This is the time in our retreat when we get to practice. We can hear about forgiving, we can read about forgiving, but all the books and the talks in the world won’t help if, at some point, we don’t roll up our sleeves and get to work.
Now, your mind might come up with a million excuses to delay, postpone or refuse to do this work altogether. It might try to lure you into doing more “fun stuff” instead, or bring up that “to-do” list of all the things you “should” be doing rather than “wasting your time” with forgiveness. That’s normal. That’s what the mind does. Remember that the mind is afraid of change and will bring up a thousand thoughts to maintain the status quo. But here is the thing; you don’t have to believe in these thoughts. They are just thoughts. They come and go. And if you don’t get attached to them, they’ll soon be gone, replaced by other thoughts.
Here is a common meditation practice that might be useful: 1) acknowledge the thoughts as they arise, 2) thank them for their presence and for looking out for you, 3) tell them that you will do the work anyways, and 4) bid them farewell and let them go. All that in a calm and compassionate voice. Ultimately the mind will let go once you are busy doing the work.
- Begin by making a short list of people you hold anger, upset, grudges, resentments against, because they have hurt you. There could be 3, 5 or 10 names on this list, but no more. See if you can rank them, putting at the top of the list the person who has most hurt you and the rest in declining order.
- Take the person at the bottom of the list (who has hurt you the least). Write out what happened as factually as possible (without layering your own story or your emotions over it).
Companies often ask you to fill an “incident report” when someone gets injured. Think about this part of the practice as filling an “incident report.” If it is not just one incident, you might think of yourself as a journalist reporting the facts of a story.
- Write why you were hurt, why you are angry/resentful/upset at that person. Describe your feelings and emotions freely and honestly. Let yourself be as whiny and peevish as you need to be for this part. No one else will ever read this anyways.
If the event is far in the past, you might have to write about your hurt, feelings and emotions twice. First, imagining/reliving what happened in your mind at the time it happened, and writing about it in the voice of the person you were then. Then, doing it again from the perspective of the person you are today. Note the difference.
- What would you have wanted to be different? How would you have wanted the other to act differently? What should they have done/said instead? Describe your opinion of who/what that person is (i.e. arrogant, dishonest, selfish, evil…etc…)
- Assess honestly and with integrity what your part is in all this. What could you have said/done differently?
The point is not to fix what was. It was what it was. The point is to be aware; to be aware of the whole picture, of all sides at play; to see the facts from our fiction; for awareness itself heals.
Tomorrow we will repeat this exercise but switch roles and look at the people we, ourselves, have hurt.