Ever so often a person’s name comes up … someone I worked for and who rejected me. At least that’s how I remember the situation: he didn’t value my contribution and eventually nudged me out the door. It’s been two years and still there’s this sting in my heart. In Buddhist parlance we talk about two daggers: one that pierces our soft belly when something bad happens and another we insert ourselves to keep the wound from healing. First injury, then suffering.
It occurs to me this morning that one way I might get over the continuing hurt is by practice forgiveness. Zen teacher Ezra Bayda, who I often turn to when it comes to tackling difficult emotions, writes that “forgiveness is about loosening our hold on the one thing we most want to hold onto — the suffering of resentment.”
In forgiveness practice, we work to see through our own emotional reactions. We practice noticing what stands in the way of real forgiveness. Genuine forgiveness entails experiencing our own pain and then the pain of the person to be forgiven.
His pain!? What about mine, which he caused?! And there I am, stuck in resentment and righteousness, unable to let go, however much I want to. “Letting go is not the real practice,” Bayda suggests, “it’s a fantasy practice based on an ideal of how we’d like things to be.”
Instead, he writes, we need to simply acknowledge our unwillingness to forgive and our holding on to the ideal that I shouldn’t be resentful in the first place. That’s radical (“going to the root”), to admit that I’m holding on to pain and — there goes there’s that second dagger — that I’m a flawed person in feeling resentful. As I pay attention to the physical experience of all this, I notice stiffness across my shoulders, into my neck, and forward around my upper chest like strips of iron encircling a wooden barrel. I feel confined and compressed. Breathing near the edges of the tension, and gently into it, I notice restrictions around throat and lower jaw. Widening my breath, slowly and gradually, the load softens, leaving traces of the iron bands.
We can’t move on to the [next] stages of forgiveness until we’ve entered into and experienced–in your bodies and minds–the depth of our unwillingness to forgive.
May this story be of benefit to you.
source: Bayda, E. (2003). At home in muddy waters: a guide to finding peace within everyday chaos. Boston: Shambhala, p. 92. image: viscoimages.com