Mean People just need to process, open, relax and extend Forgiveness.
Twice within a week I found myself in conversations with two different friends who seemed to be suffering from the same situation.
They were caught up, like many of us, in thinking that another person is responsible for their happiness or their woes. But all of us sense that what we are feeling has little to do with the actions of other people and everything to do with themselves.
With this experience in mind, it got me thinking about “heart-opening” language. This language can seem hippy-drippy and Kum-Bah-Ya-ish, but really it is a language filled of words that can. The trick is to be open. Put your fears aside. You know when you hear it, whether you speak it or not. It’s kind of like walking past people in a conversation and they are speaking Spanish, and you recognize it even if you don’t speak Spanish. You may expect to hear heart-opening language in a yoga class, or a Dharma talk.
But what if you were just walking down the street, and your ear caught this?
You don’t need someone to apologize to you in order to forgive them. You can forgive them all on your own, and you don’t even have to tell them.
To some, that makes perfectly good sense. To others, it’s not so easy to wrap their head around. The more one is exposed to people who embrace this way of communicating, the more likely their own heart will open to this language. Forgiveness is big. Really big.
The opening paragraph, Chapter One, of Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts has stuck with me for the past five years:
It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured. I realized, somehow, through the screaming in my mind, that even in that shackled, bloody helplessness, I was still free: free to hate the men who were torturing me, or to forgive them. It doesn’t sound like much, I know. But in the flinch and bite of the chain, when it’s all you’ve got, that freedom is a universe of possibility. And the choice you make, between hating and forgiving, can become the story of your life.
With that opening paragraph, I was in. I was into forgiveness, I was into traveling through India with the author’s words and his incredible journey. I was into reading the next 930 pages of Shantaram. Perhaps that opening paragraph has inspired you to put it on your Kindle or iPad, or head to your local book store or find it on Amazon.
Or maybe you said, “What’s that got to do with anything?”
Forgiveness is essential when we are feeling stuck in an emotion and holding on to anger or fear of letting go of that anger.
Sit in a quiet place and take a few full breaths in and release. Notice how you feel. If you want to work with anger, practice connecting with that angry feeling and breathe through it. Notice the story that is going on in your head and then stop repeating it—it’s just that, a story. The more you tell it to yourself, the more power you give that story. Instead of recounting the story that pissed you off in the first place, practice connecting with the breath, notice the inhalation and the exhalation, and keep letting go. Guess what is going to happen? The anger will go away. You will soften. You’ve created space for forgiveness.
Next, with each breath, forgive yourself for getting angry. With some practice, you will open the door to forgive someone who’s wronged—and you’ll have opened the door to learning heart-opening language.