Experience true forgiveness
To hold a grudge, or feel resentful, angry, or hostile towards another human being is detrimental to our happiness and drains away our energy to do better things with our lives. Yet it often seems there is no way out. The bad feelings persist and color our world in inexplicable ways that just aren’t good for us. There is another way.
True forgiveness is when there is a recognition that nothing ever happened (at least not as we think it did), so there is nothing to forgive (or be forgiven for). This may be surprising, or seem far-fetched to our rational minds. We have been telling ourselves this bad thing happened and we believe what we believe about it. No one is going to tell us different. We assign blame, we judge, we draw conclusions about that person and ourselves. We may even take some action against the person or persons, or give up something precious to us to avoid having this bad thing happen ever again. The burden is ours to carry with us through all of our days. How can anyone say “there is another way?”
The truth is, what we call reality is all our perspective. Our uniquely personal perspective; the result of our perception and projection. It’s all how you look at it, or don’t look at it, as the case may be. It's the words you use to describe it, the truths you believe in, the images you form in your mind, the meaning you give to it. In truth, we project our beliefs, values, rules about life, learning strategies, and preconceived notions onto every situation, whether in the present moment, or memories from the past. From our personal perspective it seems all too real. And unforgiveable.
Let’s at least try to put some light on perspective and consider why it is so important to understanding true forgiveness. First, there is the inevitable passage of time. While events from our past usually diminish in importance as time goes by, some events linger and fester and beg for forgiveness. How is this possible that all things don’t diminish to insignificance in time? And why are those that persist in time the hardest to forgive?
Call it “feeding the dragon.” When really bad things happen they have the potential create all sorts of psychological and physical changes. How we deal with them emotionally makes a huge difference in how they affect us. If we keep telling ourselves the same story, with increasing embellishment, then the intensity is going to increase. If we make pictures in our mind that are painful to watch, but watch we do, over and over again, the emotions will intensify even more. Allowing ourselves to be caught up in hate and unforgiveness is a choice. Stop the story telling, change the pictures, and refuse to be caught up in the negative emotions and they will fade over time. Sometimes it’s just good to sit with the feelings, dropping the story and visualizing a better outcome. It’s not easy but perhaps if we deconstruct a few bits of how we perceive our world, it will become easier. It will become easier!
As humans we experience time as a constant passing of events which we have no control over. The sun rises, the sun sets and we call it a “day.” We chop it into finite quantities; years, months, weeks, minutes, seconds. Nanoseconds. Then about two thousand years ago, someone came up with these ideas we call “infinity” and "zero". No one can truly comprehend them but intellectually we have accepted them. Infinity: Time without beginning, time without end. Zero: Absolute nothing, emptiness.
Mathematicians use the construct of infinity to such an extent that our present civilization would collapse without it. There are a myriad of mathematical theorums that integrate infinity. We depend upon them to fly airplanes, build microprocessors, generate power, managing all sorts of logistical and pragmatic issues that are critical to infrastructure. It is because the human mind can conceptualize and make use of infinity that we can forgive. It is possible to forgive anything and anyone regardless of the offense. Because to believe in infinity, is to believe that whenever it was we believe the offense occurred, it didn’t happen. Simply put, any finite amount of time diminishes to zero relative to infinity.
Think of infinity. Endless space. Endless time. Without beginning. Without end. No words can describe it because it is unknowable to the thinking mind. Still, the mind can know of it. That's the difference. We have all seen pictures of the Earth from space. Somewhere down there is a grain of sand that’s very important to a tiny ant because it’s in the way. From our perspective it has no meaning, it is unknowable, but the mind can know of it. We imagine that exists, and so we think it does. But does it?
Quantum physics tells us that it exists only because we are looking for it. It will be whatever we expect it to be. Whatever projection we put upon it, that will be exactly what we see. If we set up our experiment to see light as a wave, it will show up as a wave. If we set up our experiment to see light as a particle, it will show up as a particle. There is no explanation other than we see what we expect to see. Let us take this one step further.
Here is a useful koan: God is infinite, God is everywhere, and everywhere God is, God is infinite. Enlightened mystics tell us that they experience seeing God in everything, from the highest to the low; the finite expression of the infinite is the Infinite. Everywhere God Is. And God is Everywhere. This is pure seeing, without any preconceived notions or expectations about reality. It is also timeless.
So imagine that you see everything as an expression of the infinite. The finite still exists for you because you are here on earth with the rest of us. Drop a large rock on your foot and it hurts. Only your perception is different. Why? How is it that we can think of infinity as a concept, but not see infinity everywhere as the mystics do. Seeing everything as infinite, wouldn’t any finite existence is merely be illusion. But drop a rock on your toe and it will be very real, very finite. There’s no illusion about that. Unless what we call real, isn’t.
Einstein’s relativity (E=mc2) is an interesting, and illusion busting concept. Einstein wondered from an early age what it would be like to ride on a beam of light. He literally rocked the world with his theory of relativity but it’s really not that hard to understand the reasoning behind it. Nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. The law of conservation of energy; Energy = Mass * C2 (the speed of light, squared) E=MC2.
Take two flashlights, point them in opposite directions. Turn them on and there are photons moving in opposite directions at the speed of light. If I was riding on one beam of light, and you were on the other going in the opposite direction, it would be logical to assume that we are moving away from each other at faster than the speed of light. Twice as fast. Nope. Relative to each other, we are moving apart at precisely the speed of light. It doesn’t make sense logically, but it’s the only way this thing we call reality can exist. Einstein’s theory insists space/time as curved. We would be literally moving towards each other at the same time we are moving away from each other (at precisely the speed of light, both ways). Only we are certain, all of our perceptions tell us, we are moving away from each other in our “reality.” What we can’t “see” is eventually, in curved space/time, we would be encountering each other as we came together, again, at precisely the speed of light. Surprise! Nothing is as we think it is!
A Practical Exercise in How to See God in Everything: As we all know, everything we see in the material world consists of atoms. Everything. Nucleus with electrons spinning around and around. While there are still discoveries to be made at the quantum level, there is no doubt that atoms are the basic building block of the material universe.
If you think of an individual atom, it is not clean or dirty, well behaved or sinful, true or false. You can have no judgement about an atom. It simply is. And there are no differences between atoms except for the number of neutrons, protons, and electrons. We would never think of atoms as good or bad. If we had very powerful vision, we would see atoms in everything. They wouldn’t appear to us as clean or dirty, good or bad. They’re simply atoms.
Mystics tell us they see God in everything and everyone. No one is especially good, nor are they bad. Could it be similar to perceiving atoms in everything? I’m not implying that atoms are God and no one can say that atoms aren’t God. Atoms aren’t especially good, nor are they bad. Make but a small willingness to use this as a mental exercise to imagine how, if you could see at the atomic level, there would be no good or bad, clean or dirty, good or evil. At that level of perception everything is made up of one thing: atoms. And let that willingness extend to imagining that everything is made up of something far greater than you can imagine, call it Source or God, or whatever name you wish to give It.
So if you are not forgiving someone who did something really horrible to you or someone you care about, and you’re finding it really difficult to forgive them, imagine that you can see them at the atomic level. They’re the same as everyone and everything else. Where is it that they become unforgivable? How does that happen? It's all in your perspective! Now imagine you have the vision to see them as the Divine manifestation we call a human being. There’s no greater truth than we are all made of atoms. Atoms are everywhere and everything. And there’s no greater truth than we are all a manifestation of the Divine Infinite.
Even if you cannot perceive life from an enlightened perspective, perhaps this “atomic” metaphor will help you begin to accept that there is a truth beyond what you “see,” beyond what you have imagined as reality. A place where there is no good or evil. You can’t see atoms, but you know that everything is made up of atoms. Just so, you can’t see it, but is it possible that underneath all of creation is a basic goodness that is in everyone? That truly “evil” person you are having trouble forgiving… they’re made of the same stuff you are. You’ve just imagined that they are different, separate from you, different because they are “sinful” based on a bunch of lapsed memories, preconceived notions, erroneous beliefs, rules, knowledge, and life experiences. You and you alone made it this way. The good news is, because you made it, you can unmake it or simply let it go. You have a choice to make.
Ask yourself, “What is the greater truth?” In asking yourself, “What is the Ultimate Truth?” there can be only one answer. “I don’t know.” It is impossible to know Source from the level of human perception. It can only be experienced. It is understandable that you may not experience Source directly. It’s there in the silence. It’s there in the space between heartbeats. It’s there in the place where there are no thoughts.
“The last beings on earth to discover water will be the fish in the sea.”
Motion pictures appear to be real and we get so caught up in them we forget they aren’t real. But the truth is there is a blank between each frame. A motion picture is hundreds of thousands of images played in sequence with blanks spots between each and every one them. Even the latest LED televisions have a “refresh” rate. The higher the rate that the screen is refreshed, the more life-like it appears. For whatever reason, the human brain cannot perceive these “blank” spaces. But they are there, you can be sure.
Several hundreds of thousands of times a day your heartbeat stops. There’s a resting space between hearbeats. Between breaths. Between thoughts. If the Ultimate Source is everywhere and every-when, what is it that fills these silent spaces that is such an intrinsic part of life? It’s like sitting on the waterline at the beach with your arms and legs stretched out into the water, and splashing and pumping with everything you’ve got, trying to keep the water away from you. You don’t want to get wet, no, no, no… but it’s impossible. The splashing makes you wet, the kicking splashes back on you, you are the kicking and splashing, and as soon as you stop, the Ocean comes rushing in. Even between kicks and splashes it comes rushing back. It’s only because you are so focused on keeping it away from you that you don’t see how futile your efforts are, and how beautiful and wonderful the Ocean Is. How you are already a part of it. One with All of It.
Once you stop all your efforts to keep it away from you (stop the story, the mental images, the negative self talk), you find yourself immersed in the Ocean. You may feel like you are part of the Ocean, seeing it stretched out to infinity in front of you. Ultimately, you will find you are the Ocean, but that’s another story. So what does all of this have to do with forgiveness?
What we perceive with our senses is a very small slice of Infinite Reality. What we project onto those perceptions determines what we will see. Those projections are based beliefs that may or may not reflect Reality. Therefore that which we find so unforgiveable quite possibly never happened the way we think it did or for the reasons we expected.
That it not to say that if someone takes a life, it didn’t happen. It did. Or if someone harms and injures another. It did happen. But from the larger perspective of the Ultimate Truth, it didn’t. Yes, it matters to you because in your perception it is important. In time, its importance will diminish. Truth never diminishes. Therefore it isn’t Truth. What you believe happened is like trying to believe in a dream. It was real in the dream. But it isn’t real to you when you are awake. You know that. It’s no coincidence that in the moment a human being becomes enlightened, it’s called an awakening. It’s easy to forgive a dream. No so easy when you think it's real.
Enlightened masters, like Jesus and so many others before him and since, ask us to forgive one another as if nothing happened. To let go of all resentments, hurts, grievances, and pain. Not just to forgive, but to love. Not to deny what happened, but to let go of what is holding us back from Love. Loving others, loving ourselves. It’s the only healthy thing to do emotionally, physically, and spiritually. It’s difficult to move forward in life when one is dragging around a heavy burden of unforgiveness. And so unnecessary.
To experience true forgiveness, one must “see” beyond the senses and have faith in a Greater Reality. To begin to recognize that our existence is more than just what we experience in this material world. It’s more than bodies. It’s way beyond personalities and psychological constructs. There is a Truth that must be taken as Reality by Faith. The more that Faith is practiced, the more light comes into the life and it becomes easier to perceive the truth about what happened in the dream and let it go. Now.
Here is an exercise to bring True Forgivness home to you:
If you can get past that, substitute the word for the Divine Source that has meaning for you, in place of the word “atoms”.
If you get hung up on the part about “neither good nor bad” then there is some work to be done in your relationship with the Divine. All that is, is the Divine. What you think of as “good” and “bad” is simply a construct and cannot apply to the Infinite any more than to an atom, which is simply a manifestation of the Infinite in the here and now. As are you, as are we all. Let go of the notion of good and bad and accept what is as All That IS.