Archive | Forgiveness Series RSS feed for this section

25 February 2011 4 Comments

Full-Spectrum Forgiveness, Part 5: Trivial or Transcendental?

Full-Spectrum Forgiveness, Part 5: Trivial or Transcendental?

Tiny incidents can cry for forgiveness as powerfully as the monumental issues we touched on in the last few posts. Trivial-seeming events make up our lives from moment to moment. When we need forgiveness we are not fully present to life.

In Post #3 of this series I mentioned two types of issues that I considered “claims against myself that called for further development of the spiritual heart”. The last two posts discussed the monumental sort. Now we start on the “trivial-seeming” set. P1040432These issues surfaced during the spiritual retreat as I became highly sensitized to any expressions of having an ego. Ego, in this context, simply means thinking or acting in ways that separate us from others.

The retreat practices intensely sensitized my heart such that becoming somewhat annoyed with someone, being impatient, accidentally cutting line for the water dispenser, speaking at the wrong moment, and so forth caused almost physical pain in my heart center.

Whatever it is that initiates the feeling, tension can gather like sticks of wood toward a beaver dam. A busy mind may chew on an incident or event. Once we judge ourselves for some act, however trivial, evidence begins to mount, damming heart flow. Then others are treated to our closed-off self instead of the loving self that cares so much inside. Now the care itself shows up as a claim against one’s self instead of an expression of love toward other. It is not unusual for irritable people to have kind hearts inside, and to suffer from their own frustration attempting to be kind. Then the effort to be kind feeds self-blame. The dam gets bigger. Self-forgiveness frees up the flow.

No matter how trivial the trigger, it is NOT trivial when insignificant actions create distance from others. Distress mounts when we can feel not only our own separation, but blame ourselves for the discomfort of others. It is virtually impossible at times to know whether we have caused it, or whether someone’s discomfort has nothing to do with us.

With the heart fully open and sensitized this type of discomfort becomes pain. Shutting down the heart to avoid pain only leads to a greater gulf of separation. In addition to self-forgivenP1040371ess the closed heart shuts out joy, beauty, tenderness, sympathy, compassion, gratefulness and the sense of unity for which we so long. We can never beat or shame or judge ourselves into sublime emotion. Blaming ourselves for expressions of separation makes us do it more. Loveliness springs from the initially-fragile awakening of deep feeling. Self-forgiveness is key to awakening love.

Saint Rabia said to God, “Forgive me for asking you to forgive me.” The FEELING behind this is that in direct and sublime intimacy–with the divine or any Beloved—the internal act of feeling that we must be doing some small thing wrong and wanting to be forgiven in itself creates a small measure of separation. We have assumed a separateness and distanced ourselves by not fully receiving the available love. Note that this is true in the presence of profound and mutual love. Feeling bad about something the other person has already fully embraced without a thought causes distance. Apology is called for when we shatter the closeness between us. Thinking about ourselves by trying to be perfect can distract from real love.

How and when do YOU make yourself unnecessarily separate from others?
What do you feel inside when you do it?

18 February 2011 6 Comments

Full-Spectrum Forgiveness, Part 4: Unity with Others

Full-Spectrum Forgiveness, Part 4: Unity with Others

It is not by shutting out what we consider negative that we Awaken and become truly loving, but by learning to embrace ALL. There IS NOTHING more positive. We begin within.

(Following from Part 3) The forgiveness issues that came up for me in the retreat were not about feeling wronged or significant personal relationships. The monumental type of issue had to do with what might be called genetic memory, ancestral memory, or cellular memory. This is the faculty by which a horse, raised in an area with no snakes, instinctively recognizes snakes. This type of issue could also be called ‘past life.’ Terms and belief systems are unimportant to my point. My experience involved a dark and terrible sense that I had committed “unforgivable acts”, somewhere in the murky past—beyond my physical existence.

Carl Jung, who initiated Depth Psychology, discussed at length “the collective consciousness.”P1040431He was talking about the group mind or One mind shared by all. Intensive spiritual work involving unity with others touches in to this level of experience, if we can allow it. This is the reality that allows us to link with or perceive others across space and time. At the level of experience where we are all directly linked, and always have been, we have ALL committed acts we must stretch to forgive. We also sense these acts in others.

The following incident speaks to the urge to find forgiveness at a profound and transpersonal (bigger than personal) level:

After seeing a movie together I was in a car with my mother and two other people. Somehow the conversation turned to bombs. I mentioned that children often have great fear of losing parents and homes due to bombs. I flashed on a fantasy I had as a child. In my fantasy—which I shared—I imagined having a huge underground bomb shelter. Into that shelter I brought a hand-picked selection of people who were totally honest, loving, and contributed to others. I wanted to create a fantasy world in which we could emerge and enjoy feeling safe without worrying about being harmed, cheated, or abused.

My Mother said, “I bet you fantasized being the person who dropped the bombs.”

Her comment was like dropping a bomb. Shocked and alienated I went silent for the rest of the evening. I was talking about wanting to feel safe as a child and I felt she was telling me I was a monster inside.

After the ten-day retreat I had enough internal support to get up the guts to ask her about what she had said. I said, “I’d like to give you the opportunity to take back something you said before.” I felt pretty shaky and vulnerable telling her what the topic was. Her response surprised me.

She told me that what she intended to say was: “Have you ever imagined being the person who dropped the bombs?”

Given her history of working as a clinical psychologist in a Veterans Hospital mental ward, she had certainly worked with men who had to come to terms with doing just that. Lots of people have been in similar positions, in service and under orders.

P1040513I was initially startled, then found her question to be profoundly spiritual—and positive. She had tears in her eyes. She was exploring what it meant to be fully and completely human in some of the most horrific human experience yet seeking to reclaim full feeling. Whether or not one believes in war (she does not) is irrelevant. I am talking about the type of love it takes to fully accept one’s self or another person in spite of acts that abhor us.

We’re talking about hard-core positive love here, not gloss-over-and-and-avoid-the-dark-side surface dressing. Full-spectrum forgiveness takes that kind of clout.

Remember we are forgiving the person—the soul who found itself in dire circumstances—not the acts they commit. We are forgiving the soul that is somehow pure beneath all the confusion, weakness, feeling trapped, having the heart closed down after too much pain, getting twisted. We are not saying that the acts are okay. We may aim to remember the source and the wellspring where purity-of-being is hidden at the person’s very core, however buried and polluted they became after one miss-step led to the next. Unity with others requires finding a way to manage the whole range of human behavior.

Are you willing to discover the humanity underneath unthinkable acts?

How do YOU handle it when you cannot accept what has happened?

11 February 2011 6 Comments

Full-Spectrum Forgiveness, Part 3: Dancing with Forgiveness

Full-Spectrum Forgiveness, Part 3: Dancing with Forgiveness

The Energy of Forgiveness
People do exist who can intentionally generate or draw to themselves authentic energies that produces specific positive emotions. This energy comes along with specific states of awareness that we can learn to tune in to by focusing, like a radio may be tuned to the frequencies that are “out there,” and bring them into the room. Sound, for example, is one tool used to “tune” the body to different frequencies. Being able to produce specific states and energy experiences is a science. The ability to broadcast these frequencies in ways that allow others to feel and resonate with them is an advanced art.

P1040430Developing proficiency with energy requires sensitivity, direct observation, and experience. There is nothing vague about it—this art simply deals with experiences most of us are not tracking. For instance, our consciousness and emotions change with our breath patterns. Those who study the exact techniques can influence their inner state and physiology through breath practices and intention.

Several of the experiences I would like to share took place among people with a staggering capacity to broadcast the energies and sensations of authentic emotions, including forgiveness.

Dancing With Forgiveness:
Profound experiences of forgiveness and gratitude took place during a ten-day retreat, alternating Zen sitting with heart-opening energy exercises. Leaders directly connected with the origins of the Dances of Universal Peace led these dances, along with additional methods for evoking transcendent emotions. Several of these leaders were able to intentionally transmit energy experience to others.

The following exercise took our forgiveness work to another level: One leader guided the group in a Buddhist meditation in the form of a dance during which we were eyeball-to-eyeball with a partner repeating a phrase, and then advanced to the next partner. We began by sincerely wishing the person in front of us happiness and the conditions of happiness, and release from sorrow and conditions of sorrow, bowing before moving on to a series of partners. Each repetition deepened sincerity and feeling.

During the second round we were to do the same thing, imagining the person in front of us to take the place of a stranger out in the world, someone at the store or a Beloved we had yet to meet. Music, movements, and concentrated intention intensified our emotions. The third round we focused on all the people we found mildly annoying. In the fourth round we opened our hearts to all those who had actually caused us harm.

The final round the leader deftly guided us to turn our focus toward forgiving ourselves. Just about everyone was streaming tears at this point as we supported one another to delve courageously into the fragile and sacred spaces in our souls, to release any causes of bitterness or deadened feeling.

The dance leader said, P1040612“How many times must the heart break to learn compassion for all Beings?”

The pain of the open heart ceases to be frightening and begins to take on more and more pleasurable aspects as we come to peace with our wounds and learn how to move through the world with tenderness.

During the course of deep practice in the retreat two sorts of issues related to forgiveness began to filter into my awareness, one monumental, the other seemingly trivial. Both types were claims against myself. These issues called for further development of the spiritual heart, for to be able to embrace them is the path to internal freedom. It’s that old Chinese-finger-trap theory. You know–those woven cylinders that tighten around your forefingers if you pull away, and loosen up if you push them together.

I’ll head into deeper waters in my next post.

What has touched YOUR heart and awakened forgiveness?
How do YOU experience the energy of forgiveness?

3 February 2011 3 Comments

Full-Spectrum Forgiveness, Part 2: Emotional & Transcendental Forgiveness

Full-Spectrum Forgiveness, Part 2: Emotional & Transcendental Forgiveness

Emotional Forgiveness:
Forgiveness–as a heartfelt feeling–brings release and relief. By releasing grudges, bitterness, harsh judgments, resentment, self-pity, rage, anger and hatred we are more fully alive, and present in the moment. Maintaining these emotions blocks and drains energy. Energy can flow freely and renew us as we truly forgive. This experience is one of having more open space in our lives. Having fully forgiven, it does not matter whether we remember or forget—the topic no longer arouses us.

At its root, forgiveness is a function of FEELING. Most of us like very much the IDEA of forgiving. The real-time ACT of releasing negative emotions requires finding these difficult emotions inside—actually feeling them. You can’t give it away if you don’t own it. We’ll get into the nitty-gritty as this post series continues.

Forgiveness and compassion are like two hands that wash one another. P1040391Forgiveness invites the flow of compassion. Compassion opens space for forgiveness. Both rely on the free flow of feeling.

Emotional forgiveness does not require scouting around in your memories to dig up lingering grudges. Accessing and attending fully to experience in the present can pull up past issues, like following an echo back up the canyons to someone’s shouting mouth. Digging deeply into moment-to-moment experience exhumes the past-within- the-present. Discovering issues here-and-now increases our motivation for resolving them; we are present to the ways issues actively interfere with the free flow of feeling in current relationships.

The need to forgive does not necessarily show up in the guise of grudges or resentment. Here are a few clues that indicate a background stuck emotion:

  • Emotional coldness
  • Subtle disengagement from the present moment
  • Inability to be wholehearted
  • Vague irritability
  • Boredom
  • Hyper-rational states or “being in your head”
  • Lack of emotional engagement
  • Projection of one’s own feelings onto other people

Transcendental Forgiveness
Transcendental forgiveness means forgiveness that helps us to go beyond ego and personality. It involves a transpersonal element. In other words it takes place in the realm of greater-than-self, and involves connection. Transcendental forgiveness relies on our ability to allow agencies beyond our personality to influence or assist us.

These other agencies may simply be the kindness and wisdom of the people around us. Whether we believe in God, angels, guides, masters, Nature, Spirit, or simply the principle of grace is not at issue here. What IS crucial is to attain a frame of mind and heart during which we are willing and open to connect with others. This state allows positive and expansive energies to participate in our personal experience. We have opened ourselves to intentional influence.

Transcendental forgiveness is a state of grace. Like real love, it is not available on command. While we cannot control it, we CAN take both internal and external actions that serve to open us up to greater-than-personal experience, inviting the expansive feelings we encounter to roost within.

There are a number of different ways to invite ourselves to experience forgiveness. The easiest way to do this is to be around someone who generates the actual energy of forgiveness and to attune to that person, like tuning an instrument using a tuning fork.

I will share some direct experiences with the Energy of Forgiveness in Part 3.

Which modes of Forgiveness do You most relate to? What do you notice when you think about the other modes?

Please also read the “comments” and share your own. We will have some meaningful and important discussions in this series.

1 February 2011 5 Comments

Full-Spectrum Forgiveness, Part 1: Modes of Forgiveness

Full-Spectrum Forgiveness, Part 1: Modes of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a prized promoter of ease, grace and healing. We appreciate the state of forgiveness as a strong positive. What does it take to get to genuine, full-on experience of forgiveness? This post series explores forgiveness in depth.

P1040467Sometimes it seems like there is a chasm between those of us comfortable with forgiving and those who find forgiveness almost an abstraction. For me, forgiveness is a challenging topic to write about. What challenges me most in these posts is that I care to stimulate useful insights for people at different stages in your work. Rather than preach to the choir, I will to go into the nitty-gritty with this topic. Actually forgiving can require us to work deep.

If we are to make a real difference that impacts day-to-day experience, we need to move past preconceptions. Forgiveness is one of those words like “love,” which mean vastly different things to different people. One person may mean releasing a claim to seek revenge. Another may be contemplating divine grace. Our interpretation of forgiveness—what we conceive it to be—shapes our experience.

Let us first consider everyday-type experience and then explore the kinds of experience that promote transformation. We learn and grow personally from ALL types of forgiveness.

Transformation occurs when our Inner Work uproots who we have so-far believed ourselves to be.

Forgiveness occurs in several different modes of experience. The way we relate to forgiveness depends which mode we are operating in:

  • Social
  • Mental
  • Emotional
  • Transcendental

Social Forgiveness
Social forgiveness can be achieved with minimal introspection. You decide to release a claim upon another for a particular unpleasant, unkind, or hurtful action, situation, statement or gesture. You agree not to retaliate or to condemn them, and to move on in a peaceable or usual manner.

Social forgiveness can be purely selfish—or not. Some “forgive” as social lubricant, from fear of conflict, rejection, or abandonment. Giving up being mad about something because a loved one will not like it or acting ‘nice’ while the victim pot simmers in your depths is not real forgiveness. “Forgiveness” that is denial in disguise, or making nice to get what you want, does not promote personal integration or robust intimacy. Real forgiveness comes from inner strength.

“Forgive and forget” as a strategy works better for some personality types than others. If you tend to hold grudges, releasing the memory of prior events may be an asset. But if you tend to allow others to hurt you again and again, forgetting may reinforce weakness. You can forgive the action or event—and simultaneously study people’s nature and tendencies. Thus you can accept people’s limitations and even love them while maintaining boundaries that work for you. (We explored the how-tos in the Trust series.)

Mental Forgiveness
Mental forgiveness can remain barren and intellectual. Forgiving in theory–can at its best lead to deep understanding. Deep understanding naturally brings about forgiveness as we become able to identify with and relate to the person we aim to forgive. Understanding unfolds as we recognize the fractures and forces that drive someone to non-ideal actions. Understanding goes even farther when and if we are willing and able to identify similar fractures and forces within ourselves, whether or not we act them out.

Sincere thinking, visualizing, imagining, and wishing may establish direction as we contemplate what has occurred. Thought can birth intention. Mental forgiveness alone may change your attitude, expand possibilities for interaction, and make room inside for different experiences. If mental forgiveness makes a blueprint for change, feeling drives the bulldozer. The more deeply we dig into our own hearts the more powerfully we can forgive, for we begin to recognize others in ourselves and ourselves in others.

Inayat Khan who brought Sufism to the West said, “The depth of mind is heart, and the surface of heart is mind.” (Sufism is a spiritual approach that honors all religions like beads on a string. The string represents Truth, which runs evenly through them all.)

We’ll head into Emotional and Transcendental Forgiveness in Part 2.

Please share YOUR insights about forgiveness in Comments, below.