We are complex, multi-dimensional beings. Our thoughts sometimes to be the result of long labors of clearing the forest, or searching for water in the desert. And sometimes they seem to come out of the blue. I have never understood in my deepest knowing, the meaning of forgiveness. I didn’t have a feel for the physical mechanics, for the emotional cleansing, or for the depth of compassion that perhaps was necessary in order to feel forgiveness for self or others. And so one evening I sat down at my keyboard and sent an email to over 100 people whom I felt might have some idea that could help my find my own. I heard back from 75 people with responses as varied as the flowers in a meadow – from one short sentence to an essay 18 pages long, totaling – to date this March 14, 2010, over 114 pages. I have been humbled, astounded, astonished at this response. So many people thanked me for the opportunity to think about this and put words to thoughts and feelings. Many said they’d been thinking about this, working with the concept, struggling with the idea of forgiveness all their lives, or for many years. I am thinking that the wave of hungry words that has drenched me and continues to flow might be representative of a general appetite for clarity on forgiveness. Or maybe, as some of my responders indicated between the lines if not right out, for forgiveness itself. And THAT thought – about the general appetite – strikes me as an option not to be ignored. Maybe a book. (But then I have four in my computer in various phases.) Here are some ideas that have taken root in my heart and have helped me find at least a sense of what I was looking for: 1. Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.
-- Mark Twain
2.Do I perhaps hold different people to different standards? 3.Forgiveness allows me to clear out any poisons and half-truths from my heart and cleanse myself, making myself whole 4.Maybe it’s a good idea to think about forgiving the person but not the behavior….I am not sure about that but it’s something to consider. 5.There is a potent transformative energy in addressing the problem while the wound is fresh, but truly, in my life, I have not had the courage to do this, waiting ears for the anger to die down. Maybe now I could do it .. I would like to hope so. 6.Sometimes, as in the above, I have withdrawn from the negative emotion . 7.It helps if I can understand the other person’s processes behind a wrongful act. 8.Forgiveness is not a thing to do. It's a state of beingness. Do … be …. Do … be 9.Forgiveness requires a conscious decision to enter that state, or the process of compassion0filled steps, that lead into love. And it’s also love itself, applied to pain. 10.I breathe in the hurt, hold it a moment, then breathe out love.... 11. Why would I forgive? Because I want to be whole, and that can only be when I am not holding pain and resentment, my hand leaning on the scale against which the feather of judgment rests. I need my soul to be clean and clear. I must forgive. 12.Most nights when I go to bed I think of Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi’s night-time prayer of forgiveness, in which I pray that the Universal Life Force draw all creation, in all time and all universes, into complete love, and ask that no one is punished on my account. 13.I am humbled profoundly by the ability of those who have suffered at the hands of those who enact terror on a group of people to forgive: Etty Hillesum, a few weeks before she died at Aushwitz: "I can see no way around it. Each of us must look inside himself and excise and destroy everything he finds there which he believes should be excised and destroyed in others. we may be certain that the least iota of hatred that we bring into the world will make it even more inhospitable to us than it already is." (paraphrased from Matthieu Ricard – Happiness, http://home.wxs.nl/~brouw724/EttyHillesum.html ) 14. Would it be possible for me to forgive as Immaculae Illagabdeza did? --- She was a survivor of the Rwandan holocaust in the 80's. Millions of members of her tribe were murdered by wandering mobs comprised of neighbors and people she'd grown up with. She hid in a bathroom for months. These people slaughtered her entire family. She had nothing to do in that bathroom but go within. She found forgiveness. …. Clearly, we are responsible for every aspect of our lives. Those we don't forgive offer us a convenient excuse for not take full responsibility. 15.A friend wrote back to say that her 5 year old was “standing near me and asking what your email says. I ask her if she knows what forgiveness means and without blinking she says, “It is love.” Wow. Yes. Little children CAN lead us. 16. When we don’t forgive, we are holding back what can heal us and first we need to forgive ourselves. But what if we don’t know exactly what to forgive ourselves for? One way is to know that whenever we feel hurt by someone else’s actions, that’s a mirror of what we, ourselves, need to clear up in ourselves: the mirror effect. 17.Forgiveness is something done on a cellular level. 18.I found out about the Huna practice of Hoponopono, in which phrases "Im sorry, please forgive me, I accept your forgiveness, I love you" over and over. This feels really good. 19.I work with chakra energy when I do my Energy Portraits, and I can see and feel when one is unbalanced. Holding back forgiveness compromises the health of these centers that could better be spinning in love and joy for our better health and the better health of the planet and all creation. Because every one of us affects the larger worlds 20.A seminar being given at NYU is to be FORGIVENESS: THE ORIGINS OF A MORAL IDEA 21.Anne Lamott says "not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die" 22.What am I doing to create the situation in which I can feel betrayed? How much power have I placed in another’s realm? I must take responsibility for the part I played in my own unhappiness. 23.Pretending to forgive is ridiculous; attempts to forgive must be profoundly true or else I am just asking for a repeat manifestation of pain in any of its costumes, and I don’t get to choose which guise it chooses next time around. 24.There are people whose behavior was hurtful, and I realized some time after the fact that I didn’t resent or feel hurt by them. I had come to that place in my feeling about them where there was nothing to forgive , so the hurt was gone, but something remained – a foreign taste, a new way of seeing them, indicative of my having sort of dismissed them out of my most treasured circle. I feel appreciation for them in some ways, admire some of their talents, their positive personality aspects, their devotion to living a good life – but I find that I don’t want to engage closely with them any more. And I feel fine about that. 25.Forgiveness is huge; I have the feeling that if we can forgive, we have accomplished a great learning – perhaps the learning we came here to experience. Who knows? I asked divine Being for a response about forgiveness: Beloved, when you ask to forgive, you ask to come to my arms, always filled with sweetness and always empty of burdens so that you may rest there for as long, even unto eternity, as you like. In my arms there is all and only love, so that the question of forgiveness is moot. Am I telling you that to spend time in prayer, seeking peace in the divine, is the way to forgiveness? No. I am telling you that my arms are always ready to hold you, molding themselves to your specific and particular needs. You need not work to rest here, only to want to be here, and when you are here, you will know what it feels like to have no need for forgiveness, for there is no want here in my being. Know, too, that you can live as I live, with no want anywhere in your being. It takes a decision to do so. To make the next step, you need to know what kind of decision, where in your being the decision can be made. And then to follow the prompts that will become apparent to you as you live your life. Keep your eyes on what you desire and know it as your self. My divine guide suggested I include here the wisdom I learned during a reading I did yesterday of a dog who had died some months ago. Her grieving human had asked me to make a connection with her beloved dog, and part of what the dog told me was specific to her human beloved. I am including it here because it can pertain to many others:
" We (animals) live in love, which means that we live completely open to the flow of authentic emotion, which is the way we feel the world around us, and which can be called "love." We are not able, constitutionally, to oppose the authentic flow of energy and emotion, and so we are always true to our nature, and our nature, the nature of all creation, is love.
"Humans have free will because of the more complex gift they carry of creative mind. We have no choice but to love. We cannot dissimulate; pretending is impossible for us. If she would like to know how she can continue to live in the sweetness of the love she and I share, it would be to be more conscious of where love lies in her life, not necessarily where she would like to find it, but where it is, and to welcome that love and live with her door always open to receiving its blessings. This will mean undoing some of the beautiful knots she has created that look like adornments but are really armor: gates closed to what might flow in.” Untying the knots we fashion in order to live in the presence of love. Easily said. A beautiful promise. My work.
© 2010 Leiah Bowden
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