Forgiveness
October 2014 Graduate Meeting

Video for this meeting:
Unconditional Love by Tara Brach [29 min]

    "Imagine you are walking in the woods, and you see a little dog under a tree. You are about to go pet it, but the dog lurches at you and its fangs are bared, so you go from wanting to pet the dog to feeling angry at it because it’s going to attack you. Then you see the dog’s leg is in a trap, and your feelings change again, to concern for the dog."

    Tara explains, “When somebody does something hurtful, in some way, they’re suffering. If you can begin to look at another person and see behind the mask to the vulnerability that’s there, that their violence is coming from some deep wound, that their way of behaving that feels hurtful comes because they were hurt. If we can see that, our hearts will open to them. We have to be willing to look.”
    Understanding how to forgive is not the same as forgiveness, which has less to do with thinking and is a more gut-level process, something most of us have to continually work on. The way to access this is the basis for Radical Acceptance, which she wrote in 2003. The term means  “the process of accepting our actual, present-moment experience. Clearly recognising what is happening inside us, and regarding what we see with an open, kind and loving heart”. The ‘Radical’ part is derived from the Latin word radix, meaning going to the root or origin, so Radical Acceptance enables us to return to the root or origin of who we are, to the source of our being. 
    “If we are at war with ourselves,” Tara explains, “that feeling of not ok or not enough prevents us from filling our hearts, feeling creative, taking risks. I see this leads people to addiction when it creates so much anxiety that people try to stuff it with food, or overworking, or drugs.
    It’s a pervasive suffering.” She calls it the trance of unworthiness, and her Zen koans and poetry excerpts and guided seated or standing or walking meditations are selected for the purpose of helping listeners wake up from the trance.
    “I get a lot of feedback from people committing themselves to become more true to themselves, to stop making war on themselves. When they stop judging themselves, they become more accepting of others. In a visceral way, not just an abstract way. It’s not, Oh I get it! It’s a life process,” she recalls. 
    Acceptance, by its very nature, is often confused by passivity. Should I accept myself as lazy? Abusive? If I accept the darker side of myself, will it overtake the rest? Tara dedicates much of her work to clarifying this distinction. “Unconditional acceptance of this moment’s experience does NOT mean that we are being passive or condoning harmful behaviour.  Acceptance is an honest acknowledgement of the truth of what is happening here. By accepting the reality that is here and now, we are able to respond in ways that draw on our inner courage, intelligence and compassion. It cuts to the root by acknowledging reality and connecting us with our deepest, most wise and loving self.”
    … For one woman with her father, the pattern of anger and a closed heart had been going on for decades. She couldn’t forgive him for being such a judgmental and neglectful father. As he aged, his critical edge softened but she couldn’t shake the deep anger she felt towards him. When she and Tara met to explore how meditation might help her open her heart, Tara encouraged her to first bring self-compassion to the life long feelings of hurt, to her grief at not having the father she had longed for. Once she was able to hold herself with kindness, this woman could look at her father with fresh eyes. She could see how his leg was in a trap; how he had been struggling with his own insecurities and self-doubts.
    Natural forgiveness followed, and she was able to be around him in a much more caring and spontaneous way. To her surprise, he began responding to her in kind. When he died several years later, she told Tara, “I would have missed getting to know who he was behind the armour. Forgiving him is one of the great blessings in my life.”
    Tara emphasises that forgiveness is a gradual, emotional process; not something the mind takes on alone. When we’ve been wounded, we can’t just decide that we “should” forgive the other person. The first step is to bring a compassionate attention to our own heart. Once we have held ourselves with kindness, it is possible to widen the circle of compassion to include others.
    “You can’t will forgiveness, all you can do is be willing,” Tara counsels, “Once you have the intention, everything else follows.”
           - from First, Forgive Yourself - interview of Tara Brach by Tej Rae

 
Closing Thoughts

     I learned how to detect fears and needs behind my thoughts and actions. I learned that others are chased by their own fears and that the longing for love is the need behind it all. I learned that if I allow myself to be more tender with myself, I probably can be more understanding and loving with others.
           - Katja P. (online graduate)

     Face your deficiencies and acknowledge them; but do not let them master you. Let them teach you patience, sweetness, insight. When we do the best we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another.
           - Helen Keller

     Most of us need to be reminded that we are good, that we are lovable, that we belong. If we knew just how powerfully our thoughts, words, and actions affected the hearts of those around us, we’d reach out and join hands again and again. Our relationships have the potential to be a sacred refuge, a place of healing and awakening. With each person we meet, we can learn to look behind the mask and see the one who longs to love and be loved.
           - Tara Brach

     Let us forgive the worst among us because the worst is in ourselves, the worst lives in each of us, along with the best. Let us forgive the worst in each of us and all of us so that the best in each of us and all of us may be free.
           - Leonard Peltier

“My life is like shattered glass,” said the visitor.
“My soul is tainted with evil. Is there any hope for me?”
“Yes,” said the Master.
“There is something whereby each broken thing is bound again and every stain made clean.”
“What?”
"Forgiveness.”
“Whom do I forgive?”
“Everyone. Life, God, your neighbor. And especially yourself.”
“How is that done?”
“By understanding that no one is to blame,” said the Master.
“No one.”
           - Anthony De Mello, from Awakening - Conversations with the Masters