Why is it hard to forgive? (Part 2)

WIP (Manish)Four self-protective mechanisms that never let us heal !

My last blog on the above topic resonated with many readers. Some of you shared deep insights on “forgiveness” from your life experiences. From your comments, I have summarised four main themes about what keeps us stuck in our emotional wounds.

 

Illusion of forgetting
Forgetting is not forgiving. It’s only a quick fix that keeps us way from real healing 

Imagine a thorn pierced your bare foot. It’s so painful that you didn’t want to touch it. You stopped walking that path and swore to never see that thorny bush again. That’s forgetting. However, a part of the thorn still lives in you and every time you walk, it hurts.

Forgiving, on the otherhand, is coming to terms with the reality. Developing courage to look at the wound directly.  Pulling out the part of the thorn that does not belong to you. Healing what’s yours. Keeping the lesson. And, developing courage to walk the path again if you chose to.

When in pain our first reaction is to protect ourselves and so we tend to cut-off the relationship or situation that we associate pain with. Forgetting is like taking a painkiller to survive the night. Suppressing pain makes sense when it’s unbearable. However, our attempts to cut off or forget makes pain unpredictable and chronic. The real root cause never gets addressed. And the pain surfaces again and again in other life situations and relationships.

Novelist Paulo Coelho captures this difference while saying “Forgive but do not forget, or you will be hurt again. Forgiving changes the perspectives. Forgetting loses the lesson.”

Prison of stories
We are hurt not cause of what happened but the stories that we tell ourselves about the same.

Lets look at our most unforgivable wounds. What hurts us now is not the incident itself. It’s the memory of what happened. When we feel violated or wronged, we weave a story. We tell this story of our own pain, shame, blame & victimhood to ourselves again and again. Its like rubbling salt to keep the wound fresh. Why do we do that? 

Transactional Analysis defines such behaviour as “rackets” we get stuck in. If we examine deeply, we are stuck cause there is an illusionary pay-off and a hidden cost to our persistent stories of pain. We often repeat these stories cause we believe that it may help us feel justified or righteous about our victimhood. Or it may protect us from future insults. Whatever our payoff is, it’s illusionary. It would never heal us. The cost of living in pain is way too high as compared to justification about that pain 

What happened is as unpredictable as what would happen. Each actor in our play had his or her own story. Any attempt to figure out who is right or wrong is a zero-sum game. Forgiveness is letting go the story we tell ourself about our suffering.

After 27 years of unjust imprisonment, Nelson Mandela exemplified the act of forgiveness in his quote— “As I walked out the door towards the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”

Myth of resolution 
We can wait for life-time to seek resolution for our hurts or find another way to unleash their creative purpose  

As we heal our wounds thru forgiveness, deeper ones may surface. Some go back to childhood. Some pre-verbal. Some come from the collective suffering, from many lifetimes of disrespect and violence. When such a deep void opens what do we do? How do we forgive when the perpetrators are long gone or incapable of any confrontation or reconciliation? And what do we do with those arrows that have become part of your tissue? 

My friend Rie Gilsdorf made a great suggestion on Facebook post referring to the book, My Grandmother’s Hands, by Resmaa Menakim. She said “when the arrow is so deeply embedded and enmeshed in scar tissue, there’s no way to pull it out any more. But perhaps we can digest it, dissolve or catabolize it with an accompanying release of stored energy”

I feel she pointed out to what I now call “radical acceptance”. Radical acceptance is as simple as innocence of a child and as sophisticated as spiritual mastery. It may take us lifetime to embody it or it may happen in an instant without any training whatsoever. Forgiveness, true forgiveness, could be that simple and easy. It is the act of  gathering all our courage and saying “Whatever happened, happened. I know I can’t change the past. However I choose to influence the future. I fully embrace the current reality, with its incompletions, pain and hope. My past alongwith it’s joys and sufferings is my gift. It’s a part of who I am. I embrace it with gratitude and I step forward with confidence.” 

Sometimes resolution is not an apt solution. We seek deeper resolution and integration within. Psychologist Carl Jung reflected on the importance of integrating for our own development. “Wholeness is not achieved by cutting off a portion of one’s being, but by integration of the contraries”. 

Hidden purpose of wounds
Wound are an invitation to step into higher spiritual realm and unlock our creative energy  

Imagine that the jewel you were looking for all your life was delivered as a dagger pierced in your heart. What would you do now? Walk with pain and curse the messenger or thank them for the dagger and heal your wound?

In Sita Ramayana, Devdutt Patnayak writes about a lesser told story from the famous epic Ramayana. Royal maid servant, Manthara had influenced Queen Kaikeyi’s to ask King Dashrath (Ram’s father) to send Ram on exile. Everyone hated Manthara for corrupting Kaikeyi and bringing grave misfortune to Ram. When Ram discovered that what did he do? He met Manthara and forgave her. Ram could see the divine purpose for which he was born. He could see that Mathara had only done a divine error to enable his path. He accepted that and moved on.

Now that’s mythology not our daily life. However, we do have little Ram and little Manthara living within us. We do have deep power to forgive and wisdom to see the divine path we are born for.  It’s important to understand that emotional pain is a doorway to our spiritual growth. The unforgivable “other” has showed up in our life in a particular way to help us deal with some aspects of our own mess. In a mystical way they hold a piece of the puzzle that we long for our own liberation.

Forgiving requires courage– to look within our wound, to reframe our pain as our teacher, to rise beyond transactional field of right or wrong and embrace that grand play that we are all part of. 800 years back Rumi noticed that field— “Out beyond our ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field.. I will meet you there”

….

I am grateful to my readers and their contributions. It’s helping me (and hopefully all of us) in deepening our practice of forgiveness. 

Wishing you a wonderful new year 2019

Cheers 

Manish Srivastava 
(Artwork by Manish Srivastava)
http://www.sacredwell.in

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Conversation with Ram (the divine masculine)

A conversation with Ram (the divine masculine)

10 lessons from Lord Rama’s life journey for our current time & context

Rama in light
Standing with eyes closed, head bowed and heart open–
Worshiping the idol of Lord Rama.
Listening to the chants and bells.
Smelling the floral fragrance of incense.
I am not much of a temple-visitor or an idol worshipper.
Nor do I vouch for historical presence of Lord Rama.
But today, I seek him within me.
Today, I relate to him as a man.
With his gifts, struggles, power and failures.
So, I started running, as I often do,
And conversing with the Ram within me
I call upon him—
.. .. ..
What if, you were to be born again?
What context would you choose?
A ruler or a professional or a slum-dweller…
What demons would you slay?
What principles would you live by?
What exiles would you take?
What inner wars would you fight? 
How would you honour the grace of your Sita, trust of Laxman & Bharat, service of Hanuman and faith of all people?
How would you forgive those who rob you of your inheritance and separate you from your love? 
How would you balance between the call for duty and longing to be with family?
 
Oh Lord Ram
Your principles inspire me 
Your purusharth gives me courage
Your humility makes me humble
Your end leaves me sad…
 
Dear Ram,
Rise in me…
Awaken in my heart!
Teach me to honour every being–
Be it a sevak, a king or an opponent.
Teach me to live with and for principles;
To stand tall to honour promises,
To see every event of life as a blessing & a divine call, 
To suffer with grace,
To forgive with love,
To be imperfect yet complete…
 
Dear Ram,
I seek you to come again
In my heart
In this new world…
.. .. ..
As I chanted and ran,
3 kms down the path…
I felt a distinct voice speak
From within
Deep, clear, compassionate
And thus He spoke:
 .. .. ..
Before I answer your questions,
I want you to get ready to receive.
You need to go beyond 3 limitations within you:
 
Go beyond form: Look within:
I am not a blue looking god from your posters or temples. 
I am a manifestation of human potential. 
I am a deep desire of every man to live his life fully 
and of every woman to feel honoured and loved. 
I am human potential and possibility that lives inside you. 
You can only find me inside yourself. 
 
Go beyond time & location: 
I am not located in history or in a region called Ayodhya or some place called heaven. 
I am a manifestation of human mind and I take form as per their context. 
When you seek me in a particular age and way, you are not seeking me. 
You are stuck in a story. 
I am ready to manifest in your context, in your time, inside of you. 
In that sense anyone and everyone is potentially my avatar, my incarnation…
 
Go beyond religion, class, caste
Even though my story is told in a context, I am pure consciousness. 
You can call me whatever. I have no caste, no class, no religion. 
This is the only way you can truly access me and my power inside you. 
Your membership to a any particular sect of society does not entitle you any special access. 
 
I want you to pause and consciously cross the 3 thresholds I just mentioned. 
Write them down. Read it again…
and then we will start with the lessons from my manifested life as you know it. 
.. .. ..
So I ran more.
Contemplating on the the threshold.
I felt I am running side by side with Ram’s energy.
Quiet. Calm. Assuring.
Then as I looked at him, he smiled.
Still running on my right side.
He looked ahead and started sharing some timeless lessons.
He said that, this is the essence of his journey as articulated in Ramayana.
He left it upto me to find it’s timeless value.
I leave it upto you to receive it the way you want…
 .. .. ..
10 lessons from Lord Rama’s life: 
 
Roots: honour where you come from but not let it define your unique path. 
 
The context, the parents, the family and the field in which you are born has significant value. You are a manifest of their longing. They set the initial conditions of your journey. They give you a name, childhood companionship and unconditional love. Honouring them fully is important so that you can evolve beyond that. You are beyond your surname, caste & inheritance. There is risk in identifying too much with those. You may get stuck and forget your true divine purpose. If I had got too stuck with my Suryavanshi kinghood, you would have no real Ram to connect with.
 
Divine: remember the divine connect you have with the Earth, Heaven and all spirits. 
 
Take a moment to absorb this: you are an avatar of the divine. You are pure consciousness and your purpose is to live divinity in human reality. Remembering this will help you to go thru many struggles with grace of a true warrior. Remembering this will help you see the grand plan in all ups and down and feel compassion and gratitude for all— be is Kaikeyi, Manthara, Supranakha or great Ravana.
 
Purusharth in real world: this world, where you are born, is your spiritual field
 
I just mentioned that, as divine manifestations, our real job is to live divinity in human form and context. This is Purusharth. The inner journey of wholeness. The choice to live fully with whatever shows up in life. Its about understanding & embracing the inner lover, warrior, hermit, wild, demon, king and father inside of us. Wherever we are born and whatever we face is a perfect opportunity to take this inner journey of spiritual evolution. Your greatest service to me is to- go and live your life with great courage and compassion. In the end you will see great value in your exiles, wars, failures and joys. 
 
Collective journey: your journey is as much as the journey of those who walk and live with you.
 
Ever wondered why you always speak my name with Sita (Siyaram) or Laxman (Ramlakhan) or have them along with Hanuman in all my manifested forms. Ramayan is not just my story. It’s their story too. They are parts of me. Sita represents the feminine in me, Laxman the fierceness, Hanuman the wild courage and devotion, Bharat pure love and trust and so on. Each part of my story represents a part of my soul. And each part is whole, taking their own journey, where I represent only a part. Making my story or your own story bigger and more important is the ego-stuckness that will derail you from collective evolution. 
 
Gratitude: be grateful to every soul who is part of your journey, even your enemies. They all are there to serve you. 
 
Manthara & Kaikeyi helped me to break free from family expectations and find my path. Shabri gave me tremendous hope and love in the untamed wild. And Ravan helped me in manifesting my full power and compassion. They all were significant part of my journey. When you feel deep gratitude to all who show up in your life, you do two divine acts: 1. You integrate their power and beauty within you and 2. You set them free from your script. Their job is complete. 
 
Exile and separation: separating is as critical to your evolution as integrating 
 
In journey of manhood, exile is of great value. Women experience it too thru rituals. This is when you are born again. You get to discover your true self and embrace the wildness inside you. Exile is often created in strange and painful ways. When that happens, honour it. It will be fearful, painful, devaluing, humbling, sad. All of that is part of the game. Embrace it and feel gratitude to all your facilitators of exile. In every exile, a king with a birthright to rule will die. After every exile, a King with a divine purpose will be born. Go on, my son…
 
Forgiveness: most important lesson of life is developing the magnanimity to forgive your self and others 
 
If there is one thing you can take from my story, it’s forgiveness. At some stage, before you step out of this world, you may have a brief moment of realisation that all this has happened before. All the people you met have been with you in many lifetimes. This lifetime is an opportunity to seek forgiveness and complete with them. Forgiveness is complete and unconditional acceptance of our past and present. Without which we end up carrying baggage of grudges from one lifetime to another. Weary and tired. In every interaction, expand your heart, embrace the other, and forgive yourself. 
 
Inner war and integration: all wars are only fought deep within
 
Real Ramleela (as you call it) happens every night inside your heart. There is no demon or divine outside. The Bali, the Ravana, the fear of loosing the loved ones, the struggle between duty and love, the loneliness of a father.. all of that lives inside you. Life is full of many battles within. First, accept this. Fighting a battle outside is pointless and of greatest disservice to humanity. Inside, there is only one way to win the battle. By fully honouring and embracing your enemy— the part thats longing for acceptance. When we give the Great Ravan his due and simultaneously stand for our truth, the battle is over.  
 
Return and the trial: at end of all your journeys, you will come back and to where you started and will face real trials of life
 
Ordinariness has great value. It keeps us grounded in real. However, celebrated your heroic journey is, you will meet the real trial on your return. A part of you, pure, feminine, may have  to walk on fire. Remember, your context is your spiritual field. It will test you and put you face to face to the ordinary world you are part of. Will you succeed in integrating yourself or not? Will you choose your love or duty? Relationship or principles? Country or family? What is the real success of a man? 
That is the part of my journey that is unanswered…
 
 .. .. ..
There was a long pause. He was lost in some deep memory. I kept running in silence. World stopped. My footsteps sounded like a clicking clock. My breath synchronised with earth breathing. My heart expanded and broke open. Sweat camouflaged my tears. Legs could carry me as long as we were quiet.
I re-called the lessons. They were only 9. What about the 10th one? Something was not complete. Just then He spoke again. From my right.
 .. .. ..
That’s exactly the 10th lesson from my life- “Incompletion”…
 
Incompletion: my journey is incomplete so that you can take yours…
 
I fought whole battle to unite with my love but she left me. I vowed for her honour but was I able to honour her as my soul-mate? Why does my story leaves me alone? Why did I live away from my children? 
My journey is incomplete. And that’s why you are born as my incarnation. All of you. Each one of you. 
Our journey as humanity is incomplete. That’s the task for all of us– to reintegrate the feminine, the wild, the earth, the free inner child.
My journey is incomplete so that you also learn to accept failure, loneliness and melancholy as a important part of your own divinity. 
My journey is incomplete so that you can take yours. 
Wherever you are ready to take yours, I will manifest with your heart…
 
I am Ram. I live in each heart. I am a potential, a possibility, a commitment to take the inner journey of wholeness with courage and compassion. 
 .. .. ..
Written on Ramnavami, March 28, 2015
Published on Dusshera, October 22, 2015
from the Sacred Well

manish srivastava