On this Day 6 of our personal retreat, we come to a place where we might be ready to forgive. On Day 4 we brought to mind and wrote about a person who has mildly hurt or offended us. I invite you to have what you wrote in front of you for this exercise. As we begin, I would like to remind you that forgiving is not of the mind but of the heart. We cannot think our way to forgiveness, we can only open our heart to being forgiving.
Steps 2 and 3 of our Day 4 writings, were there to help us see for ourselves the difference between what happened (step 2) and the story we have about what happened (step 3). Just like we cannot change what happened, our aim is not to change the story we have constructed about what happened either. Some of us have created that story such a long time ago that it has become part of who we are; and those of us who have written two “then & now” stories under step 3, might have also realized that our story changes and evolves as we do anyways. Forgiving is about releasing the grip that this story has over us, the stranglehold it has over our heart; realizing that, though we have this story, we don’t have to remain bound to it forever. And why we keep ourselves bound to that story, stuck in our anger and our resentment, is because of step 4. The pain and suffering our own lack of forgiveness causes us, stems from our inability to let go of our need for the past to have been any different than it was; whether we look at the facts or at our own story about them. What you wrote in step 4 is what keeps you stuck and what needs to be released. How do we do that?
We let go of our need for the past–factual or storied–to have been any different than it was by becoming a little more humble. Step 5 of our Day 4 writings was there to help us begin this process by supporting our taking responsibility for our part in what happened. As long as we place 100% of the blame on the other, nothing will shift. But if we can see our part in the drama being just 1% even, then we have a chance; because this 1% represents our heart slightly opening. In time we might realize that the percentage is even greater, that it even is often 50/50. Whatever the case, we are to acknowledge that we, too, contributed to what happened.
The other part of our humbling ourselves is connected to yesterday’s exercise, when we wrote about those we have hurt. Because that’s what we all do, isn’t it? Sometimes we hurt, sometimes we get hurt. It is part of our human condition. You might not remember but it was part of the deal you signed before deciding to be born into this dualistic world. Dualism means conflict. We hurt each other not because anyone of us is inherently evil, but, paradoxically, because most of us want to be happy. We all run towards pleasant experiences, and we all run away from unpleasant ones. And because of all this (mostly unconscious) running we are bound to bump into each other and hurt each other. Acknowledging our part in the drama, recognizing the universality of our human condition, we are humbled. Our past couldn’t have been any different than it was.
And so, perhaps, we are now ready to let our heart open, to let go, and forgive the person we wrote about. If we are, as in the Ribono Shel Olam prayer we simply say to ourselves: “I now forgive.” That’s it. Now you will know if you truly did forgive because the next time you tell the story about what happened, you won’t get activated, there will be no energy there. Your heart won’t race, your body won’t tense, you will remain calm and equanimous. And when that happens, you will know that you are ready to bring up the next name on your list from Day 4.
As we practice forgiving, one name at a time, we might sense a shift in us where our heart remains open and we realize that forgiving is not–and never was–something we do, but something we are. And so when the next person comes around and hurts us, as we know it will unavoidably happen, we can step into that place with an already humble and forgiving heart.
Tomorrow we will turn back to working with the story about the person we have hurt, and begin a two step process around making amends. More fun than anyone should be allowed to have!
I am extremely grateful for your willingness to engage in this process and for continuing, day after day, to read and do the practices. Your presence is deeply inspiring.