I just read a wonderful passage in Rolf Gate's book "Meditations from the Mat" about aparigraha, which encompasses the idea of non-possessiveness, non-greediness, and non-hoardiness (that's a made up word fo sho!). Part of that hoarding or holding onto is not being able to let go of past grievances or animosities, you know, the emotional baggage we pick up and subsequently carry around us for our whole lives.
In this passage, he was told that "[he] would not be free in a spiritual sense until [he] did the work of forgiveness,", which included going back to the people he held resentment against and formally forgave them.
Now, I don't know about you, but MY first response was "Ummmmmmmmm…no…", followed by "Why?", followed by "No way am I walking up to person x and telling them I forgive them. They might not even know I'm mad, they might not even know I have any grievances; they might not even REMEMBER me…why the hell would I bring that up anyways? Why would they remember? The hurtee might remember things more than the hurter did anyways, …Why would I throw salt in a wound and potentially re-open the pain of the past? To them or to me. Why would I want to relive that kind of pain and torture again?" (as a side note, his very next entry talked about how most of us had that exact reaction!)
I don't hold onto resentments, but I've got a photogenic memory for pain. I remember moments where I've probably done the hurting, and I sure as shit remember the moments where I was hurt. But that made me the person I am today.
The voice in my head still asks though, "well, how much extra emotional baggage are you carrying around because of it?"
Well, yeah, but what will forgiveness get me? What if I do find someone that I feel I need to forgive and tell that person, only to have them laugh at me? Or not realize I held onto that pain? Or that they don't care? Or they don't accept my forgiveness because they aren't in the place I am?
I have the slight (huge) tendency to replay scenes in my head and then pick it apart, inserting the 'shoulda, coulda, woulda' game, and ultimately feeling worse than I did before I sought them out for forgiveness. So now, in addition to having the hurt memory, I now have the ensuing fucked up conversation that took place days, months, maybe even years later to add to my baggage.
Then there's the little (big) thing with me called the inferiority/superiority complex. Now, I do NOT walk around acting like I'm superior to anyone. Not even my dog. Not even dust bunnies. I try my damndest to treat everyone the same, and while we all judge, I try hard not to. I can say without question I fail at treating everyone as sweet as pie and without judgment when I feel that I'm being taken advantage of, or not treated nicely by someone. There are days I fail only once at this, there are days I fail hourly, if not by the minute.
While I get pissed if I'm made to feel inferior to someone, I'm scared to feel vulnerable to certain people. So for me, while I will say I'm sorry if I've done something wrong, or if I pull attitude when I react to something, I find it harder to find someone and offer forgiveness for things in my past, especially if the past hurt tends to resurface itself. I've had anxiety over wanting to say sorry to someone, but not being able to get out of my own way for fear of my vulnerability and inferiority being turned and used against me down the road.
To boot, I'm also a sensitive person (nah, ME…really?), so a really big well-thought-out apology to someone might hurt me even more if I'm expecting this grandiose response and all I get is, "ok, ummm, well, thank you…?"
But I DO agree in the sense that to move forward in my spiritual journey, I need to let go of past grievances. I also need to let go of expectation of how I think people should act versus how they do act… but that's a blog for a different day. (yay, more to write about!)
In thinking of where to go from here, I realized that maybe it's not just past grievances or animosities with other people I need to forgive. Maybe it's forgiveness with myself.
So, what to do? As someone that is trying to come from a newly adopted attitude of standing in my own truth, it's hard hanging onto the baggage, and even harder not picking up more baggage as I'm challenged throughout my life.
Originally, I had started a list of things I was apologizing for and people I was apologizing to … until that made me feel like less of a human (read: pussy). I felt like I was apologizing for who I was then and who I am now, which is exactly the type of behavior I'm trying to get away from. I can't apologize for my past for exactly that reason … it is my past. And I will always still feel that hurt; it comes along with the memory.
Knowing all of this, I can say I've forgiven 99% of everything that's happened in my past… I'd be lying if I said it's 100%. One day I'll get there.
I have learned some wonderful lessons through the pain, and these lessons have helped shape the way I am today. They also serve as part of my intuition when I feel the familiar pangs of dishonestly, mistrust, or feeling taken advantage of start to come back to the surface. It helps me to stand strong and stand in my truth, now.
So, am I quick to forgive? You betcha. But am I quick to forget? No, not yet. But after writing and re-writing this, I feel more at peace with my past in a way I didn't before. Almost like I can now sit with my past and be ok with it as more of an observer, rather than sitting in judgment. Almost.
And for the times I jump to the side of judgment rather than observation, I can stop, take a deep breath in, get present, recognize the feelings that are coming up, separate the past from the present, forgive, breathe out, and smile.
Every breath is a gift; it's how you choose to receive it that counts.
Love, Happiness, & Coffee