Humility is the key within us that can aid to unleash the courage and strength needed to sincerely bow to the power of forgiveness for ourselves and others……humility doesnt mean we stoop and succumb to the whims and fancies of others..to please,to be taken advantage of,to be bullied,to be needy,to be made foolish,that is humiliation!..…
Instead, humility is a tremendously effective powerhouse supply of positive and creative energies helping and guiding with an alive and awakened consciousness leading us to find our way inwards towards the Source of Love where we can access that power to forgive……when the Source is found…….the power can be unleashed and utilised…it is a tender and flexible and soft energy ready to offer mercy and compassion to ourselves and others………….…
We claim back our humanity, dignity and integrity through humility………we simply cannot find our way into the Source of Love and Truth with pride and arrogance and self righteousness,sloth,doubts, ill-will and fear……..there will be no direction and surrender to the building of trust and faith to lead the way!
Still very early on(sometime December 1998) in my journey of spiritual revelations, I used to spend occassional times with an elderly nun of the Grey sisters…one time ….I poured out some of my past transgressions to her……she asked me if I was willing to put down the heavy load that I was carrying…….without hesitation I said ‘YES’….she then asked if I would like to make a personal confession with her friend, a Monsignor at the chancery office of the Holy Rosary Cathedral in Vancouver….I agreed.
I remembered it was December 23rd 1998……..I must have spent more than an hour in confession(it was my last Catholic confession) with Monsignor Smith,crying and terribly remorseful of my past actions…….Monsignor was very humane and understanding towards me…….he pointed to a framed picture on the wall depicting a Jesus throwing a life saving bouy to a drowning man in a perilous sea………..I remembered feeling freed and relief on looking at the picture……………………I walked out of his office and into the Vancouver December rain and felt washed and JOYFUL and the peace gave me the courage to say …..I want to make amends and never be that same person again!!
During that confessional time…. I was looking at how my ignorance, selfish desires and anger/hatred had caused suffering upon myself and others and not how others have caused me to suffer…..it is the same….it is a vicious cycle…we get hurt and hurt others in return,unconsciously and deliberately………when we can start with ourselves first in any given situation of difficulty and misunderstandings……..when we can examine our conscience and see where does all these differences arise from…………..…
From our painful experiences of long standing pains and suffering,we can look deeply into ourselves…and from that looking,if we can try to find just one piece of our own self-inflicted misdeed,regret,flaw,bitterness,resentment and hatred then start from there to try to understand where it came from and why(usually from the past).For many people,it seems very difficult to forgive,especially to forgive ourselves first and to ask for forgiveness.
In our human weaknesses, we learned how to protect our past mistakes, we justify our misdeeds,we exonerate ourselves from responsiblities,we usually harden ourselves to blame the other or the situation and keep spinning stories in our minds to protect our rights and the fear of looking into our faults and vulnerabilities……..unconsciously,we are building a hard-packed ice wall around our hearts and block its power to forgive and find peace and joy and seeing the unconditional Love we are within!
We learned to keep repeating these patterns as though it is our human right to do so and thus forget to see our own faults and flaws and past mistakes and regrets etc……so the vicious cycle continues on and disturbs our inner being…making us feel unworthy,underserving of spiritual growth,feeling devoid of goodness and humane aliveness,we thus feel unable to forgive sincerely and compassionately.
Why are we afraid to forgive or ask for forgiveness?We have this tendency to think that forgiveness is a sign of weakness, that we loose ‘face'(our dignity and our rights)….that it will make the other/others feel good and right if we ask for their forgiveness,it will mean that it is our fault.And if we forgive,the other/others might make a mockery of us or reject and hurt back…so we repress and allow the stucked energies to fester within….and all these festering could surface as illnesses and continued hatred/anger which could/would lead to abuse and violence and jealousies and greed and neglect of self and others….like a broken record it spins out of control……..…
When we come to understand and realise where our inner conflicts arise from…we can feel a true sadness,remorse and repentance for ourselves……we can allow ourselves to become awashed with that wellspring of mercy and learn to forgive ourselves first and in return others…..it doesnt matter if forgiveness reaches or is accepted by other/others…………its the heart’s true and sincere intentions and effort to purify,make amends and heal that will bring peace and joy to oneself and others.Forgiveness empowers and restores harmony within us.Forgiveness also brings gratitude for the teachings of suffering and the graces to open ourselves to positive changes and healthy lifestyles….beneficial to self and others………………
Forgiveness is a pain-reliever….we feel joy and relief,when the pain is lifted,we feel peaceful to function again with renewed vitality and energy,just as when we have body pain and find great relief on taking an analgesic.We can feel gratitude and joy flowing in………………….
We all have made mistakes,so too can others do the same but do we allow ourselves to wallow in the guilt,shame and fears which creates more and more tension within ourselves,we loose sleep over the anxieties and this goes on to be a cause of disruption to being able to live a peaceful life for ourselves and others.Why punish ourselves when we can open the door of our being and let the afflictive emotions drain away by way of forgiveness.We can then create a clean slate to change and start again…………………When we forgive,we can reclaim our sense of well-being and self-worth…to feel whole again!
Simple meditation to forgive oneself and others
Sit calmly with the back straight up, know we only have this moment….become aware of why we sit…. to allow the free flow of forgiveness to open,bring the focus on the breath,become aware of our breathing through the nostril,feel the air in,note the expansion of the abdomen,hold that breath for a few seconds…”breathing in I am calm”……..slowly breathe out,notice the air releasing,the abdomen flattening……”breathing out,I am letting go of tension”.It is imperative to remain focused on the breathing,very soon the thoughts will come to play……simply be with the breath,when we feel agitation …..bring the focus back on the breath……….train the mind to come back each time it wanders through the breath.We don’t have to practice sitting for a long period of time,start with 3minutes and increase the time when we see our tolerance and adaptation to sitting.No need to be hard on oneself.
Emotions might flare up,watch, note it and see what it is trying to say,do,indicate.Note the emotions eg, sadness, unhappiness,anger,resentments,guilts,shame,fears,lust,jealousies,regrets,etc….do not identify with the thoughts or emotions and be caught in its trappings………they are energies within the body needing to surface.Always simply breathe and be with the breath……..when practiced fervently, it will help still the mind.
Remenber the breath is the sustainer of life….
The body too might become agitated with pain and irritation…discomforts arise, twitching, itchiness,move a little but don’t get caught in its distraction,be mindful only of the breath.Most importantly don’t be hard on oneself.One can start to learn patience and forbearance without being critical or judging anything…….every little ounce of effort we put in and make,we are coming closer to the truth,there is no need for any hard and fast rule to follow………….simply be present and sincere to all that we do…..nobody can heal us or is going to do the healing for us except ourselves……..when we find healing….we can then help others find their way too!
When we are ready we can then bring our attention to our inner states.We can start by recognising and acknowledging our pains….we have to be sincere and honest about it,We can see our sufferings,our heartaches,our feelings of self unworthiness,confusions,despair and heaviness.See where within us that carries the most weight in pain, the heart area,the abdominal area,the upper body/facial/head,pelvic area,the lower body/feet area and see how it feels like,can we put a description of it.What disturbances are felt in those areas.We might identify with lots of hatred,self loathing and resentment and anger and regrets for making mistakes and foolishness,for causing hurts to others and ourselves or seeing others hurting us.We might witness a lot of inner conflicts…..we might see our goodness,yet be confused with all the anger and aggressions going on within.Remember always that our true innate states are love,peace,and joy,everything else are afflictive negative energies collected over time which can be eradicated.
Don’t identify with anything that surfaces, be with it,it cannot do any harm…..it wants only healing,forgiveness, letting go and to be loved.If we feel an inkling to cry and express remorse,do so,allow the self to feel the movement of remorse to surface.In my own experience, I have cried buckets over doing this meditation in seeing how I have hurt myself and others.Doing this meditation is not about staying down feeling sorry(pity) for ourselves or others but to let go and make amends if possible.If making amends is not possible,do it symbolically….writing a letter to oneself then crushing or burning it,doing small charitable deeds,offerings of prayer or kind intentions for healing for others/oneself,etc…
While doing this,we can recite these words,or any words of expression to evoke repentance and to soften the heart…
May I find the strength to forgive myself
May I forgive myself for having hurt others
May I find courage to forgive others who have hurt me
In sincere forgiveness,we find ourselves opening up to the softness in our hearts and we experience the self changing for the better,we also see ourselves being aware and trying to not create the same mistakes.We start recognising how others are suffering the same and we develop an understanding and empathy for them,although we don’t condone the hurtful actions of others,we can generate compassion towards them.We will soon learn to love ourselves for being sincere,open to being humble,noble and courageous to participate in the act of contrition.Even if we fall again into temptation,we try not to beat ourselves up but earnestly try again to avoid that which offends….over and over…till it goes away eventually!
Stories of forgiveness
- I had read a true story of a mother in India whose very young son was murdered by his friend.At first the mother was suffocated by the pain of intense grief,anger and resentment for the boy who murdered her son but after a while,she could no longer bear the suffering of her pain,she asked to visit the boy in prison….while there,she told the boy….”I am going to kill you with love!”….from that time onwards she started to live what she had said to the boy…..she started to nourish within her forgiveness and compassion toward this boy and visited him regularly.The boy at first resented her and felt unworthy but later adapted to her kindly demeanour and started to develop a respectful relationship with her.Much later,after being released from prison,he went to live with her,the mother adopted and accepted this man as her own son…….
- A story of saint Maria Goretti,the year was in late 1890’s,Italy………..she was eleven years old,her family and another family shared an old house together,while one was living upstairs,the other lived downstairs.Both families, helped the owner of the house mind the fields in exchange for accomodation.One day, while Maria’s mother was tending to the fields,Maria was looking after her very young siblings.Her neighbour Alessandro, a young man of 19years of age,tried to seduce her to sexual acts but Maria refused and told him that it was sinful and that she would not do what he wanted.In a rage, he stabbed her 14 times,she managed to survive all the way to the hospital.While at the hospital bed,she said that she forgives Alessandro before dying.Alessandro was caught and imprisoned but remained hardened and unremorseful about his actions,not until years later when he had a dream of Maria Goretti giving him 14 stalks of flowers each for the wounds he had inflicted upon her,that he felt total repentance.He asked for a visit from Maria’s mother and begged forgiveness from her.She forgave him!They lived to witness Maria’s canonization years later.Upon release from prison,Alessandro spent his last days in a monastery doing menial works for the friars and monks.Pictured is Alessandro in his old age venerating the image of St.Maria Goretti.
- The greatest story ever told……….the story of Jesus,an enlightened being,simple and a great teacher of Love, humility and peace who wandered the land healing and showing compassion, encouraging peace and brotherly/sisterly love.While he was innocent propagating peace and love,there were religious people who were jealous and angered by the way he was teaching and portraying himself to be.For his innocence he was condemned to die a cruel and shameful death,death on the cross which was meant for criminals and slaves and those against Roman authority.While dying on the cross…….he still managed to breathe his last significant teaching…..forgiveness to his captors, to his friend(Judas) who hastened his capture,to the religious group of people who mocked his credibility,to Pontius Pilate who approved his condemnation to death,to his executioners who nailed him to the cross,and to the jeering crowd who heard him preaching love and peace,Jesus uttered these compassionate words …..”Father forgive them for they do not know what they do”……………………..
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”
In those days,Jesus must have seen many people carrying a wooden cross to be crucified by the Romans.It was a form of capital punishment/execution meant for slaves,criminals and those who created dissension against the Romans.Crucifixion was the most terrible and shameful type of punishment the Romans inflicted upon those they deemed wronged….it caused excruciating physical suffering coupled with mental and emotional anguish.
I can imagine Jesus felt deep compassion as he witnessed those suffering the torments of crucifixion,he must have seen them carrying their crosses to be crucified. Deep down within himself, he had an inkling that he would himself go through the pangs of this type of physical death.As much as he was teaching and propagating love, peace,forgiveness and healing……..he knew that there were those who were jealous, angry, resentful,ignorant,against,taunted and hated him for all the goodness that he taught.Yet he remained steadfast,unafraid and continued to teach what was true and poignant within himself.He was also aware of an impending plot to get rid of him….by people who called themselves religious,people who taught religiosity and scriptures.
His heart must have been filled with the deep ache of sadness and sorrow,witnessing so much wasted and unnecessary suffering,violence,terrorism,hatred,rage and anger brewing around him at the time.We in the here and now of the 21st century are suffering the same predicament,the suffering never ends…….globally and individually!
Jesus knew pain and suffering and the root causes of suffering….therefore his teachings,mostly in parables were only about finding love,peace and forgiveness leading to freedom within ourselves.He had to go out into the desert(for forty days) to be lost,to fast himself of worldly needs,to lose his ego, to purify himself,to face his demons,to be tested in temptions and to triumph over it,he must have encountered so many dark nights of the soul! and finally to find himself,whole and complete his true self,his Divine self and his Oneness with all of creation.
There was a time about 18 years ago,still early on in my spiritual quest for truth and to find an end to my unnecessary sufferings……….I took 10 days off work, locked myself in my simple small apartment with the bare necessities of living,I had no Tv/stereo/internet,I shut off the phone and had some food to give me strength but no cooking.I only had spiritual books as guides.Then I began my self meditative purification retreat……….five days into this retreat…….I could feel my face and body tremble( the purification process,cold turkey in lay man’s term), I felt like I was plunging into hell,I was facing all the fears and isolation,the dark nights of the soul loomed.I was aware I could not escape into doing what I wanted or liked to…..I had to face the fear! It could be easier to escape,I could let myself out,go for a drive or go to a movie or go to the music shop and buy cds or anything else!But all I had was this moment…no running away,I learned to be present to simply watch myself where I am with all that I am going through.By facing situations this way, I learned to not suppress or bury fear and afflictive emotions.
This dark night felt like I was walking on a tightrope, midway,the safety nets were taken away from below me,I had to make it across to the other end alone with no help and no comforts of worldly sort,I felt that even the Divine has left me,there was only darkness and to make it across, I learned courage and trust and faith and strength to be my guide…………
Yes I was thrown into temptations…….the ugly call of luring me to give up all this so called ‘nonsense’of self punishment and go back doing what I used to do and be.It was a terrible struggle within me….fighting to go back to being who I was or push on to change and face the unknown………I had to continuously call upon Divine help for strength and guidance to go through this challenge…….I felt like all my living energy was being utilised for this purpose.
I knew I had made a conscious effort to not want to go back to the old self and unhealthy habitual patterns/living…..I had to die to myself………from then I knew the true meaning of‘death of ego.’I knew what it was like to be imprisoned by my own foolish sufferings….the sufferings I self inflicted upon myself….I learned during these ‘alone in the desert days’ was a time I faced the so called demons of suffering in order to get out of it and know where it all came from….the restless unattended mind! I saw all these while in silent meditation…………………..here I had to learn about renouncing worldly amusements,enjoyments,things,detaching and letting go……..its not about not being able to enjoy again,the people and things of this world but to be able to enjoy people and worldly things with a sense of balance(equanimity) in awareness, not getting caught up in being obssessive,not falling into addictive behaviours and most importantly not hurting oneself or others.
It was truly difficult for me as I did not have a spiritual teacher but the spiritual books I had chosen from the library helped to be of guide on this path.The following days of that self retreat got better as I understood more and more of my own sufferings and as I surrendered to forgiveness in myself and for others and opened up to the wisdom of my heart to see love,peace and joy all reside in there! It was a time of knowing,being in awareness and grace to be with my ownself to open and own up to all the past mistakes/regrets/lies/hurts/inner dark secrets and dissapointments of my own doing…..it was then I claimed responsibility for all actions and reactions done in the past………..and also to have courage and have compassionate understanding to face all forms of consequences in future endeavours………….
10 days felt like 100….but it was not all gloom and doom but wondrous too as I saw my own innate goodness and capacity to love and be loved,I learned how to love people and things without being attached to anything, for attachment is another source of suffering……when people hurt us, we feel emotional pain,when things breakdown or get lost we lose sleep over it,thus we suffer.I saw peace and joy emanating from me and how wonderful and beautiful forgiving power is…….
The transformation process is like how when a snake sheds its skin but first it has to suffer before it enjoys a new body! I learned from this self retreat that in order to end suffering one must undergo intense suffering and to learn to understand and embrace that suffering before letting it all go…………………….
On the 10th day, I hooked the phone back on and the first phone call came from my sister(she did not have any understanding of what I was going thru or had been going thru!),she invited me to go on a day trip to the Sunshine coast BC….it was such a heavenly treat,I felt like a child again,the joy that was filling up my heart was so blissful and fresh……………..as I opened the door to go out after 10 days locked in, peace and tears of joy flooded my being!
And so we come back to what Jesus said to his followers asking them to pick up their crosses,deny themselves and follow him……….the cross which represents pain and suffering that Jesus asks to pick up are our daily,moment to moment sufferings and difficulties,our losses,our dissapointments and hurts,our pains…physical, emotional turmoils and mental anguish….to face them all with courage and to take responsibilities for all our actions/mistakes, in other words, to not look at external factors to point fingers at or inflict blame upon,but to look within ourselves and to do something to end suffering.He speaks of self denial……to put an end to ego-centered neurosis and pursuits,selfish desires and needs,to die to old habits,addictions and unhealthy behaviours.
To follow him means to be willing to surrender to/accept our sufferings and not run away from it,like how he had to face all consequences leading to his death on the cross.To practice self discipline and austere observances of following in the path to love,peace, forgiveness, healing, joy and to share with others that this enlightened path is possible and atttainable.
Jesus did not say to follow or believe in him blindly but to take part in active action of experiencing the pain and suffering of picking up the cross with total understanding and experiencing the joy of healing from it with forgiveness and kindly charitable actions………
His teachings did not include ritualistic rules to practice,nor did he give any religious doctrines and dogmas to follow……….his teaching was one of looking inward to find that kingdom of heaven within oneself in love,forgiveness, peace and joy.
Jesus did not go into the desert to punish himself or run away from the world(during his time)……he chose the desert as it was the closest place where there would be no distraction,a place of solitude,away from the crowd,he could be alone.In Israel,there are lots and lots of desert/barren space/areas………just as in Tibet or India, ascetics would go to the mountains/caves/forests to find themselves and their peace.Jesus went to the desert to lose himself in meditation,reflection and contemplation,ascetic practices,praying,fasting,sacrifices in the harsh conditions of the dry/hot/cold desert….to look deep within himself,to purify himself and finally find/know himself.He took however long he needed to be there to complete this self purification/transformation process……he took forty days as told in the new testament gospels.
Being alone in the desert,Jesus taught about the significance of taking time to quiet ourselves,time to reflect,renew and make changes…to not be afraid of witnessing our inner selves.We can start this moment by doing however little where we are……we can strive to make time in the later part of the night when all are asleep or getting up early on in the morning or any ‘down/break’ time during the day to sit and reflect/breathe in and out/learn to meditate/pray/say mantras,visualise (all in the knowing to end unecessary sufferings and finding peace of mind)a few minutes, no need to be hard on ourselves….always flexible and easy to simply be.By starting out this way, we can learn to be aware and find some comfort to retreat to in difficult moments.Whatever we may be doing,we can practice the awareness of bringing gentleness and kindness towards ourselves and to others…..remembering to always be flexible with ourselves is a factor so we wont ‘break’when things don’t go as we expect or that we don’t expect too much of oursleves and others…………
In dying on the cross,Jesus exemplified his own acceptance of suffering….he showed no resistence or defensiveness nor did he portray any hint of aggressiveness and arrogance/toughness towards his captors….instead according to the gospels, he was humble,like a lamb to the slaughter(remembering, that he was innocent and yet condemned to die like a criminal)………he was in total surrender and submission to whatever his fate destined.
Jesus left all of humanity(not only Catholics and Christians) a beautiful legacy and teaching when he uttered his final words……”forgive them for they do not know what they do!”…………..compassion(love),forgiveness,kindness and joy was all that was left within his being when he finally took his last breath on the cross!
Are we willing to put the swords of anger, hatred, bitterness,selfishness,greed,maliciousness and control down and find that path to healing……………………….?
Closing the year……………
I like so much the title of this 4th episode of the new TV series Knightfall……it says…….”He who discovers his own self,discovers God”………………..how true!
In a few days, we all will be closing the last day of the present calendar year 2017….some will close it with a big bang,special celebrations to welcome the new year cycle 2018.Some will be alone,some will have some kind of get together and there will be others with a ‘who cares’attitude.In most religious traditions,there will be some sort of service to give thanks for what the year long has brought and to ask for blessings for the new year.
It is good to have any kind of celebratory recall of what we as individuals,community and collectively have experienced in the course of the days of the year………….it is good to reflect on our private and open memories of what has transpired within ourselves and our situation,how we have been affected by others,by our own actions,thoughts and words and how we can help make ourselves better,thus influencing a better growth around us……….we not only see the days of this calendar year but we can check in ourselves anytime and everytime to keep track of awareness of our being,our present state…….there will be recalls of beautiful/lovely things,we have done,seen,said and felt…….we can nourish these memories by loving ourselves for them sincerely,we can witness our capability to be more loving,caring,charitable and kindly in order to harness the goodness we desire around us.
There will also be unhealthy memories we want to suppress,let go,escape from or be afraid to see……………there is no need of fear…….they are of the past and whats more important is the present,we can make changes and start afresh…..we can have the courage to forgive,make amends, heal and find peace,anything is possible…………….when we go into ourselves,we discover there is Only God(Love)!
“seek first the kingdom of heaven and all else shall be given unto you”………Jesus
As we journey through our human existence in life, we walk with an unknown sacred task already bestowed in each one…….each one is unique and special unto themselves,we are not who we think we are,for example, when asked who we are,we automatically claim to be a woman/man,a mother/father,batchelor/spinster,we might say we are a nurse,an electrician,a writer,a teacher……we can boast of certain things we have achieved in life or feel a failure for our regrettable actions of the past……there might be so many traits we can tell and expound of ourselves….but who are we truly?Where are we journeying into?what may be our destiny?
Whether we believe in a God, the Divine,a Universal consciousness,Jehovah,Allah or we call ourselves atheists/agnostics………..there is an unknown energy or what I like to call a mystical force that is waiting to be unleashed within each of us directing us into finding our true higher purpose!How do we find this mystery?
We have to want it first,we have to acknowledge there is something within us that is more profound,that there is a purpose for our lives here on earth,instead of merely living a mundane life day in and day out,performing the same duties,responsibilities and enjoying certain activities as we deem suitable for us.Yes these are all good and needed for survival….but as there is a saying…….”there is more to life,than just living!”
We can start to be more open to life,to looking deeper into our present state,to start questioning of our true purpose of existence,we can start to be humble,to be grateful with sincerity,then we can start to ask,to seek and to knock on the door of truth!Are we willing to surrender to walking alone on the road away from the material illusory world….are we courageous to be silent and be guided by the unknown wisdom………
Are we ready to practice sincere forgiveness in exchange for that Blissful realm of Freedom Within where Love awaits unconditionally!
“the innate brilliance we are Within”
As the saying of Jesus says…..”be watchful,be vigilant as you do not know when the Master of the house will be coming back”
We are so caught up in this realm with all kinds of worldly treats to keep our senses occupied and busy and mostly pleasant……we do not heed any kind of bodily warning signs of wear and tear or take care of our constant naggings of dissatisfactions, stressful and depressing inner conflicting emotional states and restless indecisive thoughts.Instead we find the need to escape into some kind of pleasurable activity that gives temporary comfort and happiness…it could be eating,watching tv,alcohol,drugs, going on a shopping spree,spending money to name a few.We forget to pay attention to the Truth…truth of our unhappy inner state of body,mind and soul.We are quick and habituated to bury all our sorrows and appear fine and dandy.The beauty of the inner self is covered in the debris of fears,guilts,shame and clinging to the past.We have become negligent of our own Innate brilliance we are Within!
In Buddhist teachings,the Buddha taught about becoming mindful and awake….to ever be watchful of the mind and the root causes of sufferings.When we can sit quietly with ourselves and pay attention to our actions,our thoughts,our speech and our feelings,we could perhaps,weed out the unsavoury parts within ourselves and learn to forgive and understand why we are and how better we can strive to be!