That attempting to practise selflessly would lead me towards forgiveness…
In the classes at my yoga home our teachers often talk about Selfless Practice.
I always set an intention for each class and practising for someone else can feel like the best thing to do in situations where you want to help but don’t know how. I’ve practised for people close to me, for people I’ve never met but who I know are going through a challenging time… One thing I never imagined I’d be doing is practising for people who have hurt me.
But I have. And I do.
That might sound strange or suggest I’m a bit of a Pollyanna (not that I think there’s anything wrong with Pollyanna, actually). While I’ll admit that I’d rather be optimistic and I do want to see the best in people I am most certainly not perfect or ‘Yogier than Thou’.
Here’s how attempting to practise selflessly unexpectedly led me towards forgiveness…
I’ve been told I am too nice on numerous occasions, (particularly in my career where I was told I would never get ahead if I didn’t change, yet I feel I’ve done okay so far). I don’t know that this is true at all because I don’t feel that I’m any more or less ‘nice’ than the average person. But, whatever the truth may be, I’ve learned that I can’t be anything but myself.
Anyhow, my alleged ‘niceness’ led to a particular experience with someone last year which felt like such a betrayal that I found it baffling and deeply upsetting at the time. It was one of those experiences where everyone else witnessing the situation got very angry on my behalf, with one person exclaiming that it was,”…like watching Bambi get run over by a tank!” And I was angry, which is about as rare as a rain-free Wimbledon tournament. As it became apparent that this person’s actions were borne out of insecurity, that made me even more furious. “SO WHAT if he’s insecure?!” I ranted. “What’s he got to be insecure about exactly?! I haven’t even done anything to him so why is that my problem?! What the hell gives him the right to….”
Blah. Blah. Blah.
I don’t like drama, but boy did I get caught up in the whole thing. I carried on with all the ‘woe is me’ stuff until I got all the ranting and swearing out of my system.
Then I realised I hadn’t got it all out of my system, so I swore some more.
All that was left afterwards was a dull, sad feeling. I was completely bemused by the idea that someone I’d held in such high regard could possibly feel threatened by me. By that point, this person wouldn’t speak to me directly either, so there seemed to be no way to resolve things. I didn’t know what else to do.
Shortly after, I was rolling out my mat for class one day, trying not to think about what had been happening when a surprising thought popped into my head:
I could offer this practice – the next ninety minutes up to this person.
I have no idea where that thought came from, but in that moment it felt like the right thing to do. So, that’s exactly what I did. The unexpected consequence of this is that I started to feel differently about the situation. It’s not that I suddenly thought what had happened was okay – it absolutely wasn’t. It was more that I couldn’t be angry at this person anymore. I found myself hoping that in time they’d recognise there was no need for them to lash out at others with their insecurity (I subsequently learned that I wasn’t the first to be on the receiving end of this kind of behaviour…). If only they could see just what they have. How brilliant they are.
I think… I forgave him.
Where on earth did that come from? For the girl who held a grudge for five years against the kid who chucked her favourite Kinder Surprise toy down the drain at school, this was something of a development.
I hadn’t expected that in attempting to practise for someone else – someone who had upset me so much – it would help me in this way. I have no idea if this kind of thing is a common experience to come out of one’s yoga practice or if it’s pretty random. Either way it really surprised me because I hadn’t been doing it in order to get something back.
Once again, yoga has shown me something new. Another thing I am grateful for.