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Archive for March, 2008

After Professor Frederic Luskin’s seminar in Feburary at the Skirball Museum in Los Angeles, forgiveness seems to me to be the extreme to balance regret. One needs regret, and even bitterness, to be honest about traumas, and in order to develop true compassion for both oneself and others, and, in the end, one needs forgiveness as well.  SUMMARY of [and comments on] The Art And Science Of Forgiveness”, 23 February lecture at the Skirball Center, Los Angeles, by Frederic Luskin, Ph.D.: There is a fine line between teaching forgiveness and encouraging re-victimization. To find it, tap into the part of your brain that’s always okay: the “witness” the “little tiny place where we’re all okay, where we can sit with pain (etc.)” and “hold the suffering and decide that I don’t want to give someone else that much power to ruin my life”. Resuscitation of pain, hate, rage, terror etc. are all needed for healing wounds. But also there comes a point when the resuscitation is counterproductive. That’s what your objective witness has to determine. Holding on to past experiences too long re-traumatizes rather than promotes healing. “How is it the fault of 1999 that here in 2006 one has too small a heart? Has [unremitting] slandering created feelings of being centered, peaceful, on top of the world?” Lack of forgiveness can be a way “we punish the world for not living up to our expectations”. “A Grinch heart won’t open until the world is in alignment with expectations. An open heart is less vigilant regarding things going to not work out our way.”  But wounds also are never only about the victim. The perpetrator has inevitably suffered in some way as well, and the path to forgiveness involves eventually searching for that external reality in addition to one’s internal reality. [Forgiveness too soon involves becoming to absorbed too quickly in the ‘big picture” and failing to honestly experience one’s internal reality.] “Taking either extreme of tell nobody or tell everybody impedes recovery.” “All day long, we have two choices: practice condition of happiness, or practice conditions of suffering.” Practicing conditions of suffering is what psychological treatment has excelled at [given that the rest of the world prefers to ignore it]. But practicing conditions of happiness is just as important. Professor Luskin used positive psychology and Buddhist models for how to practice conditions of happiness, integrated into the model he has worked on for years while at Stanford. The transformation to forgiveness “takes place through learning to take less personal offense, attribute less blame to the offender and, by greater understanding, see the personal and interpersonal harm that occurs as the natural consequence of unresolved anger and hurt”. Several meditation exercises were led by Professor Luskin, with comments on experimental results from research on the methods. Five minutes of contemplation of a stressful situation can decrease immune response for four hours. One second is needed to trigger stress reactions, but 6-8 seconds are required for self calming…and then one needs to hold that place even longer rather than again contemplate stress. Simply writing out a list of gratitudes for five minutes once a week can improve health, or at least perceived health. Holding thoughts of someone you love improves well being. Wishing happiness, love, joy and peace to self and others out loud, then whispered, then said only mentally increases one’s sense of emotional equilibrium. And the “Positive Emotion Refocusing Technique PERT”: “(1) Bring your attention fully to your stomach as you slowly draw in and out on or two slow deep breaths. Keep breathing slowly and deeply (into your relaxed belly). (2) Then bring to your mind’s eye an image of an experience with another person when you experienced love, or a picture of a scene in nature that fills you with awe and wonder. (3) Hold the positive or loving feelings that emerge (visualizing that they cluster most strongly) in the area around your heart. (4) Ask this positive emotion voice of yours if it can suggest to you a way to remain peaceful when you think about this interpersonal hurt.” Nine key steps (detailed in Professor Luskin’s book, “Forgive For Good”) in the journey to forgiveness are: (1) Be exact about what you thought and felt, and share that with “a couple of trusted people”. (2) “Make a commitment to yourself to what you have to do to feel better. (3) Understand that your goal is internal peace, not necessarily reconciliation. (4) “Recognize that your primary distress (now) is coming from current thinking, “not what happened two minutes or ten years ago”. (5) Use PERT to soothe your fight or flight responses. (6) “Recognize the ‘unenforceable rules’ you have for your health or how other people must behave.” (7) “Instead of (continually) mentally replaying your hurt” , put your energy into honoring your commitment to yourself as stated in Step 2. (8) “Remember a life well lived is your best revenge.” [A life well lived is perhaps better thought of as “your best restitution” than “your best revenge”] (9) Think of your unforgiving stance as one story, and then create a different story for yourself that includes your heroic choice to forgive. More about Professor Luskin’s work and the Stanford Forgiveness Project at www.learningtoforgive.com . 

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