“If her past were your past, her pain your pain, her level of consciousness your level of consciousness, you would think and act exactly as she does. With this realization comes forgiveness, compassion and peace.” – Eckhart Tolle
We live in a mad world, madness that comes up not only in gun related violence, terrorism, wars etc. but also the madness that happens in our daily lives. Anger, depression, guilt, bitterness, grievances, anxiety, tension etc. are all present in us. I am not being a pessimist here, I see the love, the life, and the joy in our world and I believe that the human spirit is powerful enough to overcome all the challenges we face as a species but we also need to acknowledge the madness that is prevalent in us and in our society. Only when we see the madness for what it is we can awaken.
Many people throughout human history got tired of the madness and searched for answers, a few found what we might call “enlightenment” and taught us how we can move out of the madness ourselves. They said that our normal thinking mind is kinda crazy and we need to find out who we are beyond the mind. Let me explain, what we think is mostly repetitive and not useful, so why does our mind keep repeating them and that too mostly negative thoughts. Here is the reason, like we have possessions in our world like clothes, cars, houses etc. we also have inner possessions i.e. thoughts, which can group together and make an opinion, story, concepts etc. out of them. Thoughts about nationality, profession, religion, opinions, and unhappy incidents become very important. If someone tries to prove us wrong by berating any of the above mentioned inner possessions we get all defensive and argue. This unconscious part of our mind is called the Ego in spiritual traditions.
You may now have a doubt, can also positive thoughts become part of our ego? Yes, they can. For example, say you are one of the most attractive people in your office and felt good about that and thought it a few times every day. Now a new employee joins who is even more attractive and your inner possession about being the most attractive is threatened and you now hold a grudge towards that new employee. Ego is present when there is some sort of comparison, when you feel you are better or worse than others. You may be having more or less money, beauty, possessions etc. compared to others but we are all equal in our essence and our Egoic mind tries to hide from that fact.
One of the favorite ways of the ego to get stronger is by complaining and non-forgiveness. What better inner possession where we can wrong a person, event, God etc.; a story we tell ourselves about how the “poor me” is justified. This process makes us feel toxic in our body, but we unconsciously indulge in it, similar to how we drink alcohol and get a temporary kick out of it.
What is forgiveness?
Forgiveness is the letting go of the bitterness, ill will, desire for revenge, resentment towards a person, thing or a situation. To quote Corrie Boom: “Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred. It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness”. Some people have a misconception that to forgive is to not take any action or to condone what a person did. For example, if someone fails to return the money they borrowed, you wouldn’t lend them more money because you forgive them, you should respond without any negativity. According to the situation, you may stop lending them more money, cut your contact with them, explain your feelings to them in clear terms etc.
How do we forgive? How do we get rid of the baggage that we have been accumulating?
The awareness of how non-forgiveness is harmful to your health and by watching yourself when you are holding bitterness will automatically make you stop feeding the negativity. Realize how your ego is trying to have more inner possessions by holding on. Even when old stories come up in your mind about how somebody wronged you in the past, watch those thoughts and don’t feed the stories, they will lose their grip on your mind eventually.
If you read the quote by Eckhart Tolle at the beginning of the article, you will see how people act according to their level of maturity and make mistakes. Similarly, we should learn to forgive the mistakes we made in the past according to our level of awareness at that time. Guilt is a big identification for the ego, and it would love to spend hours recollecting how you are not worthy of inner peace, love, success etc. because of your past actions.
Every time we resist the content of this moment, we are creating more emotional pain through our non-forgiveness. We hold expectations about how a moment should turn out. Let’s take a simple example of you driving your car down a lane. If someone honks at you repeatedly, it could lead to irritation or sometimes even intense anger leading to a road rage. We need to accept at that moment that you are feeling irritated at the honking and act with forgiveness, not with a load of negativity that will only spread more unhappiness. Forgive the moment and act.
Write down all the thoughts that come up justifying the bitterness toward someone. Pour your heart out and write down all your feelings without trying to make sense of them. Once you are done, see the patterns that come up. Write down the reasons why someone could have behaved that way. A person is a sum of what he experiences in his life. Put yourself in that person’s shoes, there is love and light in everyone which gets obscured by the conditionings of one’s mind. See through the patterns, it is like a robot programmed to do certain tasks and they don’t have even maturity to come out of that patterns and so they would have hurt you in their blindness. Send them love and light. Forgive, drop the mental baggage and move on.
We all have our physical and mental energies, and the more non-forgiveness we hold on to, the more mental energy we waste by investing into the inner possessions of the ego. Our life then feels empty, as if we are driving a car with the breaks on. Start forgiving today, and see how light you would be in your heart and mind.
Let’s end with a story from the book “Heart of the Enlightened” by Anthony De Mello.
A former inmate of a Nazi concentration camp was visiting a friend who had shared the ordeal with him.
“Have you forgiven the Nazis?” he asked his friend.
“Well, I haven’t. I’m still consumed with hatred for them.”
“In that case,” said his friend gently, “they still have you in prison.”