Practice Instructions: Forgiveness

Freedom is synonymous with the act of letting go – with the sense of living completely free of any fixation whatsoever.

So, one of the simplest ways we can view conditioning is that which won’t let go. That which holds on.

We have a particular tendency to hold on to situations, decisions and phases of life that didn’t turn out how we projected them to turn out. That didn’t meet our expectations or preconceived notions. Because life has a tendency to not do what we expect it to do, there can be a significant (often unconscious) accrual of “could haves, should haves, would haves.” All the ways we and the other people around us didn’t do “what we were supposed to do.” We had the script written, but the actors didn’t follow it!

The subtlest holding on is often around the lead actor in the play – us. The decisions we made (or didn’t make). The actions we took (or didn’t take). The opportunities we missed. The people we got involved with (or didn’t but should have).

We use the light of forgiveness to clean all of this out! All of it – from “I shouldn’t have married him” to “I shouldn’t have had that second cup of coffee” – is completely, totally and utterly forgiven in the light of awareness. All of it is let go. Surrendered. Put on the inner alter and offered to presence to be transmuted. To be loved.

Dogen Zenji, the founder of the Soto School of Zen Buddhism, says:

“Life is one continuous mistake.”

Form is a mess. It is a continual learning process. We learn what is truly in accord with our nature by doing things that are totally out of accord with it and noticing how we feel afterward.

Even one moment of timeless presence is worth a million years of delusion. It was all worth it! Whatever we had to do to get to this point is what we had to do.

We’re here now. We forgive all of our ideas about how it should have gone.

And we do this continually. We use forgiveness to purify the mind of any tendency to hold on, to compartmentalize suffering, to “freeze frame” a situation so we can punish ourselves or someone else over and over again in our mind. This creates enormous suffering!

In our formal practice and throughout the day, we can use phrases of our own invention to encourage forgiveness and letting go.

  • We can consciously forgive and let go of all the incompletions of the last day or week. All the little things that we didn’t do that are bothering us in the background.

  • We can consciously forgive and let go of all the incompletions in the last phase of life. The job that didn’t turn out. The rough patch with our oldest kid. The friend we couldn’t see eye-to-eye with.

  • We can consciously forgive and let go of all the incompletions in our life up until this point. The person we didn’t become. The life we were supposed to create but couldn’t. The love we were supposed to experience but didn’t.

  • To close, we affirm the truth of nowness, of presence, as the “pearl beyond price.” Whatever happened to get me here, I have now made contact with That Which is Most Precious. I vow to nurture it and gain unshakable confidence in it!

Acceptance & CompassionCM