THE CLEAR HEART
Prayer: Father, Mother, God; I find that I am quick to shower the riches of your kindness, tolerance, and patience on people whose brokenness, struggles, and issues are similar to mine. But I can be condescending and judgmental toward people whose weaknesses inconvenience, annoy, or offend me. Forgive and free me as this attitude blatantly contradicts your teachings. I know you love me with the fullness of compassion, acceptance, and delight. The greatest non sequitur in life happens when I withhold the same from others-whoever they are. Deepen my compassion for fellow broken image-bearers of God. Thank you, Father. Amen.
I am loving our experience this month of living from a place of wholeheartedness. And I also love the idea, which originated in native cultures, that the whole heart has four chambers and that the four-chambered heart is the source of sustained emotional and spiritual wellbeing.
The four-chambered heart is described as a heart that is (what?):
Each week this month, we are taking one of those aspects of wholeheartedness.
So far, we've looked at the Open Heart, which is a heart that:
Knows itself AS Love; and then JOINS ITSELF WITH THAT WHICH EXTENDS AND COMPLETES ITS LOVE.
And we've explored the Full Heart, which is a heart that is full to overflowing and therefore is:
Generous and Fully engaged in the act of living.
And today, we move to the third chamber of the four-chambered heart, which is Clarity or the Clear Heart. So, what are the qualities and characteristics of the Clear Heart?
A Clear Heart is willing to forgive,
A Clear Heart makes no assumptions . . .
. . . which lead to a heart that is:
Said a different way, the Clear Heart is:
Free . . .
. . . because it:
is willing to forgive and
makes no assumptions.
This morning, I want us to get to that Clear Heart - the heart that is Liberated and Free -- by exploring and experiencing the characteristics of the Clear Heart.
WILLING TO FORGIVE
The Clear Heart is Willing to Forgive
I know in Unity circles we talk a lot about forgiveness. I suspect hundreds of books have been written, books on forgiveness. I have given - others have given - an abundance of Sunday talks on forgiveness. But in the realm of forgiveness, talk is cheap, words are meaningless. There must be a willingness to actually do it . . . on an ongoing basis!
I love what Martin Luther King once said: "Forgiveness is not an occasional act. It is a permanent attitude."a
To truly embrace having this "permanent attitude" takes some shifts in perspective, and this morning I want to suggest two very powerful such shifts. And at first blush, these shifts might seem like big ones, but I pose that they aren't because they align with who we REALLY are.
The first shift is about seeing things FROM THE OTHER PERSON'S PERSPECTIVE.
In the book Real Love, Greg Baer gives this profound analogy. "Imagine that you are having a most pleasant afternoon having a poolside brunch with a dear friend at your favorite resort hotel. The setting is gorgeous, the food fantastic, the company all you could ask for. As you are midway through this glorious experience, someone from the pool splashes your shoes.
Now you can't see who it is because there are lounge chairs between you and the pool. You are a bit annoyed at getting your shoes a little wet, but you go on with your delightful time.
Then, a bigger splash comes from the pool and drenches your shoes. Immediately following that, a wave comes and gets you even wetter. Suddenly, your "couldn't-be-better" experience is ruined, and you are very, very angry at this inconsiderate buffoon who has just drenched you. Right? This would really tick you off, wouldn't it? Be honest!
So you stand up to walk to the edge of the pool to give the person a piece of your mind and when you do, you see over the lounge chairs to the man in the pool and you realize that he isn't frolicking and having a great time. in fact, he is drowning and trying to save himself."b
Touch into your emotions right now. Is there any place in you that needs to forgive this person for getting you all wet and ruining your day?
Not at all. You suddenly realize that this person wasn't trying to ruin your day, simply trying to save himself. The truth (lower case truth) is that every, EVERY act of unkindness, hurt, destruction that one person does to another is done because the perpetrator is drowning in their own pain, fear, hurt, confusion and trying to save themselves.
Longfellow once wrote: "If we could read the secret history of our enemies we would find in each person's story enough suffering and sorrow there to disarm all hostilities."c
That is the shift in perspective I am proposing this morning: to be willing to see things from the other person's perspective. To have a Clear Heart, we must be able to make this shift.
The second shift isn't about seeing things from the other person's perspective but rather about seeing the other person from a different perspective.
Let me say that again: The second shift isn't about seeing things from the other person's perspective but rather about seeing the other person from a different perspective.d
And it is called Radical Forgiveness. Some of you are familiar with Collin Tippings' work and his book by the same name. It is terrific work, and he has a comprehensive worksheet you can get online that you can work through to get to the bottom line.
This morning, I want to cut to the chase and tell you the bottom line . . . from the Radical Forgiveness perspective, we realize that everything, EVERYTHING we have experienced, we called in for our highest good! For the evolution of our souls. This type of person is who the Dalai Lama calls a sacred friend; somebody who helps you grow your heart, if you are willing.
And what is interesting here is that when we have these two shifts in perspective - truly, deeply, genuinely have them: When we see from the other person's perspective and when we see the other person from a different perspective . . .
. . . there really is no need to forgive. There are different emotions - compassion, understanding, and empathy in the first; gratitude and appreciation in the second.
FREE FROM ASSUMPTIONS
The Clear Heart is Free from Assumptions
The second quality of the Clear Heart is the heart that is free from assumptions. Those of you who have read Don Miguel Ruiz' great book, The Four Agreements, know that "don't make assumptions"e is the third of four agreements.
Assumptions can really lead us astray. Let me give you an example. This ad appeared in the Atlanta Journal:
SINGLE BLACK FEMALE, Seeks male companionship, ethnicity not important. I am a very good-looking girl who LOVES to play. I love long walks in the woods, camping and fishing trips, and cozy winter nights lying by the fire. Lovingly prepared dinners will have me eating out of your hand. I'll be at the front door when you get home from work, dressed in what nature gave me. Kiss me and I'm yours. Call 782-9876 and ask for Daisy.
Would you be like the more than 150 men who called the number and were quite surprised when they found themselves talking to the Humane Society about a black Labrador Retriever puppy?
We have the tendency to make assumptions about . . . well, just about everything. There are so many things that our minds cannot explain; we have all these questions that need answers. So instead of asking questions when we don't know something, we fill in the gaps with our assumptions.
We have a powerful imagination, and we start to imagine all kinds of ideas and stories. We start imagining what other people are doing, what they're thinking, what they're saying about us, and we dream things up in our imagination.
The problem with making assumptions is that we believe they are the truth! We invent whole stories that are only truth for us, but we believe them and then act from them. We assume we are right about something to the point that we will damage or destroy relationships to defend our position.
Making assumptions in relationships leads to a lot of difficulties, a lot of misunderstandings with people we supposedly love. Often, we assume that our partners know what we think and that we don't have to say what we want. We assume they are going to do what we want because they know us so well. And, if they don't do what we assume they should do, we feel hurt and say, "How could you do that? You should have known."
In The Four Agreements Don Miguel Ruiz writes: "The way to keep yourself from making assumptions is to ask questions. Make sure the communication is clear. If you don't understand, ask. Have the courage to ask questions until you are clear as you can be . . . Once you hear the answer, you will not have to make assumptions because you will know the truth. This is the path to personal freedom."f
Ruiz suggests that by making this one agreement a habit, your whole life will be completely transformed.
Ruiz: "Once you recover all the energy that you invested in making assumptions, you can use that energy to create a new dream: your personal heaven."g
And that is quite liberating, isn't it?
And there we have it. A Clear Heart is:
- Liberated and
- Free . . .
. . . because it:
- is willing to forgive and
- makes no assumptions.
If you recall, at the beginning of our time together, I said I wanted us to not only explore, but in fact experience having a Clear Heart, so that is what we will do now.
To practice this forgiveness meditation, let yourself sit comfortably, allowing your eyes to close and your breath to be natural and easy. Let your body and mind relax. Breathing gently into the area of your heart, let yourself feel all the barriers you have erected and the emotions that you have carried because you have not forgiven - not forgiven yourself, not forgiven others. Let yourself feel the pain of keeping your heart closed. Then, breathing softly, begin asking and extending forgiveness, reciting the following words, letting the images and feelings that come up grow deeper as you repeat them.
FORGIVENESS OF OTHERS: There are many ways that I have hurt and harmed others, have betrayed or abandoned them, cause them suffering, knowingly or unknowingly, out of my pain, fear, anger, and confusion. Let yourself remember and visualize the ways you have hurt others. See and feel the pain you have caused out of your own fear and confusion. Feel your own sorrow and regret. Sense that finally you can release this burden and ask for forgiveness. Picture each memory that still burdens your heart. And then to each person in your mind repeat: I ask for your forgiveness, I ask for your forgiveness.
FORGIVENESS FOR YOURSELF: There are many ways that I have hurt and harmed myself. I have betrayed or abandoned myself many times through thought, word, or deed, knowingly or unknowingly. Feel your own precious body and life. Let yourself see the ways you have hurt or harmed yourself. Picture them, remember them. Feel the sorrow you have carried from this and sense that you can release these burdens. Extend forgiveness for each of them, one by one. Repeat to yourself: For the ways I have hurt myself through action or inaction, out of fear, pain and confusion, I now extend a full and heartfelt forgiveness. I forgive myself; I forgive myself.
FORGIVENESS FOR THOSE WHO HAVE HURT OR HARMED YOU: There are many ways that I have been harmed by others, abused or abandoned, knowingly or unknowingly, in thought, word or deed. Let yourself picture and remember these many ways. Feel the sorrow you have carried from this past and sense that you can release this burden of pain by extending forgiveness when your heart is ready. Now say to yourself: I now remember the many ways others have hurt or harmed me, wounded me, out of fear, pain, confusion, and anger. I have carried this pain in my heart too long. To the extent that I am ready, I offer them forgiveness. To those who have caused me harm, I offer my forgiveness, I forgive you.
Let yourself gently repeat these three directions for forgiveness until you feel a release in your heart. For some great pains you may not feel a release but only the burden and the anguish or anger you have held. Touch this softly. Be forgiving of yourself for not being ready to let go and move on. Forgiveness cannot be forced; it cannot be artificial. Simply continue the practice and let the words and images work gradually in their own way. In time you can make the forgiveness meditation a regular part of your life, letting go of the past and opening your heart to each new moment with a wise loving kindness.
Thank you God for this opportunity to forgive. Amen
aMartin Luther King
bReal Love, Greg Baer
dRadical Forgiveness Collin Tippings
eDon Miguel Ruiz The Four Agreements
fThe Four Agreements Don Miguel Ruiz p. 72
gDon Miguel Ruiz The Four Agreements