Dear Rabbi Lerner,
I applaud you for the stand you taken on justice; we have to stand up for Justice to every one of the seven billion of us, it ain't justice if it protects me at the cost of others and most certainly it will have an adverse effect on others. To have sustainable peace, security and justice for me, I have to make sure others receive the same; I cannot be secure if others around me are not and on the corollary, I cannot have peace when others around me don't.
Krishna sums it up very well in Bhagvad Gita; whenever there is adharma (un-righteousness), I will emerge among you and restore the righteousness. Didn't Moses, Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha, Nanak, Gandhi, MLK and other peace makers do just that? History is replete with the story of social justice; indeed, the sole purpose of peace makers was to bring justice to the society.
The fraction of Muslims have caused the world to stereotype Muslims, likewise the fraction of Jews are causing the same. I am glad you are standing up to the extremists amongst Jews and I will continue to stand up against extremists among Muslims.
As a society we have to develop educational programs to bring comfort to the extremists among us and help mitigate their imaginary fears. They can certainly reflect their phobias and imaginary fears, but not ascribe it to their faith.
Interfaithing is one of the answers, and it is NOT about uniting religions, it is about hearing each other to remove myths and falsehoods about other faiths and learn to live without fear of the other.
It is in our interest to live freely; it amazes me how a few of us keep living in fears every moment of our lives, and much of the fear is imaginary - like a child being afraid of the boogey man that ain't there.
Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker, writer, optimist and an activist of Pluralism, Justice, Islam, India and Civil Societies. He is a conflict mitigater and a goodwill nurturer offering pluralistic solutions to issues of the day. His work is reflected at 3 websites & 22 Blogs listed at http://www.mikeghouse.net/
Tikkun to heal, repair and transform the world
A note from Rabbi Michael Lerner Join or Donate Now!
Every night since the attack on my home by right-wing Zionists, I've been saying a prayer of forgiveness for them. While the political meaning of that act, and of the demeaning of critics of Israel, will be explored more fully in the July/August issue of Tikkun, on the spiritual level it is very important to not let negativity, even terrorism or violence, get the upper hand by bringing us down to the same level of anger or hatred that motivates those who act violently attack or those who demean and attempt to delegitimate the critics of Israel's treatment of Palestinians.
If we are to build a world of love, we have to constantly work against the impulse to respond to anger and hatred with our own angry or hateful response. So, every night, I work on forgiving those who have assaulted my home, those who publicly demean me or Tikkun or the NSP, and those who spread hatred against the many people in our world who legitimately critique the policies of the State of Israel toward Palestinians.
It was in this context that I thought I'd forward you some notes taken by therapist Linda Graham at a recent weekend retreat on Forgiveness conducted by Jack Kornfeld and Fred Luskin. Fred is author of Forgive For Good and Jack is the author of The Art of Forgivenes, Loving Kindness and After the Ecstasy The Laundry (and teaches at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in northern California). Linda Graham who took these notes is a Marriage and Family Therapist in San Francisco--her website is www.lindagraham-mft.com.
P.S. if you haven't signed up for the conference yet, please do so now at www.spiritualprogressives.org/conference.
Reflections on Forgiveness
1. Both Jack and Fred gave many examples of the universality of suffering, injustice, betrayal, both on an international scale, like the multi-generational hostility and strife in the Middle East, in Eastern Europe, in Southeast Asia, in Ireland, in Africa, and on the deeply personal scale of blame-shame-built walls with the parents, partners, children we want to hold nearest and dearest. We hurt people and are hurt by people because we are people. Experiences of loss, betrayal, hurt are inevitable when human beings are caught in the human conditions of greed, hatred, ignorance. There is such poignancy to the struggle when we are caught ourselves in blame, resentment, bitterness. Our pain becomes encased in neural cement and we're stuck. Forgiveness practice is a choice we make for ourselves to not perpetuate that suffering.
Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a permanent attitude. - Martin Luther King, Jr.
2. Both Jack and Fred agree that forgiveness is a process; it's not a one-shot deal. It's a daily and lifelong practice to move through layers and layers of hurt and grief and re-open the heart to compassion and kindness. In this sense, forgiveness is independent of content. I.e., it doesn't so much matter who did what to you or who; it's our response that is the practice. Blame-anger-hatred keep us physiologically aroused. When feel we're still in threat, it's not safe to forgive.
Fred said that not forgiving, staying in bitterness, anger, hostility, is like drinking a cup of poison and waiting for the other person to die. Jack mentioned two prisoners of war being released to return home. One asked the other, "Have you forgiven our captors?" "I'll NEVER forgive them!" the second one replied. "They still have you in prison then, don't they?"
The choice is ours, and the responsibility to choose is ours, to create conditions for happiness or bitterness. Loving kindness and other practices outlined below regulate our bodies back to the open, compassionate state where it is possible to forgive.
Never does the human soul appear so strong as when it foregores revenge, and dares forgive an injury.
- E. H. Chapin
3. Jack and Fred offered similar understandings of what forgiveness is: the inner peace and wise perspective that allows us to keep our hearts open in the face of injustice, betrayal, harm. We are simply poisoning ourselves when we don't. And what it is not: a bypass of condoning, pardoning, forgetting, false reconciliation, appeasement, sentimentality. Neither is forgiveness necessarily bringing to complete resolution every individual complaint or grievance, however legitimate. It's a practice, daily and lifelong, to keep the heart open in the face of trying circumstances.
Forgo your anger for a moment and save yourself a hundred days of trouble.
- Chinese proverb
4. Both Jack and Fred anchor forgiveness practice in a deeply felt sense of our own goodness, our own innate capacities for wisdom and love, our Buddha Nature. (See Exercises below to access this felt sense.) To remember that we, and all beings, are "nobly born." And that the capacity for kindness is as hardwired into our neural circuitry as the tendencies to contract in pain and suffering. This helps us bypass our body's adrenalin reactions that fuel our sense of personal threat and drama, and allows us to re-open into a spacious calmness; from there we can forgive.
We consciously reflect on (or learn from research) the benefits of cultivating kindness, compassion, gratitude, equanimity in the face of sorrow, hurt, grief to support our forgiveness practice. All of these pro-social practices are Wise Effort: the path of choosing to end suffering, in all its forms, and to cultivate the wholesome in all its forms. Even if we don't know how to forgive very well, we have compassion and forgive ourselves for lack of that skill. Forgiveness is the culmination of a long series of practices to open the heart.
5. Then we begin to cultivate a willingness to let go of our personal suffering, our personal drama, our well-rehearsed personal stories and identities of victimhood, our personal complaints and bitterness that create a state of mind and heart where kindness and forgiveness are biologically impossible. Those neural pathways of contraction and protection are well-established. It's so easy to go into complaining, criticism, contempt. We have to be willing to soften that neural cement. We have to stop adrenalizing to be safe enough to be kind. We have to set an intention to stop being in contention with the world, to stop projecting our disgruntlement onto the world, to give up resentment, bitterness, entitlement. Not deny our pain, but not to linger We're not indifferent, but we're not stuck in drama either. Understanding, compassion, grief, forgiveness are the open-hearted response to a human life's vulnerability to change. The willingness, the intention, re-sets the compass of the heart so we can re-claim our larger self, our larger consciousness, our larger kindness that can open to compassion for ourselves. These practices put us back on the track of integrity, dignity, and possibility. There comes an awareness beyond self, and eventually to compassion for others who have acted in misguided or harmful ways.
When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.
- Catherine Ponder
6. Both Fred and Jack emphasized the necessity of honest grieving over harm experienced as we cultivate this willingness, this intention to practice forgiveness. The heart needs to feel its legitimate pain before it can be moved to let it go. Being stuck in blame can create a sense of victimhood, but honest grief work can help the underlying hurt, fear, anger resolve and move through, making the practice of forgiveness digestible and workable.
Let the pain be pain, not in the hope that it will vanish but in the faith that it will fit in, find its place in the shape of things, and be then not any less pain but true to form....That's what we're looking for: not the end of a thing but the shape of it.
- Albert Huffstickler
7. Forgiveness is a process that happens over time, layer by layer. Start practicing forgiveness where it's easiest - your dog for tearing up the carpet or your child for spilling potato salad all over the kitchen floor. Yourself for losing your cool in rush hour traffic or forgetting to pay the phone bill on time. Then "broaden and build." Practice forgiveness in more and more challenging situations or with more and more challenging people where the stakes get higher until you're ready to tackle the "unforgiveable" with courage and care. Life is full of "forgiveness moments," big and small, where we practice over and over again remaining open-hearted.
You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well.
- Lewis B. Smedes
8. Begin doing a formal forgiveness practice (see Exercises below for Jack's exquisite meditations on forgiving one's self, asking forgiveness from another, offering forgiveness to another. You can include forgiving life for things not going the way you want them to go, too.) In the Buddhist monasteries, monks practice forgiveness 300 times until it becomes a natural practice of the heart. Even if you do forgiveness practice only five minutes a day, do it every day, day after day, Once a day brings you to 300 times to establish the practice less than a year. Five minutes three times a day brings you there in a little less than three months.
It is very easy to forgive others their mistakes; it takes more grit and gumption to forgive them for having witnessed our own.
- Jessamyn West
9. Include all layers of processing experience in your forgiveness practice. When we feel something in our body, it feels so real to us "it must be true." It can be hard to change that neural reactivity. Sometimes working in somatic-based trauma therapy is necessary to release bodily-held rage, hostility, defensiveness or collapse into powerlessness. We do have to stop adrenalizing before we can feel save enough to forgive.
Sometimes we have to learn new skills in experiencing and expressing the intense emotions that sometimes erupt as we focus on experiences that need our forgiveness. We learn to take responsibility for our emotional experience, having compassion for ourselves in moments of "there I go again."
We give up all hope of a better past and patiently, perseveringly re-structure our thoughts and belief systems, especially any lingering feeling like the universe revolves around us in an entitled way, or clinging to an identity as a victim. Forgiveness practice doesn't re-write history, but it does allow us to re-write our story of our history. We can re-perceive ourselves as hero rather than victim for all the courage and resiliency it takes to learn and grow enough to forgive.
The day the child realizes that all adults are imperfect, he becomes an adolescent; the day he forgives them, he becomes an adult; the day he forgives himself, he becomes wise.
- Alden Nowlan
10. Finally, our forgiveness practice shifts our perspectives. We begin to take things less personally. We see that my pain is part of the pain of all human beings, universally. We see that the suffering of every life is held in a larger consciousness that holds all the arising and falling away of all of existence. We begin to trust in something larger than our separate personal lives. We begin to see that forgiveness practice doesn't necessarily end suffering, but it makes life livable. We see that forgiveness practice is a tremendous catalyst for growth and healing; we become a forgiving person. (Like becoming a loving, compassionate, open-hearted person.) We claim the undeniable goodness of our life.
Poetry and Quotes to Inspire
Life without forgiveness is unbearable.
- Jack Kornfield
Between a stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. The last of human freedoms is to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances.
- Viktor Frankl
I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.
- James Baldwin
The person who betrayed you is sunning themselves on a beach in Hawaii and you're knotted up in hatred. Who is suffering?
- Jack Kornfield.
When you forgive, you in no way change the past - but you sure do change the future.
- Bernard Meltzer
Forgiveness and reconciliation are not just ethereal, spiritual, other-- worldly activities. They have to do with the real world. They are realpolitik, because in a very real sense, without forgiveness, there is no future.
- Desmond Tutu
For Someone Who Did You Wrong
Though its way is to strike
In a dumb rhythm,
Stroke upon stroke,
As though the heart
Were an anvil,
The hurt you sent
Had a mind of its own.
Something in you knew
Exactly how to shape it,
To hit the target,
Slipping into the heart
Through some wound-window
Left open since childhood.
While it struck outside,
It burrowed inside,
Made tunnels through
Every ground of confidence.
For days, it would lie still
Until a thought would start it.
Meanwhile, you forgot,
Went on with things
And never even knew
How that perfect
Shape of hurt
Still continued to work.
Now a new kindness
Seems to have entered time
And I can see how that hurt
Has schooled my heart
In a compassion I would
Otherwise have never learned.