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December 2019
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Say A Prayer, originally uploaded by έŁέ¢τяøиί¢ έγέ.

When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free. —Catherine Ponder

Lately, there has been a surfeit of movement in my life. A change of career for my husband, my son’s rite of passage into kindergarten, not to mention the sheer physical act of moving itself, which creates a life of its own. The movement is forward—through time, space and mental expansion. For most of my life I’ve thrived and survived on physical change; on the sweet uncertainty of a new home or horizon. I find any form of static to be dull and intractable as well as uselessly cyclical—in the same way a pestilent weed that has been pulled up by the roots by way of crude execution will ignore the writ and stubbornly spawn a new life for itself.

Within the movement of my life I have noted another form of stubborn static; one at least as toxic as the weed and perhaps more so. More so because it exists at the psychic level. It’s the nemesis of nearly every human save the very few who are truly evolved, and can only be described as the poisonous attachment to the corroded judgments within our minds. These judgments paralyze and constipate by the sheer force of their ugly intrusion into the landscape of our daily thoughts and best intentions. They rob us of our humanity and give credence to our grandiose illusion of separation and egoic righteousness. For myself, such attachment generally takes the form of righteous indignation and grudge-holding. A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet, but a thorn is a thorn even when divorced from arbitrary semantics. To err is human, to forgive divine. And whoever said that holding on to resentment is like drinking a tall vial of poison and waiting for the other person to die was downright perspicacious. Resentment and the refusal to forgive are the landscape of ordinary poverty consciousness. Forgiveness is a human quality that lies beyond the ego, beyond the illusion of name and form. Yet in order to access it, one must first be cognizant of what forgiveness truly means. And not at the level of the mind, either.

Some time ago I felt greatly wronged by someone I considered to be a friend. I had gone to great and time-consuming lengths to help this person and—to my grandiose way of thinking anyway—improve their visibility in the world as well as their fortunes. I’d been in this position before and had ruefully dealt with the fall-out of my own bitter resentment for years to come. I thought I’d learned something from the past, that I’d finally acknowledged that the pendulum had swung too wildly in the direction of the person or persons I was helping. In the former case, the end result was that I’d felt used and unappreciated. This time around, I endeavored to take care of myself and make certain I was fairly compensated for my hard work.

“Make sure you get something for yourself this time,” my husband warned me.

He’d been a party to the fall-out, and was well aware of my tendency to immerse myself in the lives and needs of others to the exclusion of my own. I thought because I’d asked for remuneration I’d taken care of business. In the end, however, the hours of service proved long and arduous, and gobbled up far more time than I had anticipated. I felt little resentment at first, but when the party involved made the incredible remark that they might need remuneration from me, I concluded that s/he had not the slightest inkling of the huge time commitment I had made on his/her behalf. This was insulting enough, but when this individual followed up the remark by an action that I considered to be an enormous breach of appropriate professional conduct, I felt the cruel winds of thanklessness and heartlessness billow my already tattered sails. I began to fervently wish away the months of hard work that I now deemed completely wasted on an unfeeling ingrate and unworthy friend.  And I mourned the end of the friendship, which I now considered sullied and ruined.

The month following the incident was a truly terrible time for me, the more so because of the fierce anger, outrage and disgust I bore in my heart toward the person I felt so egregiously wronged by. All of the pain of the prior experience my husband had warned me about rose up in me. All at once I felt sickened and revolted by human nature and the accompanying insensitive stupidity of the human ego and its pathetic frailty. But no: the irony did not strike me at all. The frailty I pounced upon and condemned belonged entirely to the other person. In other words: their shortsightedness, their unfairness, and their callous, crude, unforgivable behavior. It never occurred to me that my own grudging self-righteousness said more about me than it did about them. Indeed, it never occurred to me that I was growing depressed due to the anger germinating inside of me.

Holding onto anger always feels sweet for a time, but after awhile, its cloying sweetness always degenerates into the bitter aftertaste of saccharine. How triumphant it felt to abhor my enemy (or, at the very least, their actions) in my mind. The thorn grew and sprouted. It created a wedge between the perpetrator (them) and the righteous victim (me), even though we never spoke of the incident. I would cut them out of my life and revile them for their arrogance and greed, I decided. And, as time went by and no formal apology for the bad behavior was forthcoming, my feelings of justification increased, as did my rage. I became stingy even in allocating this individual a space in my thoughts. They could go to hell and good riddance too. And furthermore, they would be eradicated from my life—completely.

There was only one problem. The Buddhist path is never easy, yet it is always simple. As the Dalai Lama so sweetly and succinctly proclaimed: “My religion is very simple. My religion is loving kindness.” All at once a light went off in my mean-spirited, carve-out-the-one-inch-of-square-space-for-this-terrible-horrible person-who-has-wronged-me infinitesimal human brain. Because suddenly, I was in defiance of my own religion. I was acting in a way so grossly at odds with the Buddhist Dharma that I scarcely recognized myself. I had stripped my friend—to whom I’d assigned the role of cheap melodrama villain—of any measure of humanity. And in doing so, I had unconsciously stripped my own.

Though I behaved in an outwardly dignified manner toward my friend and confronted the issue in a way that I deemed to be formal, polite and respectful , inside I was a seething shit pit of rage. My humanity had vanished, and I wasn’t feeling an ounce of charity or forgiveness.

One day I picked a card from a deck that resembles the Tarot, only it is presided over by a host of angelic messengers. The card spoke to human relationships and the way in which they are merely a mirror of our relationship to ourselves. As I held the card in my hand I was dumbfounded to read the following: “Whenever you feel that your needs are not being met by another person, you can be fairly sure that their needs are not being met by you.”


Yet as the days went on, a curious thing started to happen: I began to feel better. The terrible rage I had been holding on to suspended and finally lifted, like a dark cloud evaporating into the magic hour of a ripening night sky. As I looked back over the events of the previous weeks, I began very slowly, yet clearly, to understand how I had failed to meet this other person’s needs. At first my conclusions seemed almost irrational and ridiculous, but as I followed a long chain of events and logic, I was led to a wounded soul in need of my solace rather than unmitigated disdain.

When I think of this person now, I do so fondly. It is hard to believe I had felt such rancor before. It is indeed possible that we may have only one more interaction, or perhaps we will have many. Yet in the end, the words we humans exchange will always be less meaningful than the purity and kindness we express through the stillness of our open hearts.

This experience has reminded me of the triumph of the human spirit, and of the capacity of the human heart to forgive. Forgiveness, I understand at long last, never was (nor will it ever be) a grandiose gesture to be dispensed via a loud thunderclap from the heavens. It is merely the natural movement of the heart. It is the movement forward, the lifting of the static listlessness that says: I choose to live within the uncaused joy of the timeless moment. Because this experience was impermanent, as all things are impermanent, and I have chosen not to carry it with me.

I have chosen not to carry it with me on the journey Home.