Overcoming “I can’t”

Illuminations Newsletter 48

In this recorded audio newsletter with my friend Akrura, we discuss how to coach a devotee who is trying to forgive. We focus much of the talk on dealing with the obstacle of thinking, “I just can’t forgive.”

We also discuss how you benefit the most when you let go of resentment. Why? Because devotees with deep issues of resentment usually find it more difficult to open their hearts to Krsna. Forgiveness requires compassion, and a compassionate heart is necessary for spiritual progress.

This conversation lays down many principles of forgiveness that you can practice immediately, and also encourages you to seek personal guidance of qualified devotees if you have more difficult or troublesome issues to deal with.

We also detail what forgiveness is not. For instance, forgiveness can exist even if you take legal action against a person. Or you may choose to distance yourself from that person even though you have fully forgiven him or her. Forgiveness doesn’t mean condoning a wrong action; it means releasing ill feelings.

Akrura is a transcendental coach and works as a coordinator for a counselor system for care and guidance for devotees. He received professional training for coaching from New Castle College. For the past eight years he worked with over 300 ISKCON devotees. He has helped devotees succeed in such areas as health, sadhana, relationships, service, and leadership

I am impressed with the work Akrura is doing and how he is so effective in helping devotees become more productive, successful and satisfied in their Krsna consciousness.

I have personally listened to this talk many times, each time gaining new benefit and insight from it. The link to the conversation is found at the end of the email.

Below I outline some of the main points of our conversation.

I can’t

“I can’t” is an obstacle that arises not only with forgiveness but in many areas of life. Embedded in “I can’t” are habitual excuses we make. A good beginning to explore why we feel we can’t do something is by asking ourselves the question, “Why do I think I can’t do it?” The answer to this question increases our awareness of the excuses we make, and how these excuses prevent us from achieving our desired results.

To break the pattern of making excuses, recognize that you are a spirit soul and by connecting properly with Krsna, anything is possible. Even if you feel that you cannot forgive someone immediately, at least dream of what things will be like when you forgive. And always remember that it’s possible to go beyond your modes of nature when Krsna helps you.

Imagine you are a world expert

It’s important to view your situation as a third person. Stand away from your issues and look at them more objectively. For instance, you can imagine yourself to be a world expert and think of a solution for a person who comes to you with your problem. This will help you change your perspective on the situation. Often times devotees have come up with amazing solutions to their problems. So you could ask yourself, “If I were a world expert on forgiveness, what would I tell someone who came to me with the exact problem I have right now.”

Cultivating a strong sadhana

When we regularly read Srila Prabhupada’s books we develop a greater ability to see that everything is a gift from Krsna. Nothing happens by accident and there are lasting lessons to learn even from bad experiences. There are gems embedded in misfortune. Krsna is in control of our lives and He is placing various situations in front of us so that we learn specific lessons. Plus, a devotee always feels that he deserves worse than what he is receiving. Srila Prabhupada often quoted the verse SB 10.14.8,

tate te ‘nukampam su-samiksamano

bhunjana eyatma-krtam vipakam

hrd-yag-vapurbhir vidadhan namas te

jiveta yo mukti-pade sa daya-bhak

A devotee thinks that he deserves worse but that Krsna has sent just a token reaction for his misdeeds.

Accepting higher guidance

When we approach a guide or a coach they will help us get beyond our comfort zone and think beyond our perceived capabilities. With this kind of help we will be able to move beyond our obstacles and forgive more easily.

Forgiveness is a choice

When we are hurt, we usually feel there is no choice but to be angry, resentful, etc. But we can always choose how we respond to any situation. No matter how difficult the situation, we can always respond in a better way. Forgiveness is a choice.

Akrura explains that,” Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our freedom to respond and thus lies our happiness and growth.” 

What are the costs?

What is the cost of not forgiving? Does it really benefit us to hold on to our resentment? We actually pay a very high price to hold onto resentment.

Ask empowering questions

We can always ask ourselves disempowering questions like, “Why me?” or we can ask ourselves empowering questions like, “Where is Krsna in this situation?” “What will please Krsna in this situation?” “What lessons are there for me?” Don’t think why you can’t do it; think how you can do it. Asking empowering questions is a powerful tool for moving forward.

Giving up the negatives 

It’s common to have issues with authorities (temple leaders, spiritual leaders, bosses, parents, etc.). It’s also common to allow these issues to go unresolved. If you you have unresolved emotional and psychological problems, it can make it difficult to open your heart fully to Krsna. Plus, when we give up our resentment, it frees up energy that can be used in Krsna’s service.

Practice forgiveness

When a devotee approached Prabhupada and told him that he didn’t like to bow down, Prabhupada asked him to bow down anyway, explaining that if you do eventually you will feel like bowing down. If we do not feel like forgiving, we should still practice forgiving. Then we will begin to appreciate the benefits of forgiving – and possibly even begin to see the good in those who hurt us.

What Is Forgiveness 

1) Forgiveness does not mean that we must have a relationship with the person who hurt us. We can maintain a distance if that’s what needed to maintain a healthy attitude towards that devotee.

2) We can learn that we are not going to allow ourselves to be exploited again.

3) It may be necessary to punish, but we still must maintain a forgiving heart.

4) When we forgive, we do not have to tell the other devotee or person who has offended us that we have forgiven. Often times the “offender” does not recognize that they have offended us.

5) Forgiveness means to take responsibility for how we feel.

The Audio Newsletter

The lecture is available at http://www.krishna.com/mahatma

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