Today, a series of articles on several blogs were posted on Forgiveness. This is a response to some of the feedback I’ve received. In no particular order.
NOTE – if you land here first, you may find reading Deep Forgiveness (above) useful first, as well as following the links to other posts on the subject. There are several other excellent posts I’ve not cited here.
How do you tell you have complete forgiveness? That you have let go of everything? Your life is wonderful. You are a living embodiment of peace. All your relationships are happy and loving. Your life is smooth and supportive. Money flows easily to you.
Clearly, it is a rare person who has achieved this level of release. I’ve made some progress but certainly have a ways to go. So don’t go getting into blame stories if you have been unable to do some forgiveness. As I wrote in the prior post, Forgiveness is not something you can do. It is something you prepare the ground for. Then it arises spontaneously. From grace we could say.
Gail @ A Flourishing Life wrote Is It Time To Forgive? There, she suggests a forgiveness process that may help. But if you have not yet cultured the ground, you may find it very difficult. Again, it’s not something you can think your way through. And there can certainly be a big “NO” to doing this stuff. That is the resistance embodied, otherwise known as the ego.
As I have said here many times, the key to spiritual progress is to make that inner connection to who you are within. As that silent being becomes more established, the dynamics of forgiveness are much easier to engage.
Another point I’ve touched on in the past – at first, you’ll find yourself noticing how you’ve reacted after the fact. But even there, you can then process the feelings and let them go. With practice and on good days, you’ll begin to see them while it’s happening, during the drama. Sometimes you may even find yourself able to choose, to change the direction of what is already playing out. Catch yourself in the act.
Finally, you’ll begin to notice the reaction as it first arises. Before it has engaged. That’s when you really have choice. But even there, you may find you still want to let the reaction play out. Let it go.
Remember, this is NOT about making feelings bad. That’s just another form of resistance. As Matthew observed over on Urban Monk, even hatred can be a positive force. The key is not the emotions that arise. It is our relationship to the feeling. Are we taking it personally? Are we holding to it, making a story about how it’s justified? Or how that’s a bad feeling? How it’s wrong to feel that way? Or are we simply experiencing what arises and letting it go?
Neutrality to whatever arises. This is equanimity. This is the end of the war within that will see the end of the war without.
For some people, the most difficult to deal with are former mates. For others, parents. Especially if they’re still in our life, reengaging the drama. But always keep in mind that it takes 2 to tango. If you stop taking it personally, trying to figure our who’s right and wrong, and disengage from the story, the relationship can change dramatically. The other party may still make a fuss or may be unhappy you’re not playing your “proper” role. But if you don’t engage it, the drama story will disengage.
Events in my own life recently brought all of my immediate family together in a non-neutral circumstance. While others were quite stressed by it, I tried to stay conscious and not engage the old stories. Not only was I minimally stressed but I soothed others, events went very smoothly and things worked out very well. And I cleared still more. There’s one area I’ve made some progress in at least. (laughs)
Don’t be discouraged if your clearing efforts don’t bear immediate fruit. The process really does work. You may at first find it like peeling the onion, layer upon layer. But as the better forgiving skills arise, it will clear faster and deeper. When you pull the root, that dynamic will finally end.
Watch the expectations. Expectations are a form of holding. We may expect conflict and thus engage automatically. Or we may expect too much of ourselves, then judge ourselves a failure if we don’t seem to succeed. Just remember that even being able to see the process in action is an amazing insight. One that will have profound long-term benefits for you, even if it doesn’t seem to be helping much from day-to-day.
If you notice an inner conflict with what’s right, that is the story, looking for an excuse. Who should I blame? Where feelings are concerned, there is no right or wrong. There is only what is. The weather is not wrong. So why would our inner weather be wrong?
Don’t be surprised if the process brings up mud you had no idea you had. All of us carry horrific and nasty judgments of ourselves and others. Stuff that goes a long way back. If we can see them and let it go, they will end and cease casting a shadow over our lives.
It is true that as the resistance passes, we’ll notice “negative” emotions less and less. But this does not mean we’ll never get angry. Eckhart Tolle gives the example of coming across an animal being abused. Anger is natural, just as joy.
Another point that arose was letting go of all feelings, even joy. We should not try to contain or hold joy or love. They will find their way in freedom. They will die in a box.
Forget about perfection. You’re human. Give yourself a pat on the back for getting this far. Self-blame has to be the biggest weight so many of us carry. If we can ease up on that a little, we’ll find the world a much brighter place.
Brighter, in fact, than you can imagine.
Peace be with you on your journey home.