Radical Sabbatical: Forgiveness

Happy New Year!!

Did you know that in the 13 Moon Natural Time Calendar, a new year started this week?

Up until a few years ago, I didn’t either.

When I did my first Nia training in 2000, I learned about the Natural Time calendar and while I’m no expert on its intricacies, I do enjoy following its patterns of symmetry and uniqueness.  At its core, it’s pretty simple:  rather than the 12 uneven months of the Gregorian calendar, the Natural Time Calendar follows the moon cycles.  As the Law of Time Web site describes in its tutorial:

13 Moons x 28 days = 364 days = 52 seven-day weeks. The 365th day of the year is called the Day Out of Time, a day to celebrate peace through culture, time is art and practice universal forgiveness so that everyone can start the next year fresh!

Wednesday, July 25 was this 365th day:  the Day Out of Time.  This is a unique day that is separate from the perfect order of 13 moons with 28 days each.  The Day Out of Time is a pause between the old year and the new, and it’s used to celebrate and reflect.  Natural Time folks around the world celebrate “peace through culture” on this day, but I prefer to focus on forgiveness and releasing resentments for the Day Out of Time.

On Wednesday, I was thinking about the Day Out of Time and I wondered, “Who or what do I need to forgive today?”  No big grudge or transgression that I needed to let go of came to mind.  As is my radical sabbatical practice, I did an early-morning loving kindness, or metta, meditation – offering good wishes for safety and health and well-being to people in my life.  As I went through name after name, offering my good wishes, I noticed when I came to a couple of people that I had a little tightening or holding.  Not a great wrenching, just a little tightening.  I was somewhat surprised since some of those people I tightened up about are near and dear to me and I love them very much.

So what’s up with that?

I remembered a post from Rick Hanson about forgiveness, so I went back to it.  What he wrote was helpful.  He said,

 forgiveness can seem lofty, like it only applies to big things, like crimes or adultery. But most forgiving is for the small bruises of daily life, when others let you down, thwart or hassle you, or just rub you the wrong way.

And I realized that this was exactly what I was feeling.  No major wrongdoing, just little nigglings of resentment.

For me, it’s easy to either ignore or devalue these little upsets.  It might be a sense that a friend is too busy for you, or that your teenager isn’t being responsible in the way you think she should.  Maybe you find your partner’s habit of leaving the dishes in the sink an annoyance, or you feel resentment that you haven’t gotten any decent sleep since the new baby arrived.  We may have different things that give us the sense of being slighted or bruised.  I often find these little splinters of feelings come up with those who I’m closest to, and since I love them and care deeply for them, often I don’t give myself the chance to really feel  and acknowledge them.  Some part of me says, “You shouldn’t feel that way about your friend/partner/child/baby,” and I nudge the feeling aside.  It’s still there, like a tiny splinter of glass in my foot that hurts when I step a certain way.  That splinter has me walking off-balance until I take the time to find it and take it out.  Dr. Hanson reminds me that forgiveness can be for the little things, and the Day Out of Time is an opportunity to notice the feelings of resentment or hurt and let them go.

Importantly, forgiveness doesn’t mean either approval of offending behavior or letting someone have a free pass for what has happened.  As Dr. Hanson writes, “Finding forgiveness can walk hand in hand with pursuing justice.”  And forgiveness doesn’t mean that I don’t need to address the situation that is causing the hurt or resentment.  If someone keeps leaving her peanut butter sandwich remnants on the coffee table, that someone needs a reminder about what to do with leftovers and dirty dishes.  Forgiveness, in my experience, isn’t about avoiding the conversation or setting the boundary or even taking legal action.  Forgiveness allows me to do those things more skillfully and with compassion for everyone involved. Forgiveness allows me to release the pinch of bitterness.  Forgiveness is about letting go and being ready to either take the next steps or to start again.

Dr. Hanson goes on to point out that paradoxically, when I forgive someone, it’s me that gets the benefit.  He offers, “Consider two situations: in one, someone has a grudge against you but then forgives you; in the other situation, you have a grudge against someone but then let it go. Which situation takes more of a weight off of your heart? Generally it’s the second one, since you take your own heart wherever you go.”  Sitting on my cushion on Wednesday morning, that’s exactly what I felt:  a loosening of my heart as I recognized the hurt and chose to let it go.

It may seem like a small thing:  to notice an injury and let it go without speaking a word to anyone.  A small act and one that frees up a lot of energy.  For me, it is a great way to clear my heart and mind for a new year.  So whether you’ve ever heard of the Natural Time Calendar or not, whether you even knew we were starting a new year or not, the invitation is the same:  take some time this week to notice any pinching feelings you have about anyone in your life (or even on the news) – be it your family, friends or the cashier at the grocery store.  See if you can take your own Day Out of Time to let the resentment go, and make choices from there about how to move forward skillfully.

Happy New Year, everybody.  In Lak’ech!*

 

* In Lak’ech is a Mayan greeting that means “I am another you” or “I am you, you are me.”

 

 

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