As human beings, we face these types of deep hurts in the course of a life. Facing our own death or the death of a loved one is profound.
One woman’s experience is reflected in this video. She is a neuroscientist, driven to study the brain in part from the experience of living with a relative with schizophrenia. It is about 18 minutes long–and VERY much worth it.
Learning to live with these agonies is as much the art of living. How do we respond to challenges? Do we judge ourselves to harshly when things don’t work out the way we would like? Can we find a less judgmental, more open space in which to accept both the joys and struggles of life? Can we learn to forgive others and ourselves for harms inflicted? In the buddhist tradition, meditation is thought of as a practice. And living day-to-day, moment-to-moment as challenges arise represents the opportunity to navigate the way we respond to and engage with life with increasing skill and openness.
Another remarkable individual is Stephen Levine. He has written a number of books, including the seminal work, Who Dies, published originally in 1982. His wisdom is deep and he provides great guidance without judgment. One meditation from that book that illustrates some of his viewpoints is below. Check it out–and by all means, get a copy of the book! It is skillful and compassionate.
Self Forgiveness Meditation
Reflect for a moment on that quality we call forgiveness. Bring into your mind, actually into your heart, the image of someone for whom you have much resentment. Take a moment to feel that person right there at the centre of your chest in the heart centre.
And in your heart say to that person, ‘I forgive you for anything you may have done in the past, either intentionally or unintentionally, through your thoughts, words or actions that caused me pain. I forgive you’.
Slowly allow that person to settle into you heart.
Don’t judge yourself for how difficult it is.
No force, just opening slowly to them at your own pace.
Say to them, ‘I forgive you. I forgive you for the pain you caused me in the past, intentionally or unintentionally, through your thoughts, your deeds, your words. I forgive you’.
Gently, gently open to them. If it hurts, let it hurt. Gradually open to that person. That resentment, that incredible anger, even if it burns, ever so gently though. Forgiveness.
‘I forgive you’.
Let your heart open to them.
It is so painful to hold someone out of your heart.
‘I forgive you’.
Let your heart open just a bit more to them. Just a moment of opening, of forgiveness, letting go of resentment.
Allow them to be forgiven.
Now opening more to forgiveness, bring into your heart the image of someone from whom you wish to ask forgiveness.
Speak to them in your heart. ‘I ask your forgiveness for anything I may have done in the past that caused you pain, either by my thoughts or my actions or my words. Even for those things I didn’t intend to cause you pain, I ask for your forgiveness’.
‘For all those words that were said out of forgetfulness or fear. Out of my closedness, out of my confusion. I ask for forgiveness’.
Don’t allow any resentment you hold for yourself to block your reception of that forgiveness. Let your heart soften to it. Allow yourself to be forgiven.
Let yourself be freed.
Let that unworthiness come up, that anger at yourself – let it all fall away.
Let it all go.
Open to the possibility of forgiveness.
‘I ask your forgiveness for whatever I may have done in the past that caused you pain. By the way I acted or spoke or thought, I ask your forgiveness’.
It is so painful to hold yourself out of your heart. Bring yourself into your heart. Say ‘ I forgive you’, to yourself. Don’t reject yourself.
Using your own first name, in your heart say, ‘I forgive you’. Open to that. Let it be. Make room in your heart for yourself.
‘I forgive you’.
All those resentments, let them fall away.
Open to the self-forgiveness. Let yourself have some space.
Let go of that bitterness, that hardness, that judgement of yourself.
Say ‘I forgive you’ to you.
Let some glimmering of loving kindness be directed toward yourself. Allow your heart to open to you. Let that light, that care for yourself, grow.
Watch how thoughts of unworthiness and fears of being self indulgent try to block the possibility of once and for all letting go of that hardening.
See the freedom in self-forgiveness. How can you hold that pain even a moment longer?
Feel that place of love and enter into it. Allow yourself the compassion, the care, of self-forgiveness. Let yourself float gently in the open heart of understanding, of forgiveness, and peace.
Feel how hard it is for us to love ourselves. Feel the pain on the hearts of all those caught in confusion. Forgive them, forgive yourself, let go gently of the pain that hides the immensity of your love.