Two Stories: An Opportunity for Growth Rather than Grief

forgivenessHere are two situations which I present as examples of ways we allow ourselves to be negatively affected by others. But I show that they may be seen as opportunities for liberation, rather than suffering. Although I have fictionalized them by changing the details, they both resemble recent events in my own life.

Situation #1: You work in an office. You came up with a wonderfully creative idea that you’re sure will be adopted by management. This plan is likely to win a new contract with a highly sought-after company and will also guarantee your upward mobility in the company. But, to your shock and distress, you learned that as soon as the new guy obtained one on one time with the boss, he represented your idea as his own. You feel betrayed and disappointed.

“Wisdom Balm for Situation #1:
” Convert your anger, your hatred and your betrayal into compassion. Suppose somebody betrays me. I feel that god is very kind because he has given me the energy to tolerate it, and I am not the one who betrayed.” ~Yogiji

Situation #2: You wrote a screen play over a year ago. You just got word from your agent that a well-known film producer has made an offer to buy the rights to it. You always had faith in this project and knew in your heart it was a story that needed to be told. You also know how hard it is to get this kind of recognition here in L.A., where the market is so saturated and competitive. When you sent out a celebratory e-mail to your friends and family, most everyone responded with accolades, except the people that matter most to you. You feel hurt and unacknowledged.

“Wisdom Balm for Situation #2:” Happiness is your birthright. It cannot be taken away from you.” ~Yogiji

The first situation portrays an action that is taken as a betrayal. The second is rather, the omission of an expected course of action. What these two stories have in common — for the spiritual practitioner — is the need for forgiveness, or as I like to say, “forth-giveness,” since, as implied in the word, it is through the process of forgiving that we allow ourselves to go forward.

If we permit ourselves to feel victimized us, we are giving away our power. This is especially poignant in the first situation. So, when you see the occasion as an opportunity to practice and go higher in your way of looking and ultimately, in your spiritual awareness, you unchain yourself, at once. Say, thank you for this blessed challenge. And you come away feeling lighter. And lightness is closer to the divine.

In the second situation, the wisdom quote is deceptively potent. Just as we give away our power when we allow ourselves to feel victimized, we do it still, when we wait for someone’s approval to validate our sense of worth and accomplishment.

What difference does it make who notices?

No matter who notices, there will always be plenty who don’t, so this becomes a fruitless concern. You can authorize yourself to enjoy it. Besides, it is likely that the others don’t understand. Especially in a situation like this one—a family in the midwest, for example, simply wouldn’t understand how huge it is to sell a script in Hollywood! They’re probably just waiting for you to get a real job, anyway. The point is that your celebratory moment was never about others’ recognition, at all. It’s about you serving the world in a way only you can. That takes it to a higher level.

And higher still, is to realize, in both cases, that the perceived wrong isn’t about you. It’s about them. It’s a betrayal of their own consciousness. It indicates where they are in their own evolution. They are driven by their own demons, their own fears and insecurities. Far from making us more bitter, this recognition enables us to have compassion for them, since we’ve all been there. To this end, there is a teaching in our Yoga tradition that urges us to recognize that the other person is you.

This way of seeing brings us immediately into humility, as we begin to understand that everyone is ourselves at a different stage. And when we’re humble, we stop fighting and we heal.

So, we become at once, empowered and humbled. Empowered because we let go of our own victimization while authorizing our own experience of joy. Humbled because we come to see that our mission is less about impressing the world than it is about serving it.

7 responses to “Two Stories: An Opportunity for Growth Rather than Grief

  1. Donna this is a good comparison between betrayal and omission. For years I resented the lack of recognition to my accomplishments by my parents. Anyway I found an easier route in acceptance not forgiveness. When everything is seen as divine perfection in the universe, how can I forgive people for their actions? It clearly means I was hurt. Acceptance brings me an emotional state of balance.

  2. Thanks for this thoughtful comment, ramonthomas.

    Yes, it is perfection because our soul has chosen every experience, anyway, for its lesson. I speak about the three A’s in Zen (Accept, Adapt, Abandon Hope) in my book. Needless to say, I appreciate the power of giving up resistance to what is. Yet, I have found that sometimes, we need to go further. Here is a quote by Brandon Bays (who had a lot to let go of) on exactly this:

    “There is a quantum difference between acceptance and forgiveness…I had been at a place of acceptance for many years. That acceptance allowed me to carry my story of nobility around with me – how I’d been so-o-o noble, so-o-o compassionate, so-o-o understanding, that I’d come to accept the violence that had taken place. Kind, compassionate (arrogant!) me…And to forgive totally, unconditionally, I had to open my heart, get off my soapbox, give up 30 years of my blame game, and completely and wholeheartedly forgive.”

    I love reflecting on this and appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts.

  3. Thanks you reply Donna. Please take a moment to watch this short video clip with Dr John Demartini on the Forgiveness Myth

  4. Thanks for that. Demartini shares some thoughts that I fully agree with (and that happen to be consistent with eastern wisdom), especially in his reminder to take each lesson life delivers with gratitude. It gets to a point where we could say it’s semantics. He simply chooses to leave out the “F” word:)

    And one of my favorite quotes on the matter from Paramahansa Yogananda:

    “One should forgive, under any injury,” says the Mahabharata. “It hath been said that the continuation of the species is due to man’s being forgiving. Forgiveness is holiness; by forgiveness the universe is held together. Forgiveness is the might of the mighty; forgiveness is sacrifice; forgiveness is quiet of mind. Forgiveness and gentleness are the qualities of the Self-possessed. They represent eternal virtue.”

  5. Hi, Donna. Lao Tzu deals with your situation early and often. In verse 2 he says this:

    One guides people by living in accord with the essence of life
    One brings good things about but has no intention of possesing them
    One performs work, but has no intention to acquire personal power.
    When one’s task is accomplished, one lets go of it and seeks no reward or recognition.
    Because one does not claim credit for oneself, one does not do any damage to oneself.

    This is from the Hua-Ching Ni translation.

    So the problems are with “possesing something” – namely the ideas; with seeking recognition, and with expecting recognition and gratitude and fame. All of these are things Lao Tse warns against time and again. In Tao the path of the sage is the same as the path of the bird through the air. It leaves no trace. The response of other people is of no significance because one’s personal essence is not shaped by the response of other people.

    Acceptance and forgiveness are both uncalled for. They are dualistic. “I accept them.” “I forgive them.” They are both ways of expanding our egos by admiring our own magnaminity. And while ego gratification may not be the recognized reason behind choosing to respond with accetance and forgiveness, the ego of sophisticated people has become even more sophisticated about the methods it uses to feed itself.

  6. Hi Tilo,
    Yes, letting go of both authorship and the idea of ownership are loved ideas in the Tao, as well as other spiritual classics, such as the Bhagavad Gita, in which we are reminded to let go of the fruits of our actions (Karma Yoga). This aspect of detachment can be helpful in bringing us to the space of neutrality.

    As for your other comment—rather strong, I must say—that “acceptance and forgiveness are both uncalled for,” that they are dualistic and that they expand the ego, I will present another perspective. In deferring to Buddha, the ability to accept one’s current situation is not only the key to the abatement of suffering, but the foundation of a life of greater inner ease. This is because we cease our attachment to *what should be,* yielding instead to *what is.*

    Contrary to what you asserted, this is the process of ending the dualistic pattern of separation with the present moment!

    And finally, as to the idea of forgiveness as ego expansion, firstly, I must say, that it is too bad that through our interest in eastern teachings, many have developed a sort of phobia of ego. Ego has to be tempered, but as a vehicle, takes us through Maya, so we can hopefully, wake up. Consider forgiveness as simply a way of making peace with your past, in order to move forward. It is heart opening. Something that makes us whole. This need not be seen in terms of aggrandizing or belittlement, any more than any other act of healing is. It makes us whole.

  7. Donna, Watts says this in “The Book”, page 21:

    But this must not be confused with our usual ideas of the practice of “unselfishness,” which is the effort to identify with others and their needs while still under the strong illusion of being no more than a skin-contained ego. Such “unselfishness” is apt to be a highly refined egotism, comparable to the in-group which plays the game of “we’re-more-tolerant-than-you.” The Vedanta was not originally moralistic; it did not urge people to ape the saints without sharing their real motivations, or to ape motivations without sharing the knowledge which sparks them.

    And Chung Tzu gave us this:

    “Tell me,” said Lao Tzŭ, “in what consist charity and duty to one’s neighbour?”
    “They consist,” answered Confucius, “in a capacity for rejoicing in all things; in universal love, without the element of self. These are the characteristics of charity and duty to one’s neighbour.”

    “What stuff!” cried Lao “Does not universal love contradict itself? Is not your elimination of self a positive manifestation of self? Sir, if you would cause the empire not to lose its source of nourishment,—there is the universe, its regularity is unceasing; there are the sun and moon, their brightness is unceasing; there are the stars, their groupings never change; there are birds and beasts, they flock together without varying; there are trees and shrubs, they grow upwards without exception. Be like these; follow Tao; and you will be perfect. Why then these vain struggles after charity and duty to one’s neighbour, as though beating a drum in search of a fugitive? Alas! sir, you have brought much confusion into the mind of man.”

    Both of these things point to the problems that are caused by concepts of “ought to” behaviour, either towards others or towards ourselves. When one experiences the world as one thing and as Self, then “ought to” behaviours become unnecessary and superfical. Behaving like a realized individual does not help one to become a realized individual.

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