The power of forgiveness

When you forgive, you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future.” – Bernard Meltzer

There are many ways to walk the path of enlightenment and forgiveness is one of them. Forgiveness is essential for growth and continued happiness, but whether you are seeking or someone else is seeking it from you, or even if you are trying to forgive yourself for things you’ve done, it is easier said than done. When you do not flow freely with life in present moment, it usually means you are holding on to a past moment. It can be regret, sadness, hurt, fear, or guilt, blame anger or resentment. Each of these states comes from a space of unfogiveness. Unless you let go or forgive yourself, or other person or situation, you cannot live freely in the present moment.

Forgiveness is defined as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance towards a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness. Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting, or condoning or excusing offences, but it is a shift in your thoughts from resentment or revenge to accept and let go. Letting go of deeply held negative feelings empowers you to recognise the pain you suffered without letting that define you thereby enabling you to move forward. Those who forgive easily have less anger, less stress and less rumination compared to those who hold on to their anger and pain.

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent to throw it at someone – you are the one getting burned.” – Buddha

Holding resentment and anger against people for things that occurred in the past can impact your health and well-being. Carrying your unresolved issues weighs you down and blocks you from achieving your present goals. Resentment and pent up anger can be extremely damaging both emotionally and physically. Many illnesses and mental conditions are directly linked to negative emotions that hamper your present moment awareness. The past can never be changed. Yet we can change our thoughts about the past. To release the past, you must be willing to forgive. You need to choose to release the past and forgive everyone, yourself included.

You do not know how to forgive and may not want to forgive, but if you develop the willingness to forgive, you can release yourself from the negative thinking and emotional patterns. Whatever your pain or situation, you must develop a forgiving mind. Seeing forgiveness as a process can help you develop a forgiving mind.

To develop a forgiving mind,

  • Recall the hurt and think about how you have been hurt. How were you wronged and how has it affected you? Do not avoid what has happened and what it is that you are feeling. Understand the events that triggered your hurt. You can confess all your hostile feelings to the person who wronged you by meeting him or her face-to-face or you can also do so by visualising the person seated across from you.
  • Partake in the actual work of forgiveness. Try to understand the motivations or context that may have contributed towards their wrongdoing from objective standpoint. Offer them compassion and empathy.
  • Accept the pain of what has happened and people as they are and release them from any responsibility to meet your expectations. When you begin to forgive as an act of will, you can let go of the negative emotions or thoughts.
  • Make commitment to forgive. Forgiveness must be a free choice that someone arrives at on their own. Once you forgive and let go, you may start to release negative emotions and see the personal freedom that comes with forgiveness. You may also realise how you too are in need of forgiveness from others in the process.

Forgiveness allows us to release negative emotions and can help us repair and renew relationships. To forgive is to accept and approve yourself as you are. Creating a space of acceptance and letting go of past experiences and forgiving people or situations will set you free from the pressure and weight of an unforgiving attitude.

To-do

If you find yourself emotionally stuck, it means that there is forgiving to be done. Sit quietly, close your eyes, and allow your mind and body to relax. Then imagine the person you resent the most or people who are hardest to forgive. What would you like to do to them? What do they need to do to get your forgiveness? Ask yourself how willing are you to forgive, accept and to let these things go. List all the things you are willing to do to forgive and to seek forgiveness of others. Some experiences are easy to let go and for some you need time, but practicing makes it easier to develop a forgiving attitude and gives you a chance to make a new beginning.

The Beginner’s Mind

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” – Shunryu Suzuki

As children, we all start off with beginner’s mind living with spontaneity, not knowing or not being sure of, yet fearless and totally available to the moment. But as we grow and become familiar of things, mind tries to take over calling up memories, creating expectations and fears which stops us from connecting to the present moment. As adults, we tend to live with stress and anxiety, spending all our time trying to anticipate and plan for the future and lamenting the past. We get so concerned about future that we forget to embrace the present moment. Most of our thoughts and emotions are either from our past or future. These past perceptions determine our response to the outside world making us closed to new experiences. As a result, we lose our enthusiasm and free thinking as adults and the only way to regain them is by developing ‘beginner’s mind’ or Shoshin.

The Zen Buddhist term, Shoshin, which means ‘beginner’s mind’ emphasises that only when you are a true beginner, can you really learn anything, like how we learned as children for the first time. Shoshin refers to the idea of letting go of your preconceptions and having an attitude of openness. It teaches you to be mindful, humble and modest to the information around you so as to help you to learn best and impart knowledge. Relying on assumptions and habitual modes creates limiting mental patterns. Approaching your life circumstances without assumptions and preconceptions leads to different experiences. ‘Beginner’s mind’ or Shoshin equips you with the tools to tackle the problems without becoming overwhelmed and with a fresh perspective. It helps you to think and act freely, to discover and invent your world from moment to moment with interest and curiosity.

To cultivate beginner’s mind, you need to be aware of your present moment and more than anything else, you should put an effort to reclaim and expand the present moment to open yourself to new possibilities and deeper understanding. The idea of ‘not, nothing’ or ‘no mind’ is closer to openness and awareness and is important to be attentive, mindful and observant of the present moment. This way you can learn to live deeply connected to the present moment so that your sense of self drops away.

A beginner’s mind is empty and ready for new things and to experience life in a way that is unburdened by past and previous knowledge. It is only by paying full attention to what is happening in now that you can respond mindfully and effectively to your past emotions be it positive or negative. Moreover, gaining knowledge with a beginner’s mind leads to positive psychological qualities that make your life more happy and meaningful.

To embrace the concept of shoshin or beginner’s mind,

• Learn to focus only on the present. The past is unchangeable so it is futile to reflect on it unless you are making sure you do not repeat past mistakes. The future is but a result of your actions today. So break the old pattern of present-moment denial and present moment resistance. Make it your practice to withdraw attention from past and future whenever they are not needed.

• Develop an endless curiosity about everything. Become an explorer and keep your mind devoid of self-centric thoughts and emotions. This way you can more easily connect with your surroundings and can be more aligned with nature. Stop and observe all of the little things as completely unique events. Try new things. Get out of your comfort zone and try to experience as many different environments as possible.

• Make use of your experience. Don’t negate with it, but keep an open mind on how to apply it to each situation. When considering anything, try taking on the view point of ‘yes, no, maybe’ rather than choosing one perspective. Embrace more openness with regard to your judgments.

• Practice don’t know mind. Let go of know it all attitude and need to win every argument in a discussion. Focus more on listening rather than wanting to add value. Being at peace with state of not knowing keeps you at ease with the moments when faced with something about which you have no idea about and you can face challenging moments with openness.

It is never too late to enjoy the freedom and spontaneity of childhood. When you cultivate beginner’s mind, you can free yourself from expectations, can relieve yourself from stress, preconception, and prejudice. With beginner’s mind, you experience the present moment fully and be open to new possibilities.

To-Do

Start by becoming aware of distracting thoughts and feelings throughout the day, while eating, walking, or doing other activities. See if you can give much more attention to the doing than to the result that you want to achieve through it. Be spontaneous and disregard the fear of failure or worry about the future moment. Set your intention to let go of distracting thoughts and emotions, so that you can create inner space and connect fully to your present moment. Regain your beginner’s mind by being mindful in your activities and tasks.

A ‘right’ state of mind

“The state of your life is nothing more than a reflection of your state of mind.”

The subconscious mind of a person can have both good and evil. The evil gets attracted to the dark thoughts whenever it can find the chance to catch a person off-guard and can take control of a person’s mind. And also as we live our everyday lives and come into constant contact with others, we tend to be swayed by an incessant flow of thoughts, and it is difficult to guard your thoughts and to know the true self that lies deep within us. So how can you achieve a right state of mind to connect to your true self?

To attune your mind to a right state, you need to examine your state of mind as compared to more serene nature or the true self. When you reflect deeply on your own mind and kind of thoughts you have as you do when you sit in meditation, the part of you that is true and honest will emerge. This is your true Buddha nature or your authentic self. Examining your own thoughts and deeds from the perspective of this “true self’ is the very essence of Noble Eightfold Path.

Noble Eightfold Path, in Buddhism is an early formulation of the path to enlightenment. The idea of Eightfold Path appears in what is regarded as the first sermon of the founder of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama known as Buddha which he delivered after he attained his enlightenment through meditation. He began to feel that in order to convey the enlightenment he attained, he needed to develop an expedient method that would appeal to the hearts of people. He also felt the need to teach the truth in a way that was different from others of those times. His teachings are centred on an objective of attaining a ‘right’ state of mind through self-reflection. Here are the eight check points of Noble Eightfold path against which you can examine your thoughts and actions and can attain ‘right’ state through contemplation.

RIGHT VIEW

Seeing rightly means seeing things as they truly are without any bias, delusions or distortions, and being free of all prejudice. Seeing in Right View is about how to perceive  what you have seen and each one has a different view of the action of others.  It is important to know how to reflect objectively on how you perceive what you see. By reflecting both on positive and negative points of view, you can manage to trace the basic reasons for a negative way of seeing others and their actions. This way, you can remove negative thinking by analysing things according to the laws of cause and effect.

RIGHT THOUGHT

Thoughts come and go in the mind all day long like waves. The first important step you need to take is to know your thoughts. If you find you have been harbouring wrong thoughts, you need to admit to this and try to correct the mistakes you have made in your thinking. Taking some time to be quiet and reflecting on the thoughts that have been on your mind, you can achieve ‘right’ state of mind and can regularly check and can make an effort to correct your thoughts.

RIGHT SPEECH

Words we speak can be a good indicator of the character of the person who utters them. If you are worried or feeling depressed, you are more likely to utter negative words. These words bring unhappiness to you as well as others. So examining the kinds of words you have used during the day can be a useful checkpoint for self-reflection. Right Speech is abstinence from lies, deceptions, backbiting and abusive speech.

RIGHT ACTION

Right Action is interpreted as a right way of working. It is important to check whether the objective of your work has right conscience and is in alignment with your ‘true self’. In doing your work, you should maintain harmonious relationships and aim for the happiness of a greater number of people. Practicing right action that is honest, peaceful and compassionate can bring you ‘right’ state of mind.

RIGHT EFFORT

Right Effort is making a diligent effort on the path of truth. To practice right effort is to ask yourself whether you are making a constant effort towards your self-development. Seek to make the balance between following the spiritual path and s moderate life that is not over-zealous and to develop a wholesome state of mind.

RIGHT LIVELIHOOD

Right livelihood is using your time, each month and each year in the right and effective way. Self-reflection from the perspective of living a fulfilled life or living rightly is to reflect on each day of your life. Through this practice, you will probably find a great deal in yourself that could be improved. By avoiding work that causes suffering to others and by living virtuously, you can achieve ‘right’ state of mind.

RIGHT MINDFULNESS

The discipline of Right Mindfulness is reflecting on what your dreams or goals are and also what is the ideal image you have of yourself in your own mind. The discipline of Right Mindfulness is controlling your will power that is directed towards these set objectives which are right and are in the spirit of happiness and success of others as well.  Being mindful of your thought, speech and action, you can get rid of self-centered thoughts.

RIGHT CONCENTRATION

No matter how well informed you maybe, no matter how highly developed your intellectual abilities, without right concentration, you cannot attain right state of mind. When you attain Right Concentration , your potential of your mind increases. By self-reflecting on the path of Right Concentration, you can identify with your inner self as an integral part of your outer world.

Your true self is an underlying, basic, and most subtle nature of mind. By reflecting on your true nature and bringing about discipline within the mind by following these eight disciplines, you can live a life that is in accordance with your ‘true self’.

To-Do

Carve out some time each day either in the evenings or at the break of the day to examine your thoughts and actions on each of these checkpoints. Pay attention to your resistances and examine yourself when frustrations or fears surface.  Accept responsibility for your mistakes, attitudes and emotions. Make being virtuous as your priority with simple behavioural patterns if required. Perfecting the eight disciplines paves way to know your true self and putting them into action leads to further self-development, awareness, new choices, and new changes in thought.

A different perspective

“Enlightenment is not a change into something better or more, but a simple recognition of who we truly already are.” Anonymous

When we look at the world today, we see an existence that is driven by consumerism, or work, or fame. Even though we made our lives comfortable and prosperous then before, we have developed a distaste to the idea of values as they have failed to bring us satisfaction and happiness and as a result, we are disconnected from our true nature and got drowned in meaninglessness and despair. The futility of many societal norms make you reject values and meaning in life altogether. We cannot cope with modern world by running away or by destroying them or by ignoring them. The only way of transcending them is by developing a more enlightened view, from where we can live according to our own inner laws and act out our own set of values.

Every day we are confronted with various choices and too many decisions packed into too little time — from which brand to pick, to nutritional choices, to what curriculum choice, what investments to opt for and to which career choice. This paradox of choice also fuels anxiety, depression and restlessness resulting in confusion, indecisiveness, and decision paralysis. Often with so many choices, we are frequently questioning what the right choice is and rarely feel satisfied, because there is always something better out there that we missed.  At some point, we lose ourselves and become caricatures of who we think we should be. However, we cannot rid ourselves of this complexity by running away from them. We can only prevent ourselves from getting consumed by it. Taking some time to rediscover your inner self can help you in making choices which lead to your happiness and growth. When you are centered in yourself and your own values, you will be able to discover your own moral code or inner law that can help you distinguish between those things that dissipate your energies and those that add up to help you build the life you want.

Getting to know your true self empowers and opens up real choices. Developing an enlightened view lets you see your unconditional and unchangeable parts of your being and takes you in right direction to make the right choice. Inner law doesn’t refer to being guided by your feelings, desires or by doing whatever you feel like. To attain an enlightened vision, you must be willing to look at the world from a larger perspective instead of subjective point of view. This way, you can respond to your life’s experiences without being affected by success or failure, winning or losing, or by approval or disapproval of others. Viewing things from an enlightened perspective is about making choices that add to your well-being, it’s about climbing only as far up on your career ladder as is creative and satisfying; it’s about choosing things that give you genuine enjoyment rather than being driven by external influences.

Bringing your conscious awareness to your present moment by taking few moments to catch yourself in the act of living can attune you to your true self.  Self-awareness can help you do what needs to be done in the moment. In other words, enlightened self comes from a perspective of “what needs to be done” and not from the selfish perspective of “I’ll do whatever I want.”

Enlightened point of view isn’t subjective, selfish, or individualistic. But It’s a clearer understanding of what needs to be done and what you are capable of in any given moment and that depends on your unlimited potential of your inner self. When you flow with the process of life without feeling triggered or reactive in any way, you can accept outer world as just an extension of your present moment. Develop an enlightened perspective to identify the essence of a thing, to give it value and to have a sense of awe of the world around you.

To-Do

Schedule some time in a day to meditate in order to witness, view, and accept your fears, anxieties, strengths, and limitations of body and mind. Regular practice can help you create a space and time to monitor your mental-emotional state and to get to know yourself better. What are you doing? Are you at ease with your present moment? Are you enjoying the task you are engaged in? Just spend little time to attain an enlightened perspective to chart a successful journey.