Forgiveness is a theme that comes up for most of us. I know it has for me. I dealt with it as self-forgiveness and other-forgiveness, and I have worked with people on and around this dilemma for many years.
Why is this so important and so complicated? The issue of forgiveness comes up when we feel the pain of blame and understand that to be free of blame we have to forgive. We blame someone when we perceive that they hurt us. This is painful in so many ways. We believe what they did caused life to go in a way that we don’t like, and that if life went our way we would be happy. Nestled in the feeling of blame is the belief that they had a choice and could have acted differently. This gives them power over our life, and creates a sense of me against them; a very painful separation.
Many of us have a story about our life that explains why we are the way we are. In the story there are people to blame, usually our parents, and things that happened that caused our suffering, and justified our reactions and behavior. As our life unfolds we can accumulate other people and events to blame. When we first begin to work on ourselves we don’t think of our life as a story, we see it as a true description of what happened to us.
I call this process of describing the events of our lives a story because it is usually not just factual, it tends to include interpretations, beliefs, emotional responses and reactions, which color and add dimension; and yet may only have occurred in our minds. The other people who were there will probably have a different story because their internal process held different beliefs and reactions, etc. More separation.
How can we bridge this separation?
There two main avenues to take. The first is to feel and accept all of our emotions. The other is to begin to take apart our beliefs and interpretations while still allowing all the emotional responses to have space.
When I began working on forgiving my mother, it was just as hard to allow myself to feel how hurt I was that she couldn’t accept me and love me for who I was, as it was to look at the possibility that I may have interpreted her actions in a distorted way. I wanted to hold onto my version of the story, which of course kept me locked in the painful emotions that came with the story. Feeling my pain meant I had to admit that I wanted something from her that she couldn’t give me.
When I could let go of the story and feel my emotions the story changed, it became more a story of people with wounds trying to love each other.
Accepting my emotions was the same as accepting myself. Once this happened it was so much easier to accept my mother and see her as another ordinary human being with her pain and life story.
Self- forgiveness was a similar process, but in many ways more painful. When I began to work on letting go of the blame I held for a couple of major events in my life, it seemed impossible. I believed I truly was the cause of something awful that affected many people. I tried to see how what I did was unintentional and innocent, I tried to understand how it was meant to be, or that it was part of some divine plan. I could feel the pain but it was so wrapped up in guilt and blame that I couldn’t allow myself to feel all of it. I couldn’t allow myself the soft tender parts; that would have been too compassionate.
Finally I just had to admit that it happened as it happened with no other meaning or interpretation, good, bad or justifying. Once I could do this I could feel all the emotions more directly. While this was in some ways even more painful, it felt like the pain went all the through and out the other side. Something got released.
Once that was resolved my work continued on a less personal level. For a while I had to wrap an energetic field of love around anything that arose internally that felt bad or unwanted. This evolved into a nearly constant warm loving energy in my heart and resonated through my body. I could tap into this warmth whenever I wanted. Sometimes it was just beneath the surface and other times it was pervasive.
This opened a space for the boundless to show through. There was so much space around the emotions or beliefs that they seemed to just arise inside of me. I didn’t cause them, they weren’t me, and they no longer seemed personal. I began to wonder what was really going on. Did my childhood really cause my beliefs and responses; were these beliefs and responses mine? Was forgiveness necessary? Who was there to forgive?
These questions don’t really get answered they ultimately fall away.
This is a whole other dimension of exploration, which I call transpersonal. When the beliefs I hold in my mind fall away, and my mind is open, I can look at events from my childhood and there is no reaction. Therefore there are no issues. They have not been understood and accepted, they have not been resolved; they are not there. Allowing beliefs to fall away does not mean that there are no thoughts, or that thinking doesn’t occur, just that thoughts don’t stick, don’t form into beliefs, which are really dense thoughts, around which we build our identify. The mind is open and free, limitless.
When the heart is open, empty, yet full, there are no beliefs held in the mind limiting or labeling the emotions as they come and go. Without labeling and judging, emotions just come and go. We don’t hold onto the ones we like, or reject the ones we don’t want; there is a natural flow. We do not have the sense that we are causing these emotions or that we own them, we are not identified with them. The heart is also open and free, boundless.
The understanding that can come from this is beyond forgiveness and self-love. It is beyond having an open mind, and a loving heart, it is beyond having no issues; it is knowing the boundless as yourself. Which paradoxically holds all of our human expression.
Some people can go right to this dimension, let go of beliefs, allow all emotions to flow, relax out of all limiting identity and discover freedom. It is usually not as simple as this makes it sound, but some people they don’t have to work through childhood dynamics. Most of us need to go through some psychological work on our past before we are ready to shift to the Transpersonal.