In the past few months, I have been delivering a program about diversity and acceptance at various schools. In one of my classes, the kids asked about being angry at people and carrying this anger. So we had a serious talk about forgiving and letting go.
Letting go is not easy for kids to understand. Unfortunately, many adults do not understand it either and cannot explain it to their kids.
I told the kids to imagine that anger, disappointment, sadness and other negative feelings are like stones that we carry on our back. We have a backpack with limited capacity and every negative feeling we have adds a stone to the backpack. Some of these stones are heavy, while some are lighter.
I could see that when I gave kids a visual presentation of the feelings, it was much easier for them to understand. Here is a beautiful story that explains this in another way:
Two Zen monks were traveling when they reached a shallow river. A young woman was standing on one side of the river.
“Can you please carry me to the other side of the river?” she asked the monks, “I am afraid the current is too strong for me to cross on my own”.
The older monk approached her, lifted her in his strong arms, crossed the river and stood her gently on the other side of the river. The young woman thanked him and rushed off.
The younger monk was shocked to see his master touching a woman. All the way to their destination, he could not stop seeing the young woman in his masters’ arms. After a long silence, he could not keep his thoughts any longer. He turned to his master and said, “My great master, can you please explain to me how you could carry that woman if we are not allowed to have any contact with a woman?”
The old master smiled at his student and said, “I touched the woman with an innocent mind in order to do a good deed. As soon as I was done, I put her down and left her by the side of the river. You, on the other hand, have been carrying her the whole day”.
When people feel that life is tough, it is because they carry heavy stones on their back and find the burden too heavy. If you are wondering what you can do to get rid of some of this heavy load, here is what you need to do:
- Open your backpack and discover all the heavy stones. Take a piece of paper and write down all the negative feelings you have towards yourself, your partner, your kids, your family, your friends, your work, your health, your daily tasks, your dreams, your unfulfilled desires, etc
- Next to every negative feeling, put a number between 1 and 10. You want to find out the heaviest stones in your backpack. If you feel something often and strongly, put a 10 beside it. If it is a rare, mild feeling, give it a 1.
- If the feeling is because of something you cannot change, let it go! You cannot change the past anymore, so you might as well stop suffering from it by letting it go.
- Adopt the idea of “I’m OK, You’re OK“. Remember that we all do the best we can and sometimes (many times) we are wrong because we do not know ahead of time what will be the best option to choose. If your mindset is that you are OK and that others are OK too, it will change your perception of your own behavior and of others’. You will become accepting and this will help you relax a great deal.
- If you have negative feelings towards someone else’s actions, the best way to get those stones out of your backpack is to forgive. When you forgive people for things they have done, you let go of the negative feelings and bring yourself relief. Learn to forgive yourself and others. Start by saying “I forgive him/her” and “I forgive myself”. Do it many times until you feel the anger dissolve.
- Use holidays and birthdays for annual backpack checks. We all need to clean our backpacks from time to time and get rid of old and moldy stones we carry around.
- Sometimes, other people will try to lighten their own load by throwing their stones at you. If you catch their stones, this will make your load heavier and you will also be angry at the other person for throwing their stones at you. This is what happens in many conflicts. Instead, forgive the other person for trying to lighten their load and sidestep their stones. Ask yourself “How do I feel?” to help you separate the other person’s feeling from yours.
Have a light journey through life,