Freedom: Better By Monday

Is forgiveness enough to set us free from the pain others cause?

A student wanted to understand forgiveness, so he asked a wise teacher. The teacher instructed the student to think of all the people who had been unkind to him in some way. Then the teacher had the student carve the name of each person who had been hurtful onto potatoes. One by one the potatoes with the names on them were loaded into his sack.

The teacher instructed the student to carry them around for a week. As the week wore on – the sack grew more burdensome to carry. The odor from the rotting potatoes was becoming unpleasant. The student returned to the teacher at the end of the week and reported that he knew the moral of the lesson.

The child explained that he knew he must forgive each person who caused an offense instead of carrying the memory of the hurt with him because the weight and stench of the offenses make his life harder. He further reported that he had worked to forgive each person who had hurt him.

The teacher instructed the boy to unload all of the potatoes of the forgiven people from his sack. He then asked if anyone had been hurtful this past week?  With dismay, the student knew he had new names to carve into new potatoes. He was frustrated and worried that his sack would never be empty of the burden of being offended by others.

“I can’t control what others do to me!” The child exclaimed. “It isn’t fair that I must carry a burden because others cause me harm.” The student was overwhelmed by the perpetuity of the process of forgiveness.

The Teacher then inquired, ” Why were the potatoes put in the sack in the first place?”

The student didn’t grasp the question, but he guessed out loud, “To learn to forgive.”

The teacher helped the child see he knew how to forgive all along but what he didn’t know how to do was not to carry a sack which collects and holds old pain.

The child had a new question, “If the potatoes are offenses, what is the sack?”

The question made the wise sage smile.

“Is it my capacity to personalize offenses?” The student answered his question with another question.

The answer was profound, “Remove the sack you carry and no offenses can fill it.”

(This is a short and simplified version of a story found in Chapter 12 of the book, The Tao of Daily Life by Derek Lin.)

One Thing to Do: Do you have a sack which collects personal injuries? Instead of carrying it around with you, set it down for one day. Don’t carry a hurt that is offered to you – say to yourself, “That is not about me.” 

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S, LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.

Better By Monday: Write Out Your Worst

Better By MondayYes, write a list of your worries and/or fears down on a piece of paper and look at them. Keep the list focused on your biggies, probably not one, but not more than ten. Once you’ve done this put them away in a container or box.

Many religious, spiritual, and secular traditions around the world use worry mandalas, images, icons and figurines to allow people to mentally deposit their worries and fears and then move on with their day and their life. It’s a way of acknowledging their existence, treating them with the respect they deserve (meaning, they are of real concern to you) but also allowing you to LEAVE them be, for a time, and free yourself to get on with regular living.

For you it might be as simple as a daily or weekly list, folded and stored in an old shoe box or plastic container. You can replace the old one each time by throwing it away and depositing the new list. However, you may want to date them and keep them all. Any practice that works for you is what will work!

Try it! Just doing this simple activity can actually help you do better work, and enjoy relationships more because as you no longer carry the fears inside you the odds of them leaking (or screaming) out at random times is lowered. Leaking your fears onto others can inflict pain or confusion on those you love.

This isn’t denial. You are accounting for all of them by placing them on a list in a container – you are also creating a situation where they don’t upstage what you need to do (perform your best) for the present moment. You are taking back control of your choices and thoughts and giving space for the thinking you need most in the moments of your life you really want them to be pure and undiluted.

This is a practice, maybe too simplistic for some, to regain personal peace. But the very essence of freeing yourself from excessive fears and worries is an act of courage over something most within your control – your thoughts, how you animate them (with fears, emotion, wisdom, anger, etc. etc. etc.) and your choices around how to respond to, manage or simply influence them to regain a moment of peace.

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., L.P.C.

Better By Monday is a blog about one thing you can try, over the weekend, to feel a little bit better by Monday.

Zest of Life, LLC.