On Forgiveness

Recently I responded to an article/blog post by a former colleague on her views about forgiveness, which were fundamentally different than my own. After reflecting on this entry for three days, I chose to respond to it, and today, I realized, after connecting with an old friend who had been sent my response - that perhaps others might find it insightful as well.

I feel my comments stand on their own merit and that it is not necessary to link it to the original blog or the discussions it engendered. But since I did receive messages from a few persons who let me know it also spoke to them, I "reprise" my insights here, slightly edited and expanded for greater clarity.

May you receive them in any way that is meant for you...

"After reflecting on your well written and thought provoking piece on forgiveness for several days, let me be a lone voice offering another perspective, which is derived and offered from my own experience...

I do believe in the power of forgiveness, because I have directly experienced it - and because it is transformational - not only for ourselves but for others as well. I  truly believe in it, because forgivenss has the power to shift energy - and literally move mountains - both in ourselves and in others as well. And I know the practice of forgiveness has the power to heal. I have both seen and directly experienced such evidence.

Forgiveness is simply a practice - like meditation - and like yoga. Some of us are more attracted to Bhakti yoga and its practices. Others to Karma Yoga. Some to embodying the Yamas and Niyamas. Some of us will resonate with some practices more than others. Forgiveness is simply one tool in spiritual practice. It works. Let us not discount it's merits. Every major religious tradition recognizes the power and the benefits of the practice of forgiveness.

During particularly challenging times in my life - of abuse of varying kinds, but most especially involving abuse of power and words - I went down to the river near my house every day to do Metta practice. In addition, I also systematically practiced forgiving all those that I had wronged - taking the time to name each one individually. And, I practiced forgiving those I felt had wronged me. The most difficult practice however, was forgiving myself, especially as I tried to see the experiences through the eyes of the others, and realized I was not without fault. I did this every day for more than two years, going on three...

In time, I noticed my experience and feelings towards others had shifted, at first subtly, then more dramatically. I could see all the individuals in a different light. Some of the relationships I had will never be healed on this earth plane because doors were irrevocably shut - but in another realm beyond this one - in another plane of existence - I feel they are very much healed - higher self to higher self - and soul to soul. Other relationships that were transgressed in some way, eventually were healed - becoming better and more rewarding than they ever were: More balanced, and more mature. Less dependent and more inter-dependent. More spiritual, rich, and satisfying...

I offer this respectfully, because I do believe there are many paths for us to evolve. This simply, was the one I chose after having been profoundly moved by the story of Dipa Ma, a Buddhist nun, whom a dear friend shared with me, at a particularly difficult time of need. After practicing forgiveness and Loving-Kindness daily for several years, I was able to let go of the hurt, and perceived pain that I experienced - and I know that in some instances engaging in this practice almost miraculously changed others as well - or at least the substance of our relationship. This certainly was more spiritually satisfying for me than therapy was over the course of several years, though I am not discounting the benefits of engaging in this practice either. In my case, I did both concurrently.

Would I do it all over again? Absolutely! Was it easy? NOT at all!

I did not do this practice to absolve anyone of wrongdoing. Neither would I endorse that others not be held accountable for their wrongdoings. I simply wish to share that there is an inherent power in the practice of forgiveness. For ourselves. For others. For the lives of all involved. Those we know. And sometimes, we even manage to touch those we don't..."


Anonymous said…
Wonderful words, Olga. Do you have a specific practice, books, etc. that you would recommend (on loving kindness/forgiveness? Thank you...
Olga Rasmussen said…
I think the important thing is that it resonate with you. The personal metta practice I did was thinking of each person and saying this three times, every day for a long time:

May "John" be filled with Loving-kindness. May he be well. May he be at peace and ease. May he be happy.

This practice changes you. A wonderful book I like is "Radical Forgiveness." It was very helpful to me.

I also like sitting in meditation, thinking of a particular person, connecting to their spirit, and asking forgiveness and/or forgiving them.

But possibly, the most powerfuland simple practice, is to simply pray for them every time you meditate.

Hope this helps!
With love and blessings,
Anonymous said…
Thank you!
"This simply, was the one I chose after having been profoundly moved by the story of Dipa Ma, a Buddhist nun, whom a dear friend shared with me, at a particularly difficult time of need."

Would you be willing to share this story?

(Interestingly, when I googled to see if I could find the story, I came across the (I think) original article you were responding to. I will say, I do understand the general idea that forgiveness is not some instant magic cure. Forgiveness as a buzz word for "yeah I'm spiritual and 'good'" isn't necessarily helpful. But as a deeper practice, it's critical.)

Many thanks,
Olga Rasmussen said…

The story I read on Dipa Ma is titled: Dipa Ma - The Life and Legacy of a Buddhist Master. I believe it's out of print.

This woman experienced many profound losses, but the practice of Loving-kindness helped her deal with it tremendously. That's when I realized and saw the power of this practice. And so, I did - and experienced it fruits.

And this is what it is - a deeper practice that transforms us - others - and ultimately the world.

Love and blessings to you,

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