You’ve read those clichés and posts. “Forgiveness is the key”; “Forgive and forget”, “To err is human, to forgive divine”. I’m not writing to argue the obvious merits of an open and forgiving heart; I simply wish to examine why we occasionally have SO much difficulty forgiving. What are the blocks we have constructed to prevent it and why did we build them to begin with? These answers can help us open hearts and lives to allow the power of forgiveness to brighten every aspect of our existence.
Recently, I’ve struggled with it. Struggled with forgiving a co-worker. There was undeniably an offense, and to be honest, I’m still pretty pissed about it. But who am I really mad at? Am I mad at the co-worker for the offense? Am I mad at myself for allowing it? Or at the client caught in the middle? This is what I need to sort out in order for forgiveness to take place. Otherwise, I can talk all about open-heartedness and getting past my issues but it won’t mean a damned thing unless I figure out whom I’m really angry with.
Given the difficulty it’s causing me, though, I suspect I know the answer. It’s the same answer 90+% of the time, for each and every one of us, if we’re honest with ourselves.
After all, the human habit is to be hardest on ourselves, isn’t it? Lord knows I’ve always had a problem being kind to Matthew, and loving him.
Yeah. I’m really pretty cranked at myself. Now what to do about it?
Typically, when I’ve reached this point, I’d begin examining what it is that I think I did wrong, so I could learn from it and move on, but I’ve come to believe that this is an unnecessary and even wasteful step. Understanding can come later, if indeed it ever does, because forgiveness is not an intellectual exercise. Forgiveness, whether you’re trying to forgive a family member, lover, perfect stranger, or yourself, is a completely internal event. Your essential spirit, your true, capital “S” Self, cares not one whit about pursuits of the intellect. It is a being of love, which is the antithesis of intellect. Love is purely spiritual, and so is forgiveness.
Now, I know that the title of this article promised an easier path to forgiveness, but just how easy it is depends entirely upon how much you resist the concept. I’m not going to try and tell you that it’s easy for me, because even as I type this, I’m struggling with how I’m going to do this. But I believe I’ve already done the hardest art in identifying myself as the primary antagonist of the piece. This already frees me from the building anger at the co-worker in question, and at the customer. I’ve already embraced the fact that most of my anger is directed inwardly (a passive-aggressive trait from way back), so the remaining ire I feel at the others is already waning. Me though? Yeah, I still have a bit of a problem with me and my role in this infuriating fiasco.
So…to digress for a moment.
I read a statistic this morning that more than 50% of Americans try meditating at some point in their lives, but the vast majority of them abandon the process before they even figure it out. They try to “clear their minds” and find this to be an impossible task, so they deem it “not for me” and move on. This, dear friends, if accurate (which I suspect), is a huge, HUGE tragedy. Without going on and on about the countless benefits of meditation, I’ll say that, even with the sporadic schedule of my own practice and the occasional complete failure of some individual sessions, meditating has completely changed my life. More on that in a later article.
The reason for most of these failures and resigned attempts is, in my opinion, simply bad advice. We read articles like this one online or we watch youtube videos coaching us through a Tibetan monastic meditation ritual, focusing on our breathing and silencing our thoughts and when we can’t do so for the 30+ minutes of the video, we feel like instant failures. We try this and a dozen or so other sources and techniques, never getting there, or getting SO CLOSE for just a few moments, then losing it. Eventually, discouragement and crappy self-esteem (a.k.a. EGO) set in and tell us that this is bullshit. You don’t need this garbage.
And that’s 100% right. You DON’T need that garbage. What you need is a meditation that works for you. An opportunity to create a few moments of self-love and emotional fulfillment you can build upon. An easy, unintimidating method of achieving just a smidgen of peace…that will be where the forgiveness occurs. Forgiveness and love can only come from peace. Just as peace and forgiveness can only come from love. They are all one and the same thing, after all.
I didn’t make any of this up myself, by the way. I’ve listened, attempted, emulated, and distilled, but I make no claims at having created anything here. I’ve found a method which works for me, and I believe it can help you as well.
So find yourself a quiet spot. I prefer my bed, whenever possible. I also meditate in my art studio occasionally, as that is my Zen place, my Sacred Spot. But that very fact makes it an unwelcome place for the energy of the anger I’m currently carrying, so the bed is definitely the spot for this one. Don’t lie down, as you’re likely to doze off, especially if you do this either the first thing in the morning or just before bed. Sit up straight, but comfortably. Good posture will help, I promise, as you’ll be less distracted by discomfort. The rest is easy. Simply close your eyes and envision three things in your life that you love. It can be people, pets, possessions, anything. Just picture in your mind those three things which you love so much, and bask in that feeling of love for just a few moments. Assign a part of your body to feel and focus that love. The heart is the obvious place, of course, and that’s perfectly fine. It is the natural location to feel love most keenly. Just enjoy the warmth of that love for a moment. Then, without releasing that joyous feeling, envision three things about yourself that you love. Yes, love three specific things about yourself. Maybe you’re proud of your perfect teeth. Perhaps your philanthropy is something of which you’re proud. Maybe your artistic or musical gift, or your dedication to animals. What it is doesn’t matter, just that it’s part of you, and that thinking of it fills you with love. Move that love into your heart, and feel the warmth there spread and strengthen. Now, for the last step, look upon those things which you’ve chosen to represent such love in your heart, and feel deep, deep gratitude for them. Be thankful for their presence in your life and heart. Feel and express your complete and total gratefulness for the experience of such love. Then, expand that gratitude, just like a great bubble, to encompass your anger. Be grateful for the anger and disappointment you feel, because it was a necessary step in learning how to get through it. Smile at yourself for your ability to be angry in the presence of such pure love. Envision the entire event which so infuriated you earlier just dissipating into a wisp of smoke, to be carried away on the breeze. Love the smoke as you bid it farewell.
Hold onto that feeling of gratitude as you open your eyes. Is it a magic wand cure to your disappointment and resentment? Of course not. Life doesn’t work that way. We’re very emotional and not entirely rational creatures. But it does almost instantly make it easier to bare, and after a few similar meditations, each no more than a few minutes, you’ll have moved completely past the event which started it all.
The human mind can not be silenced. Eventually, as your proficiency grows and meditation becomes more natural and habitual for you, you’ll find your silence, though you’ll learn that even then, your mind is still working on a thousand things at a time. But it’ll all be in the background. It will not matter in the least, as you’ll still find your peace in the tumult, like the eye of a great storm. Then you’ll learn, as I also eventually will, that when you live in the eye, the storm no longer matters.