Frank Ostaseski said that forgiveness is “the most useful tool in dealing with my pain, but there is no mandate for forgiveness”.
For the human kind of being, (Dasein, as the existential phenomenologists call us), pain can be experienced on so many levels… mental, physical, affective, emotional, psychological, spiritual, existential, and social.
Not only can we have tremendous pain on all of those levels but we can have suffering at each level as well.
Forgiveness practices can be powerful at helping us to free ourselves from the grips of suffering and ease the pain we have.
When we practice soft attention to our pain and just allow it to be, right there, without a story line, we free ourselves up from its clutches. Does that mean the pain goes away? Not always but for most of us, is it the pain from suffering that is most unbearable for us.
On a mental level, we run tapes in our head constantly… I’m no good. I’ve done it again. What’s wrong with me. And concentration practices such as using a mala and/or a mantra can be quite helpful.
So can mindfulness, as we acknowledge the constant flow of thoughts and see how illusory they are, coming and going, like branches floating down a river. We learn to realize that there are gaps in the stories and we learn to cultivate living in those gaps.
MBSR, Mindfully Based Stress Reduction Program, create by Jon Kabat-Zinn at UMASS is a powerful tool when one experiences somatic pain (ie, physical pain), stress, anxiety. Not everyone can get out to UMASS or any of the several institutions that it is taught and practiced (like the University of WI).
And of course, Jon has books and MP3s, youtube clips, etc that one can use by themselves. We learn to have mercy for ourselves by experiencing the pain, not pushing it away, not running from it and free so much of our energy by being fully present to it.
Affective, emotional, and psychological, several forms of meditation can be powerful, simple, and life changing over time. The practice of tonglen, giving and receiving, is one way.
In this practice, we take in difficult thoughts, feelings, and sensations that the “other” (the object of our meditation) may be experiencing and we send them things such as comfort, deep compassion, light, etc.
So if I am distraught by being a bereft sister or lover, I can do this practice for all others who may be experiencing this in this moment. I breathe in the deep sorrow of having lost a partner, knowing that another person (someone I know or all beings who have experienced this) maybe I breathe out a sense of unity, of interbeing, of affection, of unconditional positive regard.
We move from the pain that the “I” experiences (ie, my grief) to the experience of all beings, “the shared grief” of existence.
Ahhhh, and now for the spiritual and existential forms of pain — what I most think of as suffering… our disconnection with everyone and everything, our free-floating anxiety, fear, and discomfort that may arise just out of our existence…
We can forget that part of the brain (and the rest of the nervous system) is there to keep us alive and out of harm’s way. It is how humankind has survived for so long.
We are constantly scanning for danger, in our environment, in our relationships, in our own experience of self.
But when we can be a different way… we can practice… we can sit on our cushions or our chairs, lay on our mats or beds, and practice love in its deepest form. . . lovingkindness meditation. . . metta
May I live in safety. May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I live with ease.”
We sit on those cushions, in the early hours of the morning, in dark places, so that we can take the lessons out into the world. We practice forgiveness for ourselves, for those in our immediate world, those we pass on the street, and every other sentient being.
But we start with ourselves, we start with some of the hardest forgiveness to give… but we give it, so that we may heal all beings.
There is no mandate for forgiveness. We cannot force it. But we cannot live in peace without it either.
So, start with yourself. Start here and now. Do not wait because there is no guarantee that our next breath will come, let alone our next tomorrow.
Start with yourself.
- Tweeting with Sharon (theselfcompassionproject.com)
- Lovingkindness Meditation, Practice Instructions: An Article from Psychology Today By: Toni Bernhard (musevault.wordpress.com)
- Three qualities (and 11 benefits) of unconditional love. (elephantjournal.com)
- A True Refuge ~ Sharon Salzberg (evolutionarymystic.wordpress.com)
- Mindfulness Meditation Q & A (namasteconsultinginc.com)
- What is mindfulness? (mindfulmod.com)
- Everything you do, do it with Metta (kareninyogaland.com)
- Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) ONLINE (ucsdcfm.wordpress.com)
- Balancing Act: How Meditation Lets Us Look Inside Ourselves to See the Whole World: A Conversation with Jack Kornfield (evolutionarymystic.wordpress.com)
- Emotional Behaviors In Teachers Improved By Meditation (medicalnewstoday.com)