Tag Archives: forgiveness

I Forgive You

ForgivenessI spent the weekend at a meditation workshop. It was the second of three total weekends, that together compose the advanced training, in Kundalini Yoga, called “Mind and Meditation.” It was long, intense and exhausting, but also rich. The lecture-based explanations on all the facets of the mind and how it works, nourished our intellect, while the meditations and group sharing, enriched our hearts and spirits, through direct experience.

There were moments where I was so tired, I just wanted to go home and lie down with my dog. But there were other moments that left me truly transformed.

The sweetest of those was a 31 minute meditation led by my teacher, on guitar. He has a way of putting mantras and words to rhythms that are so lovely, they feel like an enchanting love song washing over your soul. (Well, mantras are love songs, after all.)

The words in this particular meditation were simply, I forgive you. It started softly and then it grew, as the intensity naturally and organically progressed, over the 31 minutes. The funny thing is, I don’t remember if he mentioned that it would be that long. I had the idea that it would only be a short, five minute, lightweight, fun chant to start class with. I was wrong. It kept going…and growing. And once we were deep into it, I sensed I wasn’t the only one wiping my eyes.

What is genuine forgiveness and how will it set us free?

1.  Firstly, what it is not. It is not to condone anything. It is not necessarily to do anything, at all, in the conventional sense. Thus, it doesn’t mean taking your abusive ex back, or bringing back into your life people who have harmed you in some way. As Guru Singh put it, it is not saying, “what you did is okay.” It is simply saying, “what you did is what you did.”

2. It also is not mere acceptance. Although it is a fine place to start. One of my favorite writers, Caroline Myss, refers to the inability to forgive (oneself or others), as the strongest poison to the human spirit. It drains our energy more than anything else. Lack of forgiveness cuts into the core of our ability to enjoy life, because as long as we are doggedly holding on to some injustice, we are investing emotional resources into it, to keep it alive, to maintain our status as victims. This attachment, to the past, to the event, to the story in our head about the occurrence, is like an invisible, heavy-duty, elastic band that prevents us from moving forward. And we are the ones who suffer most—not the other. So, although we still need to go deeper, acceptance begins the process of dislodging the story that is holding us hostage. In short, acceptance may be seen as the birth place of letting go, but it is still in the domain of the mind.

3. Genuine forgiveness goes deeper than the mind. It is a matter of the heart. And it’s not even about the other, at all. It is about our own relationship to the past. And in order for the heart to forgive, it has to feel the feelings, in order that they may pass through and evaporate of their own accord…as things always do when we don’t resist them. This means welcoming the hurt and the pain. You have to go there, to go forth. And in that moment, when the tears may flow, you liberate your spirit from those invisible tethers. This is true forgiveness and it is also true healing.

To forgive means to give forward from a memory into the present moment. ~Guru Singh

Image by Nayarts
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Three Tricks to Forgiveness (how to stay married)

A man asks his friend what he can do about his wife’s annoying habit of speaking rudely to people. Besides this fault of hers, one that causes him frustration, she’s a good person, he says, and he loves her. He also values his marriage of 25 years.

Should he try to change her? Can he help her fix this bad habit? What can he do?

I would offer him these three steps, the combined effect of which, leads only and inevitably to forgiveness.

1. Look Inward (acknowledge your own stuff). 

You have “stuff,” too, I’d remind him.  We all do. Acknowledging our own stuff takes courage and humility. These are the qualities that make this step an important part of living an enlightened life. Turning the pointer inward rather than outward, brings us in touch with a more profound and interconnected view of reality; we begin to see the world as a reflection of ourselves, shaped by our interpretations, which themselves, are shaped by our frame of mind and limitations. The effort to  “expand our consciousness,” boils down to the increasing ability to see reality this way—as a construct of our minds.

But, we are so busy judging what others are doing that we miss the opportunity to see what we, ourselves, are doing. And we spend a lot of energy doing it; we spend our time trying to fix others’ broken knobs and loose screws, rather than our own. It’s a bit funny, when you think about it, that imperfect people spend time and energy trying to make others perfect!

2. Acknowledge that Your Partner Puts Up with Your Stuff (all these years).

Now that the pointer has been courageously redirected inward, we can take the next step, which is to acknowledge that our wonderful other has been putting up with those loose screws of ours…all these years! This is certainly cause for gratitude—a delightful, grudge-dissolving feeling, that swells forth from the heart, like chocolate from a wedding fountain, which, in its simultaneous sweetness and ridiculousness, enables us to laugh at ourselves and celebrate our perfect imperfections.

(It is only a half-joke to say that successful long-term relationships are proportional to the combined ability of each partner to put up with each others’ stuff.)

3. See the Positive in Your Partner (it actually takes effort).

For every one annoying habit, there are surely 100 good ones. It takes practice to remind ourselves to see them. The positive mind needs flexing, like any muscle.

One of my own teachers once spoke of a beautiful teaching; to see and then unsee a fault. Taking the time to consciously recognize and remember what we have forgotten, through time and familiarity, is one way to unsee what may not be a fault at all, but rather…our own lesson in disguise, waiting to be discovered.

Top Three Tools to a Better Parent-Child Relationship

I was considering some of the common patterns between parents and adult children recently, especially those that guide the relationship between mother-daughter and father-son. There is no shortage of books and articles about the difficulties and struggles that define these relationships and no fewer numbers of ideas and solutions. “Power struggle” was a term that came up the most. Fear was another. Resentment, control, manipulation, are others. Even jealousy, on the part of the parent. Fine, but my suspicion and eastern orientation pointed in one direction: ego. Behind it all is the unwitting and unconscious culprit of everything. Behind door number one, door number two, and all the other doors, is the same contestant in all its many, clever guises. Here, I distilled my own feelings, along with input from the best of my findings into three parts:

Parents: Let Go of Role.

As parents, we are so wholly identified by our children’s needs for so many years, that it becomes not only difficult, but odd, to relinquish that identification, when our children grow up. Although never signed, nor broken, we have an invisible contract with our children. But the conditions change. It is the last part—the part about it never being broken—that trips many parents up. This is where fear comes in. Parents are in the grip of a responsibility that can seem overwhelming, at times. I’ve heard this sort of thing: “but I can never give up on my child,” or, “the job of being a parent never stops.” And these ideas (seemingly reasonable) and sense of responsibility prevents a graceful transition to a newly defined relationship. (True, if the adult child was in danger, it may be appropriate to intervene, but when anyone is in danger, that’s when we break the rules by overriding common etiquette.)

As a parent, the general idea that you know what’s best, along with the criticism and displays of disappointment that go along with this idea, comes from what Eckhart Tolle calls an unconscious attachment to the role of parent. And this is, of course, the ego’s way of exerting control over the grown child’s life.

Tolle explains that awareness is the instrument for transforming this tendency. I would also emphasize the role of trust. Because fear is always lurking around underneath everything, like dust under the furniture, the willingness to plunge into the unknown with the spirit of trust—a most quiet and courageous companion!—immediately unknots that fear. And without the fear, which guides the habit of criticizing and controlling, you can forge a healthier relationship. It’s the gift of letting go. And by the way, humor doesn’t hurt, either. None of it is as serious as we think!

Adult children: Don’t Blame.

Not only will open blame cause your parents’ defense mechanisms to rise up, thus creating more friction and anger between you, but it won’t undo the momentum of long ingrained patterns and attachments on your parents’ part. And internal blame will only perpetuate resentment inside you.

When your heart is full of anger and bitterness, it can’t see beyond its own blackness nor can anything else find its way in. It’s as if the heart would have barricades around it, preventing it from seeing anything but what it already sees. The recognition that the apparent controlling, the unreasonable manipulation and the needless council, all have their roots in your parents’ love for you, nonplusses the anger—the ego’s greatest clutch. And at that moment, your heart empties so that it can then receive. You see differently and you feel differently. It is an act of letting go of what you heretofore thought was malicious.

Parents and Children: Forgive.

Parents need to forgive their children for not being who they expected them to be and forgive themselves for the unrealistic expectation. We all are a product of an infinite number of conditions—genetic information going back several generations (seven, according to Yogic science), our past life conditioning (again, according to Yogic science), our environment, including all the movies we’ve seen, the TV we’ve watched, the games we’ve played, the schools we went to, our friends and our enemies, even the food we ate. And even within one family, parents are often astounded when their two children are nothing alike. Our influence, as parents, isn’t what we think it is! Yet, ego would have us assert ourselves by way of those unrealistic expectations.

So, parents, it is an act of self-love and true forgiveness, to let go of the expectations. Find, instead, the beauty in who they are, authentically. It is a gift to them, as well as to yourself. And forgive yourself for your mistakes, for you did what you knew how to do, based on the resources you had at the time, as well as who you were and what you were capable of at the time.

Children, likewise will benefit from forgiving their parents for the same mistakes and for the same reasons. After all, to for-give is to give-forth, meaning that, in order to go forward, and allow for a new relationship—one founded on trust and authenticity, we have to embrace what was with true acceptance. This is also what it means to open the heart. All of the resentment empties out to make room for more positive and nourishing feelings.

*Again, guiding this article is my interest in adult children and their parental relationships.

Perfectionism; The Link between Self-Forgiveness & Healing

You can never get rid of your fears, you can never get rid of your pain, no matter what effort you make, until you have the guts to forgive yourself. Just forgive yourself. ~Yogi Bhajan (1/29/86)

I came across this quote by our teacher. Because it spoke to me, I saved it, but I found myself wondering…why? Why do we need to forgive ourselves? That analytic hex I’ve got was at it again. In my left-brained delirium, I discovered the connection in the perfectionistic tendency. So, for others who may be similarly afflicted (by the need to know, or by perfectionism), here is my take on the link between personal evolution and self-forgiveness.

  • To forgive is most literally, to forth-give. In other words, to go forwards.
  • Because the perfectionism that many of us get caught up into, creates subconscious road blocks, which manifests as a plethora of psychological hang-ups, as well as physical issues. We perfectionist types literally make ourselves sick over the possibility of failing in some way. Forward-thinking healers in the medical profession who have embraced this phenomenon, refer to the myriad psycho-somatic conditions more euphemistically, as mind-body issues. Letting ourselves, or others, down, is so unbearable, that mind-body issues, such as pain or depression, becomes more acceptable psychologically. So, forgiveness, in this regard, is more about forgiving what we perceive to be failures, so that we can move on.
  • The secondary emotions that accompany the perfectionistic tendency result in additional unconscious baggage, such as guilt, regret or even anger, which is perhaps the the worst of all because of the internal backlash it generates. I like to refer to these emotions as “backpack emotions,” that only perpetuate our issues.

In short, when we let go of harmful emotions, we simultaneously enable ourselves to heal. Those toxic seeds worked as a scapegoat, in effect—a distraction, of sorts, that allowed for an ailment that our minds considered more acceptable than personal disappointment. Letting go enables our personal liberation.

How to Turn Anger into Forgiveness (Four Tools)

Lists are cute, but…they can only take you so far. The reason is usually because they tell you the “what” at the expense of the “how,” rendering them entertaining, and perhaps inspirational, but simplistic.

For example, I saw this piece of advice, in a list, just last week:

Give up the need to always be right.

 

A good pointer, for sure. After all, the need to be right is not worth the price of your inner peace. But, alone, it’s a bit like that pair of shoes that looks really good, but won’t help you much when it rains. First, we need to understand where this need comes from. Yes, it’s the ego’s obsession. But for practical purposes, the need to be right arises, all too often, in the midst of conflict, and in the nub of an argument. And it comes with anger (the deeper problem), which is escorted by the inability, or unwillingness, to let go, which, in its turn, comes with the inability, or unwillingness, to forgive.

So, what do you do when your mind is spinning, your composure is slipping and your heart is raging? Here are four tools to use, either alone, or in any order you choose:

1. Affirmations. To diffuse anger.

And you thought a Zen person would only tell you to stop talking to yourself! It all depends on what you say. Talking to yourself can either be a help or a hindrance. We talk ourselves into things and out of things all the time and can skillfully talk ourselves out of being angry if we commit to the task. We can start by reminding ourselves that it is our choice to refuse anger and turmoil and instead choose peace and tranquility. It’s also a choice to be offended and if we’re not offended, there’s nothing left to “prove.”

Anger starts out as a feeling and can quickly turn into words, or even worse, violence. And as both the Yogis and the behavioral therapists say, you are not your feelings. Meaning, that bit of anger that starts out as a nudge can be nipped before escalating into a coercive shove.  It’s a kid, talking out of turn. “Thank you for sharing,” you might say, and move on.

But, what about those television shows that tell us to punch things and get it all out? Anger is not something that needs to be nurtured or “practiced.” Which is why, “venting” doesn’t work. Venting is destructive, rather than constructive. Anger is a habit, like everything else. By venting, you are nurturing the combustible mixture of blame and resentment, clinging to the short-lived illusion of relief due only to the effect of exhaustion.

So, how do we talk to ourselves effectively? A positive affirmation is a bit like a mantra, which, when used properly, results in healing and restoration of the mood and emotions. By repeating a mantra, you are enabling your mind to focus on what you want it to focus on, rather than on the continued negative self-talk that only spins the anger. An affirmation can create a powerful shift in your attitude, resulting in peace of mind. An example would be something simple, such as, “I Am Love,” or, “I Am Forgiveness,” or, “I Am Light.” Notice these are all grounded in presence, as opposed to the past or the future realms, which keep us grounded, in turn.

2. Perspectives. To diffuse anger and enable forgiveness.

The need to be right is a poorly covered power struggle, with you vying to maintain control. The palpable tension it creates is driven on by your belief that there is a price the offender must pay, for their wrongful words or actions.

Remember back, for a moment, to a time when you acted rudely to someone you loved, when you unintentionally hurt someone either because you were distracted by your own troubles or because you let your emotions take you for a ride. Sometimes we don’t even know why we do certain things. We can hardly understand, let alone control, our own moods and behaviors—how much more difficult to fathom someone else’s? It’s seldom even about us, at all. Remembering our own slips and blunders brings us quickly into a state of equanimity and calm compassion. It lets us remember that we too, have been there, done that.

3. Visualizations. To Forgive and let go. 

This is a powerful Buddhist meditation I learned many years ago from one of my teachers. It is both startling and highly effective—if done with concentration. Here is the shortened version:

Imagine the dead body of the person who angered you. Visualize their body as distant, pale and lifeless. See, in your mind’s eye, the lifeless body beginning to rot. Imagine worms crawling in and out of the eye sockets and the mouth, and all of the crevices, eating away at the putrefying flesh. Finally, see nothing left, at all, but a strewn pile of dried-up bones. 

This ancient meditation will remind you of the fleeting nature of existence. It will remind you of how silly it is to get hung up on what usually turns out to be nothing at all. It will remind you, most powerfully, of the precious, short time we have to spend with our loved ones and to cherish that time, rather than waste it on nonsense.

5. Breathe.  To diffuse anger and quickly switch gears.
Truth: Most people breathe unconsciously. Which means, too shallow and too fast. We don’t fill up our lungs, which means, we’re not getting enough oxygen and we’re not expelling carbon dioxide. Aside from the health problems that would likely be ameliorated through deep breathing, what it means for our purposes here, is that we’re irritable. The Yogis have long known that shallow breathing is associated with anger and ill temper. And to make things worse, stress uses up even more oxygen. To turn things around, take three big, long breaths—but really do it! With one hand on your belly to act as a guide, bring that breath down toward your belly, expanding your diaphragm until you look like you’re pregnant! This activates the parasympathetic nervous system and effectively kick-starts the relaxation response, immediately bringing you into a different state of mind.

“The art of deep breathing is also the art of real living.” ~Yogi Bhajan