Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sometimes We Dread Forgiving Certain People

Forgiveness is actually very easy, once you get the hang of it.  However, forgiveness does take getting past one hurdle and that is letting go of the pleasure we feel in our victim-hood.  Does that idea surprise you?  Well, it's true that we enjoy being victims and the evidence of that is simply that we choose to be victims.  We stubbornly hang on to our victim-hood.  We love to savor our anger and outrage.  We love to get into our pain and we love to feel put upon and abused.  Our hurt feeds the fire of our indignation.

It can sometimes be a big step to let all that go.

But like any big step, if you want to make progress, you just have to do it.

Remember what it was like, learning to put your head underwater for the first time?  You just held your nose and dunked.  You just did it, even though you may not have known what it would be like.  You just trusted that it would be good.

Sometimes, when we are thinking about forgiving someone that we believe is particularly heinous, the idea of forgiving feels very distasteful.  Now that I am in the habit of forgiving everything, I don't feel that way anymore, but I do clearly remember how unpleasant it once was to offer forgiveness to the few people in my life that I believed were villainous.  I don't know why we sometimes resist forgiving so strongly.  Maybe we just want to hang onto our feelings of superiority.  "He's a horrible person and that makes me a good person."  Perhaps that kind of thinking just makes us feel better.  It's hard to give it up.

My best advice, if you're feeling that way, is to just do it.  Just hold your nose and dive into the forgiveness.  It will be over before you know it and you'll feel totally different about it afterward. You just will.  Forgiveness makes everything better.

In my meditation class today, we did a simple meditation from the book "Aging as a Spiritual Practice" by Lewis Richmond.  I'd like to share it with you, because I think it might be a good little exercise to ease into forgiveness, especially if you have some unpleasant people that you're feeling reluctant to forgive.  Here it is:

Find a quiet place and spend a few minutes calming your mind and listening to your breath.  When you are ready, imagine a small intense orb of white light in your heart center.  "On each in-breath feel the breath coming in from the world and refreshing the sphere of light.  On each out-breath, feel the breath going back out into the world with that light's generous energy."  Continue with this for a minute or two, feeling the flow of white light out into the world around you, healing, cleansing, offering love. 
Now, imagine that there is a mirror image of yourself sitting opposite you.  Let the cleansed out-breaths of white light surround and permeate the image of yourself.  Then as you breathe in, imagine that all the troubles, problems, pains and emotional hurts float out from the image of yourself and into your real self, down into the white light in your heart center where they can be cleansed and consumed in the light.  You are purifying and healing all the troubles away. Then breath pure white loving light out and into the image of yourself.  Let your breath circle generosity to and from yourself.  Continue on with this for a short time until you feel that all the problems and pains have been transformed. 
Next, imagine that there is someone you love sitting opposite you and continue the healing and loving breathing with them until they are cleansed (this should happen in five or six breaths or so).  Then switch to another person you love. Do this for three or four people. comes the good part, and it should be fairly easy to do because you are now in a very loving place.  Switch the person sitting opposite you into someone you need to forgive.  Continue to breathe out the loving white light, flooding their image with kindness and healing.  Then breathe in all their pain and difficulties to your heart center where the white light can transform them into pure loving energy.  Do this until you feel you have cleansed and healed them.   

This is another good example of the action of "flipping the switch" in our minds from fear to love.  At first it can seems almost inconceivable that we could look on someone that we loathe with love.  However, once we teach our minds how to do it, it becomes very easy.  In some ways the mind is very trainable.

So if you're feeling fear, reluctance or righteousness about forgiving someone unpleasant in your life, take the plunge.  Have a forgiveness baptism.  The water's fine!

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