Forgiveness Class (Part Seven)

As we spoke of beautiful things in our life, someone said that the day is beautiful, and as if the day forgives you. I thought that the Universe forgives us too.

One girl said that when a couple of years ago she almost lost her sight but got it back, suddenly she saw that everything was beautiful, everything she could see again. It is always like that – when something tragic happens in your life and you survive, you realize that you are rich – you have your life, friends, and freedom – you have a lot.

Then the same girl said that we are not frozen, we are all changing. And those who hurt us change too. When you forgive you don’t keep them in the center where pain is generated, but you move them to the group of just people with their own weaknesses.

If it is someone who is dear to our heart, then we accept them the way they are. Love them for their flaws or say our good byes.

In the beginning all the phrases that the instructor was saying were just dry definitions read aloud, and I didn’t relate to them, as my heart was blocked by many walls. The committee inside was giving its verdict, “No, not forgive”. But as I went through a lot of emotional transformation, all our instructor described was exactly what I felt and understood completely.

”And soon you will die, life is too short to live with hatred.” ~Buddha.

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” ~Mahatma Gandhi.

“Stretch, extend your compassion, let forgiveness work on you.”

“What comes up in the present, arises from the past, but how I relate to it in present conditions the future.”

At the end we had cookies and talked more. I told everyone that I took notes after every class, which I will share on my blog. And here they are.

Thank you to our amazing instructor Maddy and everyone who attended the class!

Forgiveness Class (Part Six)

Then we switched to the second part of the meditation exercise, when we forgive ourselves. I started crying even more, as I realized that I did hurt myself over the years– not eating properly, not working out, stressing out, staying in miserable relationships, being stuck in unsatisfying jobs. Stress was eating me alive from inside out, and I should have released all negativity long time ago, instead of carrying it within me for so long. I forgive myself and I love myself. What’s done is done, but I will not do those things to myself again. I will take care of myself: exercise, eat healthy food, have no negative circles of thoughts damaging my soul. I will protect myself from now on.

In the third part of the meditation, I saw more people I held grudge over the years whom I couldn’t forgive but wanted to forgive. Again I imagined them for what they truly are – people who had a lot of issues themselves and out of fear, pain, anger, and confusion, but mainly out of weakness they acted harmfully, but I had so much love in me suddenly that I was able to forgive them. Let the Universe take care of them. Instead of bad things, I wished them happiness and inner peace that maybe they never had.

Then we were asked to think of five things we are grateful for and five beautiful things.

My five things on the grateful list: my parents, my sister, my friend in the class, myself, and my values and beliefs that keep me going.

My five beautiful things (I had to step out to the window to wipe my tears away and I saw immense beauty around me): sunset, clean air, trees, houses, warmth.

We shared our experiences with other people. The person who sat next to me thought that the sound of a gong was beautiful, the people and plants in the room.

Indeed, what a beautiful world around us.

Forgiveness Class (Part Five)

Last Class. As I was walking to the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center last Thursday, I felt it was about time to wrap it up.

The week before I went to the American Psychologists Conference in Washington, DC, where I saw movie “Happy” and several other movies about healing techniques used by psychologists and about human mind. That trip reconfirmed that relationships are the most important thing in our life. Overall I felt overwhelmed with all experiences and wanted some rest. With all that I walked in and sat down to meditate with no expectations whatsoever.

We did the same meditation that was in the second class that I missed. It had 3 parts:

1) I ask forgiveness from those whom I intentionally or unintentionally hurt.

2) I forgive myself for intentionally or unintentionally hurting myself.

3) I extend my forgiveness to those who through activity or inactivity, intentionally or unintentionally hurt or harmed me out of fear, pain, anger or confusion.

I focused on my body and my breathing, I wanted to love myself. I remembered one phrase from “The Secret”: “I’ve known myself for 44 years and I love myself, I want to kiss myself”. It was so strange to hear coming from a male, that I remembered it. I was just sitting and concentrating on my body, my organs and cells, craving for more love from me. And suddenly it came, the flow of love inside me for everyone around including me.

In this part of the meditation we had to imagine persons whom we hurt intentionally or unintentionally and ask for their forgiveness. For some reason the person I can’t forgive came to my mind. Don’t I have enough love for them? I thought that I might have hurt them unintentionally and they suffered. I imagined them vulnerable, helpless, trying to find their own inner peace, and acting out on their own discomfort. I only saw a weak person not the offender. Suddenly my heart opened. The block was gone and pain was released. I wanted to extend all my love to them, help them and make them happy. I don’t have to protect myself from them and make sure it doesn’t repeat again. What happened a while ago was just a hurting moment but the rest of my life seems like the Universe or infinity. I can’t poison my body, my life and all around me with negative thoughts and artificially created barriers. I hugged that person in my mind, and I couldn’t stop my tears. I accepted them, the past act, the love between us, and that we are all humans who make mistakes.

Forgiveness Class (Part Four)

I haven’t been doing my homework at all, partly because I didn’t think it would help, partly because I was busy doing other things, like writing this blog, reading books on happiness including The Secret. But at the same time I was open to everything forgiveness related. For example, I found this in the Positive Psychology Conference brochure:

“Forgiveness Solution Interventions: A Transformational, Energetic and Positive Approach to Less Stress and Greater Peace, Love, Joy, Life Satisfaction, Happiness, Well-Being and Relationship Harmony

Philip Friedman, Foundation for Well-Being, PlymouthMeeting, PA, United States

This workshop explores the different practical aspects of my new book “The Forgiveness Solution” (named by Spirituality & Practice one of the best books of 2010) It draws on cognitive, emotional, spiritual, positive and energetic approaches to forgiveness and healing. Participants will have the opportunity to learn transformational forgiveness imagery techniques, positive affirmations and different levels of the Positive Pressure Point Techniques that facilitate forgiveness.

The goal of true forgiveness is peace, happiness, joy, love, satisfaction with life, gratitude and healed relationships. The intervention tools presented in this workshop have been empirically demonstrated in the authors clinical research to rapidly catalyze healing and change using measures such as the Satisfaction with Life Scale (Diener et. al); The Heartland Forgiveness Scale (Thompson et. al); The GQ6 Gratitude Scale (McCullough, M. E., Emmons, R. et.al: the Happiness Scale (Lyubomirsky, S. et. al) and the Friedman Affect, Belief and Well-Being Scales (Friedman et. al.) “

What I remember from the fourth class was bits and pieces of famous phrases, profound statements and forgiveness stories.

There was a story about Japanese warriors, who didn’t know that the war ended and were still living in the forests/caves thinking they were protecting their land and ready to fight any moment. Whenever that person was located someone had to do a very special job delivering the news: dress up as a higher rank officer, appear visible and call for the hiding warrior, who then would show up. Then it was important to congratulate the warrior on being a good soldier, talk about hardships and courage of that person and only after some time gently break the news: “The war is over.” Go home, there is peace now. I somehow related to it, as if I was the warrior still fighting something that is long time over. “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” Lewis B. Smedes.

The instructor told us that everything changes, that we don’t stay frozen in our state. Nature changes as there are seasons. We are all interconnected, for example, moon influences water, water influences us and our mood, and we influence others. It is all about transformation. If you can’t move on, don’t force it, make one step at the time, but remember that we can change with time, it is scientifically proven that our mind can change, and that we do have the power to make it. “Don’t carry your burden with you; it is that heavy bag behind your back. Release it and travel light.”

We did another meditation and suffering was mentioned as a reason why people hurt each other. I argued that it is not only because of suffering and fear but also weakness (easy way out, no control over one’s emotions, etc.) The instructor said that being weak is suffering too.

Homework #4: Every day to record 5 things we are grateful for, 5 beautiful things and 5 things of suffering.

As we walked back home, I told my friend that this class is not helping me much. She highly recommended starting a gratitude journal as it helped her years ago. I said that I see how gratitude journal may help me in a long run but I don’t expect any major breakthrough because of it. I thought it could help me be grateful for so many things right now, that I may think that whatever happened was not much at all, and I would see life as more positive and empowering. My friend said that these classes made her soften, to put her armor down. What did they make me?

As I heard all quotes and stories in class it felt that I was at school studying yet another subject. My mind followed and agreed that all statements were right, it is my heart that was suspicious. But at the same time there was a glimpse of hope that when the time is right, forgiveness will work on me.

Forgiveness Class (Part Three)

In the third class we did repetitive question exercise, asking each other the same questions over and over again. “What allows you to forgive? What stops you from letting go? What allows you to be whole?” We had to ask each other these questions multiple times, until we exhaust all our answers.

After we finished it, we shared our experiences. I did empathize with a person I was matched with, but at the same time I felt that my own opinion became even stronger. Others explained their feeling as “I hear you, and you feel that too?” Similar reaction, similar pain. One person mentioned, that you think that you have a reservoir of explanations of why you can’t forgive, but then at some point you do run out of excuses.

Another one noticed that we sometimes are torn between erasing the person from our memory or giving a performance speech of everything we think of them. Or something in between, like emailing a question: “Are you dead yet?”. But then erasing or pushing away makes it stronger, just like in “Eternal sunshine of a spotless mind.” The homework was to keep answering all these questions.

HomeWork #3
Repeating questions: What allows you to forgive? What stops you from letting go? What do I really need to be whole?

I also thought of my Loving kindness meditation back in Shambhala two summers ago. There was this great exercise, when you practice your loving kindness on someone who is dear to you, whom you love, then neutral, then someone you have trouble forgiving, then animals, and then the rest of the world. Just imagine that you are doing something nice for them and they receive your gift and are happy. I imagined that I bought ice cream at the local store for all of them together and saw joy on their faces.

Another exercise was just to stare in somebody’s eyes long enough, it scares you that they may see your soul. But it is Ok, because we shouldn’t hide our souls from others anyways.

I was thinking more about love, if we are love, and I’m love and I have abundance of love, why can’t I love that one person? Why do I have limits?

Forgiveness Class (Part Two)

I missed Forgiveness Class 2, but from what my friend told me the most important part of the class was a 3 step meditation with 5 minutes for each step:

1. I’m sorry for anyone I hurt intentionally or unintentionally. I seek their forgiveness.

2. I forgive myself for not being able to forgive.

3. I forgive others who intentionally or unintentionally hurt me.

Second homework was to write every evening 5 things you are grateful for or ask people tell you their stories of forgiveness. Also: 1) Continue observing any resistance to forgiveness; 2) practice forgiveness in daily sitting and in daily life.

My friend alos told me about the forgiveness project, which currently has 92 stories you can get inspired by: http://theforgivenessproject.com/stories/

As I was looking for good forgiveness quotes online, I realized that my favorite book of all times is about forgiveness: “Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo, who is venerated as a saint in the Vietnamese religion of Cao Dai. From the book review: “One of the biggest themes I see is the theme of forgiveness and redemption in spite of all things Jean goes through. Life is filled with hope no matter how miserable things are. There is redemption both in the physical (with the police) and within himself (being better than a thief). The story is the transformation of a character and you see a lot of this kind of ‘renewal’ in Jean over and over in the novel and once more at the end of the novel.” One of the quotes from the book by Jean Valjean: “I order you to forgive yourself.”

And finally my favorite quote, which I discovered in a cobbler shop in Roslindale, MA years ago is:

“People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”
— Mother Teresa

Forgiveness Class (Part One)

My friend told me about Forgiveness class at the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center. We decided to attend, as we both want to learn wisdom of forgiveness. The course consists of 5 sessions – 5 Thursday classes 7-8:30PM.

This is what class description says:

We can make a choice to cultivate forgiveness. It is the act of not throwing someone out of our hearts. Forgiveness is a way to see, understand and let go of the pain, anger, guilt and resentment that we carry from harm that was done to us or by us. Forgiveness cannot change our past but can change the present.

In this practice group we will explore what it means to forgive ourselves, to forgive others and to ask others to forgive us. We will use formal meditation practices on forgiveness, as well as discussion and reflection.

First session was four weeks ago. There were about 12 people in class. We started off with meditation. Some people were sitting on cushions, some – on chairs. I do have difficulty with managing my thoughts- “flying horses”, and as a result – difficulty to focus on the NOW instead of the past or the future.

The instructor showed up and gave us introduction to what is going to happen. She read some definitions and good quotes about forgiveness, like “Forgiveness is releasing your pain from the past” or “Give up your hopes of a better past.” She also made sure that we know when people should not forgive, which means that there are exceptions (ex. if someone is being abused currently, it is important to find safety first). Then there are other stages of dealing with emotions before you get to the forgiveness step. After we all introduced each other, it became clear that all of us in the room were there because it is not easy for us to either forgive or get forgiveness from other people or ourselves. I felt that I’m not alone, but with people who feel my pain.

When we got the exercise of coming up with definitions of what forgiveness is not, I blanked. The same with stories about forgiveness. I just couldn’t think of any examples of forgiveness stories just because it is not the subject I’m savvy about or comfortable with. That is why I’m in that class! I told that I tend to avoid or exclude people from my life when I think they hurt me. But when it was time to share a forgiveness story, my mind dug through the memory closets and was finally able to pull one story about my experience with Men are from Mars, Women from Venus book. At the end of the book there was a section of suggested exercises and I did one which was a Love letter, that I had to write to someone. I intended to write one about my ex-bf or about my sister, but strangely enough I wrote it to my mother, forgiving her for what I held against her for many years and it did release my pain that was still inside me. I realized that her wish for me to be perfect was because she wanted me to be better and more pretty, more clever, more successful than her, but being perfectionist has its consequences. Or leads to excessive self-criticism and feeling that no matter what you do is never good enough. And it finished with a thought that it is Ok tobe imperfect, to make mistakes, it is ok to be you the way you are.

Later in that first session we did another exercise –meditation with envisioning people we have hard time to forgive. I struggled because there was internal resistance to meditating, as I tried to soften about certain people but it was still hard to open my heart. It was shut. I was not upset about it , I just acknowledged that feeling of resistance. But I wanted if not reconcile with them, at least not to hold that resentment about them.

The instructor told us a story about a Cambodian monk. After the massacre of Cameron Rouge, the monk visited village after village and repeated the same statement: “hatred could never be cured with hatred, but only love”. When he was asked how could he find courage and be able to visit so many places and talk to victims to help them heal, he always responded with the same phrase: “I was just making peace with myself.”

Homework: #1.

Practice noticing what stands in the way of forgiveness. Begin to experience in the body how our willingness or unwillingness to forgive feels. Bring a nonjudgmental awareness to any resistance that arises while you practice forgiveness. We do this to see clearly and enable us to experience resistance for what it is. For example, notice how your body is reacting when someone cuts you off.

Later that night I told another story about forgiveness to my friend and was amazed that I do know stories it is just they are buried inside me, as I don’t practice this topic much. But then I thought about someone important who I can’t forgive and I thought that maybe I did hurt that person too, that is why they reacted certain way I couldn’t forgive for more than a year.

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