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The Power of Forgiveness and Gratitude

The Power of Forgiveness and Gratitude

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“Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
   ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

When asked to write an article about forgiveness, I felt hesitant. With so much contention in the world, why would anyone willingly surrender their strong position and forgive? I consider forgiveness to be a superpower, right up there with gratitude. They both require a capacity to hold negative feelings in a larger perspective; touching the grace beyond suffering.

Anger and fear are intelligent emotions signaling that a boundary has been crossed. When people feel betrayed, diminished, oppressed or exploited, their instinct is to fight back, run away or dissociate. If hurt isn’t processed and resolved, seeking revenge or holding resentments often follow. This destructive energy then resonates in the body and out to others.

“Holding a grudge is like
drinking poison and waiting for
the other person to die.”
   ~ Buddha

“Our brains are like Velcro for bad experience and Teflon for the good,” writes neuroscientist Rick Hanson, in Buddha’s Brain. When hurt, we impulsively want to hurt back. Forgiveness, however, requires that we stay present with our reactivity. It requires patience and courage to meet the moment with an open heart and feel what we feel. We do this, first by accepting our feelings of non-forgiveness.

Holding onto anger may offer a temporary feeling of justice or control by feeding the ego, which wants to be right. There is, however, a destructive energy that remains below the surface. It harms our health; increasing blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, anxiety, panic and discontentment. Unforgiveness is not bad, it simply keeps the suffering growing, bringing us more of what we don’t want. Learning to meet unforgiveness with self-compassion and acceptance begins the process of healing and raises our vibrational energy. The body moves from fight/flight to homeostasis.

Forgiveness comes from a non-dual, holistic mind that recognizes oneness. It arises when we include other perspectives; shifting from certainty — it’s right or wrong, to inclusivity— it could be right from another perspective. Fear is palpable in the collective right now and it may seem counterintuitive to open heart and mind. When emotions surge, it’s harder to stay open because the decider brain (ancient ego-limbic system) shuts down the prefrontal cortex (the newest part of the evolving brain).

The brain of our ancestors has served us well for thousands of years and it’s possible with mindfulness meditation or other intentional practices to cultivate the emerging holistic mind. The new mind and its capacity for non-duality can cultivate presence, forgiveness and gratitude, not as a strategic quid pro quo, but because it opens infinite creative possibilities for problem solving. Non-duality can recognize the dual as part of itself; not a bad part, just a part of the wiring. Awakening to wholeness is a natural unfolding of universal intelligence and the implicate order of an evolving self-organizing system.

A non-dual holistic mind can express the need for reparation without blame or criticism because it sees the nature of our interdependence and accepts the reality of both, human darkness and light. For example, the dual mind might say, “I am angry at you. You are wrong.” With awareness, the non-dual mind might say, “Anger is arising, let me investigate.” With the ability to feel the energy of anger but not become anger, we are able to respond from our wisest self; from love not fear.

We don’t have to wallpaper over non-forgiveness with fake forgiveness. I suggest we come to recognize our capacity for presence with whatever arises inside; to begin to intimately know, feel and process all emotions. Nelson Mandala embodied the power of forgiveness. Anger did not rule his actions. He once said, “Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear. That is why it is such a powerful weapon.” Eventually, we may come to realize that the world is our household and our capacity for forgiveness has the power to stop the war against ourselves and the planet.

“Your heart is the light of this world.
Don’t cover it with your mind.”
   ~ Mooji

The Graduate Institute opens hearts and minds to nonduality. As an alumnus, program coordinator and adjunct faculty, I have experienced first-hand its transformative effects. I invite anyone interested in learning more to attend an open house or visit our mindfulness group where we gather for guided meditation, group share and topic discussion. If you would like more information, visit www.learn.edu.

Kimberly Ruggiero is a program coordinator at The Graduate Institute as well as an artist, writer and coach. She holds a BS in Chemistry, MA in Consciousness Studies and is an alumnus of the Lyme Academy of Fine Art. Kim has also studied MBSR and is certified through the Engaged Mindfulness Institute.