“As forgiveness liberates your energy, you may be moved to sing, dance, write, make art, or otherwise celebrate. Don’t let your day job get in the way.”
This Tuesday @ 7pm (Dec 1) I would like to explore the mindfulness practice of forgiveness. I think of this subject as a natural outcropping from our discussion last week on gratitude. The practice of gratitude can help us cultivate more positive mind states and connect to the mystery of life. Forgiveness, on the other hand, helps us reclaim our grief and liberate our hearts.
We have two amazing events happening the first couple of weeks in December that you won’t want to miss. First, on Saturday, December 5th, Arinna Weisman will be returning to NVIM to lead a day long retreat entitled “Compassion and the Open Heart.” The retreat will run from 10am – 4 pm, with a break for lunch. For more information go to: http://www.napainsight.org/?p=804
Second, on Tuesday December 8th, Oren J Sofer will be our guest speaker. Oren is a long-time student of Joseph Goldstein, Michele McDonald, and Ven. Ajahn Sucitto. For more information about Oren’s visit go to: http://www.napainsight.org/?p=784
Thoughts on Forgiveness
In the Buddhist tradition the precursor for having an open and loving heart is the process of forgiving. Here forgiving means to relax or release the barriers, the walls we’ve created, between ourselves and others. This includes the walls we’ve created between ourselves and ourselves. The wisdom of the teaching of forgiveness is to not push anyone, including ourselves, out of our own hearts.
It’s quite natural when we’ve been hurt (and we’ve all been hurt in different ways) to assign blame for that hurt. It is really natural for us to contract against those who we perceived as hurting us. The greater the hurt, the more solid and sustained the armoring. But that armoring can really impede our happiness. The more armored we are the harder it is to open to joy.
The process of forgiving is not one of putting down this protection and saying come on, do whatever you want. Trample all over me. If we have been injured, we can forgive the person who has caused the harm and still commit ourselves to doing whatever is needed to protect ourselves from further harm.
If we think that forgiveness means forgetting what happens or pretending nothing happened, we won’t forgive. It’s not about living in denial. Writer Patrick Miller suggests we use the phrase “Remember fully and forgive.” While Jack Kornfield says, “Forgiveness means not having to shut anyone out of our hearts.” That does mean we allow people who have hurt us to run our lives, it just means that we don’t exclude them from our love and caring.
If we are not able to forgive, we are unable to resolve the hurt we’ve received from another’s actions. We learn to suppress our natural grief reactions and become stuck with the pain. When children experience loss they get mad and then get sad and then move on. When we can’t forgive, we can’t release our emotions and we become stuck in grief. This “stuckness” can manifest itself in many ways. Some people may have learned to “fight back” when they feel hurt, and become stuck in anger and focus on retaliation. Others may be afraid of their anger so they become stuck in denial and believe that simply forgiving someone without feeling the pain they caused will resolved the situation.
Forgiveness is really a movement of our heart to reopen to life. We forgive for the freedom of our hearts. To not live from history, but to be open to the preciousness of the moment. This can be a long process and may often need support. You can’t necessarily “will” forgiveness, it has its own timing. But you can “be willing”, have a sincere aspiration to let go of the armoring and opening the heart. That is what the practice of forgiveness is all about.
After our sitting time on Tuesday, I would like to lead a short guided heart meditation on forgiveness. We can then explore as a group how this practice might help us open our own hearts to those who have caused us harm.
Events & Information
Thursday Morning Silent Meditation: On Thursday mornings at 9:00am, Napa Valley Insight Meditation offers a 30-minute silent meditation at the site of the Napa Valley Unitarian Universalists. The sitting meditation is followed by an opportunity (not requirement) for participants to share about aspects of their own spiritual practice. The gathering concludes at approximately 9:45am. All are welcome!
A Note about N.V.I.M.: Napa Valley Insight Meditation’s weekly gatherings, sitting groups, events and daylong retreats welcome new and experienced practitioners from all spiritual and secular meditation traditions. We value diversity and welcome people of every race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, age, and physical ability. No prior experience with meditation is required in order to attend.