When we hurt others, and our conscience is awake, we suffer. While having a conscience is good, the Buddha is all about the ending of suffering, right? So, what do we do?
Bhante Bodhidhamma is a vipassana (insight meditation) teacher of over 20 years experience. He offers some very helpful insight practices to help us heal our hearts and perhaps (where possible) become reconciled with those we’ve hurt.
(This is Part 2 of a three-part series on learning how to forgive ourselves.)
In Part 2, Bhante Bodhidhamma shows how to heal guilt and remorse through meditative exercises based on vipassana, or insight meditation:
Let the occasion when you have hurt someone come to mind.
As the memory rises, become more aware of the emotions arising around it. Feel their texture while keeping the occasion in mind.
Sometimes you may be able just to feel the emotions and let go of the memory. This is very healing.
If the concentration is not strong, the mind will wander.
It will be indulging one of those emotions by way of fantasy. When you wake up from the fantasy, acknowledge what has happened and that you have unwittingly developed that attitude.
Then return to the exercise with a firm determination to stay with the presenting emotion. This is easier if you stay at the level of bodily feelings and sensations, such as the heat of anger or the queasiness of anxiety.
Continue to use the memory to see how the emotions were created by you.
This will stop you blaming the other.
Keep feeling those emotions directly until you feel they are decreasing.
This will give you confidence that all you need to do to purify the heart is to suffer gladly the states of mind you have created. For since you are no longer empowering them by way of fantasy, they will simply die away.
Recognise also how you are reacting to those emotions.
What do you feel about those attitudes? Do you find yourself not wanting to feel the guilt, shame and dread? Does a sense of satisfaction or joy arise when you see you have got your own back? What is the judging mind saying to you? Are you allowing yourself to agree and so indulge all the aversion? And so increase your suffering!
Can you see what a burden these emotions are to the heart?
Acknowledge them for what they are—negative, unwholesome, unskilful, life destructive, not life-enhancing, undermining our capacity to love.
We must change our attitude towards the person we have harmed, especially if we harbor thoughts of jealousy and hatred. This is best done at those times when the heart is not inflamed with shame, guilt and remorse.
Jealousy is not just covetousness or simply wanting what another has, but the same laced with hatred of the person. It is a true cancer in the heart. The healing comes when we teach ourselves to rejoice in another’s good fortune.
Hatred and dislike are overcome by contemplating the virtues of the person. We are not denying the unwholesome attitudes in them, but simply putting the person in proper perspective.