The headline of a news article caught my attention: Mourning Mother Hugs Her Daughter's Killer in Court. Not surprisingly, it made news because what the mother did seemed uncharacteristic for someone in her situation. To feel anger and want vengeance is expected. To forgive seems almost unthinkable to most of us.
We hold so much anger and bitterness, don't we? And we hold it for a lot less. My father did not appreciate me. When I was in 4th grade, I got 97 out of 100 in an exam and it wasn't good enough. My ex-boyfriend said some very harsh things to me. It brought me down. My boss spread lies about me. It was very unprofessional. We go on and on about the stories of how others have wronged us. And we seek vengeance thinking they have to right this wrong. Or we are consumed with thoughts that they have to- they absolutely must- get what they deserve.
How is it that the mourning mother from the news can do something so extraordinary? Magic, according to my teacher Sharon Gannon, is a shift in perception. It is to look at things from another angle. As yogis who are interested in liberation, we choose the thoughts, words, and actions that will free us. When we direct our anger towards someone because we are convinced they caused our suffering, we are denying ourselves the opportunity to heal ourselves. We are stuck in thinking that they owe us something, that they are indebted to us, and in that sense we put ourselves in a karmic entrapment. We choose to imprison ourselves. And whether the hurt and pain another one caused us is real or perceived, by continuing to blame this person, we strengthen our karmic relationship with them. And that relationship is a negative one if vengeance, anger, and pain are the roots.
A meditation teacher, Tara Brach, said that vengeance is a lazy form of grief. She explained that when we remove the blame in this equation, what is left is hurt. We feel unloved. We feel unworthy. We feel disrespected. And in the case of the mourning mother, when we take away the killer as the doer of the action, what is left is loss, a massive loss. We can only start to heal when we acknowledge losses, when we muster up the courage to admit that we are hurt, when we realize our healing must come from us and not the person who hurt us. To continue to feel anger towards another person is easy, because it spares us the hard work of reflecting upon ourselves the ways in which we feel broken. But the anger consumes us little by little and all at once at the same time, and it makes us forget that we are bigger than our hurts.
Tara Brach suggested using this as a mantra: No one is to blame. Five powerful words that can shift our perception. Let the weight of the words sink in. No one is to blame. Let the lightness of the intention lift you up. No one is to blame. Let the concept of freeing others from us and freeing us from them take root. No one is to blame.
Yoga is a practice. Start small. Let us take non-blaming into our day-to-day lives. The morning traffic is bad. No one is to blame. The internet repair man did not do what he came here for. No one is to blame. The cab driver had no change and we have to drive an extra five minutes to break a bill. No one is to blame. Try it for a day. See how it works for you.
We can go on an endless tirade of why and how our anger is justified, and we could be right. But that means choosing negativity to consume our precious lives. Or we can let go of the buts (but his intentions were malicious, but she cheated me out of my business, but they were corrupt), and instead see our liberation as an inside job. If we want to be free, no one can do it for us, and most certainly continuing to blame others cannot do it for us. Magic, a shift in perception, is to turn all of the hurt others have caused us into these spaces we create in order to heal and liberate ourselves.