On Forgiveness

A few weeks ago, I returned from travelling to find that someone had broken through my front door and had stayed in my flat while I was away.

I always speak of life as a constant invitation to remember who we really are, even in the midst of the trials and tribulations of embodied human experience. This was another perfect example of how the greatest invitations can come in the most surprising and unexpected forms.

Where was the invitation in this case?

Thought loves to spin epic stories about victimhood, doesn’t it? It would have been so tempting to go into some sweeping, dramatic tale of betrayal, outrage and revenge. Even though very little had been stolen (I don’t own anything of any value), the mind would have loved to spin a dramatic story of “My rights have been violated! I feel so unsafe! What a terrible world!” The mind would have loved to make the culprit into a mortal enemy, to judge him as sick, or evil, or a degenerate nobody, or to have him punished or even, in extreme circumstances, killed. That’s where the human mind can go, when we forget our true roots in awareness itself.

Life’s invitation is always gentler, kinder. It whispers “stay close, stay here, stay with what actually is. Remember this intimacy.”

I sat on the sofa where the culprit had slept. I opened myself up to his pain (we later discovered the culprit was male), his loneliness, his poverty. I felt into his sense of being screwed over time and time again and abandoned by conventional society. How he felt pursued and followed – he could never truly come to rest. How he had to live a life of hurting others, on the fringes of the world, never really connecting. Living some kind of double life, a life of lies and secrets and lack of trust. I have never walked in his shoes, but I do know that place of abandonment and restlessness and never feeling at home. How could he truly feel at home in my home? Where there is no connection, no authentic and honest communication, there is no home, no matter where you lay your head.

I could not condone his actions, not at all. But I felt his broken heart and his desperation and his longing for the deep comfort of awareness. And suddenly he was not the enemy. He was myself. Beyond the story of his life, beyond the image, beyond the stories of culprit and victim, abuser and abused, he was consciousness, as I am. I even found the place where, in another human incarnation, given the same life circumstances, DNA, upbringing, belief system, I may have done what he had done. Who knows. But how could I separate myself from him in any way?

Sitting on the sofa where he had rest his restless head, I found where we were not two. I found, for a moment, the place where my home was his home – the home of consciousness itself.

Maybe it is not the loss of possessions that frightens and haunts us – maybe it is the loss of our true home.

Of course, this deep acceptance does not mean that we become passive victims. Not at all! Forgiveness does not mean that we sit back and do nothing and allow the world to trample all over us. It does not mean that we simply allow people to smash through our front doors and live in our homes while we are away. Of course not. That would dishonoring the life that we are. Our homes need a bit of love and tenderness too! And that sort of frightened passivity would actually lack compassion for the perpetrator too. Allowing him to ‘get away with’ his crimes does not serve him. And so we can still give a clear and honest NO to particular circumstances and configurations, and that does not contradict our huge YES to life.

Affirming life, saying YES to what is, does not mean we become passive and weak. Quite the opposite. We simply stop fighting and open up to enormous possibility.

And so, I found myself contacting the police, doing everything I could to discover who the culprit was and taking several steps to prevent this crime from ever happening again. We do what we can. Buddhism calls this Right Action.

We do whatever we need to do. But on a deeper level, there is this knowing that nothing has actually ‘gone wrong’, that every challenging circumstance is simply another invitation to stay close, to stay out of the story, to rediscover this peace beyond understanding, even when our expectations are shattered and our dreams turn to dust, even when the homeless break into our homes, both literally and metaphorically speaking.

Even if we believe that we woke up yesterday, in reality there is only this constant invitation to wake up Now, no matter what is happening.