To me forgiveness is part of a wider ranging letting go, as I mentioned earlier, and meditation plays a role in it.
People often think of meditation as a mystical thing (and it certainly can be), and even further they often think of mystical meditation (as in Starhawk's work) as somehow soft or mumbo-jumboish.
People resist these ideas because they seem "unscientific," and most of us in the west accept scientific thinking as the ne plus ultra. The difference between Western logic and Eastern meditation is in how knowledge is gained. Science looks outside the self for understanding, typically (even it's psychology does this). Meditation as a science is about looking in to the self and coming to terms with the patterns one finds in the exploration. Both eminently based in the real world.
After many years of experience with it, I can say, more objectively, meditation is a means of bringing one very firmly into the present moment so that one can deal with whatever is going on in one's body or mind. In Buddhism this is called Mindfulness of the present moment, and it is the first stage of meditation.
This can really help with healing for us with abuse issues because so much of our inner dialogue is about past events. So meditation helps us to stop the cyclic thinking and get control of the inner dialogue by returning us to the present moment so we can listen to it talk and gently guide it into safer, healthier, more (self and other) forgiving places.
I remember one meditation book talking about it as training the puppy, where the mind is the puppy. This kind of meditation involves things like focusing on the breath and deliberately calming the breathing, then clearing the mind of all thoughts in order to begin to work with the thoughts as they arise. It's very challenging and wonderful training.
The mystical version uses ritual and symbol to focus the mind. For example, meditation in Starhawk begins with gestures that consciously create a safe place within which to meditate, for example on letting go. One of her meditations is on banishing bad thoughts. In this one you create the safe space, then you call up an image of what you're trying to release and begin to draw or write about it. As you're drawing or writing, you say "in drawing (or writing), I am relieving my pain, I call it up from every part of me and cast it out into the drawing (or writing)." Then you burn the drawing, banishing the ill effects. This is a psychologic tool for pulling the pain out.
Both of these kinds of letting go are extremely powerful techniques for managing the mind. They embed deep psychology and are created out of years (if not millennia) of studying the mind and working with its structures.
In Buddhism this idea of forgiveness then becomes part of a larger technique for managing conflict of any kind. You use the breath mediation to come into the present moment and work a series of stages of recovery that are as analytical in a way as Western logic.
You start with Recognition. Here you just state all the parameters of the thing you're trying to resolve. Anyone trying this here might spend a few days or weeks recognizing all the issues. You use the breath meditation to do this in order to keep the mind still rather than raging while recognizing. You're looking for patterns in your thinking, in your behavior at the same seeing the actual moment of the abuse. As you're recognizing, the meditation keeps you in the present moment, where you are safe. You also recognize that your fears are mostly about returning to the past, when in fact you are in a safe present place. Present moment: wonderful moment.
From the recognizing you move on to Accepting. Consciously you review what you've recognized and accept that it is real, that it is irrevocable, and even more importantly that it is totally OK that it be real and irrevocable. In otherwords that you are safe in its reality (not that the happening was just). All the while you're doing the breath meditation and calming the arising pain. You accept that what is past is actually past, that the patterns of mind one has developed holding one in the past, when the present moment is actually safe. Each acceptance breaks a link in the chain of attachment to the abuse.
THen you move on to welcoming it. This is most counterintuitive but powerful part. I used to have anxiety attacks, and I found that welcoming them would turn them into amazing surfing experiences. I'd sit there in a ball on the floor of my room, kind of rocking back and forth in total panic saying, "bring it on! Give me move! I welcome every wave!" It was amazing! It was like I was surfing on the waves of emotion pouring through me. I could feel their rhythm. In welcoming you are forgiving the whole situation. Welcoming dissolves the chains of the past. Because the mind is constructed out habits of thought, the chains will reappear, but they will be weaker chains, more easily dissolved. The welcoming is a vital tool in weakening the chains.
In meditation you observe your feelings from within the Now. So you'd see your own resistance arise, you see the cloud of confusion and fear. The meditation gives you a safe space within that cloud that is totally unaffected by it.
From the welcoming there comes the next stage, which is transformation. Here the first three stages reveal their power in that one's understanding of the situation is necessarily transformed. It moves from being horrible and beyond one's control to having been seen fully, accepted and welcomed as part of the experience of life. I can't overemphasize how important the welcoming is. Until we can welcome this, I feel that we are some level shunning our own abused selves, trying to distance ourselves through healing from a profound part of our experience. That shunning leaves pus in the wound to continue to cause problems later on. We shun because we're afraid, even though there's nothing to be afraid of any more. Welcoming transforms the experience by saying: I might as well open my arms to every element of my life: let them pour through me: I can't be harmed any more.
Then the past has no more power over us. We are no longer victims.
You could say that the stages I just outlined as a guide forgiveness mirror the stages of healing in the body. For example: a wound occurs. you get cut. The body recognizes this and accepts that it's real. It constructs something like a scab that welcomes the harm, like it sends out a greeting party. Then the scab is taken back in, more fully welcoming the injured tissue and forgiving the wound itself. Then ideally the whole wound is transformed back into whole flesh. Forgiven.
ps: Earl, I think you're actually the one creating the label "analytical thinker" because you're using words like analysis and reason. We're just echoing your presentation of yourself, and there's definitely no criticism implied. I'm a very analytical thinker myself, and everything I've talked about here, in this thread anyway, is also extremely analytical. Growing up, Mr. Spock was my hero.
Edited by DannyT (06/14/11 10:38 AM)