Rediscovering Forgiveness

Forgiveness

This year, I have been taking baby steps in exploring forgiveness as a spiritual path. A chance encounter with the intriguing phrase ‘advanced forgiveness’ led me to Gary Renard’s ‘A Disappearance of The Universe’. Encouraged by my mentor GD, I revisited my hardbound ‘A Course In Miracles’ copy. Many epiphanies later, I found my longtime Buddhist practice being steered into unexplored waters. And during a turbulent work-year, the guiding star I tried to steadfastly hold onto was forgiveness, forgiveness, forgiveness. From it, I learnt two things: one, forgiveness can indeed change your life; and two, most of what we have been taught about it is wrong.

Forgiveness, I was taught in school, is when someone does something awful, but you, taking in a deep breath of pure compassion, decide to forgive him. Because you are good, he is an ass. Plus, doing it makes you a favorite of old man God who smiles in his frosty beard and jots your name on His Special List of Favorite Children.

As I grew up, I occasionally practiced forgiveness, using the same line of thinking, just with complicated multi-syllable words. Then, three decades after my Jesuit education, I was guided to ‘A Course In Miracles’ (ACIM), which makes forgiveness the cornerstone of its entire teaching system. According to ACIM, forgiveness not only heals, it single-handledly undoes the ego’s delusional worldview; forgiveness is not just an occasional step – it is an entire path towards the peace that passeth understanding.

According to ACIM, the commonly practiced form of forgiveness is actually ‘the ego’s forgiveness’. Notice the ego subtly making itself higher than the other by allowing what is considers a perfectly obvious act of evilness to pass. The victim sees himself innocent while the other is guilty. Attempting this kind of forgiveness is valuable because it may be motivated by a noble intention, but seems at best superficial and at worst arrogant.

To appreciate a more advanced vision of forgiveness we need to first understand how the mind projects its own unacceptable emotions on others. A man who furiously blames others at office for incompetence, looking honestly within, realizes it is his secret guilt about his own incompetence in some area, which he is constantly projecting outside. Or a woman who strongly condemns her husband for being unreliable will find it was coming from her secret shame about being unreliable. When this is seen, there is a natural forgiveness that happens, because now the other is not guilty. He was simply the screen on which we were projecting our movie. This is a more genuine forgiveness than the first because there is real freedom in seeing it was all a projection, hence a misunderstanding.

This is not the grudging forgiveness of the ego, this is a laughing forgiveness that wonders how it could believe that the fault was really outside. As American teacher Byron Katie says, “Forgiveness is realizing that what you thought happened, didn’t.”

Perfect forgiveness, ACIM says, occurs when we begin to glimpse the dreamlike nature of the world itself. So not only is the other not guilty because it was your projection onto him, you are not guilty either: the victim and abuser are equally dream characters. The highest level of forgiveness thus rises far beyond the plains of Puritan morality into the high peaks of Non-Duality. As ‘The Course In Miracles’ says:

“Forgiveness is the only thing that stands for truth in the illusions of the world.  It sees their nothingness, and looks straight through the thousand forms in which they may appear.  It looks on lies, but it is not deceived.  It does not heed the self-accusing shrieks of sinners mad with guilt. It looks on them with quiet eyes, and merely says to them, “My brother, what you think is not the truth.”

In its purest form, forgiveness is not a doing, it a seeing: a seeing that the illusion of separate individuals is simply an erroneous mind-construct.

In its purest form, forgiveness is not a thought, it is a meditation: a sinking into the silence beyond form to see that without thought, this never happened.

In its purest form, forgiveness is a gift of love to yourself as much as to the other: because it reaffirms the truth of our oneness once again.

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If it interests you to explore this form of forgiveness further, I highly recommend Gary Renard’s ‘The Disappearance Of The Universe’ before you dive into ‘A Course In Miracles’.
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Picture Courtesy Heather Katsoulis

My Top 7 “Getting-Out-Of-The-Jungle’ Processes

Getting Out of the Jungle of Thoughts

Many friends connect with my mentor GD’s insights on the blog and experience flashbulb moments of deep clarity and illumination. But soon, they confess, they are once again swept away by the momentums of daily life. “But what do I do?” they ask me, “It is so easy to get carried away!”

Last week, one of my favorite bloggers, the irrepressible Yaz, requested me to ask GD the infamous seeker question: “I so get it… but what to DO?” When I spoke to GD, he asked me to share a post I had worked on a few months ago but never posted. When I re-read it now, I realize it is a subject relevant not only to Yaz but to almost everyone on this blog.

While there is incalculable value in glimpsing the ‘open sky’, when one feels lost in the dark jungle of thoughts and emotions, it is helpful to have systems which methodically and consistently put us back on track.

Over the years, GD has explored and shared dozens of ‘clearing’ systems with us. These are the seven which have made the shortlist, stood the test of time and stay with me even today. These are not meditations, but they all clear the path for it. They methodically untie the knots, big and small, that hold us in the grip of conflict and chaos. And best of all, once learned, they can be done by yourself.

To make it easy for you, I have provided links for all of them. I would encourage you to explore whatever resonates with you… and incorporate into your lives and your iPods.

  • The Sedona Method: A gentle system created by Lester Levenson in the 1960s. It encourages letting go. Since Lester’s demise, the torch has been carried on by his students Hale Dwoskin and Larry Crane. Though it is said that half the spiritual teachers on ‘The Secret’ have used this method, it remains under the radar. Their ‘Good Morning’ & ‘Good Night’ meditations are on my ‘Top 25 Most Played’ playlist.
  • The Work: A method of self-enquiry developed by Byron Katie that needs only a pen, a paper and an open heart. It encourages you to identify the thoughts (which she calls ‘stories’) that cause the suffering and question them on paper. It took me a few tries to get the hang of it, but once it clicked, it’s proven a life-saver for almost a decade now. I love that it doesn’t give you any answers, but only asks questions to help you find them for yourself.
  • Donna Eden’s ‘Energy Medicine’: A simple set of energetic exercises developed by Donna Eden. These are physical exercises to stimulate the blocked meridians and smoothen broken energy flows. Guaranteed pick-me-up within 15 minutes or less, mind not required.
  • Emotion Freedom Technique (EFT): A relatively famous system developed Gary Craig that rebalances the body’s energy system by tapping on key energy meridian points which are blocked or disrupted. Verbal ‘scripts’ along with the tapping help focus healing on specific issues. GD’s friend Sangeeta Bhagwat works primarily with EFT and has given many scripts on her blog for free.
  • ZPoint: An indigenous system developed by Grant Connolly to release sub-conscious emotional triggers associated with traumatic memories, relationships or life situations. All you have to do is to embed a ‘key word or phrase’ into your subconscious and repeat it while Grant Connolly guides you through the process.
  • Access Consciousness: Founded by Gary Douglas, the system is most famous for ‘pod-pocking’ after its curious clearing statement ‘good-bad-right-wrong-pod-poc-all-nine-boys-shorts-and-beyond’. But the many, many tools it provides work and my wife Aditi loves the system so much, she decided to become a trained Access Consciousness facilitator.
  • Emotrance: Developed by Dr. Silvia Hartmann in the mid-1990s, this system deals directly with the physical manifestations of stuck energy in the body. So you work not on sadness, but on where it is showing up in your body. And guide it to dissolve and exit the body. So simple a four-year-old can learn it.

I hope that, thanks to the question asked by Yaz, you all can incorporate the magical support of these systems into your life.

Please Appreciate This Blog!

Spiritual teacher Byron Katie says that if she had a prayer, it would go something like this: “God, spare me from the desire for love, approval and appreciation.”

No matter how many times I unravel this strait-jacket of seeking appreciation, I find it comes again in a new form. Like, for example, when I compulsively check stats on the blog to see how many likes or comments i have in the last half hour. It’s sweetly neurotic at this level but in the larger picture, the desire for appreciation is such a crippling factor in our lives, it ultimately destroys us: forcing us to buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like in the first place. Here’s a lovely talk by GD on whether we are spending all our lives seeking appreciation. If you like it, don’t forget to appreciate this blog… or not 🙂

“In school, we wanted to be at the top of the class – for what? To impress our parents, teachers, other students – everyone must see me as a smart, special child! 

This desire for approval and appreciation then spread into all areas of our life. And for that, we needed the perfect body, the perfect house, the perfect job, the perfect husband or wife and finally, perfect kids!

A friend of mine has fallen in love, but does not want to go out with the girl because she is not very good looking. Why?  Because he is afraid that others will not approve and think that he is really desperate!

So even the woman you marry could be based on other people’s approval.

The job, the salary, the car, the perfume, the clothes, the body language – everywhere it is the same story.

All this so that people can look at us and say: “Wow! You are amazing!”

We are willing to sell our souls just to hear this.

Most of our choices are based on others’ reactions.

Do we ever do what we really want to do?

Do we even know what we really want to do?

 

This constant need for love and attention seems to be one of the core preoccupations of humanity.

What is this unending need for attention?  It is a question we have to ask, otherwise our entire life will be spent roaming around with our begging bowl – seeking love, approval and attention.

This unexamined need makes us dependent on everybody: ‘Give me some love, give me some attention, appreciate me, please look at me!’

We willingly become puppets in someone else’s hands.

And gradually, the more addicted we are to attention – the more fake we become.

The more fake we become – the more miserable and split we feel inside.

 

No matter how hard we try, we find that some people are impressed and some are not.

The funny thing is: even if you don’t try, some are impressed and some are not impressed!

 

The ‘false’ you is always trying to get attention, approval, love. 

When you want something from someone, you are never at ease.

The false you is always uneasy with people because of this subconscious need.

This need insists that I be seen as a nice human being, as a loving human being, as a worthy human being.

And in order to have this need met, we start behaving in ways which we think others will like.

When we want approval from others, we instantly lose our honesty, our ease and our naturalness.

This begging-mode is a very uncomfortable place to function from. But most of us are so habituated to this state that we don’t even notice it.

When you want nothing from anybody – finally – you are free to be yourself.

When you are yourself, you are – regardless of the situation – simply present, open and playful.

 

What if you could let go of this need for attention?

What if you become clear and realize: ‘I don’t really need this’.

If the need for attention or appreciation completely disappears – how would your life change?

Can you imagine how different life would be if one was not playing this game?

If you were really, really true to yourself, and not worried about impressing:

What kind of job would you be doing?

What kind of people would you really hang out with?

What kind of a person would you date?

What kind of lifestyle would you choose?

 

What you need is your own love and attention.  That is what’s really missing.

We don’t acknowledge ourselves enough for who we are and what we do. So we constantly need others to do it for us.

Acknowledge yourself. Why manipulate others into doing it for you?

When you start ‘feeding’ yourself, you will stop running around with your begging bowl asking others for scraps.

Then, you feel good about yourself! When you feel good, you find people being drawn to you.

This is the paradox. A person who doesn’t seek love and appreciation starts getting it!

Suppose someone is impressed with you – what do you ultimately get?

Let us imagine this scenario: you have managed to impress someone… so what have you really achieved?

What you will actually get are a few thoughts, which say: I am worthy; I am loveable; I am wanted; I am needed.

This is what you will get, right?  That is what gives you a thrill.

These three-four sentences – I am wanted; I am needed; I am lovable; I am worthy.

This is all that you get.

For these few thoughts we sacrifice our whole life.

If we learn to generate these thoughts ourselves, we don’t have to beg for them outside and the whole game changes.

A truly crucial inquiry…

We start by inquiring into how many (if not all) of our choices are meant to impress others. We need to make a genuine and thorough list.

The second question that follows is: why is it so important to impress them?

The third question to be considered is: if they get impressed, are you going to buy it?  For example, if someone calls you beautiful or spiritual or a genius, are you really going to believe it?

The fourth question that naturally comes up is: if you are not going to believe it anyway, what is the point of trying so hard?

Lastly, the fifth question worth asking is: how would your life change if you stopped this game?

When you are peaceful, happy and not trying to create false images – you enjoy self-approval.

That’s when you internally say:

It is okay to be me.

It’s okay to be casual.

It’s okay to not pretend.

It’s okay to just enjoy the situation.

That is self-approval.

 

If you stop seeking approval, you will enjoy immense freedom and peace.

You will be in a state of meditation throughout the day.

It has to be – because you are not moving out of integrity at all.

You are not being false, you are not being fake – there is no manipulation.

The mind starts to dissolve.

Concepts of success and money and fame – all become useless if you are not interested in impressing.

Why do you want to be successful and get awards? So that people come to know how great you are.

Money – why do you want so much money?  So that you can show-off with the money; so that you can buy a big house and a big car.

Success, fame, career… what do you need all these for? To impress others.

But this desire to impress never lets you rest.

It keeps you running… like a rat on a treadmill.

You must be the best in the office; you must be famous; you must write a book; you must have your own car – even if you don’t need it.

As long as you are running, you cannot enjoy anything you have.

When you have your own approval – you will start receiving everybody’s approval.

That is the magic of it.  But first you have to find your own approval.

If I need you to tell me that I am a good teacher – then I have great doubts about my teaching ability.

Why would I need you to tell me that, unless I have serious doubts and I need reassurance?

We need others to tell us that which we doubt about ourselves.

And since we doubt it, we want to hear it again and again.

But no matter how many times we hear it, it will not be enough.

Deep down, there is a part of us that goes on denying and doubting it.

Better to spend our time healing that part, than to hunt for approval and appreciation again and again.

When you start loving yourself, you will start seeing everyone’s love for you.”