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Forgiveness & Your Life's Unfinished Business

--by Stephen Levine (Feb 01, 2010)


 As awareness becomes yet subtler, able to discern even the muffled whispers of the mind, we are confronted with what a dying musician friend called “the Unfinished Symphony” – the dreams and longings that have played themselves out unabated just beneath the surface of our worldly persona – the unfilled, the uncompleted, the oft-resented inheritance of a life only partially lived. Many coming upon long unresolved issues and old holdings, find it difficult to simply let go. The holding around the unresolved, the unapproached has become so cramped close that it seems to take considerable effort to soften it back to its natural openness. But forgiveness acts almost as a kind of lubricant to allow the yet held to slip lightly away.

Indeed, in theory it would be ideal to just let go of heavy states such as resentment or fear or guilt. But in practice we discover that the considerable momentum of our identification with such feelings is not so easily dispersed. Before we are fully able to just be mindful of such feelings, to just let them be without the least tendency to cling or condemn, it may well be necessary to deepen the practice of forgiveness – to actualize the potential for letting go that the open-handed acceptance of forgiveness offers upon meeting the gravel-fisted judgment of the often unkind mind.
[…]
The practice of forgiveness opens the mind to the natural compassion of the heart. Practiced daily, it allows ancient clinging to dissolve. But in the beginning forgiveness may have something of an odd quality about it. One needs first to recognize that guilt arises uninvited. It is important to use forgiveness not as a means of squashing guilt, or even upleveling the unforgiveness of another, but as a means of dissolving obstructions. At first one may feel they did nothing wrong, so why ask for or send forgiveness. But emotions are not so rational; they have a life of their own. We ask for forgiveness and offer forgiveness not because of some imagined wrongdoing but because we no longer wish to carry the load of our resentments and guilts. To allow the mind to sink into the heart. To let go and get on with it. […]
Forgiveness benefits oneself, not just another. Although we may open our hearts to another, it is a means of letting ourself back into our own heart. Indeed, forgiveness may be felt across hundreds of miles and even acknowledged, but that is not the primary purpose […] In fact, to wait for such acknowledgment is an example of how we continue unfinished business. Forgiveness finishes business by letting go of the armoring which separates one heart from another. As one teacher said, “As long as there are two there is unfinished business. When the two become one, the heart whispers to itself in every direction."
--  Stephen Levine


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13 Previous Reflections:

 
On Dec 24, 2012 Bwalya JK wrote:
 Forgiving is like an ointment which soothes the heart of it wounds. It stops the bleeding of the heart and hastens its healing. It is a wonderful gift to posses.

On Dec 23, 2012 Wendy wrote:
 Lovely passage. What if you can't forgive yourself? What if you have hurt some one you love and they won't accept you back into their life? What if you keep going over and over what you have done, apologised to the person but they still won't let you back into their life, the more they reject you, the more it makes you feel guilty and sad and unhappy and it consumes your thinking from the time you wake up in the morning, throughout the day and even in your dreams. How do you forgive yourself? Its not always the case that Forgiveness is all about forgiving some one else, but forgiving yourself. I think it would be easier to forgive some one else but so very hard, very very hard to forgive one self..

On Feb 9, 2010 Lancelot wrote:

Theses words on forgiveness are fine and noble words, but, I do not think one should not forgive too  easily! There has to be an inner process on the matter, and the magnitude of the act/deed/words..whatever, and the identity of the one or persons that need to be forgiven. I know a Presbyterian Church and its librarian, in collusion with a scond-hand christian bookshop charged a an old man of sixty-eight who had borrowed some books from the church library,one of which  found its way into a box he proferred for sale to the christian bookshop. Yes! this atrocious church and the two devil's advocates-the librarian/bookmanbrought charges against this man for 'stealing a book'! The family in question needed help and prayer, I know the man personally, and today, his abhorrence of Presbyterianism, and the librarian  and the bookman.never could he forgive their act!

 



On Feb 9, 2010 prakash wrote:

Wow! -- thank you Pancho. Great videos, thoughts and examples on Forgiveness. Reminded of what Sri Nelson Mandela's had said "There's no future unless there's forgiveness" on the occassion of his Presidential swearing ceremony.

We would love to learn about the "Free Farm" and replicate them in our communities and share the story with our local community garden friends.

In Gratitude to Mother Nature -- Namaste.



On Feb 8, 2010 Pancho wrote:

My family calls me Pancho and I'd like you to know that I love you all... All Wednesdays are unique and very special. Last week was the last Wednesday for our beloved siblings Pavi and Viral who will be in some part of the Planet (Gandhi's, Vinoba's and Vimala Takar's homeland) sharing their light and inspiration with other communities. Until their back, Wednesdays at 7PM Santa Clara Time will be a way to connect in that other dimension. These are the 3 point I shared last Wednesday: 1. The Forgiveness of Mother Nature. 2. Humans learning from Mother Nature. 3. The Best Revenge. 1. The Forgiveness of Mother Nature. The first thoughts and feelings that came thorough me after reading the passage, were a couple of incredible stories about the resilience of Mother Nature and how she "forgive us" when we hold the space for healing, even when we have been abusing of her generosity for centuries. The first story is called Hope in a Changing Climate (a 22 minute video I  See full.

My family calls me Pancho and I'd like you to know that I love you all...

All Wednesdays are unique and very special. Last week was the last Wednesday for
our beloved siblings Pavi and Viral who will be in some part of the Planet (Gandhi's, Vinoba's and Vimala Takar's homeland) sharing their light and inspiration with other communities. Until their back, Wednesdays at 7PM Santa Clara Time will be a way to connect in that other dimension. These are the 3 point I shared last Wednesday:

1. The Forgiveness of Mother Nature.
2. Humans learning from Mother Nature.
3. The Best Revenge.


1. The Forgiveness of Mother Nature.
The first thoughts and feelings that came thorough me after reading the passage, were a couple of incredible stories about the resilience of Mother Nature and how she "forgive us" when we hold the space for healing, even when we have been abusing of her generosity for centuries. The first story is called Hope in a Changing Climate (a 22 minute video I watched on a recent DailyGood). Once the cradle of civilization, parts of the Loess Plateau in China faced environmental ruin just 15 years ago as hundreds of years of over-farming took its toll on the ecosystem, making this once lush terrain a degraded landscape. This video documents the uplifting story of how ecosystem restoration helps stabilize climate, reduce poverty, and support sustainable agriculture. Proven to work in China, these visionary people didn't stop there and left to Rwanda and Ethiopia, to facilitate the restoration there too.

Another extraordinary example of how Mother Nature does her work if we leave her, is the willingness of a man who helped to restore an entire rainforest... that's right, an entire Rain Forest!
This titan found a way to facilitate the re-grow clearcut rainforest in Borneo, saving local orangutans- and creating a thrilling blueprint for restoring fragile ecosystems. The 20 minute thrilling TED talk can be seen here.

In our own little way in San Francisco, we started an urbiculture project and in just a couple of weeks, we have facilitated the "forgiveness" of Mother Nature and from an abandoned empty lot full of needles, syringes and plastic, now I witnessed the first green sprouts coming up from the soil in just 4 days! We are calling it the Free Farm.

2. The Forgiveness of Humans.
As incredible as the forgiveness of Mother Nature is the forgiveness of human beings. One of my favorite examples of the emerging paradigm is the story of Azim Khamiza. Azim Khamisa's only son Tariq was murdered in a gang-related incident while delivering a pizza in San Diego by Tony, a 14 year old. Kids killing kids. Losing his 20 year old child upended Azim's life. Formerly an investment banker, Azim faced questions with no easy answers: why was his son taken away? Why do children join gangs? Why do they act with violence? Why me?

But many times it is not possible to rationalize a problem, the intellectual explanations have been exhausted and our heart is so broken that it is hard to hold any positive emotions. That's when Azim sat in meditation sometimes as many as 5 hours a day, until he connected at the SOULlular level with himself to be embedded in the Universe of Love. Being in receptive silence always helps because it nourishes and awakens the divine nature.

"I saw victims in both sides of the gun"
he said. The physical violence that killed Tariq, and the structural violence of our society who pushed Tony to join a gang. Now Azim treats Tony (his son's killer) as his own son. "The forgiveness wasn't only for Tony, it was for me, I needed to forgive myself." As brother Birju shared in the circle: "this [to forgive oneself] is the hardest thing to do."

In the end, Azim came together with the guardian of Tony and together they founded the Tariq Khamisa Foundation. It is dedicated to breaking the cycle of youth violence by empowering kids, saving lives, and teaching peace. Azim is actively advocating for Tony's release and Tony has became an inspiring example in the prison. Here a touching 12 minute video of this story.

3. The Best Revenge.
After all, everybody is a cell who forms part of the body of the Grand Human Family. We are all interconnected. To not forgive someone, is to not forgive ourselves.
We forgive but not forget.

For these reasons and more, the best revenge is forgiveness.


May all become compassionate, courageous and wise.
Pancho

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On Feb 8, 2010 Ali wrote:

Some nice points are :   The practice of forgiveness opens the mind to the natural compassion of the heart.   To let go and get on with it.   Forgiveness benefits oneself, not just another.   "When the two become one, the heart whispers to itself in every direction."   Thanks, Ali.  See full.

Some nice points are :

 
The practice of forgiveness opens the mind to the natural compassion of the heart.
 
To let go and get on with it.
 
Forgiveness benefits oneself, not just another.
 
"When the two become one, the heart whispers to itself in every direction."
 
Thanks,
Ali.

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On Feb 5, 2010 Somik Raha wrote:

Profound. Each line of this passage can be experienced. "As long as there are two, there is unfinished business." I think this extends also to one, for one is also a distinction we make in our mind. To get beyond one's and two's, we have to get to zero. I have often wondered at the brilliance of whoever came up with the symbol for zero - no beginning, no end - a circle, the idea of a whole. This notion breaks all the distinctions in our mind, and takes us toward the "no mind," where there is nothing to forgive, no one to be angry with, no one who will be angry. Indeed, that is because there is no "one" anymore. Reflecting back on moments that can be termed "the dark night of the soul," I find that intense guilt arises out of a great misunderstanding, a great confusion, a strong self-deception. Experienced constructively, guilt is a stepping stone, which takes us from a bigger confusion to a smaller one, provided we step out of it, and realize it  See full.

Profound. Each line of this passage can be experienced. "As long as there are two, there is unfinished business." I think this extends also to one, for one is also a distinction we make in our mind. To get beyond one's and two's, we have to get to zero. I have often wondered at the brilliance of whoever came up with the symbol for zero - no beginning, no end - a circle, the idea of a whole. This notion breaks all the distinctions in our mind, and takes us toward the "no mind," where there is nothing to forgive, no one to be angry with, no one who will be angry. Indeed, that is because there is no "one" anymore.

Reflecting back on moments that can be termed "the dark night of the soul," I find that intense guilt arises out of a great misunderstanding, a great confusion, a strong self-deception. Experienced constructively, guilt is a stepping stone, which takes us from a bigger confusion to a smaller one, provided we step out of it, and realize it is not a useful emotion. Its big trap is to make us believe the stories we spin about how terrible our actions have been, or worse, how terrible we are. Before we saw multiplicity, and didn't feel the pain of others. Now, we have connected at an awkward level, where the guilt and the associated pain comes like a gushing tsunami. But stare at it some more - and the tsunami becomes a mere wave, and soon crashes innocuously under its own weight, for it is not being fed anymore. Then, the zone of the zero begins - who is to ask for forgiveness and from whom? The futility of the multiplicity was long obvious. The trap of the one becomes clearer, as the one quickly leads back to the two.

There are times (in fact, many times), when we are hopelessly mired in the two, and that is when the author's suggestion of using forgiveness as a tool becomes invaluable. With practice, forgiveness becomes the stepping stone toward the zero. Forgiveness is what makes us human for we can only forgive when we realize there is no need to hold on to a past memory. The word "forgive" comes from "for+gifan", where gifan means to "give." I can only give when I have - which means, forgiveness is a quality that springs from abundance, not from scarcity. Therefore, one has to be truly poor and suffering when one is unable to forgive.

This week, a situation came up from the past, where my forgiveness was tested. A colleague in a professional venture had broken up with our team on a very sour note. After a year, there was an opportunity where our team was asked if we wanted to give what we had created together some years past. While all of us loved the idea, this colleague vetoed our plan. Immediately, negative memories came up, and I could see a dark cloud passing over me. It was a little while before I loosened up and smiled at myself - how silly that all of the thoughts that were in the past, that I had officially "moved on" from, had to come rushing back. I hadn't truly forgiven and loved. Or perhaps, if I had, I must have forgotten. Better late than never - I blessed this colleague, and felt immediately transformed.

I find the Wednesday pieces so practical and scientific that it is beyond belief. The trap in these lovely well-written pieces is to think that they are philosophical and leave them aside from our daily lives. Very grateful for the opportunity to reflect. Very grateful for the opportunity to forgive and to ask for forgiveness.

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On Feb 3, 2010 Patsy wrote:

Thank you for this posting. Forgivness is so difficult and so hard to understand for many of us.

I have found that one thing which can open the door to understanding the true nature and profound importance of forgiving is the acceptance of how limiting my own point of view can be. I know MY reality and MY experience and MY motivations, but I can never really KNOW those of another person. Not truely and completely. Each life is completely unique. I cannot ascribe my thoughts to another person.

When I accept the fact that I really don't know what was going on with another person, I can begin to forgive them. When I accept the fact that I don't really remember everything that was going on with me in the past (no, your memory isn't that good, either), I can begin to accept and forgive myself.



On Feb 3, 2010 Neale wrote:

A great forgiveness song is Heart of the Matter by Don Henley.



On Feb 2, 2010 taga wrote:

forgiveness is one of life's secrets that i really want to live with...it's a blessing to have a forgiving heart....thanks for this article...... :) 



On Feb 2, 2010 Rod Templin wrote:

I believe the Dalai Lama is one of our wisest contemporary teachers. He says that two of the most truly powerful qualities we can cultivate are forgiveness and compassion. He is referring to real power, not the illusion of power that is commonly accepted as position, money, fame, etc.



On Feb 2, 2010 Sanford wrote:

Perfectly written.  This expressed the great quaities of forgiveness.  Forgiveness leads to acknowledgement and appreciation or gratefulness of what is.



On Feb 1, 2010 jananibala wrote:

I haven't had/heard this quality mentioned in recent times. Certainly, not in the last two years.