Posts tagged #Jesus

What is forgiveness? - it's just giving in advance, actually

The question of just what is forgiveness and how to practice it comes up for anyone who decides to try to earnestly put Christian teachings into action.  Or for anyone who just gets sick of being angry all the time. And once you try to forgive, you realize how hard it is. What is it and how does one do it, anyway?

Here's a clue that's often left out of conventional Christian teachings about forgiveness: when Jesus suggested that you infinitely forgive everyone who has ever harmed you, praise those who have insulted you and love your enemies, he was offering a deep teaching about deleting the ego.

This is left out of most talk of forgiveness because most folks would much rather retain their egos. America is all about ego.  Just look around, man.

But as long as you value your own comfort and pleasure above the happiness of most other beings (and the action of that valuing is precisely what keeps the ego in motion), it's actually impossible for you to forgive anyone or any situation.  For anything.

Your boss who takes you for granted and makes you do tasks you don't like. The government that grabs up all your money with taxes. The ex who betrayed your trust.  The parents who didn't treat you well. When your own welfare is the most important thing to you, you can't forgive these people their offenses.

How could you? They're all delivering obvious, repeated blows to exactly what you cherish the most: your self. Your security.

What is forgiveness? It's not just pardoning...

Of course, you do pardon these offenses for the sake of civility.  You grit your teeth and bear them. Keep going. But you feel all the time how they conflict with your desires and you resent them for that.  You go through your day feeling irritated and anxious and sad. That's living in conflict.

As long as your desire is chiefly for your own welfare and the welfare of those you like, you'll always be in conflict.

You'll always feel attacked.

Why? Because most other people on earth don't value your welfare above all else.  They have other priorities.  Namely, their own welfare.  This is true of your boss and the government and your ex and in often even your parents.  And so they will be inconsiderate of you.  They'll insult you.  They'll take advantage of you.

But you can't really blame them for any of that.  Why? Because they're just doing exactly what you do to them - valuing their own ease and welfare more than they value yours.

Hmmmmmmmmm.

What is forgiveness? It's fore-giving

The only way to get out of this mess of conflict and constantly feeling offended and disappointed and depressed is to change your own value system.  As you may have noticed, you can't change other people.  You have to change you.

The only way to remain un-offended and happy when someone steps on you (which they will, guaranteed) is to be already willing, in advance, for them to take every good thing you own away from you.

Whoah.

I know that sounds extreme. Folks, it is extreme.  That's why it's been not talked about for so long.  That's why hardly any knows how to do it.

Forgiveness is extremely counter-cultural and  it's not for the faint-hearted. Most all of the laws of the great U.S.A., for example, are built around protecting private property. We're really into keeping what we have, not so much interested in giving all of it away.

Giving in Advance

So the essence of forgiveness is pre-giving. It's giving in advance. It's an attitude, a willingness that we have to deliberately cultivate.  "For" means "before."  Forgiveness just means that your giving, your attitude of total generosity, precedes their taking. Fore-give. Get it?

This is something Jesus was like, super good at.

He didn't get offended or angry when folks beat him and nailed him to a cross because he had already decided to give himself away, utterly.  He was already completely willing to give for the benefit of others.  The authorities thought it would be beneficial for Jesus to die. So Jesus was like, okay.

Dude was so peaceful about the whole bloody thing that he was more concerned for the people torturing and murdering him and how it might affect their spiritual standing than he was concerned about the fact that he was being tortured and murdered.

Most of us aren't going to be confronted with folks who want to torture and murder us.  But we will be confronted with unappreciative bosses, oppressive governments, heartbreaking exes, all-too-human parents and all the other perils of this difficult world. Most of us feel sufficiently crucified just by that.

What if you became willing, in advance, for your boss to have all your labor and comfort and ease and time, for your tyrannical government to have all your money, your lying ex to have all your dignity, your negligent parents to have all your goodwill?

Most of us immediately think, "Then I'd be a doormat."

But that's not true. You'd be a Christ.

Doormats are people who over-extend themselves out of fear.  They're afraid of being disliked, afraid of being rejected, so they try to please others in order to win approval and security. Do you think Jesus gave a fuck if anyone liked him? He most explicitly did not.

Can you see how manipulating by people-pleasing is not real generosity or fore-giveness? It's just a sneaky form of grasping and getting that takes on an air of martyrdom.

If your fore-giving comes out of a place of pure willingness instead of a place of manipulative sneakiness, it doesn't lead to you being pathetic.  It leads to you being enlightened and to you helping to enlighten all other beings.

Of course, it mind lead to you looking pathetic. Those Roman soldiers sure must have thought Jesus looked pathetic as he hung up on that awful tree.  And yet.  He was performing a service that was of inestimable value and glory.  Just about the opposite of pathetic.

Contrary to Pauline opinion, Christ didn't save us from our sins by way of turning his blood into some sort of Magic Wipe-Away-Sin Eraser Solvent that comes in convenient wine-flavored concentrate at your local rectory.

Instead, he saved us from our sins by showing us that it was fully possible for a human being to fore-give, to utterly fore-give, to remain full of peace and compassion and devotion to the welfare of others even while he himself was being cruelly tortured.

That possibility is so astounding, that example is so earth-shaking, that it has the power to completely save us from our own miserable egotism (aka, sin).

But that saving power only really comes about when we say to ourselves, "I can learn to do that, too. In fact, I will learn to do that."

Which is exactly what most of us emphatically do not say to ourselves, especially those of us who have been raised as Christians.  Because we're taught to worship Christ as if he was some impossibly-anomalous Anointed Prince of Zombies.

His attainment was rare, but he was not anomalous. His fore-giving is a vivid possibility for all of us.  Jesus was a human being whose Roman overlords didn't appreciate him, whose friends betrayed him, and whose parents were so negligent that they let him be born in a pile of straw.  He became a "son of God" because he fully realized his own potential to love as God loves - with no demands or resentment.

He showed us that we can become divine by cultivating the willingness to fore-give. To die to the illusion of our separate self. "To love one another as I have loved you."

The fruit of this fore-giveness is that we get to become awake within the dream of the world.  And I have a lot to say about that, coming soon.

 

image: [Tobyotter]

Posted on January 29, 2013 and filed under Bodhicitta, Generosity.

Living in the Gift Interview Series: Matthew Stillman - Part 1

  httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFvhzwApoPc

This is the first part of me (Carolyn Elliott) interviewing problem-solver extraordinaire Matthew Stillman of stillmansays.com about creativity and living in our genius with grace.

I asked Matt to tell us about his radically generous experiment wherein he sits in Union Square and helps folks solve problems.

I also asked him an ever-thorny question: how do we make a living while living in the gift?

We touched upon Jesus' far-out injunctions, Charles Eisenstein's gift business model and the importance of getting in touch with our own inner greedy stock broker.

An illuminating and wonderful time. Part 2 coming soon.

Please excuse any awkward cuts. I kind of suck at iMovie right now.

 

Love!

Carolyn

Surrender Your Addiction to Suffering - Part 3

 

This is the third post in a series on Surrendering Your Addiction to Suffering.  You can read the first post here (wherein I give an overview of the nine commitments necessary to the process) about the and the second post (about the first commitment) here. Today we're talking about the second commitment in surrendering your addiction to suffering:

 

2) Understand that these judgments, though voiced by your own internal monologue, represent the distorted perceptions of a spiritual dis-ease and not “the truth”

 

The Buddha (one of my favorite dudes, along with Jesus, Byron Katie and Lao Tse) said that ignorance is the primary affliction of the human mind.  The two other afflictions he noted, desire and hate, are secondary manifestations of that ignorance.  The ignorance that makes us suffer isn't a lack of knowledge in the conventional sense -- instead, it's a fundamental misperception about the nature of who we are and how reality works.

 

Our misperception leads us to think that we're discrete, solitary individuals separate from the whole of existence.  We identify with the contents of our mind and emotion and mistake the aggregate of those contents to be "me." Once we've made that basic mistake, we have the sense, at a fundamental level, that it's "me against the world." Even if we're generally happy-go-lucky people, the moment something goes not-according-to-plan in a big way (we lose a job we depended on for our security; a relationship goes sour; a loved one dies; we get ill; we get old... on and on) we feel attacked.

 

This feeling of being attacked by things not matching up with our internal picture of how life should treat us is a symptom of our misperception that we're basically separate from the rest of life. We resent the people and situations that appear to be battling us (i.e., we experience hate) and we long for whatever circumstances we think would make it all better (i.e., we desire).

 

In the absence of the fundamental mistake of thinking we're a separate "me" we would be unable to see anything as going against us (because there would be no "us" for "it" to go "against") and we'd be unable to wish for anything other than what's already present in our lives (because we wouldn't be able to perceive ourselves as lacking anything -- you can't lack something if you are everything).

 

Ignorance, desire and hate are the dangerous trio that make up the spiritual disease of addiction to suffering, which we ordinary humans are all afflicted with to some extent or another.

 

Sometimes I think that Jesus said we must become as little children in order to reach the Kingdom of Heaven because very little children don't yet have a sense of themselves as discrete individuals; they don't hate; and while they sure make a fuss about getting fed and having their diapers changed, they don't desire in the sense that they don't mentally attach themselves to specific stories about what life should look like.

 

Enlightenment (or "entering the Kingdom of Heaven" in the Christian tradition-- a Kingdom which, by the way, Jesus adamantly stated could be found here on earth) is the state of consciousness in which one is totally free from the disease of addiction.  It's the condition of being free from ignorance, hate and desire.  Far from being a boring condition (some folks imagine desire-less-ness as a kind of numbness) it's actually a profoundly vivid state of joy, abounding love, and deep fulfillment.

 

I've long been putting in my petition to get hit with the enlightenment bolt, but until that happens in order to stay remotely sane I have to focus on letting go of my ignorance, hate and desire to the best of my ability. The second commitment in this process reminds me that my mind's stream of negative judgments just aren't the truth.  They're the product of my fundamental confusion about who I am and what life is doing. This commitment represents my willingness to be humble and to be aware.

 

When I keep this commitment at the forefront of my awareness I find that a bit of air and spaciousness comes into the dark, foetid chambers of my mind and makes room for truth and love to come in.

 

If you'd like some help on getting to spaciousness around your suffering, you might want to check out my low-cost life coaching.

 

Love!

Carolyn

 

Image by Dalbera. Borrowed from Flickr under Creative Commons licensing.