Last Wednesday I went to Tara Brach’s dharma talk and meditation, and it was like medicine for my soul. Her words still resonate with me this morning. The topic was forgiveness. When we got ready to meditate, which we did four times (!), she’d asked, “What is it that your heart truly desires?” What is it that you long for the most?
For the longest time when she asked that question, in the past, the first thought that popped into my head was peace. Serenity. Just to feel okay. Not to feel so worried all the time. To feel comfortable in my own skin.
But this time was different. This time I thought, Love. To love and to be loved. Not necessarily in the romantic sense, but just in the general sense of feeling love for everyone around me, and for myself.
When my mother died, I felt the deepest love. I still do, when I think of her. I imagine it’s that way for all of us: when someone you love dies, all you want is to tell them how much you love them, what an impact in your life they made, what a good person she was, what a good job she’d done as a mother and as a person on this earth. How sorry I was that I didn’t express that love more often. Even when my coworker Pedro died, I wished I’d had the chance to tell him what a good impact he’d made on our little corner of the world. To this day customers come to the store asking about him. He brightened everyone’s day.
(The above quote I found on Pinterest, and traced it back to this beautiful blog.)
So when I think of some perceived wrong someone else has done to me, it helps to think of how I’d feel if that person died–as morbid as that sounds, but it’s a way to cherish that person’s presence in my life, to let go and let those old wounds heal. I have to ask myself, In the end, does it really matter? That thing that I’m holding onto, is it really that important?
Nothing feels better than just loving someone, flaws and all. Forgiving them for not being perfect, understanding that they’re doing the best they know how to do, and seeing that we all experience pain and suffering. You never know what someone else is going through. Hurt people hurt people. That doesn’t make everything okay but it can help to try to understand where someone else is coming from.
Some wounds will take longer to heal. But I can begin by being willing to forgive, or by asking my higher power to give me the willingness to forgive. If I’m struggling to forgive someone else, maybe it’s because I struggle to forgive myself of similar mistakes. Haven’t I done the same thing to someone else in the past? Haven’t I had the same feelings and reacted in similar ways? If I look really closely, I can see it’s there.
This is most challenging to do with someone in which there’s a history. But if we want to move forward and grow, it must be done. I must be willing to forgive that person. Finding compassion helps. Remembering that this person is human, like me, and doing the best they know how—that helps. It doesn’t mean I have to be their best friend or agree with whatever wrong, perceived or real, that they did, but it does mean that I can let it go. It is possible. What does holding onto resentment really do for me? What am I achieving? Showing everyone what a badass I am? Am I really a tough person for holding onto a resentment? Am I just trying to punish that person for the wrong I feel they did? Is it my job to punish someone else, or teach them a lesson?
In other situations, someone may lash out at me, and that’s an opportunity for me to see that this is not about me. It’s about them and whatever they’re going through. I may have happened to be in the line of fire when they decided to attack, or maybe I was part of the group they decided they don’t like or are upset with. But if I look deeper, I can see that any time someone blames a group of people for something, it probably means that person feels isolated. When a person feels isolated, they don’t feel like they belong. When we view ourselves as separate, it’s harder to have compassion and love for others because I’m too busy thinking of them as Other. It’s a lonely place to be in, and I should know, because I’ve been there most of my life.
Today I feel so grateful to be alive, to be on this journey, to have you all for my friends, to have my sisters. I’ve held on to too many petty resentments over the years and can still do it today, but if I can focus instead on what really matters, which is that we’re all just people trying to make our way in the world, I can let go of those hurts, big and small.
Over the past year or so I’ve come across quite a few people who once found faith but are now lost, people who have become disillusioned. They thought they’d found a solution, they’d felt so happy before, and now the worst has happened, or nothing really happened, nothing better. They just hit a spiritual plateau and they don’t see where else there is to go. Everything had gotten so much better for a time, then at some point they realized this is it, there’s nothing else. It’s possible I’m at that peak now, and tomorrow I’ll be disillusioned. But I’ll tell you one thing. I’m not going looking for it. It’s too easy for me to get caught up in how effed up this world is. At the same time, I don’t need to be angry with the person who points it out to me. I can look at it as a situation in which that person probably feels really lonely, depressed, or just isolated. At the same time I don’t have to beat myself up and feel like I’m some kind of rose-colored glasses Pollyanna just because I choose to focus on the positive and trying to be happy. I’ve spent too many years of my life feeling miserable to want to go back to that place.
If I sound preachy, I don’t mean to. It’s just that now that I’m happy, I want everyone else to feel happy too. That’s something else for me to work on. That not everyone will feel happy all the time. Just because I’ve found a new way of life does not mean everyone else has to hop aboard at the same time. Sadly, some people never get it. And I have to be okay with that too. I also have to recognize that this too shall pass. Appreciate the good while it’s here.
And when someone says something that hurts my feelings or upsets me, I can pause and ask my deepest self, In the grand scheme of things, what really matters?
And what matters is love.
That is all that matters.