Tag Archives: forgiveness

To paraphrase…

Hello.

It’s been a while.

Did you miss me?

Right, I have some instructions for you:

1) Turn off the lights, close the curtains, close your eyes. Maybe even put some headphones on.

2) Turn up the volume, press play and… listen. Really listen. To every word.

And now, for the sake of clarity, here they are, those words:

Joni Mitchell

 

There is so much here. So much said between the lines and try as I might (and I have begun to a gazillion times) my efforts to paraphrase just sound trite.

So, in a nutshell:

1) You look at the world through fresh eyes, and it looks amazing. You dream. Big. You are filled with optimism. It’s a rainwashed street, shiny and fresh. It’s a blank canvas, full of promise. It’s castles in the air.

2) You are dealt a blow. Given a lesson. You are sobered up. Fast. You grow up. Your world becomes real. You challenge your beliefs. You change your perspective. And it hurts. Hell, it really hurts.

3) You emerge from that cave.  You understand now that it isn’t what you dreamed it was. But, and here’s the thing, it isn’t what you thought you learned it was either. In fact, you don’t really get it. You just know what it isn’t. Your eyes are open, but – now – so is your heart. And your mind. And you have lost so much. But… hey. Look. You have gained so much, too. It’s okay. Let it go.

So, look back at what you believed, at that younger, more naive and innocent you, with fondness. It wasn’t all wrong. And you know? It got you to where you are now 🙂

And, as I heard Wayne Dyer say the other day:

So many things that I did in my life, I look back and think that I would never do those things today. And yet all of my past actions have contributed to helping me be the man I am today. Say to yourself, “I had to be that person and I’ve learned from him (or her).” Forgiving yourself is every bit as important as forgiving other people. You did the best that you could, given the conditions of your life, and you can’t ask any more of yourself or of anyone else.

 

Joni Mitchell. I salute you.


If this… then…

First of all Happy New Year! I love this time of year. I know, I know, it’s only a calendar date, it has nothing to do with the seasons, the equinoxes, it’s all made up… But still, somehow… It’s New, isn’t it? And there’s something almost irrepressibly optimistic about something New.

I disappeared for a while. That’s kind of symbolic, I think. Various technical complications meant that this site was unreachable for a spell, then reappeared in some bizarre form, and today I have found it again. Funnily enough, I rather feel like I’ve found me again recently, too.

Last year, the year behind me, became rather unfocused towards the end. Or perhaps mono-focused is a better way of putting it. Too much was overlooked and fell by the wayside. I say this without guilt or rancour because it was very positive, if exhausting, and because I don’t believe in regrets, but in lessons learned. This Christmas season has brought a fabulous refocusing.

The mot du jour is balance. And it is I this I shall endeavour to hold onto into 2014.

There we have it – my rather over-worded Resolution. Because, you know, I don’t think it does any of us any harm at all to refocus on a fairly regular basis. Stop, take stock, whittle away what doesn’t make your soul sing, nourish what does…

I was listening to Jack Kornfield today. Again, somewhat by accident, I appear to have managed to sign up for Google Play and I haven’t the faintest idea how to unsubscribe, so I’m making the most of it 😉 And I was very pleasantly surprised to find one of my gurus there.

And the part that stopped me mid-mushroom chopping was breathtakingly simple.

It always is, isn’t it?

And then, when you try to explain it to somebody, you’re in danger of being considered a simpleton yourself.

I’ll give it a shot anyway.

He said this:

If this…. then that.

If not this… then not that.

And, he said, that’s life.

It is a simple string of actions and consequences.

But the problems (and I’m no longer paraphrasing Mr Kornfield here) begin the moment we start to personalise those actions – your actions, my actions, his actions – we get into hot water. Forget all that, it mires you in anguish, anger, guilt, the desire for vengeance. And the only thing any of that will do is keep you locked in that time.

In that past.

In that last year.

Why not try:

If I let it go, then I can move on.

See, I said it was simple. And I’m not convinced I’ve conveyed it the way it makes sense in my head. I mean, I hope it’s obvious that if your actions were detrimental to another, you make amends, you make your peace, you take your lesson and you move on a better person. Or that if you were the person ‘wronged’, you can forgive, whether it is desired by the other person or not, take your lesson and move on a stronger person… Those parts, I hope, don’t need saying.

After all, as wonderful Jack says:

“In the end, just three things matter:

How well we have lived
How well we have loved
How well we have learned to let go”

 


My Two Wolves

I’m sure this story isn’t new to many of those reading this. But it bears repeating since, like so many things in this adventure called life, it is just a strand of the tapestry that has recently taken a more discernible form in my consciousness.

So here it is:

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life.

“My child, there is a battle raging inside us all. It is between two wolves.

“One is Evil – It is anger, fear, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

“The other is Good – It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The grandson thinks about this for a minute or two.

“Which wolf wins?”

“The one you feed.”

It’s simple, isn’t it?

But, like so many things of such apparent simplicity, although 1) it’s true, 2) it’s much more easily said than done. Partly because the battle isn’t confined to an arena within ourselves. And ye gods, it’s a tough enough battle when it is confined to that arena.

Before I go any further, I’m not talking here about good and evil. There is no evaluation or judgement in what I am trying to say. What has become abundantly clear to me is that so much human relationship goes wrong when the relating is fear-based, and love is forgotten.

There is of course, the moment you start talking about love, a very real danger of sounding like a blissed-out hippie (which is no bad thing in itself, incidentally 😉 ) I mean, the Beatles, man. They said it, right? “All you need is love”? And YES! I want to shout. It’s TRUE! And if everyone is operating from the same field, removing ego from the game, without becoming a doormat (another fine balance) then there’s nothing to fear. You’re safe to love, and to be loved.

Trouble is, as I see it, if one person is operating from love, and the other from fear, the wolf driven by fear will keep on, teeth bared, until one of you backs down. Usually Love, because Fear will just continue attacking, for fear of being attacked. At which point, after repeated attempts to stop the fight, a few bite-marks and battle-scars acquired, Love shrugs his shoulders, patches up his wounds, and whispers (inaudibly, to Fear) “When you’ve lost your snarl, retracted your teeth and claws, I’ll be here. Until then…”

It seems to be another truth that people will suspect you of operating as they do. Their prediction of your response is based upon the way they would respond in the same circumstances. And if you are driven by fear, then attack is your predominant modus operandi – kill or be killed – and you will expect attack from everyone else, regardless of the wolf they feed. You feed fear, so you expect everyone else to.

It is a very difficult thing, eschewing fear and embracing love. (It is actually also proving rather difficult to talk about without sounding… oh, I don’t know, trite, or naive, or as though you have all the answers – hah!) Maybe it’s something you can achieve once and for all. Eventually. When you attain enlightenment. 🙂

But for most of us, it is a battle we are invited to on a daily basis. And the most important thing I have learned about this fightevery single time it comes around, is:

The more you feed love, the stronger it becomes.

And fear? Well, it just kind of ceases to matter….

 


Beware the Honey Trap…

I am disappointed in myself.

I know that’s not the Practice. I know that if you fall off the horse, you get back on, and don’t berate yourself for falling. Instead, you learn the lesson about the fall, and sit a little tighter, or to a slightly different angle, or readjust the saddle, or… You get the point.

Nonetheless, I am disappointed in myself.

I allowed myself to be dragged into a powerplay, from which I know there is never a happy extraction.

I believe the kind of situation in which I was, once again, embroiled is called a ‘Honey Trap’. The sort of thing where, whilst repeatedly punching you in the face (metaphorically, you understand), you are told “But I love you!”

You can explain a situation from a thousand different angles, from a thousand different perspectives. The problem is not that you don’t understand that you are being punched in the face. You can wax positively lyrical about the ways in which you are being punched in the face, and indeed therein lies the problem: if I explain it this way, they will surely understand… There is great temptation to keep trying. But the problem  lies in the fact that the person punching has absolutely no awareness whatsoever that they are bloodying your face. I choose face-punching as a metaphor quite deliberately, because it is that obvious to you. It is so obvious to you that you are almost entirely unable to understand how the person punching cannot see what they are doing.

And, of course, the problem lies also in the hope that if you can just get them to see, then they might stop.

I could go on, but there is little point in going into detail. After all, this is not a lesson about victim consciousness. I no longer feel a victim of this behaviour. I no longer feel the need to ‘tell my story’, or to have people feel sorry for me. I am not interested in pity, or victimhood. What I am interested in is steering a course through adversity that causes the least emotional and spiritual damage to me (and my family, and indeed my aggressor), whilst maintaining my own integrity and equilibrium.

And, you see, that is where this kind of situation drags you off kilter. My equilibrium was not kept intact. I took my eye off the ball. I allowed myself to be bent out of shape. I lost my cool, half-burned the children’s tea, gave them a fraction of the attention they deserve, spent almost 48 hours being sucked back in. It leeches your life. And, in the simplest of terms:

It is not worth it.

Because, at some great cost – of time, energy, emotional stability and presence – I have learned over many years that there can be no other outcome than an escalation of frustration and a very unsatisfactory parting of the ways, that leaves you feeling less than, and a little poisoned.

The way it works is this:

1) The hook.
Maybe a little message, perhaps of ‘love’, perhaps of guilt, something designed to draw you in.

2) The conversation.
During which you can plainly see that nothing has changed since the last time you communicated.
By now, your warning alarm is going off like crazy in the back of your mind. It is, most likely, shouting “Run away!”

3) The position.
Which usually means ‘I want to keep punching you in the face whilst telling you I love you’.

4) The argument.
In which, in the gentlest terms possible, you try to explain that being punched in the face doesn’t work for you.
This escalates, as the aggressor continues to insist on their right to keep punching. But they love you.
And your frustration grows, as you try to explain that love is not punching in the face.
And they fail to see it.
And you become angry.
And ask repeatedly for it to stop, and to be left in peace.

5) The kicker.
The tables are turned, and suddenly the aggressor is the victim. “I see I have made you furious, when I just wanted to tell you I love you”.
Followed, even after your repeated requests to be left in peace, by “Let’s just leave it there.”

And you sit, stunned and dazed, flummoxed and furious, with nowhere to go with it all, having to process the poison and try to regain your equilibrium.

So, you see, I am disappointed in myself. This pattern is not new to me. It is dyed in the wool, tried and tested, and has worked for years. But, until this last experience, I had begun to master sticking to the solution.

Because there is a solution:

Don’t engage.

It is enormously difficult at first. It feels rude, cold, uncaring. But it isn’t. It is a healthy boundary, and self-protection. When you have experienced the same situation, more times than you can count, and the outcome has never been different, in spite of the many different approaches and angles you have brought to it, then it is sheer madness to expect it ever to change.

Walk away.

Register the sadness that arises in you out of the situation. Recognise that your wishing it could be different is simply a denial of reality.

And then, with a few deep breaths, focus on being here now: cook the supper properly, cuddle your children and hear about their day, tuck them up with a kiss and focus on what you do have, what you can do, the person you can control.

And let the rest go.


A few more thoughts on forgiveness.

Today, I have been listening to the dulcet tones of Jack Kornfield. He has the most soothing and calming voice, which helps a lot, but it is the content of his talks that is the most enlightening. For anyone who hasn’t heard of him, he is the author of such excellent books as “A Path with Heart” and runs the Spirit Rock Meditation Centre in California.

I was pottering about my kitchen, everyone else in the family occupied, listening to his guided meditations. Possibly not the best way of meditating, but better than not at all, to my mind anyway 🙂

And, in his inimitable fashion, he fed me some gentle food for thought.

The way it works for me is this:
I’m washing up, listening, drifting away, my mind snags on something. I stop what I’m doing and focus better. This is what snagged me:

“Stand up for yourself.
Tell the Truth.
It will be okay”

Which was just what I needed to hear at that moment. (Another fabulous way this universe works).

But he went on to do a lovingkindness meditation, which led me down the forgiveness route again.

I often write about the same theme many times. Sometimes I worry about that. About repeating myself. But here’s the thing:
These themes are things that we, as human beings, can struggle with our entire lives. I can’t write about it once and just ‘get it’, like flicking a light switch. It is tidal. The tide comes in and you have it. It ebbs away again and you struggle to hold onto it . But the difference here is that it never goes out quite as far as it did the first time, and eventually, instead of a turbulent and stormy ocean, you find the water has stopped at the shoreline, and you have a still, peaceful lake.

You have it.

So, forgiveness.

Forgiveness is vital to the healing process.

But it isn’t a sticking plaster. You can’t paper over the hurt with it. You can’t force it, even. And this is important.

You cannot force yourself to forgive.

It is a process.

And there are many stages to this process, not dissimilar to the stages of grief. For those unfamiliar with the five stages of grief, the Kubler-Ross model is this:
1) Denial
2) Anger
3) Bargaining
4) Depression
5) Acceptance

And anybody who has been badly hurt will experience most if not all of these stages. My understanding of it, though, is that it is not until you get to the Acceptance stage of the process that you are able to forgive; it is not until you have worked through it all, and truly understood and assimilated, that you are able to let go.

I have said before that we have this perception that forgiveness lets your aggressor ‘off the hook’. In fact, the person being let off the hook is you. You no longer have to dwell in that world of holding on with hate, of clinging desperately to your injustices., of being locked into a cycle of vicim consciousness, which is disempowering to say the least. You are free to move on, unshackled from the ball and chain you’ve been dragging behind you for too long, empowered and in charge of your own life, responsible for your own happiness, no longer at the mercy of someone else’s responsibility for your unhappiness. From victim to conqueror!

Many victims of abuse become angry at the suggestion that they must forgive in order to move on. It has often taken such an enormous effort of will to stand up for themselves in the first place, that they fear that forgiving will set them back into a vulnerable position, that they will have to go through this all over again. And at that stage you are not ready. Your anger fortifies you, stiffens your resolve not to allow such things to happen to you again. It is natural, healthy and in the order of things that you feel it. But it is not a place you can live healthily in forever. The time has to come when you have strengthened yourself enough there to shed the anger and move on with your life, the lesson learned, the boundary strengthened, your happiness lying ahead, and not behind.

Anger, hatred, all those negative emotions are a chain around your heart. They may be protecting it from past (or present) abuse, but they are also preventing you from letting love in, from future happiness, from freedom.

So, when the time is right – and only when the time is right – cut the chain and let your heart fly free.

You cannot lose.

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You’re not going that way…

Today, with my four bigger boys at school and my youngest small tornado pretending to rest for a few moments, I settled down to do some pretty tedious and unchallenging work. It warranted another direction for my attention, so I put on a video of the father I wish I’d had: Wayne Dyer. (You’re not surprised, are you?)

He was talking about something the equally fabulous Alan Watts had said, describing our ‘Wake’. Not the post-funeral kind, you understand, but of the post-boat variety.

I have always loved the pithy maxim:

Don’t look back, you’re not going that way.

If dwelling on the past makes you unhappy, then stop it. It’s gone. Passed: not just a clever play on words. And whilst happy memories are enjoyable to relive, it can be equally unhealthy to dress them up in brighter robes than your present and wish you were still there, rather than right here where you are now.

Although I may appear to have digressed, it was precisely this point Dr Dyer (and Alan Watts, of course) was making. The wake of a boat trails behind it, no longer a part of it, no longer remotely significant apart from a simple trail denoting where you have once been. You can stand at the back of the boat and watch it, but there seems little point in that, really. After all, if you’re standing at the back, looking out at all that foam and debris, you can’t see where you’re going, can you?

Equally, though, and rather importantly, the wake cannot steer your boat. It cannot power it.

Do you see?

Why do we allow our past to cripple our present?

I have heard Dr Dyer before quoting a counselling session he once took, where his patient was bemoaning the fact that, when a child, her parents had forbidden her to learn to ride a bike.

But the question has to be: what is stopping her learning now?

Instead of complaining about past injustices, hurts, lacks, wants; instead of allowing them to define who we are now, learn the lessons they have taught you, and then let them go, release them, look on them simply as the wake, a geographical marker of where you once were, and learn or, as is often also the case, relearn in a healthier and more positive way.

Nobody powers your boat but you. Nobody. And if you feel you have handed the controls over to someone else, nobody could have handed those controls over but you.

So take them back.

And move forward under your own power, looking straight ahead, feeling the spray on your face, the sun on your skin, and the wind in your hair.

And stop looking over your shoulder.

With love.

Merrily, merrily, merrily…

There have been a couple of things pootling around my head lately, on this bumpy old Path.

I was having a conversation the other day about forgiveness. This is not an unusual occurrence just now. In my experience, when there’s something you need to assimilate, it throws itself at you with such insistence and regularity that resistence proves  futile…

So, the concept of forgiveness is one that I have been grappling with for some considerable time.

My first observation is that we need to detach from the story. And by story I mean ‘Victim Story’. The concept that anyone else has any control over the life we are living now is, frankly, skewed. The only person with any control over your happiness is you. Nonetheless, people are successful at self-control to greater and lesser extents, and it is a sad fact that if we are unable to relinquish blame and attack, we are likely to be very negatively motivated. And who needs that in their life? Happiness is dependent upon your thoughts, on which of them you believe, and on how positive (or otherwise) they are.

So, while it is not only possible but vital to learn to forgive, it will not always lead to a healing in your relationship. That part is very much dependent upon the relationship between you and the person you are forgiving. After all, if you are forgiving a past hurt, and there is a genuine change of heart, or behaviour, then your relationship has great hope of being healed. If, however, there is no change of heart or in behaviour, you may need to give it up. This I have mentioned many times before: if you can’t say ‘no’ within a relationship, you may have to say ‘no’ to the relationship. None of which is easy. Until you understand, that is.

Until you understand. It isn’t about looking backwards and becoming mired in the past. That’s already been and gone. It is about moving forward, the lessons assimilated, your heart and mind open to new experiences. Which will surely come.

In short, then, it is not difficult – once you have taken the decision – to forgive. It will set you free. Sounds trite, doesn’t it? But it’s true. All the while you have been holding a grudge against your ‘violator’, you have been keeping yourself locked up. That is the biggest and saddest irony of all.

So forgive.

As far as forgetting is concerned, I’d argue that it is important to forget the hurt, but I would argue that it is just as important not to forget the lesson. “Hurt me once, shame on you. Hurt me twice, shame on me”. It’s rather a blunt way of putting it, and leaves out the possibility of any wriggle room in between the hurts, doesn’t it? But it holds merit all the same. There’s a message in it. You don’t need to keep going back for more. But you don’t need to hold onto the hurt or the resentment or the blame. You can let that go, too.

On a much lighter note, I was listening to Wayne Dyer the other day (just how many times have I written that?!) and he was talking about singing a song with his little daughter many moons ago. The song, and we all know it, is Row, Row, Row Your Boat

And this is what he said (I’m paraphrasing):

Row, row, row your boat.

Not my boat. Not someone else’s boat. Not a boat someone else has told you to row. And don’t let anyone else row it, either. Row your boat.

Gently.

Not angrily. Don’t force it. But go gently. With compassion. And… gentleness.

Down the stream.

Don’t row your boat up the stream. That will just bring you difficulty. Row your boat down the stream.

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily.

Keep cheerful. Row with joy. Not sadness or unhappiness. But with a merry disposition.

Life is but a dream.

It’s fleeting, isn’t it? And here Dr Dyer quotes Henry David Thoreau. I cannot remember the exact quote, but here’s another of his that fits the bill perfectly:

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”

So here we are again, eh?

Row your boat.

Yourself.

And enjoy the journey.

With love.


Day 12: Shoulder-Shaking

Forgiveness seems to be the order of the day.

I can’t escape it.

Everywhere I turn, everything I listen to, every book I pick up, every unbidden thought: all keep coming back to the same thing…

It’s Sunday. I have five boys enjoying a day of rest, of watching movies, eating home-cooked food, playing with their toys, and together, and on their computers. It’s a chilling-at-home kind of day.

So it’s not very quiet either.

And I resorted to listening to Jack again.

Guess what?

Yup.

Forgiveness meditation.

Two prisoners of war, talking.

Prisoner 1: “Have you forgiven your captors yet?”
Prisoner 2: “No! Never!”
Prisoner 1: “Then they still have you in prison, don’t they?”

This is what I was trying to get at the other day. This is the problem with the idea of forgiveness.

Do you suppose that either of those prisoners will be seeking out their captors? Will they be looking to find them, to tell them they forgive them, to try to be ‘friends’? I mean, I am aware that Nelson Mandela did, but… he’s kind of an exceptional case, isn’t he?

This is it! This is where I have, in the past, so very often come unstuck. If I have been hurt by somebody, baffled by their actions, and I want to move on… the first port of call is: “I must forgive them”. Because forgiveness means letting go of the pain, the anger, the resentment, the hurt, that keep you tied to the past. But what has always kept me teetering on the brink of this idea, of achieving this forgiveness, is the assumption that forgiveness means allowing those people back into my life in some way.

But today I learned something different.

As Mr Kornfield says:

Forgiveness does not in any way justify or condone harmful actions…
Forgiveness does not mean you have to seek out or speak to those who’ve caused you harm. You may choose never to see them again…
You can do whatever is necessary to prevent further harm.

And suddenly, the whole idea of forgiveness becomes a release, doesn’t it? I can let go of the hurt, the resentment, the grief. I can move forward. But, crucially, I can learn from it, too. I can choose not to put myself back in the firing line. I can remove myself from the situation without anger or judgement. I can replace those negative feelings with a universal love for my fellow human beings. And I can move on.

Hatred, he says, never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed.

Put simply, and as implausible as it may at first appear, I can love my aggressors from a safe distance. Because when the realisation is fully absorbed that we all make mistakes, that we are all flawed human beings, that we all hurt, that we can learn from both the hurting and the being hurt, that from all these experiences we can grow… where is there room for hatred? How are we different? Simply through our choices. Through how we choose to act or react. Whether we choose to remain locked into the negative and growth-inhibiting cycle of blame, recrimination, victimhood and hurt, or to face it head on, feel it in its awful, amazing, painful, essential entirety; learn

… and grow.

;


Day 8: The Game of Life

Following on from yesterday’s discussion on forgiveness, today (after tea and before bathtime) I delved a little deeper into lovingkindness meditation (with Jack Kornfield again).

There is a formula. It isn’t just a case of sitting there and feeling fuzzy 😉 And as with so many great perspective-shifting practices, you start small and work your way up.

I remember a couple of years ago listening to Reverend Kusala talking about the Five Precepts – the Buddhist ‘Code of Ethics’, if you like – and he started, logically, with the first: I will not take life. He was speaking, I believe, at a university and he suggested to his students that they should start with the easy stuff.

“Today,” he said “Just today. Make the decision to try not to kill any lions, tigers or bears”…

Naturally, he got a laugh. But you get the point. Start with the easy stuff.

Well, the idea with lovingkindness is that you start with yourself. If you can’t love yourself, you will really struggle to love anyone else properly.

Okay, on second thoughts, maybe that’s not so ‘easy’. Loving yourself, for some of us, is no mean feat. But it is something we can all do. And why wouldn’t you? Why are you worse (or better, for that matter) than anyone else? Why should they deserve your love and not you? So… if that’s where you come unstuck, then that’s something to work on, isn’t it? Examine, honestly, why you struggle to love you. And work on accepting yourself. And then on loving yourself. Just as you are. Perfect and imperfect, all at once. A fabulous paradox.

It could take time. It could take moments. But it won’t happen at all if you don’t try.

In your sitting position, you repeat these phrases:

“May I be filled with lovingkindness
May I be well in body, and in mind
May I be safe from inner and outer dangers
May I be truly happy. And free.”

All great (and achievable) aspirations. And while you are repeating these mantras, focus on the heart. Picture, and feel, it opening. Letting you in. Looking after and loving you.

Then, you move on to the people you love. People who are positive and happy influences in your everyday life. And, with them in your mind, you begin your mantra again:

“May you be filled with lovingkindness
May you be well in body, and in mind
May you be safe from inner and outer dangers
May you be truly happy. And free.”

The circle of influence moves ever wider as you then encompass all those around you, to include them in your lovingkindness. And the words, of course, can be adapted to sit more comfortably with you. As long as they are loving!

But then… Oh, then! Then… you hit the tricky stuff. Which is where Day 7 comes in. Then, you extend your lovingkindness to your ‘enemies’. And, I guess, the trick is to keep your heart open when you think of them, to keep it open as you repeat your mantra, to keep it open without allowing it to close up in self-protection, as it is instinctively inclined to do… And if you have truly forgiven, it isn’t so difficult. And if you haven’t, then forgiveness meditation is next 🙂

Forgiveness is letting go, after all, isn’t it? Don’t let the hurt snag you any longer. Don’t let the anger hold you back. Look forward, because that is the direction you are headed.

Bertie made me laugh today. He put into innocent five-year old words what, at forty-one, I struggle to articulate adequately.

“It’s like a game, isn’t it mum?
I control my arms and my legs and my mouth.
I point the way I’m going.
But I can’t see my face!”

This body is borrowed for the duration of the game.

And at the end of this level, points accrued or lost, you’ll get a new one.

As Bertie would say: How cool is that?!


Day 7: Forgiveness and Personal Responsbility

Periodically, I come back to forgiveness. And each time I do, and prod it a little, gingerly, just at the edges at first, to see if it’s still tender, the quality is subtly different.

With time, growth, life, love, trust, things change…

We all have a story.

We all have someone to forgive.

But why do we find it so damned *hard*?

I have a suspicion that it all comes down to victim consciousness again. Whilst, I think we can all agree that we want to forgive and move on with our lives, that harbouring resentment is at best unhelpful, something keeps us there, locked into the battle, holding onto that resentment which stops us really forgiving…

We don’t want to let them off the hook

It becomes easy to say “I’m over it. I’ve moved on.” But have we really moved on if it still resurfaces when we think or talk about the object of our potential forgiveness? If thinking about them brings difficult feelings surging to the surface, there is still work to do.

Allow me to share a little of my own experience. After all, I feel I’ve rather run the gauntlet of the victim consciousness – anger and resentment – impotence – acceptance – compassion – forgiveness spectrum over the last half decade (almost)… Well, actually, if I am to be brutally honest, I think I’ve probably been a victim my entire life, until quite recently. I very clearly remember telling ‘my story’ to an older ‘mature’ student friend at university. A lot. And feeling very sorry for myself. And that was half my lifetime ago… She was a kind listener, sympathetic, and I was grateful, but looking back now I cringe rather. I wonder, a little, if it might not have been better for me to tell me to start looking forward, to stop dwelling on the past, to focus on what I do have in my life and release the fantasy experience I felt I should have had… But maybe that, too, is ungenerous. If everything happens when it is supposed to…

As I said, we all have a story. And those stories evolve and transmute over time. Mine involves pretty much every member of my immediate family, and I think that forgiveness is especially difficult if you feel ‘wronged’ by people you feel ‘are supposed’ to love you. (It is perhaps the subject for another day, the belief in the story… Why are they supposed to love you? Why was it wrong? And with deep examination of even these questions, presumptions about our entire lives, our whole worldview, it all begins to unravel). Over the last years I have really struggled with the concept of forgiveness. I had always understood (without giving it much examination) that if you follow a spiritual path, then surely forgiveness shouldn’t be difficult? Well… that was what I thought. But I don’t any more. I don’t think it is something you can just do. I don’t think it comes until you are ready. Until you have processed your life experience, until you have raged, grieved and let it go. In other words, I think that forgiveness is a kind of organic by-product of working through victim consciousness. When you stop blaming everyone else for the way you feel…

…Hang on. Let me stop there and examine that. What I didnt say was
“When you stop blaming everyone else for what they have done“, but
“When you stop blaming everyone else for the way you feel“…

Because these two things, I suspect, tend to meld in our minds into one. But they are so distinct. You cannot control what other people do. They may set out to hurt you on purpose, or simply hurt you incidentally. How it is done is secondary. What is important is your hurt. Because only you can control that part. You can choose to let it hurt you, or you can choose not to. It is fine to be flummoxed by someone else’s behaviour, words or actions. Every day, in this world, I witness things, the motivation for which I simply cannot fathom. Being confused or baffled by other people is almost an inevitable part of life. Taking their actions personally is the part that we can control.

The simple truth is that deliberately setting out to hurt someone else can only really hurt you. The buck stops with you. Your behaviour is under your control and no one else’s. So blaming your actions on extraneous circumstances simply doesn’t wash, does it? And if you hurt someone else because you acted without thinking, or insensitively, the buck still stops with you.

But we are talking about both sides of the coin here, aren’t we? Hurting and being hurt. If you act out of genuine compassion and love, without judgment, with integrity, mindfully, it would be enormously difficult to hurt someone (I’d like to say impossible…) And if you believe that everyone is following their own path, that everyone has their own lessons to learn, and that those lessons necessarily take them on routes that give them choices; that you might not like those choices (which are choices that they make for their own lessons, after all), but you don’t take their choices personally, then you can’t be hurt either… Does that make sense?

I tested my theory today, during my meditation. I prodded that hurt part of me very gently to see if it still hurt. I summoned into my mind the person with whom I have the longest history of hurt, whose victim I have allowed myself to be for the greatest time, and I found love. Not affection or fondness, I should add. I think that may be a bridge too far. Too personal. More a universal love for a fellow flawed human being. But more pertinently to this point today, not hurt or anger. Nothing difficult or edgy.

Nothing.

I have let it go.

And if I, a victim for almost four decades, a mummy, a daughter, a partner, an ex-wife, a sister, a friend, can do it…

What are you waiting for?

Start now.

It’s time to live. 🙂