Thread: Forgiving Yourself

  1. #1
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    Forgiving Yourself

    I've just been reading part of a talk given at the Buddhist Society last year by Ajahn Amaro. It's about forgiveness and in particular forgiving one's self.

    He speaks of a couple of qualities that occur in the Buddha's teachings: Hiri and Ottapa.

    Hiri is what you might call 'conscience' or 'wise fear of consequences'. An example might be the way you check for cars before crossing a road, or the pain you feel when remembering telling a lie, or acting in a harmful way.

    Ottapa is a bit different. It's the pain you feel when you see someone else acting in a harmful way. It's that part of us that reacts to the unskilfulness and hurtfulness of others, our moral sensitivity.

    These two qualities are called the 'Guardians of the Heart' because they help us recognise what's unskilful and unwholesome. They help us set our direction in life and they are supports for mindfulness.

    When we look back at our own actions, we can be our own worst critic. The pain of recollection has the power to galvanise the capacity we have to awaken. We can recognise our past mistakes, but it's another thing entirely to retain a negative mind-state about it.

    We should be able to say to ourselves "Yes, that was poorly done; yes, that was a negative mind-state; I'm being really self-critical - I don't need to hang on to that, I can let go of that."

    The more that we generate the quality of forgiveness, the more it gives the mind space in which to respond to life's situations.


    Ajahn Amaro went on to say:

    "Often, the more good-hearted and compassionate you are, the more dreadful you feel about yourself. It's a common experience for many people.

    "If you feel you've never been good enough, step out of yourself for a moment, and imagine that a friend comes to you saying 'I'm a really awful person, I'm not as good as I pretend to be, and I feel dreadful about myself...'

    "Your immediate response would be: 'Nonsense; you're all right; you're really fine. You're a lovely person, why are you so hard on yourself?"


    What's your opinion about it?

  2. #2
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    Forgiveness goes a long way. For the last few days, I have been extensively practicing a forgiveness meditation, as per the request of my teacher, while on retreat.
    Forgiveness really is metta. They are one in the same.
    Forgiving is such a relief because it softens the borders of attachment and how "I think things should be". It is a loving acceptance.


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    I struggle with this concept as well. I believe I am a good person, however, some of the things I have done in my past may suggest otherwise. I've hurt people beyond belief and while I've felt bad about it, I never really take ownership of the hurt caused.

    I've been away from the website for awhile and I haven't been reading the teachings like I should be and I'm having a hard time getting back in the swing of things. I guess what I'm wondering is, how do you allow yourself to forgive "yourself" for things you've done in your past? I try to focus on today because really, that's all we have is this moment, but thoughts of yesterday and tomorrow always seem to make their way into my thought process.

    Just looking for a little guidance... Any thoughts or opinions are welcomed.

  4. #4
    Hello again Jessica,

    This article by Ajahn Sumedho "Liberating Emotions" might be helpful.

    Excerpt:


    The Buddhist attitude is one of loving-kindness (metta), of open acceptance of everything as it is. If we take loving-kindness to its ultimate, all conditioned phenomena are accepted for what they are. That doesn’t mean all things are approved of; they are simply accepted. Everything has to be the way it is in the moment. You can’t say, ‘I don’t want the weather to be like this,’ or, ‘I don’t want things to be this way.’ If you do, you are not accepting the way it is and are creating suffering around something that you don’t like or don’t want.

    You can also have loving-kindness for your dislike of the way it is, so you are not even criticising yourself for being critical. Feeling despair and self-aversion for being critical or selfish is another trap of the mind. Even if you are sitting here hating yourself, thinking of yourself as selfish and critical and not a very nice person, you can have metta for that; you can have loving-kindness for the critical mind. Patient acceptance is nonaversion to everything that is happening now. Everything is accepted, nothing left out. There are no loose ends or exceptions.

    Full article here

    You can find out more about metta practice in #2 of this thread.



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    Thank you Aloka... So basically I cannot change what has happened in the past and I should not dwell on it because then I'm only creating negative thoughts when I should be mindful of the present and accept the way things are. I need to work on this.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jde101818 View Post
    Thank you Aloka... So basically I cannot change what has happened in the past and I should not dwell on it because then I'm only creating negative thoughts when I should be mindful of the present and accept the way things are. I need to work on this.
    No you can not change the past, your intentional actions are the causes that result in effects. In saying that remember that it includes the wholesome things as well as the unwholesome. I would guess that what you are reflecting on from the past is the unwholesome. The outcomes of which is the negative mental states that lead to more suffering and lack of mindfulness in the present. If you allow this to happen then you will not see the benefits of the N8FP in the present thus reducing the development of faith / trust / confidence or to state this another way reduce doubt. All of this compounds to hinder you development of the path factors.

    The question is how do you address the issues that have been raised. If the negative aspect of the past has been intruding in to the present to the extend you have indicated then ignoring them is not going to help the situation. Some times we can employ skilful means that can help to address the situation.

    Adapting a strategies that Ajahn Brahm spoke about in one of his talks, what I think maybe worth trying is the method of dividing a sheet of paper into two sides. On one side write down all the things (regrets about past action) on one side. Then fill up the other side of the sheet with those things that have brought you and others happiness (generosity, compassion, kindness ...) You have to fill up at least as much space on the positive side as the negative side.

    Now cut the paper down the middle. On the negative side briefly reflect on the causes (greed, hate delusion ...) Write across that side that "I am the inheritor of my kamma". Now burn it! Resolve to avoid the mental states that caused the regrets.

    Keep the positive side of what you wrote. Reflect on the causes of those actions and resolve to cultivate those mental states through your practise. When ever you find that the negative past is intruding reread the positive list.

    Remember that the precepts are training rules designed to help us purify out conduct to others, and purify our minds to assist our development.

    The Brahma-vihara are mental states that we try to develop - achieving those states are the fulfilment of the 10 Perfections!! They can and should be the basis of your dealings with others that you come in contact with in daily life as well as subjects for reflection during meditation.

    Sorry for the long post.

    metta
    dagon

  7. #7
    This is a talk given by Tara Brach, psychologist and senior teacher and founder of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington, D.C. in the USA - and the subject is :

    "A Forgiving Heart: Embracing our Inner Life" (Approx. 37 minutes)


    "What we find that is pervasive in our culture, is that rather than recognising what needs attention and responding, we have a very deep, intensive overreaction of aversive blame, that we aim at ourselves and others"







  8. #8
    Forums Member Neyya's Avatar
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    This is a constant struggle for me. Things I have done that can never be undone continues to dog me daily. I can (at times) forgive myself so I know I can make that more of a permanent thought process but its hard.

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    I'd like to add that forgiveness can be taken even further than just forgiving yourself and others.

    One can bring forgiveness to painful feelings, thoughts, and experiences for example.




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