Forgiveness is the F-word of spirituality, completely misunderstood yet essential to peace, health and happiness. Here is my all-faith-and-no-faith brain dump on everything I know about forgiveness and why you should do it daily. Reprinted in entirety from August-September edition of The Network, Santa Cruz, CA. The Network is one of the oldest publications in Santa Cruz and one of the earliest free inclusive spiritual magazine and community guides in the nation.
Spiritual Mountain Climbing: Forgive
When it comes to forgiveness, some of the most spiritual people say they won’t be climbing that mountain.
But climbing that mountain of forgiveness is a must, if you want whole-soul peace. Amma, Her Holiness Mata Amritanandamayi, says that we think we are free but we are not free. No one escapes big losses, challenges or disasters. Buddha taught that all life in this realm is suffering.
There is a way through: Get bigger than all of that. Be so big that your love makes every act of hate, failure or betrayal smaller than you.
“Fore” means in front of or in advance of. Amma embraces everyone who comes to Her, without exception. Each is welcomed as though they were Amma’s first born child. Amma may be the strongest, most creative, effective, efficient transformational presence on earth. Forgiving, like a virtual embrace, keeps you out in front, in advance of anger, resentment and hate with love and an open, giving heart. Forgiveness is the ultimate embrace.
Jesus greatest teaching–his gift to the world–was the absolutely outrageous, stunning, revelationary awareness that all can be forgiven. Errors (sins) are not your essence. What yogis and those who delve within deeply know is that underneath your errors ignorance and karma from previous actions and attachments, are vast pure love, pure light and pure bliss. This is the truth of all beings…
I tried forgiving and it didn’t work. What did I do wrong? It may take lifetimes and lots of work or just an instant, but it is possible. It is worthwhile. There are no Cosmic Losers. In the Holy Bible of the Ancient Eastern Text, George Lamsa’s Translation from the Aramaic of the Peshitta, Matthew 18:22 21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, My Lord, if my brother is at fault with me, how many times should I forgive him? Up to seven times? 22 Jesus said to him, I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seventy-seven.”
“Seventy times seventy-seven” implies unlimited forgiveness, per the Metaphysical Bible Dictionary. Jesus knew that forgiveness was hard work.
Sri Yukteswar (through Theresa Stolaroff) gave five students five commandments. Number Three is, “I forgive easily, joyfully and daily.”
Does forgiveness means that the law of karma is suspended? Forgiveness…love…creates a new pathway. There may still be consequences-actions and reactions in the manifest world of effects that will be played out. There may be people or situations you choose to avoid for your safety, comfort or peace of mind. There may be financial, legal, relationship, health, career consequences or other losses. With forgiveness practice, these are viewed from a different place; compassion. Forgiveness eases the worry and tension and opens creative possibilities. In the greatest state of connection…love…there is bliss in the midst of the world of effects.
What if I still feel angry or resentful? Does that mean the forgiveness efforts have failed? Absolutely not. Keep forgiving. Maybe new negative thoughts crept in. Maybe there are more layers. The analysis is not so important. A pastor who was interviewed on TV before the globally televised eulogy for assassinated South Carolina Senator, Rev. Clemente Pinckney said that faith is a choice, not a feeling. Faith is an intention. Forgiveness may be the ultimate act of faith. Keep choosing forgiveness. Ask and it is given. Ask others for support. Contact the Center For World Networking Prayer Service listed here in The Network. Keep going seventy-seven times seven.
How do you know what forgiveness feels like? The anger, negativity, less-than feelings or resentment are just…not there. Not numb or shut-down. There is spaciousness and clarity.
If I don’t feel anger, won’t I be defenseless? Vulnerable to more harm or betrayal? A “No” is a” yes” for something else. Non-harming is a yes for love, peace and nurturing. You will be stronger. Abuse usually ends when a victim finds the self-love to calmly say “no more”.
So many fear forgiveness; they think it means that giving-up kind of surrender. I know that feeling. I confront it every single day. The traumas of my childhood were pushed so far back in my mind that I blocked them from consciousness for 20 years. A had no idea that I lived in fear, panic and anger; a small world of fight or flight. Relationships, careers and health all crashed at once. Long-held stress made such deep grooves in my nervous system and hard-wired so many reactions to my limbic system that I still see their shadows nearly 30 years after my memories surfaced. It is hard work to arise in love, do spiritual practices in faith, and create more expansive pathways of living. And it is working and worthwhile.
Anger is different from the positive warrior energy of “yes!” Anger weakens. Love strengthens. The forgiveness demonstrated by the families of those killed at Mother Emmanuel Church allowed a paradigm shift. There were no violent protests as in the aftermath of Ferguson. There was nothing to set-up confrontation. The world evidenced prayer, prayer and more prayer; turning to the Big Power of peace. The next day, the Confederate flags started to come down though the families had not made that request. Walmart, E-bay, Target, K-Mart, Amazon, flag manufacturers, Apple Civil War video games…the list went on and on like Divine dominos. The Alabama governor ordered the Confederate flag to come down. The Virginia governor immediately stopped issuing Confederate license plates. A presidential candidate from South Carolina, realized that the historical flag could not be a part of the future. It was a national “Ah-ha” moment. The prayers were not about a flag. They were for spiritual strength, love and forgiveness. The peaceful prayerful actions made it possible for the President of the United States to go to Charleston, preach about grace and break out in spontaneous song. (His singing Amazing Grace was not scripted.) A week later, racist remarks made by presidential candidate Donald Trump were met with instant fallout from NBC, Univision, Macy’s, six golf associations, Serta, and New York City.
There is an old saying: Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and wishing the other person would die. Withholding the natural flow of love can kill your spirit, damage your heart and weaken your immune system.
If I forgive, won’t I be “letting them get away with it?” No. Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord. It is not your business. If you need physical or legal protection, demonstrate self-love and responsibility. Do what needs to be done. Say what needs to be said. Use discernment. Forgive so you will have peace when you put your head on the pillow at night.
What if I know I should forgive and I just can’t do it? Try willingness. Can you be willing to be willing to be willing? Willingness is the open-sesame to the door of possibility. How can you know what that forgiveness would be like? You’ve never been there. Willingness is the key.
What other choice is there? Bitterness. Resentment. Suicide. Drugs. Violence. Revenge. Cynicism. What good does that do? Hate begets hate. Love begets love. Cynicism is a very dark icky energy. Cynicism means you have given up trying, succumbed to hopelessness.
Since those nine murders in Charleston, South Carolina, the forgiveness, the prayers, and the movement to take down the Confederate Flag, violence has not stopped. Seven African-American churches have been set ablaze in the South as of this writing on July 1, 2015. Does that mean the prayers failed? No. It means there is more work to do in consciousness and in action. The actions are limited and shallow. There is no longer societal tolerance. Those churches will be rebuilt and rise again even stronger. The Confederate flag will not.
Do not let betrayal, evil or harmful actions weaken you in anger, resentment and hatred. Evil loves a quitter.
Forgive seven times seventy-seven times seven times seventy-seven.
Be strong in love. Very strong. Make your list and forgive, now, easily, joyfully and daily.
AUM Lokah Samastah Sukhinoh Bhavantu. May all beings in all worlds be happy and peaceful.
Leena St. Michael, E-RYT500 is a Yoga Teacher, Interfaith Minister and Spiritual Counselor, Life Coach and Catalyst. She is also an Ayurveda Lifestyle and Diet Counselor and Reiki Master Teacher. http://leenastmichael.com. This article is an excerpt from her upcoming book. Leena was voted Best East Bay Yoga Teacher by Diablo Magazine. She is available for phone consultation and transformationals at 925.200.5130 and teaches weekly yoga classes in East San Francisco Bay Area. Leena has been a part of the Center for World Networking since 1996. She started the Prayer Ministry of Inner Light Ministries in Santa Cruz. Her key teachers: Amma, Jesus, Archangel Michael, Baba Hari Dass, Sri Yukteswar and Rev. Dr. Michael Beckwith.