Takuin and Albert (Urban Monk) decided to post on the subject of Forgiveness on the same day. They invited me and others to do the same. It’s an important subject and a good time of year to consider it.
I’ve spoken here a few times about forgiveness. It is a profound part of the personal journey to wholeness.
But before we understand forgiveness, we need to understand the origins of what we seek to forgive.
True forgiveness is not a concept. It’s not something you do with your mind. In fact, it’s not something you do at all. It’s something you undo, something you release. It is the letting go of what we have long held.
You see, when we have an ego, a sense of being separate from others, we work to feel safe. One of the ways an ego feels safe is by making itself right. And to make oneself right, we have to make other wrong. This is the seed of conflict.
The other aspect of ego is to make it personal – what happens is about ME. It’s happening to ME. When events arise in our life that make ME feel uncomfortable or threatened, the ego will make it wrong or bad.
The cumulative effect of taking it personally and making it wrong is that we resist life. We push against what shows up in our life, not realizing this resistance is not a prevention. It is a holding on. It keeps what we don’t want with us. Not understanding that like attracts like, we unintentionally amplify what we hate. The world comes to appear as messed up and unsafe. The inner narrative (monkey mind) about this I call the shadow story. This is what keeps it going. The result is what Eckhart Tolle calls the pain body.
The solution to this drama is forgiveness. But to understand forgiveness, we have to see this a little deeper still.
When an experience shows up in our life that we deem “bad”, we’ll find two things happen. We will react emotionally. i.e.: we’ll “get” angry or fearful or similar “negative” emotion. And we’ll resist the experience of it, how it feels. We don’t want to feel bad so we push against the “bad” feelings. This mutes the feeling somewhat but does not actually stop it.
This process feeds on itself. Next time a similar experience comes up, it is deemed bad automatically. And we push against what we’ve always pushed against.
We’ve missed 2 key points. It was our reactivity that caused the emotion in the first place, not the event. And in resisting that feeling we caused, we leave the experience incomplete. Unintentionally, the feeling we didn’t want we carry forward with us, unresolved. Do that many times a day for a few decades and you begin to get an idea of the kind of baggage we carry.
All of that resistance requires a lot of energy to sustain. We’re holding back the dam.
It’s no wonder our emotions are a muddle, we don’t know how we feel, and our intuition doesn’t work so well. We’ve been filling the place with trash and most of our emotional energy is spent avoiding.
The less you feel how you feel, the more you are avoiding feeling. This does not mean you are not feeling, only that you are tuning out how you feel to avoid what you’ve resisted. But in avoiding feeling, you also avoid happiness. Oops.
When we begin to connect with who we are within, we begin to find safety without blame. The ego begins to lose its grip. We begin to be able to allow the experiences and feelings that arise. Rather than resisting and holding them, we let them go. We stop adding to the pile.
This gives us enough insight into the process to begin winding down the old stuff. Finishing off the experiences of yore. This does not mean going back in and reliving our traumas. It means noticing when we’re reacting and noticing the feelings behind that reactivity. We can then allow the experience, the emotions flow over us in a brief wave, and it’s done. The resistance that caused the reactivity is over. Resolved.
Clearly though, if we’ve been adding to the pile for decades, clearing the resistances one by one will take a similar amount of time. This is where forgiveness comes in. Forgiveness allows us to release large batches at once, safely.
The reason forgiveness is potent is the role of other – our resistance is around our blame of other. That mate or parent or friend or boss or whatever that was the cause of my misery. So when we forgive who we have blamed, much of the associated resistance can fall away.
But we cannot make a mood of forgiveness. Forgiveness is a surrender, a release, a letting go. We have to step into that space of surrender. That place where everything is OK and we can feel the relationship from peace and love and let the junk go. But for most of us, that’s not a familiar place. So how do we get there?
This is where I found patience (with myself) and technique were the keys. For technique, you want to culture positivity. Acceptance. Gratitude. Then moments of allowing will arise naturally and spontaneously. In that open space, we simply recall a relationship. Seen from love and compassion, our holding becomes conscious and the pain can be released. After a brief wave of emotion, we’ve forgiven that relationship. It’s done. All that energy is released. As it was our doing in the first place, we don’t need the other persons help. And we don’t need to go into the story of why – that’s just the blame, the excuse.
I found that pretty much every relationship had some resistance with it. A few required a couple of rounds. After doing this a few times, the process became automatic. I could step through every relationship in memory. Major loads were released in a few minutes. And then, at the bottom of all the forgiving was the biggest nut. I needed to forgive myself.
Without such healing, having healthy relationships can be deeply compromised. Including your relationship with yourself. If you don’t like yourself, how do you expect to find happiness?
Ironically, after all this forgiving, we discover there was never anything to forgive in the first place. We were the only ones holding the grudge. It was all just a shadow story. An illusion.
Other concurrent posts you may enjoy:
Takuin: The Wound of Forgiveness
Tom Stine: There Is Nothing to Forgive
Joyful Days: The Gift of Forgiveness
Other links may be added or show in Comments.
Be sure to add a link in Comments if you’ve posted on the subject.
With this original post I included a podcast, a spoken word version. However, the hosting I used for the audio file ended so I was obliged to remove it. I was recently reminded of this and restored it June, 2016. I migrated it to a podcast platform in March 2019. (this blog was originally called In2Deep)