The Healing Power of Forgiveness

BY Parvati

I write to you this week having just returned from the last stop on Amma’s North American tour, the retreat in Toronto. Time with the Satguru is transformative in ways words cannot describe. At this Toronto retreat, Amma guided me deeper into my true self. I witnessed shadow aspects of my psyche and glimpsed into the light that lies just beyond them. May we all release our attachments to the illusions that keep us feeling disconnected from the light that always is. May we permanently rest in the reality that we each are children of the Divine!
Returning to my life in my music studio, as I turn to completing the finishing touches on my I Am Light EP, I have become aware of some of the recent tragic events, such as the attacks in Nice and Baton Rouge. These underline for me the importance of cultivating love and compassion for our selves and others, instead of allowing the flames of anger, hatred or revenge to grow within us.
While many of us, by grace, may never come face to face with the horrors of such brutal violence, we must still learn to practice the healing power of forgiveness and self-love, moment to moment, in our lives. I would like to share more this week about the power of forgiveness.
My daily meditation practice is a time of insight and personal integration. It is a way I see deeper without attachment and let go of that which no longer serves.
Recently in my practice, I touched some deeper parts of my psychological basement that I feel were brought to light so that they could be transformed. What arose, as my mind grew quiet, was the awareness of a field of resentment that had been hiding from my sight. So I gently welcomed it, and went deeper into it. After my meditation practice, I wrote in my diary:
“Resentment is a choice that only hurts myself. It does not change the circumstances or the other person whom I may resent. It festers in me like an uncovered wound that swells with rot.”
During my practice, I was present for these emotions. I became aware of a painful incident in my life I had not yet fully integrated. The event had hurt my feelings. So through the process of meditation, I was able to go back to that scene and learn to see the event as it was, without narrative, without attachment, without judgment, and integrate the teachings it had for me all along.
There is no doubt that in this incident, I had not been treated with kindness. That was not the question that left me feeling resentful. Instead, I was left wondering what was I to do about the feelings of being hurt. I felt powerless and hard done by and that made me feel resentful.
As I continued my meditation practice, what I saw, as I opened gently and lovingly to my uncomfortable feelings, was that I was ultimately hurt because the other person was not who I wanted them to be. I had projected my expectations onto another. What happened did not measure up to my idea of how they “should” behave.
We want others to be the way we want them to be, because in some way we are attached to the idea that they are the source of our love. But to do so, is to not see the other person clearly. It is an unfair expectation that we have created and imposed upon another.
There is a story of a Buddhist master who receives a gift from his student of a glass vase. They admire the beauty and enjoy it. Until one day, the vase breaks and it is no longer. The student was distraught, whereas the master was undisturbed. The student thought perhaps that his teacher did not like the vase. He inquired, asking his teacher, “Master, did you not like the vase? Why were you not disappointed when it broke?”
To which the teacher replied, “The broken vase always existed within the vase.” The master was not disappointed when the vase broke. He was present for the gift when it came to him. He was present for the gift when it broke and was no longer in that form.
When people act in ways we don’t like, they show us aspects of themselves we have not yet seen, or perhaps have seen but not yet accepted. We may see their bright, sunny parts. But we may not want to see their broken bits. When we allow their shadow to hurt us, it is because we have not yet accepted those aspects of that person. When someone acts hurtfully, and when we get hurt by them, both we and they have forgotten, in that moment, our connection to eternal love.
The great news is, another person’s actions are their choice. Our response to their actions is our own choice. Through my meditation practice, I saw how I lost myself in taking another person’s choices personally and in wanting them to be other than they are. There is tremendous power in these realizations. In seeing them, we reclaim the energy we have lost in being attached to incorrect perceptions of reality.
Rather than seeing painful happenings as a punishment that could build resentment, what my quiet meditation sit showed me was that a hurtful experience was an opportunity to recalibrate around deeper truths, greater clarity and fuller wisdom. It was the universe’s love showing me to be bigger, to let go of wanting, to let go of hoping someone would be the way I wanted them to be and that they would be my source of unconditional love. The universe was giving me an opportunity to develop a deeper sense of self-love, self-respect and self-care.
What I saw was that this experience was ultimately an opportunity for me to connect to a deeper source of love than one that comes through someone else’s flawed and temporal personality. Everyone is flawed. Relying on another human, rather than the divine, to be the source of love is like relying on a weathervane to guide me. It will constantly change direction.
But if I rely on a deeper source of love and tap into the divine in every moment, then all that which changes over time, the temporal, becomes fuel for my personal growth. The temporal is the way the eternal is teaching me how to return to the One. Through daily experiences, I can move from the personal to the transpersonal, for the conditional to the unconditional.
It is my prayer to someday truly embody unconditional love and be in it always. To me this is Buddhahood, or a Christ-like state. I understand that to realize love unconditionally is part of our human destiny. To say “I will love you if you act like this” is a condition. That is not love, but a contract or an arrangement. But it is unconditional to say, “I love you regardless of how you act.” We can only say this when we fully understand that the other is a flawed human who will make mistakes — and is also returning to the One source, also learning to live their destiny to love unconditionally.
When I began to see this with someone who I felt acted hurtfully, I saw that I could see myself in their mistake. Quite simply, I am not perfect. I too could choose to act hurtfully.
Acting in painful ways is not okay. Cultivating unconditional love is not condoning painful actions. It does not reward pain or make the hurtful act “right”. Unconscious actions that cause pain to ourselves and others are not a true reflection of our human magnificence. Unconsciousness must become conscious as we need to change, grow and evolve back to love.
But human error and poor judgment is not a reason to cease love. As I saw the breadth of the teaching in this painful experience, I was inwardly flooded with the words of Christ: “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone”, and “Judge not lest you be judged”.
I was left in the free, raw expanse of forgiveness. In this person, who I once perceived as against me, I saw our shared human frailty and capacity for love. I felt humbled, grateful, open, connected and loving.
I believe that we are all a lot more similar than different. Our differences lie in our choices in the moment, how we choose to act. We could act from a place of love and connection or from a place of disconnection and pain. But we all have the capacity for both. We all share the hope that we will be loved. In this, we are the same.
To quote an upcoming song of mine (Lokah) that interpolates the traditional Buddhist loving kindness meditation:
May all beings be well.
May all be happy.
May all beings be at peace.
May all be free.
Lokah samastha sukhino bhavantu (may all the beings in all the worlds be happy).
Let us become more aware of the potential to return to a fuller perception of ourselves and of our world. Perhaps as we do so, we will unveil aspects of ourselves and of our lives that we find hard to accept, even painful. But remember that all that happens provides each one of us with an opportunity for new sight, new growth and new life – if we are open, ready and willing to receive it.
Until next time,
Love yourself.
Love others.
Love our world.
We are one Earth family.