Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Musings on Forgiveness

Disclaimer right up front- Eventually this entry leads into a topic on forgiveness. I, in no way, am criticizing anger or advocating sweeping anything under the rug and wrapping it in white, angelic light, etc. Mostly, I am advocating self-forgiveness and musing a bit how that often times, paves the way for forgiving others. 

So, its an interesting thing because even though I made some big testimony a few entries ago how I didn’t  want to keep talking about Anusara Yoga and its downfall, its problems, its injustices (of which I think there are many)  and/or its beauty, value and contributions (of which I think there are many) I found myself very touched and moved by the depth of the struggle people are going through, made more acute in light of the latest articles, published. (I am not linking to them here- they are plastered on Facebook so have at it. If you have to pick only one to read, my opinion is that the Texas Monthly article is the best.) It seems to me that these new articles have been a little like ripping a  scab off that was attempting to form over some of the wounds leaving the wound re-exposed and bleeding again. 
So, I am being somewhat careful- like I said- with my involvement, mostly because for me the situation is fraught with the likelihood of infection. I am talking here more at the pranic level, of course. Certain impressions can poison the subtle body and can infect one’s state of consciousness. I also hit a wall a while back where I couldn’t hold space for the comments and observations about my comments and observations. Because of social media and the speed at which those exchanges often happen, I burst my own circuitry and exceeded my bandwidth or my ability to have equanimity regarding people’s opinions about my opinions. And since I value the honest exchange of ideas and wouldn’t want to squash the free-sharing of opinions- especially in a time like the last few months where long-held feelings were surfacing like a tidal wave in what I saw was a very necessary and mostly-productive process- I was in a bit of a quandary and had to bow out of the discussion. I just couldn’t hold space and hold onto myself. 
And in general, that’s still how I feel. In order for me to move forward into the next phases of what I am creating for myself and for my students, I need all my prana at my disposal. And also, I am in an odd middle ground- I do not wish for the dissolution of Anusara Yoga nor do I wish for its preservation. I am grateful for all I received from John, Anusara Yoga, the method itself and the community of my friends, colleagues, and students. I am so pleased to have had the opportunity to serve it and its vision. And I also feel quite distant and removed  from it. And maybe I worry about sounding cold. I am not neutral relative to yoga, to the people I teach, to my friends I practice with or to my fellow teachers but to the system and the organization, I feel pretty neutral. 
People have continually asked me to weigh in on everything but I have to say that I feel like I wrote much of what I had to say back in October when I first resigned my formal affiliation.  My reasons are very much the same and my observations and critiques are very much the same. My vision for the future is also very much the same- to create a yoga school that teaches fantastic hatha yoga and provides resources for students and teachers to grow in the traditional practices of yoga in a way that is authentic, disciplined, and intelligent. I am still passionately pursuing the path I chose when I resigned my formal affiliation with Anusara Yoga.
And yet, I found myself compelled by the recent  discussions and quite moved by my friends and colleagues’ courage, confidence, truth-telling, outrage, upset, compassion, and tenacity.     As more and more details of John’s private and secret life (and I think there is a difference, I really do. There are plenty of things that I consider to be my private life and none of them are actually hidden or secret-- they are simply private, more intimate in nature, and shared with a smaller audience than are my public choices and issues. Secrets  have to do with the things I might  withhold because I  know they go against my public persona or image, I am ashamed of them, I know they are against the consensual ethical code of my peers, family or co-workers, etc.) came to light what I have watched is people feeling a sense of associative shame. They feel bad for being associated with something that had such a hidden and unsavory aspect to it.
I think all of that takes time to sort through and is, in essence, a chance to claim one’s own sense of self-determined, self-worth. I am big fan of honest and ongoing self-review. So I think it important to look into our own role in the machinations of Anusara Yoga unflinchingly and courageously and examine the hidden pockets of our own involvements and so on. And I think people have different capacities for that kind of inner work, which is a bit of another story. However, once we have looked at that stuff, examined it and identified the weak areas in ourselves that we need to work on, we need to actually embark on that inner journey and do the work.
So, assuming that all that is happening to some degree, I want to talk about something else I think is important--forgiveness.  Part of the cool thing about fearlessly owning our part (which does not mean accepting responsibility for what is not our part, nor does it mean letting someone off the hook for their actions or any such notion. It means exactly what it says- fearlessly accepting our part in all its glory- no more and no less.)  is that when we look at our part and trace it back all the way to its source, we can many times see that we learned the pattern we were playing out. In many cases we can see that somewhere along the line we learned to people-please, to ignore things we saw, to distrust our instincts, to sit on the sidelines, to play politics, to know, to not know, to wish for happy endings and simple solutions to complex issues like existence, suffering, chaos, etc. We can even do the work to see where the people who taught us these patterns might have learned it in their lives. And when we can  see the pattern as a learned legacy it opens up the door for some very cool things to happen in our healing.
First is, we glimpse the fact that if we learned a negative pattern we can re-learn a positive one. These learned behaviors are not from our truest self and therefore we can change the script. This is so cool and this is where accountability becomes radically empowering. (fine print: Changing a life script is rarely easy, rarely painless and rarely do we get it right in one try. However, the possibility exists for all of us to learn conscious choice as opposed to reactive unconscious replay. How cool is that!?)
Secondly, we get to accept ourselves fully even with our negative patterns because we really see we came by it all very honestly- we learned the patterns for  good reasons. Generally, we realize that the pattern/coping strategy was the best we could do at the time with the information we had. This full-hearted self-acceptance eradicates our sense of shame that something we did was wrong and therefore who we are is wrong. 
And all this takes us toward what is, in my opinion the most important part of the process-- forgiveness. We can actually forgive ourselves for whatever aspect of our involvement we are holding against ourselves. Living free of our own condemnation, firing our own judge and jury is quite freeing and liberating. And, in its own natural time, the freedom we learn to extend to ourselves can help us forgive others.
To me, forgiveness is not forgetting, it is not letting anyone off the hook and it in no way excuses the inappropriate, hurtful or problematic behavior of others. That thinking is simply childish and immature, in my opinion. If someone has repeatedly lied to me then I would be best served to remember that in my dealings with them and gauge any future involvement with them wisely.  Nope, forgiveness is more about me accepting the full catastrophe of my humanity and extending the same generosity to others, which does not exclude setting boundaries, establishing consequences for behavior, etc. Forgiveness is an attitude more than anything else.
Forgiveness is actually a very hard practice for me so I hope I do not sound preachy. And before I sound too holy, I must also assert that forgiveness has a kind of self-serving aspect to it as the state of consciousness it invokes is quite lovely and beats resentment by a mile. (Keep in mind I am pitta and resentment is our favorite fuel so I know the power it holds- good and bad.)  Anyway, my experience is that true forgiveness  only really happens after I do a lot of hard work and it arises in its own time, quietly moving into my heart and mind without ceremony, fanfare or loud declarations. All of a sudden--after a long period of time- I have let something go and lo and behold, my relationship to the event, person, situation, etc. has shifted. I have never ever been able to force myself into forgiveness, no matter how much I have tried. It is not “muscular” in that way  although the work before it, the work that sets the stage for forgiveness  to arise, might be.  And righteous anger is a stage of the process so I am not saying anger is  wrong or any such thing like that. 

Anger tells us our boundaries have been violated. Most of us have all kinds of historical experiences where that has been the case and so we have plenty of things we are angry about and plenty of belief patterns set in place due to those violations. And as we live into our adult lives, we have current events to deal with as well, not just the historical stuff to work through. So, it’s important work and shouldn’t be passed over in the name of yogic-sounding ideals or imposed virtues of the heart. 
And by the way, resentment to me is different and needs a different kind of work energy applied. Resentment, to me,  is replaying the injustices done to me over and over and making a continual case for my anger.  Resentment is a kind of conscious or unconscious feeding and fueling of anger.
Anyway- another important thing I keep in mind is that everyone processes these things at different speeds and in both similar and different ways due to type, temperament, circumstance, etc. Also, the different aspects of who we are find resolution at different rates. For instance, our spiritual aspect of self may be quite compassionate, our intellectual aspect might be able to understand the complexity of any given situation, our emotional self might be super-pissed or very sad or supremely hurt and feeling betrayed and our physical self might need distance and space or some kind of boundary put in place. So often we want the complexity of who we are to be in a unified agreement about everything when unified agreement might not be “one answer” from within but instead  might result from the willingness to make space for all parts of who we are to have their unique perspective on a situation.
All right, that’s is my more-than-two cents for today. 

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