The Boundless Nature of Forgiveness (with TED Talk)

March 13, 2018 Group Meditation Part 2 of 2

This information was covered and discussed at the Boundless Love Project’s Group Meditation. Before engaging with this blog, we suggest you listen to this guided forgiveness meditation, which preceded it.

Forgiveness Defined

Forgiveness is the process of letting go of all anger, resentment, judgment, and hatred towards other people, beings, situations, and ourselves. To fully forgive means our relationship with them is free of ill will. Therefore, to forgive someone does not mean we need to be friends with them and invite them to our birthday party. It simply means we wish them well, be they in our life or not.

Forgiveness arises out of our inner kindness that all life be happy, and our inner compassion that wishes all life to be free from harm. Both kindness and compassion arise from our essential nature as boundless and unconditional qualities. However, we are cut off from experiencing the limitless nature of these beautiful qualities because of the delusional thoughts and stories we believe in our mind.

The Boundless Nature of Forgiveness

Because kindness and compassion are boundless and unconditional, this means that forgiveness is also boundless and unconditional in nature.

This is why Jesus, with a mind free of delusion, remained forgiving during the most challenging test of his life. He had been imprisoned, tortured, marched through town, humiliated by the crowd, nailed to a cross and left to die. Yet when Jesus saw the people who tried to tormented him, he had no bitterness or anger in his heart. What he felt for them was compassion.

Jesus knew how enslaved to delusion they were, for only a deeply deluded mind would find it reasonable to torture and kill another person, whether that person be innocent or not. Knowing how bound by delusion they were, he also knew how deeply they must be suffering. Seeing their suffering, and out of concern for their well being, he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” That is how boundless our kindness, compassion, and forgiveness can be when it is freed from the prison of delusions.

One Story of Rape and Reconciliation

Learning about extreme acts of love and forgiveness help challenge our own fixed-views that limit who we think we can offer our love and forgiveness to. In this way they inspire us. We share a TED Talk of two people and their process of forgiveness and reconciliation.

This TED Talk is potentially triggering if you are a rape or sexual abuse survivor. Please take care of yourself. If you do not feel strong enough in your mindfulness to stay present with the strong feelings and emotions that might arise, feel free to not watch he video. Listen to your inner wisdom about what will be the best way to take care of yourself.

This TED Talk is given by Thordis Elva, who was raped, and Tom Stranger, who was the man who raped her. They share their story of years of open and honest communication with each other as they struggled to find forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing. Together, they then authored the book South of Forgiveness to share their experience with others.

They do not claim their approach is the only or best way to find healing. Nor do they consider their approach as a prescription, or model example for other rape survivors and perpetrators to use. Rather, they share their experience to help all men and women heal from past rapes and prevent future rapes by creating a culture that does not devalue and objectify women (which are aspects of the delusion of judgment).

Betty offered this review of their book and TED talk:

As a rape survivor, reading this book (and watching the authors' TED talk) has been a truly healing experience for me. I will never have the opportunity to confront the men who raped me; but through their book the authors have given my brain the opportunity to witness a man who had raped a woman owning it, letting himself be vulnerable with her, and opening to a process to help both of them heal. What an incredible gift. While I doubt that I will ever understand the choices that Stranger made that night, I have a lot of respect for his willingness to own those choices and to share their story in the hopes that others will be helped. And I have so much admiration for how Elva found a way to heal, what she did must have taken the most incredible courage; and I salute her for being willing to share her story in the hopes that it helps others and prevents more sexual violence.

If you are a survivor, this book could be powerful for you, but I would only recommend reading it after walking a good part of the healing journey. There is plenty in the book that could potentially be triggering, so I suggest only reading it once you have all the resources you need to be able to stay present and manage any reactions it brings up in you. I am very thankful that I had the opportunity to read it, but was only able to do so after spending several years developing solid resources to stay present instead of dissociating when exposed to the material such as what is in the book.

We share this Ted Talk with you as an example of the boundless nature of our inborn love and kindness to illuminate and heal all harms we have suffered and are suffering.

Thordis’ and Tom’s story is unusual, unique, and an extreme outlier. Thordis’ example of extreme forgiveness helps shake up, loosen, and dissolve the solidity of the stories in our mind that say “I could never forgive him or her.” Once these delusional thought barriers are removed, we find our love, kindness, compassion, and forgiveness wants to include all life, even “him or her.”

Tom’s example of boldly owning up to the harms he caused, challenge our fixed-views that prevent us from admitting our past unskillfulness to ourselves, and doing what we can to make amends, learn from it, be more skillful in the future, and help our wider culture to be more skillful as well.

Be Mindful As You Watch

As you listen to this talk, ground at least half of your awareness in the sensations you are feeling in your body. In this way you will notice any emotions that are triggered and this will alert you to be mindful of any thoughts that have arisen (whether consciously or unconsciously). If thoughts are conscious, notice them.

Remind yourself that all of these thoughts and feelings are temporary visitors who are “not me, not mine.” There is no need to give them truth, weight, or reality. Simply observe them, without engaging in them. If the thoughts are delusional or the emotions are disturbing, know them to be “ego.” Then watch them go away on their own as is their nature to do. Then return your attention on the talk and body sensations.

There will be a journaling or contemplation activity for you to do after the talk.

Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger: Our Story of Rape and Reconciliation TED Talk

Journal or Contemplation Activity

Here are some questions you may find helpful to contemplate and reflect on, or journal about.

1. What reactions happened inside you as you watched the talk? What emotions and thoughts were arising? How does your conditioning relate to the story that was being told, the information that was being shared, and the audience reactions to that information?

2. What thoughts and feelings arose for you when Thordis wrote, “I am trying hard to find forgiveness” in her first letter to Tom? 

3. Thordis was able to see Tom as more than just her rapist, otherwise she would never have been able to reach out to him as she did. We commonly talk about how we are not our thoughts, emotions, sensations, or our body because they are not the essence of who we are. In the same way, we are not our actions. Other people are not defined by their actions. What thoughts arise in your mind when you think about this?

4. Review what you have written and notice any thoughts that are delusional in nature and how they feel, as well as their feeling tone, when you believe them.

5. If you are male, or male-identified, what can you do to help create a culture that respects, honors, and values female individuals? In what way might your thoughts, words, or behaviors denigrate, put down, or objectify women? What common thoughts about women do you think? For example, how do you think: Women drive? Perform at work? Manage a household? Relate to their husband or boyfriends? Are any of these thoughts true? Are any of these thoughts unskillful? What jokes about women do you say? What do you tell women about their bodies and appearances? Could what you be saying be taken as objectifying, lewd, or harmful? Aware of any untrue or unskillful thoughts about women, what are more truthful and skillful thoughts that could be used as substitutes? Aware of any unskillful behaviors of speech or action that you have engaged in towards women, what are more skillful ways to relate that you aspire to do?

Thank you for loving yourself enough to read and engage with this material. May all of the merits we gained today through our mindfulness be shared with all beings and all life so they may be happy and peaceful, safe and protected, healthy and strong, and liberated from their egos.