The spiritual practice for this month has been forgiveness. Our Sunday morning love and inspiration group has been having some amazing conversations about forgiveness. In the midst of it, I realized that I had not forgiven myself for not writing to anyone last week. I had taken an entire week off from blogging. My first time to do that in five years and I was angry at myself for not having done so. I had to stop and practice forgiveness with myself. I had to forgive myself for expecting that I would write without ceasing and never take a break when I needed one. I had to stop and forgive myself for not trusting those of you who read the meditations of my heart for understanding when I need a vacation or need to take a week off.
As I sat and thought through all this, this past week, I remembered a teaching from my Bubby (Yiddish for grandmother) who taught me to never go to bed angry. She taught me to discuss any grievances I had with people, especially those in my family. If any of you have had ever experienced living with those with whom you have an unresolved conflict, you can appreciate the importance of practicing forgiveness as a way of restoring peace in one’s home. I was once told that practicing forgiveness is like pulling a weed and planting a seed. When we pull the weed we are removing the grudge and when we plant the seed, we are sprouting new love in our hearts and in our home.
One of the ways I practice forgiveness is to say to those I work, learn, or study with “Please forgive me.” So often people will ask me why or what for? I may not have hurt that person, intentionally or unintentionally, but I may have hurt someone. The person I am asking to forgive me may not feel like I have harmed them intentionally or unintentionally, but someone has and so in the process, we both pull a weed and provide each other with an opportunity to plant a seed. Buddhist teacher V Pandita does something similar at the end of his retreats. He says, "If I have hurt or harmed you in any way, either intentionally or unintentionally, I ask your forgiveness. And if you have hurt me in any way, intentionally or unintentionally, I forgive you." How few weeds would we have in our garden if we practiced something like this every day?
What if we expanded this practice to those acts that some of us consider unforgivable? What if we found it in our hearts to remember a teaching of Sister Helen Prejean who reminds us that "People are more than the worst thing they have ever done in their life." How would we practice forgiveness with those who are in prison? Those who bully? Those who have created conflicts? These weeds may be more difficult to pull, but when we do, we are providing ourselves and others with the opportunity to plant more seeds of love in our world. May we take time this week to practice removing the weeds from our spiritual garden, and planting seeds of love which will bloom and grow.