“Karma means that all actions have consequences. Grace means that in a moment of atonement -taking responsibility, making amends, asking for forgiveness – all karma is burned.”
— Marianne Williamson
Self Forgiveness & Making Amends
by Tara Brach
We are deeply imprinted by the suffering we have caused others. This imprint is sometimes felt as shame, guilt, or remorse, and it is our heart’s sensitivity calling us to attention. In the Buddhist teachings, such sensitivity can be intelligent and healthy—it plays an important role in awakening and freeing our hearts.
In contrast to our habit of beating up on ourselves, healthy shame is the signal that we have strayed from our deepest life values—it draws attention to a contracted, diminished sense of self—and it can energize us to realign with our hearts. Similarly, guilt focuses attention on our unskillful actions and can lead us to admitting our mistakes and making amends however we are able.
Self-forgiveness is often not even possible, and certainly cannot be complete, until we have in some way made amends to those we’ve injured. Making amends is not for the sake of satisfying an external standard of morality. Rather, it is an expression of our belonging to the world and to our own hearts.
The urge to make amends arises when we have had the courage to face the reality of our impact on others. It arises when our hearts yearn to relieve their suffering or when we dedicate ourselves to not causing further suffering. Even if someone is no longer alive or an active part of our lives, it is possible to acknowledge the truth of his or her hurt and to offer him or her our wishes, prayers, and remorse.
As we intentionally take responsibility for our actions, the harsh grip of self-aversion loosens, and we come home to a sense of connectedness, peace, and ease. This healing is very close to the Christian and Jewish process of atonement. By atoning for our errors, we make possible reconciliation—with God, with the injured other, and with our own heart and being.
For all of us, the starting place of healing is reconciliation with our own heart. Whether we are unable to forgive ourselves for what seems a major wrongdoing, or we have locked into chronic self-judgment, we are at war, cut off from our own tenderness, our own spirit. If we can see past our faults to our human vulnerability, we are on the path of reconciliation. Our self-compassion will naturally lead to caring about others, and perhaps, to an experience of love and connectedness we never imagined possible.
Just Like me
“Realizing that the other person is also just like me is the basis on which you can develop compassion, not only towards those around you but also towards your enemy. Normally, when we think about our enemy, we think about harming him. Instead, try to remember that the enemy is also a human being, just like me.”
- HH the Dalai Lama
I’m sure there is some evolutionary reason that we make ourselves different from other people. I’m sure in our hunter-gatherer days, it increased our survival rate to “other” the people at the next fire circle ~ to say they are different than I am and in some way not as good.
One way metta (loving kindness) helps me is to remind me that everybody, every single person and being, at an essential level is just like me. Everybody wants to be happy ~ just like me. Everybody wants to avoid suffering ~ just like me. Everybody is doing their best ~ just like me.
Even if they cause me inconvenience ~ they are just like me.
Even if they drive a car that I don’t approve of ~ they are just like me.
Even if they don’t do what I think they should do ~ they are just like me.
Even if they believe in things I don’t believe in ~ they are just like me.
Even if they break the law and cause harm ~ they are just like me.
Especially when I feel myself bristle with irritation or indignation or anger, it helps me to silently note that this irritating, infuriating person is just like me. It doesn’t mean I approve of them or forgive them or even like them. But reminding myself that they are “just like me” preserves their humanity and mine.
by Sharon Salzberg, Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection
One of my students tells me that she often asks herself, “Am I opening or am I closing?” when she gets into arguments with close friends, family members, or her significant other.
To her, “opening” in this case is the act of allowing dialogue, of seeing others’ perspectives, of moving toward resolution; “closing,” by contrast, may be withdrawing, seeking to perpetuate an argument. It is our nature to “close” when we want to protect ourselves.
But, creating more space around pain is fruitful. When we expand in the face of suffering, we can feel more - such as where the pain registers in our bodies, or what might have been going on for the other person. We may even wonder about our roles. This exercise is one of self-exploration. Consider the following questions as tools for staying open, expansive, and spacious during or after conflict.
Where in my body do I feel anger? Sadness? Resentment? Guilt?
When I try to relax my body, how do my emotions respond?
What do I know about the other person’s experience that ,ay have contributed to this conflict? Childhood wounds? Past relationships?
What are some of my past experiences that resonate with this one? What did I learn last time?
How would I react to myself if I were the other person during this conversation? What was my tone of voice like? My body language?
What might have happened if I expressed myself differently?
Note that these questions aren’t meant to send you into a rabbit hole of rumination and regret about the past; rather, you can think of them as exercises in curiosity and creativity. Visualize each question as a way of creating more space and perspective.
A conversation about repair
I’ve been particularly interested in understanding and applying the teachings we are working with around compassion, to the current cultural movement. In particular, related to understanding what healing might look like in a post #metoo world.
Just a heads up, this article is not oriented from a spiritual perspective, but perhaps you can overlay some of what we are working with to round out your own understanding.
written by Katie McDonough
It has been a year, or in some cases less, but they are back: Louis CK, Jian Ghomeshi, John Hockenberry, and other men who left their jobs or retreated from public view following allegations (and outright admissions) of sexual abuse and harassment.
And as though they are all following a version of the same script, these men have refused to honestly account for the harm they caused or simply erased it altogether. Louis CK described the professional fallout of his predation as being “off for a while” because “everyone needs a break.” Hockenberry, who was forced to resign after multiple women of color accused him of harassment and bullying behavior, called the last year “exile.” Ghomeshi framed the public response to allegations that he physically abused multiple women as a grotesque example of internet mob culture and groupthink.
What these Condemned Men narratives leave out are the people they hurt, and what that harm has meant for their victims’ personal and professional lives. (In fact, Hockenberry and Ghomeshi obscure and minimize their own behaviors throughout their respective redemption pieces, as though there was really no harm, only misunderstanding, to begin with.) While they may differ in tone and approach—Hockenberry rageful, Ghomeshi clinical, Louis CK hapless—they each share a profound lack of curiosity or interest in what accounting for their behavior might look like, or what making actual amends might require.
But models of repair do exist, and people have spent decades practicing them. So I reached out to Alisa Bierria, whose work with the women of color-led grassroots organizing project Communities Against Rape and Abuse was my first introduction to the principles of community accountability, to talk about harm, consequence, and repair. Bierra is now a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Gender & Women’s Studies at the University of California, Berkeley and founder and coordinator of the Feminist Anti-Carceral Policy & Research Initiative. Our conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.
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* Bring back skin/texture on main image, by using a small amount of chosen paint colour. Dry-brush for smooth texture, or use brush that creates the texture that you are seeking to create i.e., fur, feathers, etc.
* Begin to bring chosen colours into the different areas/shapes in your painting using the most appropriate techniques for your image. Consider using thicker amounts of paint and multiple techniques to add interest and pop to your painting. i.e., words, patterns, etc.