Freedom through Forgiveness by Cylvia Hayes

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Forgiveness is such a powerful, and powerfully difficult thing.  As I’ve shared in previous blogs, for many months I have worked to forgive my attackers.  I have held the intention, meditated and read books about forgiveness.  I’ve made something of a mantra from the quote attributed to Buddha, “Hating someone is like drinking rat poison expecting that other person to die.” 
 
I’ve made progress.  I can definitely feel an easing in the intensity of anger.  I find myself thinking of “them” far less often.  But I still haven’t been fully free.
 
This past week I think I had a breakthrough.  One of the books I’ve been studying as part of my daily meditation practice recommended an exercise.  It suggested holding in mind the person toward whom we hold a grievance, recalling their flaws and the things that make us angry.  The main target of my ire jumped immediately to the forefront of my mind. 
 
Next, the instructions called for releasing that image, breathing deeply and seeing that person as the unique expression of God/ Spirit/ Creator that we all are.  Breathing and envisioning that person’s flawed humanness falling away to reveal the spark of divine creation behind it all. 
 
It was a bit of a stretch for me to see this person who had done me so much harm as a spark of divinity but I was able to get there.  After all I could feel the divinity in myself despite my flaws and weaknesses.  So I took some time trying to hold the image of that person’s higher self. 
 
The next instruction was to view this person as your Savior. ….   What?!!   Wait!  Screeching halt. … My eyes popped open!  That was just a bridge too far.  This person had tried to bring me ruin and I was supposed to look upon them as a savior?  For God’s sake.  …  Or, perhaps for mine. 
 
Despite my discomfort I knew I wanted the freedom of forgiveness so I stayed with it.  I realized the basis of my aversion was that thinking of this person as a “savior” felt like viewing them as powerful and justified in the awful actions they had taken against me.  But as I sat with it longer, I saw that by holding such a view I was still making it about that other person. 
 
There is just no question that I have grown immensely from dealing with the attacks and challenges this person brought into my life.  I know myself better.  I like myself more.  I am closer to Spirit.  I am more loving and more at peace.  I think in many ways these challenges became a spiritual intervention.  They didn’t break me down, they broke me open, and that is the salvation.  The salvation is in realizing what’s truly important and what I really want in my life, in taking time out (even though I hadn’t asked for it) to go deep and better get to know my higher self. 
 
Many months ago, finding profound peace in the midst of deep trauma, I said to my Beloved, “I want to live the rest of my life from this place, but without needing a crisis to get here.”  I recognized then the value of my attackers.  Spirit, the Universe, the Creator presented them so that I could grow.  Being harmed by their un-evolved humanness gave me an opportunity to awaken, grow and become more, and more powerful.  That is why they are my saviors.  It’s not about them at all. 
 
I wouldn’t have chosen to be attacked, to face these painful and   difficult challenges but I do choose to grow, advance and become more and more powerful as a result. 
 
This reminds me of a story that I learned of while reading some of Pema Chodron’s writings.  There was a renowned Buddhist teacher, named Atisha, who planned to go on a long, cross-country trek.  He wanted to bring a companion and many good people from his village wanted to go with him.  They were all friendly, companionable, compatible people.  And that was the problem. 
 
Atisha was afraid that his personal spiritual growth would be stunted if he only spent time with people who agreed with him and were pleasant to be around.  He believed that the people we find most obnoxious, frustrating or contemptible mirror and reflect back to us those very aspects of our selves that are obnoxious, frustrating or contemptible – and so they are invaluable teachers.  So he invited the most obnoxious, unpleasant person he knew, the boy that sold tea in the village.  Everyone, including the young tea merchant was surprised. 
 
For the entirety of the journey, the unpleasant, young tea merchant was a thorn in Atisha’s side.  Many times they wished they were not with one another.  But through it all they both grew. 
 
I can’t yet say thank you to my attackers but I can say thank you for them. 
 
 By Cylvia Hayes
 

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