Forgiveness An interview with Lisa Schumacher By Henk Engelenburg
Climate issues, changes in world order, fragmentation of long-trusted alliances, growing uncertainties about future existence. All this leads to an escalation in tensions, aggression and blaming. Extraordinary circumstances require an unusual response: forgiveness. But not as a deal between our nation/their nation, our beliefs/their beliefs. World peace starts at the very basic foundation of the personal level -- the message of spiritual teacher Lisa Schumacher. * * *
Forgiveness seems old-fashioned nowadays. How do we apply forgiveness in our so-called modern times? In today's world it is all about taking a stand, being an individual doing something right, something that makes a difference in the world. There is much that we see as unjust when we are looking to the world, much that we take a stand for. Rightfully so. There ís a way to take a stand. But if we do this without actually examining ourselves, our stand does not come from the integrity of a clean meeting with the world. Instead we try to solve some sense of wrongdoing. Then there is a danger of our stand being polluted by egoic inflation or deflation. Forgiveness--the act of forgiving yourself--is the possibility to invite a true meeting with the world…rather than a fight.
Can forgiveness be an answer to the tensions we see in the world? Absolutely. Forgiveness plays a role in your relationship with yourself, to begin with, and in fully taking responsibility for yourself and your presence in the world. Then there is a possibility of your presence in the world transmitting peace. World peace starts at the very basic foundation of the personal level. I mean, how are you going to war? How are you fighting? If you want peace, see how you are fighting and stop. What are you afraid to lose, what are you willing to surrender, for peace? Your position? Your role in the war? Is your fight for peace bringing peace--or is it causing more suffering?
So forgiving is primarily a discipline on a personal level? It's really about telling the truth. What is your life transmitting in the world? There is a Hawaiian prayer called Ho’oponopono, an exercise that you can do with yourself. It has four statements, beginning with: I Am Sorry. This could mean there may be someone you need to apologize to, or even a nation, or Mother Earth; it could be someone close to you, or perhaps a stranger. Or even yourself. You continue with: Please Forgive Me. Again, the same possibility extends from the earth to yourself, for whatever addiction you may have, how you've mistreated your body or the body of Mother Earth. And then the third statement: Thank You. For me it is important to be grateful--that you can even ask for forgiveness. That you can be conscious enough to ask for forgiveness, even if you don’t know who or what you're asking forgiveness from. You don’t even have to have an object that is coming into consciousness. It is simply the opportunity to ask for forgiveness. And finally: I Love You. With no object even, to say the words to, but simply to say, I Love You--and to experience it, opening your heart to love. There may be more that arises out of this prayer. You can see from there. And you invite all your relations. So that any past grievances are brought to the table, in this moment, right where you are. You start with yourself. It's such a personal thing--forgiveness.
Is forgiving something that one can learn and practice? Well, Ho’oponopono can be a technique, a practice, and it is a beautiful practice, just like the practice of gratitude: finding all the things you are grateful for every single day. Ho’oponopono is also a way in which you can practice meditation, sit with yourself and say these four statements. It's a way of cleaning up the mess, as you observe the conscious mind still wanting someone else to apologize. Sitting still for a certain period every day (you may call it 'meditation' or 'visualization') is helpful because the mind has a momentum. Sitting still, you might notice your mind is very active; there may be things that are unresolved. Simply the willingness not to move--to sit still and let the whole world of your mind arise without acting on any feeling or tension--simply the intention to sit still can undo years of striving.
Does this make forgiveness unconditional? It is unconditional, but not because you are saying or doing it. What I mean by that is: the clear intention is simply to forgive. But conditional or not, I don’t think that matters.
Is forgiveness for free--or do we have to sacrifice something? Yes, our position; yes, we do. We feel like: if we forgive, then the other person will win. Or we have an idea: if we forgive, that makes us a better person, better than someone. Or even, if we forgive, it will make the government change or stop fighting or end injustice. Having an eye for an eye keeps a position in forgiving. But it's actually just being naked. I remember going into a sweat lodge years ago. You go naked into this native American ceremony, a very hot place where you cannot get out. It was like I felt remorse just for being a human being and for the mess of my relationships. This passed through my consciousness and I felt myself saying, ‘I am sorry, I am sorry, I am so sorry, I am so sorry, I am so sorry.’ As I repeated that and felt in my whole being the desire to be forgiven, it turned into gratitude. Gratitude for being given a chance to live this blessed life as a human being on this incredible planet, conscious of the unity of all beings. So yes, there is a way: we must invite nakedness.
Is there a kind of law of mercy higher than an eye for an eye? Going back to that moment when we sit on our cushion and say, 'Ok, I am gonna stop for ten minutes.' The individual *conscience/consciousness falls away and we realize the unity of all being…and that each one of us, each human being, has the potential to realize that. In that recognition it's not a matter of higher or lower, it's just what it is. The ego can take that and use it as an excuse like, ‘Why do we have to forgive? We are all one, so it doesn’t matter.' But actually, if you would like to end unnecessary suffering for yourself, then it really does matter. Because if you are holding something, there is a limitation on your potential.
Does forgiveness come after recognizing my mechanical behaviors? If you mean self-inquiry, yes. Not everyone is interested in self-inquiry, but in the lineage I come from--Ramana Maharshi, Papaji, Gangaji and Eli Jaxon-Bear--self-inquiry is an essential focus. When I was a child, I wanted to know what happens when you die. All my mother said was, you go to heaven, and to get to heaven, you have to go to church. If you go to the Catholic church where I was raised in, you first get married to Christ and then you start telling your sins in confirmation and you get absolution by saying certain prayers. We are told we are born with original sins, so as soon as we come into the world we are sinners and we have to beg for forgiveness from a God in the sky, from Jesus because he died for our sins at the cross. So there is really no redemption; it is not possible. We all know this set-up has been a template for abuse and we know what these abuses have done in the Catholic church. Back to Ramana: Instead of telling ourselves the lie of salvation and becoming enslaved, we can ask, 'What really dies as the body dies?' Right now you can do this: 'What really dies? The body dies--and what remains?' This is Ramana’s gift to us, this self-inquiry. In this is forgiveness. In this all is finished. Because you recognize, as Ramana did, the possibility that I Am Here. And you have the opportunity to find out the source of this I. In this there is no slavery--but rather, dignity, inclusion. It is the possibility for the whole human race. This is really needed, right now. Urgent, it's urgent.
Can one only grow by forgiving others? I would just say: Forgive yourself. Start with yourself--and then see how your life transmits, how that fosters freedom, dignity, honesty, awakening.
What do you say to people reading this text but still skeptical, referring to the endless eye for an eye on the world scale? Well, just try forgiveness and see what it brings. We tried everything else, we tried diplomacy, we tried everything…so just try this, let's try stopping individually and then see how that influences the collective. As you live your life devoted to your true nature, you might start to notice how it changes your life from the inside out. That is my experience. So start at the very foundation of peace, see how your life is transmitting that. And see what happens. Finally, we are responsible for ourselves--how our life is being lived.