply it to the

breakup and divorce process.

The Creation of a Negative Story Line

My early experiences have dominated my personal and career choices.

Though I was not even three, I vividly remember hearing my parents

speaking from the next room in a Miami hotel. They were getting a di-

vorce and had just confessed to each other that neither had any interest

in raising a child. “I don’t want her,” was followed by, “I don’t want her

either.” I burst into their room and with angry tears said, “I don’t want

you either!” My mother and father were very young when I was born,

and of course I didn’t understand the stresses of being young parents—

I just thought I wasn’t worth sticking around for.

I don’t need Freud to crawl out of his grave to explain why, when I

sense trouble or abandonment in a relationship, whether real or per-

ceived, I pull out the old familiar menu. The appetizer consists of cre-

ating emotional distance. By the entrée, I’m gone. My defenses, minted

at an early age, are alive and well, and even though I understand this, I

have overcome my history only with considerable effort and experience.

Often a  couple in my courtroom is fi ghting over who gets the children—

unlike my parents, who were fi ghting over who wouldn’t. In the end, the

result is the same: neither  couple is in the right mood to raise a child.


In some Asian philosophies, a destructive event or experience is

often considered the prerequisite to the attainment of enlightenment.

The crisis presents the opportunity to remove a blockage impeding

your life’s purpose. A Japanese proverb says, “My barn having burned

to the ground, I can now see the moon.” Believe it or not, sadness and

even despair can have a positive effect, if those feelings ultimately

loosen your attachment to a relationship that cannot bring you lasting

peace and happiness.

You may think you are permanently leaving your spouse behind as

you move forward into the next phase of your life, but the truth is that

nothing—and no one—really gets left behind in an absolute way.

All of your shared experiences with your spouse—from tears

of joy to tears of sorrow—make an indelible mark on your soul like

a handprint in wet cement, whether you want them to or not. There

are billions of  people on earth, but you will come into contact with

only a handful of them and have deep relationships with just a few of

those. If you see yourself as a planet, whoever comes into your life is

part of your solar system. A spouse with whom you share your life, for

however long, is a major part of that solar system. Pain and suffering

result when you tell yourself that the memory of your former spouse 

has no signifi cance in your current life. The soul and the heart both

know better, and in this tug of war peace may be elusive. Even long

after you separate and divorce, this person and you will share a cer-

tain gravitational pull, and any children you have together will be

permanent fi xtures in your shared solar system. You can’t fi ght that,

and you may not be able to quiet the negative feelings that come up

whenever you orbit too closely to your former spouse (even if you live

thousands of miles apart).

Can you say unequivocally how your life is going to turn out? Isn’t

it possible it may turn out differently than the lamentable predic-

tions made during this diffi cult time? Can you say your story line of

the breakdown of your marriage is absolutely accurate? You can navi-

gate crisis in a way that is life-enhancing, productive, and optimistic.

To emerge from your breakup with this result, you will have to choose

the road less traveled, to be different from those who experience

 divorce as complete destruction.


Chapter break

My second husband and I decided to separate in the April rain

on a Friday afternoon. By Saturday morning, like Scarlett

O’Hara when she made her famous proclamation never to be

hungry again, I made a vow. No matter what turn my case would take(I now was also a case), I would handle myself differently from the many couples I had seen both in and outside of my courtroom. I had seen the 

ravages of the divorce process carved into their war-torn faces. Over time their skin had grayed, and even their hair hung sadly. I have seen people behave in ways they would later tell me they were ashamed of.

I knew what was coming for me; the temptation to be petty and

vengeful would be immense. I wanted this life crisis to be defi ning for me. I wanted to be proud of how I acted, and I didn’t want to whine, weep, and wilt. I wanted to show grace under pressure. It was my job to be the cartographer, to map the person I was going to be when this was over. Poet and critic James Russell Lowell said, “There is no good arguing with the inevitable. The only argument available with an east

wind is to put on your overcoat.” I wanted to fi gure out what kind of

protective gear I would need to construct. Like it or not, I put on that overcoat every day. Sometimes I would feel warm and sheltered, and at other times the overcoat felt like a straitjacket.

Every monumental journey requires enormous courage and inner strength to deal with the onslaught of fear, doubt, and uncertainty.

Because divorce is experienced as an avalanche upon the soul and the





people move directly into survival mode. In survival mode

we try to bury the pain, and in so doing we also bury good memories

along with the bones of the marriage. Now any remnants of affection

must be buried alive, still twitching. This is the time when there is

often devotion to any propaganda that devalues our spouse. Although

survival mode has short-term utility, it can be destructive if sustained

for extended periods of time.

The breakup did not happen overnight. A thief did not steal your

love in the dark. Brick by brick, the house of love was dismantled.

One brick was trust, a second was loyalty, another was sharing core values, and so forth. Compounded and repetitious negativity has become so


dominant that we fear we are losing the person that we know our-

selves to be. Most of us know ourselves to be kind, but now we are

having trouble accessing and maintaining our true self. When the

mind is crowded by negative fears and thoughts, it soon takes on the

character of that negativity. As a society, we have embraced all things

green. We now abhor waste—we recycle everything from cell phones

to the cardboard core inside a roll of paper towels—and we think

twice before we throw something away. Are broken marital relation-

ships the one area of life exempted from the concept of recycling?

Are we so obsessed with hiding evidence of this so-called failure that

we have no choice but to throw out the good with the bad? Through

negativity, are we ready to exclude a former spouse from any further


Recycling is a philosophy—that in everything there is further pur-

pose and possibility. Is it possible that this also applies to a former

spouse? As we shall see, he or she may well turn out to be our greatest



Chapter break


You may inherit money. You may win the lottery. You may fi nd love

at first sight. But when it comes to wisdom, there are no shortcuts.

There is no easy advice, and by the time you are done with your divorce,

you will not be the same. But depending upon how you go through your

stages, you can affect your desired outcome. You don’t need a book to

tell you that you are having a diffi cult time, but you may need help fi g-

uring out how to make penicillin from the mold. Suffering, unfortu-

nately, is integral to fi nding out your life’s purpose. Without suffering

you may never do the work required to align yourself with that pur-

pose. When you can give meaning to your suffering and acknowledge

its transformative powers, you have changed your relationship to the

life process. By now you know that life always contains suffering, and

you will rarely have a dull moment.


A Flood in the Mouth, a River with No Banks


an you remember, however vaguely, during the blissful days of

your marriage, the fi rst time you felt the cut of criticism deliv-

ered by your mate? You were probably shocked as you heard the

crunch of an apple in your Garden of Eden. You had done a slow emo-

tional striptease in front of your partner but now receive no applause

and you thought you heard a “Boo” in the back row.

Hadn’t you chosen your mate because this was the one person in the

entire world who made you feel so good? The person you once could trust

your heart to now, with the precision of a heart surgeon, had the ability

and apparently the desire to cut yours out. The partner with whom you felt

so secure has now woven your security blanket with broken glass.

In the beginning, we know that our mate is not perfect. But we

also know that a little understanding and gentle nudging can help

him or her aspire to what we believe is a better path. Of course, our

mate may feel exactly the same about us. As we start to notice that

our gentle nudging doesn’t seem to be making a difference, we upgrade

to more direct criticism. We tell ourselves we are only doing it “out of

love.” We say things like, “My darling, I wish you wouldn’t eat so much

at dinner. You know you have a blood-pressure problem, and I worry

about you so.” The idea that what we are saying is done “for their own

good” is nothing more than an attempt to put a silk blindfold on your

partner so they won’t notice it is really criticism.

Criticism may start out as an act of love for many well-intentioned

reasons, but like a lion cub, so cute in the beginning, it eventually

becomes deadly. We have all done it; we have all felt to our core that we were trying to help our partner.

After all, in marriage or a com-

mitted relationship we have hitched our wagon to our partner’s. We

have interlocked destinies; in essence, if our partner is harmed, we

are harmed. But when we criticize, we slip into potential quicksand.

Although not meant to hurt our partner in the beginning, even gently

delivered criticism, after a time and with repetition, hurts and causes

the recipient to become resentful. The recipient criticizes back in self-

defense, and a habitual destructive pattern develops.

The Stains of Heartbreak

Hot-, Warm-, or Cold-Blooded Anger

Anger is the garbage of all emotion, but it takes garbage to

make compost, and it takes compost to make a fl ower.



ou never could have known that the fate of your marriage was

being cast at the same time you walked down the aisle on your

wedding day. The sanctuary created by marriage insulated you

from your most primal fears: abandonment, danger, even insecuri-

ties about food and shelter. Now that all seems like an illusion, and by

the time you separate from your spouse, you don’t know which part was

fantasy and which was real. You tell yourself that if it were real love,

estrangement could have never happened. You ask yourself whether

you should have seen it was a mistake from the beginning. You want

to believe that, no matter what fl aws have been revealed over the years

and even though you are headed for divorce, the one you married still

has some tenderness for you. But when that hope melts away . . .

Anger is the harvest of failed expectations. THE STAINS OF HEARTBREAK 67

The emotion that masquerades as power and counteracts this feeling

of powerlessness better than any I know is anger. This emotional phar-

maceutical masks the pain while simultaneously producing an endless

supply of energy. It feels better to be enraged than impotent. Although it

later shows itself to be an imposter, the feeling of power we derive from

anger is irresistibly seductive. Real power comes with wisdom and an

understanding of the source of our fears, but when wisdom and insight

seem unavailable, the deceptive power of anger substitutes for them.

Once a cycle of resentment is formed between two former loved

ones, they are locked in a ghastly psychic waltz. The music is a broken

record, and they spend excessive time circling meaninglessly in a

shared and empty mental ballroom, thick with the dust and grime of

recrimination and bitterness. As in a Twilight Zone episode, time stops

and so does learning, as the grim and silent dancers glare at one an-

other across the years.


Carnival Mirrors



hen we fi nd out our spouse is having an affair, we invariably

believe that: Betrayal is a crime against the soul; it has a persistent

quality that maims the spirit. Although other injuries may heal, this

one cannot, as it has burrowed like an alien into our heart. There is no repara-

tion to our memories, and this kind of scar can never be resurfaced. Our psyche

had sustained damage beyond compensation.

From the moment you learn your spouse has been unfaithful, you

lacerate yourself with questions: “Shouldn’t I have known?” “This is

my life partner—did I allow the betrayal through some failure or mis-

take?” “Does this new love somehow know or understand my spouse

better than I do?” “Shouldn’t I have known from the beginning that

my beloved was capable of deception?” As you spiral down through the

pain, you backtrack through every incident that told your gut some-

thing was amiss. Then you blame yourself for ignoring your instincts.

In your heart you believed that the relationship had fi nally ripened to the

point where you didn’t have to be on guard. With trust you thought you could

relax; you did, and it was delicious. And now it feels as if your life has been

stolen from you when you were asleep. You could have defended yourself, had

you only known. Now you know the truth. Betrayal is a secret battlefi eld you

are unaware of until you are defeated.

GoodKarmaDivorce_3p.indd   85

GoodKarmaDivorce_3p.indd   85 10/20/09   1:15:57 PM

10/20/09   1:15:57 PM


Becoming Sherlock Holmes

Trying to fi gure out what is and is not true as a result of your spouse’s

affair is like using carnival mirrors to get an accurate picture of your-

self. You can no longer be sure when you were loved and when you were

not, when your spouse was or wasn’t where he or she was supposed to be,

or what the tipping point was that left your spouse vulnerable to temp-

tation. The past cannot be calculated or measured; you don’t know when

you were loved 95 percent of the time or when it dropped to 60 percent.

To survive, we attempt to reconstruct an ordered and accurate pat-

tern of facts about what really happened. Reeling and still in disbelief,

we try to piece together a new reality. We want to establish a reality that

is so accurate we can almost see it with our eyes—then we can create our

“theory of the crime.” In so doing, we embark on a circular and painful

endeavor, as this information cannot be captured in time or space. It is

as if, while walking in the dark in a familiar place—a place we know as

well as the back of our hand—we stumble and fall down a staircase we

didn’t even know was there. We try to make sense of every dot on this

pointillist canvas, hoping to reduce the pain. But the dots are in the

millions, and the search takes all the energy we have.

Maybe you can remember the day you fell in love, but it is almost

impossible to pinpoint the day you fell out of it. In your desperate and

frantic attempt to catalogue emotional history (which defi es measure-

ment), you can drive yourself into a state of constant mental agita-

tion. You may fi nd one answer, and in an hour that answer changes.

And when your bearings are lost, the thing you cling to should not be a

thought process that contains inaccurate facts arranged in a fractured

picture. Once you begin re-creating the crime scene, there are unlim-

ited kaleidoscopic realities, leaving you with blurred vision and optical


As you come to realize the diffi culty of re-creating the past, you may

crave the truth so strongly that you try to wrest it from your offending

spouse. Beware of this blind alley. A spouse will lie or shade the truth

for any of several reasons. If she still cares for you, she will try to spare

you the pain of the secret courtship. If the betrayal was some sort of re-

GoodKarmaDivorce_3p.indd   86

GoodKarmaDivorce_3p.indd   86 10/20/09   1:15:57 PM

10/20/09   1:15:57 PM


taliation or was anger-based, he may make the story even worse than it

really was, in an effort to increase your pain. Why allow more power to

be shifted to someone likely to offer answers that can only compound

the ambiguity?

I recommend an alternative approach. It is the only one I believe

offers a chance to choose the lens through which you will perceive your

circumstances. The elemental power accessible in the case of betrayal

does not come from how well you emulate Sherlock Holmes, but from

your choice of attitude. There is no power to be gained by becoming at-

tached to an inaccurate and incomplete picture of a horrifying reality.

Instead, there is a way to reframe the pain so that it transforms your

present into a platform for growth.

The demolition of your old reality has caused your optimism to

become severely impoverished. But what are you really hungry for? In

truth, it is not answers about the specifi cs of the betrayal. What you

really need is a “superfood” that addresses accessing your own power.

This “superfood” will allow you to detach from negative thought pro-

cesses, unhook from your story line about your devastation, and  release

the other person to his or her own fate.

When you fi nd out about the deception, you fall into truth. The

truth is that your mate has unknowable, unpredictable, and mutable

parts. In the beginning we all think we know our partner. Betrayal

tells us what we already knew deep down: reality is not permanent,

and for that reason complete truth is unknowable. Yes, betrayal is

the far end of the spectrum of this idea, but it is the perfect vehicle

for exemplifying impermanence. You have now been forced to accept

that impermanence is part of the life cycle of human existence. Per-

manency and loyalty are beautiful objectives, but their loss should

not be a basis for our self-destruction. That would be like destroy-

ing ourselves over the laws of living. You cannot resist those laws

any more than you can oppose the laws of gravity. When you resist

change, more suffering happens. Spiritual leaders tell us to do our

best when choosing our actions and not to be attached to the results.

Betrayal proves—albeit in an undesirable way—the importance of

that concept.

GoodKarmaDivorce_3p.indd   87

GoodKarmaDivorce_3p.indd   87 10/20/09   1:15:57 PM

10/20/09   1:15:57 PM


The devastating knowledge of betrayal winds its way through every

square inch of the relationship: trust, security, love, meaning of life,

and ego. When you have been betrayed, it is hard to know what to do

or how to feel. To cope with this, you might reach for the heavy artil-

lery. In all likelihood, you will summon commando-grade anger to

feel more powerful, hoping your anger will devour other, more painful

emotions. In this situation, anger is not only abundant, but primitive

and righ teous. Anger is the liquid that pours from a severed reality.

The opportunity for handling anger is now at its highest peak and

its most diffi cult. Then, fortifi ed by concepts that underlie the Good

Karma Divorce, you do the unthinkable. You step out of the plane into

thin air, and you believe in the parachute.

Your parachute is your ability to reframe the present. Accept the

facts, but let the importance of your own process be the overriding

factor. Accept that impermanence, randomness, hypocrisy, and be-

trayal are in the world. We are all vulnerable, but we are not doomed.

I will say the word “forgiveness” now, and I will talk about it much

more in subsequent chapters. For now, suspend your disbelief. For-

giveness in this context means letting go, releasing the betrayer to his

or her fate. You have not been asked to be the historian, the reconciler,

the forensic pathologist, or the judge and jury of your marriage. Be-

lieve it or not, the facts don’t even matter much, in the end. Your cir-

cumstances are not terminal. You are not ill-fated, and this is not too

brutal to be borne.

Betrayers’ deception blocks them from attaining peace. This is

true, even though it may be invisible. We imagine that they don’t suffer,

that they are joyous and indulging every desire. And because they seem

to do so without payment, we believe they have gotten away with it. But

no matter how it looks to you, betrayers are the ones who are lost in

confusion, may have guilt forever, and must carry the burden of lies.

If you allow me this anarchistic idea, the real answer to minimiz-

ing the effects of betrayal is compassion. I am not saying you should feel

bad for deceivers or that their struggle should eclipse your own pain,

but there is another way to look at this. Those who spent all that energy

on deception, without the opportunity for healing, are those who may

be marked for life. I have always thought I would rather be the one who

sometimes experienced unkind and destructive treatment than be one

who was unkind and destructive. To be on the receiving end is just a

passing experience, but those who harbor those destructive tendencies

must live with or resist those urges each day. Their misdeeds are the

basis for our compassion. It is our compassion that will disengage us

from this brutal cycle.


Forgiveness Benefits the Forgiver

It is easy to see how complicated it is to analyze  people’s behavior. You

can shake the kaleidoscope a hundred times, each time hoping to fi nd

the reasons why someone hurt you, and come up with a different pat-

tern each time. With forgiveness you are releasing yourself from hold-

ing on to these questions, the analyzing, the anger and resentment that

keeps you Crazy-glued to the one who injured you. Forgiveness is not

about or for the other party; that person may never know. Forgiveness

is for you. With forgiveness you can go on with your life unencumbered

by ruminative thoughts. You do not have to love the other person again,

you are not reconciling, and you do not even have to like him or her

again—you only have to like yourself enough to let it go. Forgiveness

means you have chosen to let it all go. To let it be. You can now close the

door with nothing lingering.

When contemplating forgiveness, we need to look dispassionately

at our heartache and see what part both parties have contributed. We

GoodKarmaDivorce_3p.indd   120

GoodKarmaDivorce_3p.indd   120 10/20/09   1:15:57 PM

10/20/09   1:15:57 PM


are not required to discount what the other person has done or to legit-

imize his or her actions. Our goal is objective reporting. We must con-

sider how much holding on to resentment costs emotionally and even

physically. Holding on to resentment has been known to create ulcers

and increase anxiety, blood pressure, and body pain. In the act of for-

giveness, we can accept that what was done is done; we do not approve

of it, we believe it was hurtful, perhaps intentional, but we have chosen

to not let the pain remain in our heart or body. We can condemn the act

while forgiving the person.

This is counterintuitive, because the thing you want to do the least

is what helps you the most and is the fastest exit out of the cycle of re-

sentment and blame. There are other exits out of this cycle—you can

disconnect or ignore—but none is as sustaining as forgiveness. With

disconnecting or ignoring you must take care to never see or think of

the other person. With forgiveness it’s all been taken care of—whether

or not you ever see or think of the person again.

The antitoxin of forgiveness does not have to be taken right away,

and it cannot be force-fed. All you have to do is be open to the possibil-

ity, and the inspiration will come when you are ready. The aspiration

toward forgiveness does not require forgetting the past or preclude

learning from it; it gives you control and power over how you will let

the past defi ne who you are in the present and the future.

Victimhood: A Consensual Crime

With forgiveness—for ourselves and the one we believe has hurt

us—we release ourselves from our status as a victim. Seeing yourself

as a victim means, “They did something to me. I couldn’t stop them. I

have no power over them.” That soon becomes confused with, “I have

no power.” But when you forgive, you are no longer vulnerable to them;

forgiveness gives you back your power. The call is yours as to when you

want to diffuse their power.

Your children observe you and model your ability or inability to

forgive. Watching you, they can learn to live a life not controlled by

resentment. They can observe and internalize the process of forgive-

ness. The immediate benefi t of one parent forgiving the other is that

the children’s fear of losing the other parent diminishes. Real healing,

especially when you have children, is recognizing your interconnect-

edness with the other parent and learning to navigate that connection.

By the time you are in the middle of your separation or divorce,

you usually have a fi rm story line about what you believe happened in

your relationship. You have gone over it in your mind often enough, re-

peated it to friends and family, possibly even to a lawyer or therapist.

You may feel let down by the court system and your attorney or even

forsaken by your higher power. You have started to defi ne yourself as

the repository of injury and injustice. In fact, a lot of bad things have

happened to you, and you may be justifi ed in feeling victimized. After

all, remember that the average length of time for a divorce is about two

years. Two years of sustained pain can lurk devilishly to fuse “victim”

to your new identity.

Usually memory is fi ltered through our own personal lens, and

perhaps our memory needs glasses. After all, we are not highly mo-

tivated to rewrite our story line. During separation or divorce, only

a part of us really wants to progress or evolve. The other part, often

the anchoring part, wants to hold on to the story line, because it may

appear to be working for us—that is, until we become more conscious

of how that blaming, nonforgiving story line might be hurting us. Even

as we become aware that our story line is hurting us, we notice that we

are still resistant to change. We believe we are essentially “good”—why

shouldn’t it be our story line? Why should we re-create it? After all,

aren’t we the tree, and everyone else the leaves?

Forgiveness understands that everyone is a tree and everyone is a

leaf. We are all fl awed in some way. To give up our story line requires

true crime-scene investigation that vigorously seeks the truth. Can you

imagine a different version of why your spouse behaved as he or she

did? If not, you might want to look closer at how tightly you hold on to

your story line. Think about how you would feel if you could give it up.

The situation cannot change, but the way you look at it is your choice

when you are determined to become liberated.

With resistance to modifying our story and with repetition, we run

the risk of letting these negative thoughts lay down “tracks,” forming a

brain pattern. The more our brain repeats the story, the more embed-

ded in our thought process it becomes. Other neurons, like good sol-

diers, will enhance these negative patterns and can translate them into

other categories of thought (e.g., “My spouse is out to get me,” becomes,

“The world is out to get me”). It is as if it were contagious. The idea that

we can compartmentalize or isolate negative thoughts about our spouse

is perilously untrue. Scientists tell us that it is possible to undo these

neuropathways once the tracks have been laid down, but over time it

can get more diffi cult. Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone, in describing these

habituated tracks, says, “These tracks become really speedy and effi -

cient at getting to their goal.”1 We have created a negative set point for

our thoughts and can quickly gravitate to them. Forgiveness can inter-

rupt this tracking when we allow for a different interpretation or story

in which we are no longer the victim.

 People often fuse two concepts: that our survival is jeopardized

when we are hurt, and that because anger feels powerful it will pro-

tect us from this hurt and therefore we can survive. During the divorce


we are always looking for strength; we want to feel strong about some-

thing, but we often choose to strengthen the wrong thing. We may

get angry fi ve times a day, so we are quite familiar with that. But the

muscle for forgiveness is quite underdeveloped. The challenge is not to

strengthen the anger, but to strengthen the desire for forgiveness.

When you notice that you have slipped into anger to protect your-

self, you can unlearn this association. Keeping the anger means that

you are emotionally not letting go, and retaining the attachment to

your spouse in the neural pathways of your brain. Once you fi nd out

you are capable of letting go in a way you didn’t know you could, you

will have taught your brain (the old dog) new tricks. Any novel way of

thinking stimulates your brain and upgrades its clarity.

*** Many spiritual leaders have told us it is our “enemy” who is our

greatest teacher. It is our enemy who inspires us to develop the stron-

ger muscles that are needed for patience, forgiveness, and compassion.

The threat offered by our adversary motivates us to do this strenuous

spiritual and emotional work. Once we have begun to go to the deeper

level of compassion that inspires forgiveness, it will become easier to

manage the injustices in everyday life. Each time harm is done to us, it

will not stick like flypaper, because we will have experienced the ben-

GoodKarmaDivorce_3p.indd   128

GoodKarmaDivorce_3p.indd   128 10/20/09   1:15:58 PM

10/20/09   1:15:58 PM


efi ts of release. If we have already done the heavy lifting of forgiveness

with our former mate, we may now move through other wrongs in our

life that have a lighter weight. When we are fi nally able to do that, and

it will not come right away, we will have created a new mechanism for

dealing with the many onslaughts of life. We will have learned a differ-

ent way of looking at the  people who have wronged us, knowing we can

manage their power over us. We are no longer obstructed by a road-

block whose sentinels remind us of our injuries.

If we are unable to forgive, our spirit is heavy, even if it is resent-

ment against only one person. We think we have compartmentalized

that resentment, and it isn’t leaking into other relationships. We may

be wrong. If we have resentment in us, it could create a barrier between

us and everyone else. If resentment lurks, we must judge and separate

those who will hurt us and those who will not. We must keep our sen-

sors up at all times as we relate to other  people. We don’t just build a

sensor for one. If we install a burglar-alarm system, it is not just to

keep out one person. Everyone is potentially a suspect.

Bathed in the muddy waters of resentment and suspicion it is no

wonder we don’t have crystal-clear communication with others. By the

time you are in the middle of your divorce this muddy water may have

become quicksand. Before moving on to the next chapter of your life,

consider bathing in the clear water of forgiveness.

Once you build a story line to protect yourself, this pattern becomes

entrenched in your brain. You cannot tolerate fl exibility as it threatens

the protective tissue of your storyline. Perhaps this is the most dan-

gerous thing you could ever do, as it makes your brain less plastic and

more rigid. (Plasticity is required for a maximally functioning brain.)

All my life experiences tell me forgiveness is the primary strategy. It

is the one strategy that can manage all your injuries, from the small-

est things to the most gruesome ones; it does not change based on the

crime. Forgiveness is the neurological traffi c director for injuries to

your psyche. It is a way of life. It is not just about your spouse—your

spouse is just the exercise. This strategy is for every slight that the

world throws at you, whether fate, bad luck, or accidents of birth. For-

giveness is one of the greatest tools for redrawing the neuropathways

of your brain.

The question then, is: what meaning can we fi nd in relationships

that did not last? We must fi nd a different way to look at those  people

who we previously loved. Sprayed with a mist of obsolescence, our loved

ones appear to have diminished value. Because of the impermanence of

relationships, many fi nd it unwise to allow themselves to be really vul-

nerable with others. When we are guarding our vulnerability, it becomes

more diffi cult to attach, but it is vulnerability that promotes attachment.

Ultimately, there may be a part of ourselves that we hold back in a

relationship. I am always asked why I think the divorce rate is so high.

Perhaps this holding back is not only a reason for the increase in antago-

nistic divorces, but also one of the reasons for the lack of 


of marriages. Without the mortar of intrinsic worth, many of today’s

marriages seem to be built out of Lego blocks that may be snapped to-

gether or pulled apart at will.

Believing that our mate’s value lies only in his or her present func-

tionality to us, we measure  people’s worth only in terms of current

value. How, then, do we treasure our time on earth if relationships are

only fragmented and episodic, and have not been woven into the big

picture of our lives? In a world of replaceability, we have begun strip-

ping away a whole layer of human-relationship value that gives our life

meaning and spiritual connectedness. The platinum emotion of love

can turn into tomorrow’s waste material. We are all in peril of being

looked at with the glint of expendability in our beloved’s eye. With this

mind-set, how can we value loyalty and devotion to the family unit or

to anyone? With the increasing number of multiple broken relation-

ships, we have all accumulated a landfi ll of human memories that can

be either relegated to waste or productively recycled. The only way to

redeem this landfi ll is to upgrade the value of its contents from toxic

to timeless.

Even though we are detaching from our mate, I have given much value

to the handling of our memories. Marriage creates an expansive fi eld

of memories, effervescently rich with the potential to fertilize our new

life. Keeping alive good recollections ensures that our arteries will

carry those memories to our heart, so that our heart will not be de-

prived of nourishment from our past. We know that love can die when

we forget to nourish the source; we have made that mistake before.

Now we know that if we replenish the value of our past, it may feed us in

the present. History is foundational. Our choice is to tell ourselves that

our marital history was always depleted, or that there were, at least for

a time, the creation of valuable nutrients we can still use.

Memory is not only part of the past, it is alive in us now. If its inter-

pretation is negative, it has the potential for self-laceration. Your his-

tory with your former spouse is a joint project. You cannot annihilate

these memories without also killing off meaningful parts of yourself.

You must do something with these memories, as they remain in your

bloodstream. When you accept that you have deposited parts of your-

self in his or her soul, you can comfortably retrieve all the richness of

your experiences, pain as well as joy.

We all have created rooms where our past selves are stored. Do you

want that storeroom to be dark, damp, and without air or usable and

full of wisdom? This book is about recovering something and fi nding

something. It is about recovering the person we know ourselves to be

and fi nding a path for that person to travel on. The memories will have


to be stored somewhere; the trick is to not store them in oblivion. If you

believe that in order to move through the door ahead, the door behind

you must be sealed, you may be entering the gates of prison.


Suffering is the by-product of the divorce epidemic, so the search

is not only for how to live and weather the turmoil, but how to make

sense of it. Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “What really makes one indig-

nant about suffering isn’t the thing itself, but the senselessness of it.”

As with many diffi cult life experiences we ask ourselves, what purpose

does this serve? In the end, the question is: Does this suffering motivate

us to want to change our lives to refl ect our ultimate purpose? Has this

suffering inspired us to ask questions about the meaning of our lives?

As long as we see our suffering as senseless, it is eviscerating. The

Good Karma Divorce way of using suffering will always be applicable,

no matter what the crisis. If we were continually in a state of bliss, we

would never seek answers to questions about the meaning of life, be-

cause we would not want to tip the delicate balance of that state of well-

being. We would always shield ourselves from being penetrated with

life-altering questions. My view of pain is that it is meant to keep the

blood of wisdom circulating. After reading The Good Karma Divorce, it is

hoped you have assembled much wisdom. You now have the opportu-

nity to live that wisdom. Learning from love and the pain of the disin-

tegration of that love is a valuable use of our time alive.

It is never easy being true to the person we want to be or staying true

to our values. There is no place of respite. As soon as we are comfort-

able with a new ordering of our reality, it changes. During our divorce

we try desperately to control our spouse, the system, and our experi-

ences. If we had that much control, we would never choose to be in any

pain. But we are not supposed to have that much control. The better

path is to stay open to all of life’s experiences—that is what liberation is

all about. That is freedom. If you think you have fi gured out the ending

of your current crisis or anything else that happens in your life, then

your projection probably wasn’t “great” enough. You may have limited

your possibilities by trying to control or mold what you think would

happen, positively or negatively. You may have limited your vision and

cut off the chance for spectacular possibilities.