My first entry about grudges had us thinking about whether we had some less than stellar ingredients in the stew we call our essence. The next step is to sort through the ingredients. To do that you simply spend some quiet time thinking about your life, looking for people or things that kind of make your blood boil or at least irritate or niggle at your well-being when you think about them. You do not have pleasant thoughts when you visit a certain place in time with that person.
When I did this the first time, I just let my mind drift and had a notebook to write down names of who I might still have some negative feelings towards. I cannot say I am proud of that list. It was surprisingly long. The names included friends, teachers and more. Then I wondered if I was mad at the universe for all the things I had experienced in my life. The answer was in the affirmative. Now in this place, let me say some call the universe God, some call it the powers that be, some call it fate. Whatever you label the seemingly erratic things that befall us, sometimes we bear a grudge against "life". I was mad at my parents for what they were unable to deliver in their parenting. Finally, I was mad at me for not being the person I wanted to be. I had hurt people due to my own essence. Realizing this gave me more courage to face down the grudges I was holding.
I meditated on things like the bible scripture that says "as you forgive, so will you be forgiven." I thought of the damaged people I had seen in counseling who just needed someone to care about them. As I thought about that, I realized that as I let myself forgive others, I would also be able to forgive me and be able to truly care about myself. I think we always think of it as God's judgement against us that we have to worry about. I became convinced that the greatest judgment against us is how we judge ourselves. The Buddha encouraged us to be compassionate toward all living beings beginning with self. Jesus was buddies with just about everyone. He did try to correct those overly judgemental religious leaders. He advised them that they were destroying people with their judgements. I began to realize that the way to having a pure essence was to not think I was in a place to judge people, including myself. During the processing of this epiphany, I had a dream. I was on a train and the train cars were full of people in shackles. People kept coming to me asking what they should do with this one or that one. I was feeling frustrated and could not understand why they were coming to me. I looked around and saw a judge's bench but no one was sitting there. I awoke as I was shouting in my dream, "I am not the judge". I remember that I AM NOT THE JUDGE when I start down the path of judging others. I need to not even judge myself. I want to correct my behavior when it messes up my essence, like when I am thinking bad thoughts about myself or others. Thinking bad thoughts about myself is the most damaging thing I can do. Those bad thoughts mess up my essence and make me misbehave. I end up hurting others and, ultimately, myself.
Instead of judging, the trick is to want to forgive people. Remember what I said about how we look to justify our judgments? We have to let go of the belief that bearing grudges is justified. Those justified judgments will end up messing up our essence - our inner being. But you say, I do not want to forgive that person, or perhaps life or even myself. I know! But you want to feel better,right? Maybe you are so upset with yourself that you do not even think you want to feel better. In that case, trust me a minute and try this. The first step is to think, "I do not want to forgive, but what would if be like if I did want to forgive? I don't want to, but I want to want to forgive that person, me, the world, life, God". That is correct. Say, "I want to want to but I don't want to". I started with the easy ones. I had a 6th grade librarian on my list. She was easy since I barely remembered her. In fact, when I wrote her name on my list I had to think about it to figure out what I was upset about. The difficult ones were my dad, my mom, God and me.
I cannot even begin to describe the difference forgiving people made in me. Soon after I began the practice of forgiving, my children asked me if I was taking drugs because my essence had changed so much. When I began to forgive people there was a tremendous difference in my countenance, my reactions, my being. Our essence is all about the thoughts we let ourselves harbor. When we begin to question our thoughts and challenge ourselves, we begin to clean up our unsavory stew. When I think something like, they don't deserve that, I stop the thought. I think why not? I realize it is because I am angry, jealous, hurt or bearing a grudge. I like to imagine the person I have held a grudge against receiving fabulous things. Think about it however you can handle it. Be honest. Forgiving is a process not an event. We may forgive one thing but not another. The test is to determine honestly whether you still have any negative niggles about that person. Remember, our brain will try to convince us that a lie is the truth. We can get hung up in wondering why people do the things they do. You will probably never know. It does not really matter. What matters is why you do the things you do. What matters is whether the thoughts you think and the actions you take really make you feel good, happy, loving and loved.
I try to never "I should of" myself. I cannot go back. I can go forward. Turn your "should of" into an "I will" in the present, in this moment. Life is about learning lessons and not beating yourself up for what you did that you wish you had not done. Life is about being present in each and every moment of it. Life is about finding the good in each moment and embracing that good.