Forgiveness is what's up for me. Not for the first time obviously. But again. Just like I am not done cleaning my house because I just cleaned my house. I will have to keep cleaning my house as long as I live in it. Much like Sisyphus having to roll the immense rock up the tall moutain. Only to find the rock at the bottom of the moutain the nex day. Like that. Groundhog day. Forgiving. Over and over until every judgment and disappointment, expectation and resentment is so saturated with deep loving presence that I am un-offendable. That I can no more judge my brother or sister's trespasses than I would judge my children for throwing an ureasonable fit.
My partner and I have started doing Stephen Levine's forgiveneness meditation for couples. It's 20 minutes and involves eye gazing and inward recitation of Stephen's words of forgiveness toward the other, as well as asking to be forgiven by the other. Within minutes of sitting down down the first time, we had tears streaming down our faces. When you call upon your capacity for forgiveness, you also call forth all the unfinished business. The anger and sadness festering right below the surface. So there we were. Asking for mercy. Asking to be let into each other's hearts. Fully and wholly. Holy. Witnessing the other person's eyes go hard, then soft, then wet. Enduring the deeply uncomfortable vibrations of past events, actions and words in the body.
Stephen Levine says that forgiving is not about endorsing someone's actions. It's about forgiving and thereby recognizing their essential Self. Their True essence. As Divinity embodied. Ok, those are my words. But I think that is what he is saying. Gazing into the other person's eyes and seeing your Self. Seeing and feeling the Deep Love that resides at the bottom of the well. Always. Even when the storm on the surface of the waters is raging so fiercely it's nearly impossible to trust that true deep peace is still the Essence and that the storm is only weather. Passing through.
So of course. True to form. The Universe. God. Love. Now shows me, with a vengeance, how much I have yet to forgive the imperfection of my fellow travelers -- perfectly and painfully mirroring my own imperfection. Now leaves me feeling let down and unloved alone and small. Forgiveness is loving in spite of, not because of. Loving as we would love to be loved. Just because we are. Loved when we are bad. Loved when we are good. Loved when we are nobody. Loved when we are somebody. Loved for our Light and Loved when darkness rages through us and we are barely recognizable.
My teacher likes to remind me that we are all a 'work in progress'. That no one is perfect and no one on earth has perfected the art of loving. That indeed we are all here to meet and transform or is it transcend? Or is it integrate? Our Shadow. Our irrational fears, murkiest mess, least likable levels of consciousness.
When we say Namaste at the end of a modern yoga class, we tell our students that it means something to the effect of the Light in me sees the Light in you. But do we? Are we really making that the practice? To see the Light even while keeping a keen eye out for the darkness that lurks around in every human being as well. My teacher tells me that we must learn to dance with the darkness which doesn't mean endorsing it but seeing it, relating to it, recognizing it in ourselves and in each other while simultanously fighting tooth and nail to keep the Divine connection open. I forgive you because I see your True Essence. I see that you are Love incarnate. I see that you are also infected with Darkness and Fear, just like I am infected with Darkness and Fear.
In Stephen Levine's words:
“I forgive you for whatever you may have done that caused me pain, intentionally or unintentionally, through your actions, through your words, even through your thoughts, through whatever you did.
Through whatever you didn’t do.
However the pain came to me through you, I forgive you.
I forgive you.
It is so painful to put someone out of your heart.
Let go of that pain.
Let them be touched for this moment at least with the warmth of your forgiveness.
I forgive you. I forgive you.”
- Stephen Levine
Or really -- maybe an even better quote originating a little closer to home. This one from my son, Julian when he was 9. He was partipating in a soccer tournament in Denmark. Trying his best to get by in Danish when two boys mocked him for mispronouncing something:
"Mama, two boys teased me for my Danish. But I decided to forgive the one boy because his arm was in a cast and then I decided to forgive the other boy because it's just easier to forgive than to stay mad."
- Julian Toso, 2011