Over the past several years, I’ve had lots of opportunity to reflect on the nature of Karma and pain, and what creates it, how we release it, how we heal it. And can we? What can we do to lessen some of our future negative karma?
It takes some mindful work. Difficult, deep work.
We all get hurt. We all hurt others. It’s inevitable for the most part. Even though I may carefully mind my actions and thoughts, I still hurt people, usually when I am focusing on one thing and not seeing the tail end that swings around and lances someone I care about. Getting the wrong end of the stick in parenting is just such an example. I may be trying so hard to inspire our son to do something he needs to do, that I completely miss that I’ve just leveled his own budding self confidence. It’s happened. I’ve been on the receiving end of some hurtful behavior on occasion, as well, ouch. Memory of which has brought me to this particular contemplation of karma and perhaps one way to lessen our future load.
What has occurred to me is that perhaps it is the clinging to these old hurts and our feelings of judgement or revenge that brings about just as much if perhaps not even more negative karma as hurting someone. That our future selves bring us new opportunities to be at these same crossroads again, and then (hope hope hope) we choose a different, liberating path.
Forgiveness is the key. And compassion is the key to forgiveness. When we choose the path of forgiveness, rather than adding more layers of muck that will harden and crust and re-harden only to require later clearing off in order to reach the golden center of our souls, we allow the golden healing light to enter our fresh wound and fill us. Then we are shiny and light inside, not burdened.
Finding compassion when we are hurt is possible. Not easy, but wholly possible. And contrary to what one might fear, compassion does not make us vulnerable. Because when we are really in a place of compassion we “see” the other person in their clearest light and know their limits, struggles etc. People often betray and hurt one another from a place of pain, or fear. And what do we fear most? more pain. Sometimes, this pain in the other is in a wound so deep we cannot see it. They may not even be able to see it anymore. But it is there. I trust in the goodness of people. Just sometimes this goodness is clouded over, buried beneath rubble never cleared and sorted from prior destruction in their lives.
When someone hurts us, it is so tempting to indulge in building up ones fortress, and behind those impenetrable high steel walls, begin amassing our pummeling arsenal of words and thoughts. It can be irresistible in that moment of agony, when the cleaver is still lodged in our chest, our blood and viscera gushing out onto the sidewalk, to pick up a fresh layer of hatred and revenge and pile it right on, filling in the wound with rubble – anything to stop the pain and bleeding, or distract our energy and focus from the breath-halting pain.
But resist we must if we truly want to be free. We need to turn our aching heart to the sun and bare it to its golden rays. Allow the warmth and healing to pour into the raw gaping wound and begin the process of heart-growth. We need to pull up every ounce of our courage and feel, not turn away in fear, because I promise, you will make it through to the other side. They say with each cracking open, our heart has the opportunity to fill with this beautiful light and heal from the inside out. New wounds expose past and ancient wounds, wounds that connect us to even our ancestors. When we let this light fill us we heal even them too and this begins a ripple of forgiveness and compassion that reaches far back and centuries forward in time. Doesn’t that sound like it would be worth the effort?
How do we begin to forgive? As we all have experienced, forgiveness is a gradual unfurling and shedding of pain. But where to begin to release our grasp, our clinging to memories of the event, to visions of retaliation? Perhaps by holding the image of the wound-er as the wound-ed can help. And reminding ourselves that truly, each person is truly doing their best. Even when they hurt us. It’s just that perhaps their best is not what we need. But still, each person is striving within their own capacity to do their best. Most people, most, do not set out intentionally to hurt others. Most of the harm, the truest deepest hurting seems to comes about unintentionally. Isn’t that interesting? Think about it a bit. Remember past hurts when either you’ve been hurt or the other way around, when you’ve hurt someone. Reflect on the circumstances and the way those actions came about. Do you remember feeling, or hearing, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.” Sometimes the person *remains* oblivious and these are even more challenging. But, the bigger the challenge, the stronger the spiritual muscles built and sweeter the resulting Grace.
So if much of the hurtful behavior comes about because of thoughtlessness, carelessness with another’s feelings and needs. Why this thoughtlessness? It can often be because people are so distracted by navigating, ignoring, or surviving their own pain to be able to find that still quiet point it takes to consider another person.
We can therefore ask ourselves next time, “Where will judging, condemning, hating and hanging on to these feelings of revenge or wish to hurt in retaliation actually bring us? What will we gain? We will gain another layer of grime over our shiny precious heart center that we’ll eventually have to get out the scrubbers and chisels to remove.
And remember, if someone hurts you. That agonizing, wrenching feeling that threatens to yank you beneath the waves and never let go? The heart turned raw, chopped meat? They’ve felt it too. So let’s all put on our Forgiving Hearts, and see where that takes us.
p.s. There is a story behind the heart in the photo. 7 years ago, when our son was about 8, he went through a period of being deeply critical of the meals I’d prepare. Oh, it was agony. I’d never tell him what dinner would be, I’d just serve it. Hoping he’d not think to ask. One afternoon he’s asked the dreaded question, “What’s for dinner?” And I said “You’ll need to put on your forgiving heart because the meal I’ve made is with what we had left in the pantry and not very exciting.” When he came to the table he’d made this, and was wearing it taped to the front of his shirt. <3
p.p.s. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we lay ourselves out to be hurt again, either. We come through the tunnel wiser, more awake and need to use this awareness to take responsibility for ourselves and psyches in the future…but that’s another article.