I had been sort of looking forward to this day: the third Friday of the month when I make it a point to pen down second post of the month. Not because I love to punch away at the keyboard (only occasionally) but this time around, the theme was clear in my head. It’s always a big help when I know what I want to write about. And the thing is that no one can give you the ideas, for, no matter how amazing they are, they appear lacklustre (ideas, I mean, not the people). Inspiration is like forgiveness: it comes from within.
So writing on a different topic every time is not as easy or enjoyable as reading something and pointing out the flaws. Besides, as I always say, what is written without effort is read without pleasure. I try to keep my diary clear on these two days every month so I may whinge the whole day about how I’ve no topic in sight and then sit down at night to scribble something when there’s no other option but to write. I am not sure if you have noticed that over the years I’ve lost a lot of hair. Although I shave my head, even in the event I hadn’t, I still wouldn’t look like Einstein. Now the primary reason for going from a head full of hair to a sparse harvest is because every first and third Friday, I can be seen pulling my hair. Today, however, was not meant to be one such day because I already knew what I would write about.
But, as I read one comment after another on my last post, I was overwhelmed with love. At least on four occasions I teared up. And no, my eyes didn’t well up because of some eye drops. It turned out, it was an allergy. Humor aside, I was genuinely moved. In my mind, I gathered all of you, expanded my form and gave you all one giant, warm, group hug. Emitting the gentle but heady floral scent of jasmine, sandalwood and a dash of citrus in that huddle, the waft carried away all the regrets. In my mind, I told you that no matter what it was, you need not punish yourself for it anymore (I’ll do that for you; just kidding). To the ones initiated, I reminded you that what is the point of our bond if you somehow still don’t forgive yourself. That’s the conversation and experience I had with you all. It is time to put those regrets behind us.
And that’s the thing, you see. A regret, upon realization, is forgiveness in the making. Any regret once accepted and reflected upon matures into forgiveness. The residue from a decomposed regret becomes fertile soil for the plant of forgiveness. This is the natural outcome of a resolved regret. As Plato would say, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” The first person you need to be kind to is yourself. Just as high up in the Himalayas, move a boulder or two aside and you may suddenly discover a perennial gentle stream. Pushing aside the rocks of regrets will allow the brook of self-esteem and self-love to course down every pore of your being.
As you stop being self-critical or beating yourself up over every little thing you could have done differently, you will discover that with each passing moment you are getting stronger. And such strength is the foundation of all virtues. You want to be compassionate, empathetic, loving, forgiving and free? The weak can be none of these. It requires strength. (By the way, if impossible is i-am-possible, does empathetic mean i-am-pathetic?) You want to rid yourself of self-doubt? It needs inner strength. It all begins with being kind to yourself which is not possible unless you are ready to burn your regrets and nurture self-forgiveness in your heart.
The past two weeks, after reading your comments, I’ve been wondering about how to make my prayer on 18-Feb more effective and what else can we do to elevate your consciousness to a level from where only unconditional love flows. I propose the following:
1. The Cremation of Regret
Let’s bid farewell to your biggest regret. Let’s burn it. Literally. So, on 18-Feb, I will finish my prayer for you as per my earlier post at 11:55 PM IST sharp. I invite you to write down your regret on a small piece of paper beforehand. And then you find a way to safely burn that piece of paper. Flush the ash (if any or however little it is) down the drain. You do the burning between 11:55 PM and 11:59 PM IST on 18-Feb (the night of Shivaratri). Hundreds of us will be doing it together. It’s too tiny a number to trigger the pin prick effect, but it’s certainly going to be a lot more powerful than just one person doing it alone. If you would like me to include you in my prayer then please only write your regret in your comment to my previous post. (If you’ve already written then please don’t edit it or post a new one. I’ve already read everything posted till 20-Jan 11 PM IST.) I will only be taking the names and confessions from that post. Any comment of regret on this writeup will be excluded. The cutoff time for writing it there is 18-Feb 10 AM IST. While I said that what is written without effort is read without pleasure, I’m no sadist. Reading a regret is not pleasurable, no matter how painstakingly it’s penned down. Your heart gets all knotted up as you read them. I’ll need some time to collate and absorb them thereafter. Hence, the cutoff time. The regret-funeral will start at 11:55 PM and finish at 11:59 PM. All are welcome.
2. The Plant of Forgiveness
The second part of this exercise is to forgive yourself completely. That we can do by looking after the plant of forgiveness. The idea is very simple. You adopt a plant you already have or get a new one. A tiny sapling or a grown plant, any will do. Stick a label on the pot: The Plant of Forgiveness. Now, you start caring for this plant. Every time you water it, you practice self-forgiveness. You practice self-love, you remind yourself that you’ve burned your regret and that you are committed to forgiveness. What if it’s not yourself but someone else you wish to forgive? You may. But this plant is for self-forgiveness, to purge you of the regret. When this plant of forgiveness starts to wilt, you get a new one but the idea is that you transfer your feelings to this plant. Feelings have this living energy as do plants.
If you are doing step number two, then I recommend that you download Wildr and post a picture of your plant of forgiveness with the hashtag #pof and a caption. I’m hoping as more of us post pictures of our forgiveness-plants, it will help us invoke the pin prick effect. Let’s build a forest, a sanctuary of forgiveness with all the plants. Every week or every now and then, you could post a picture of your plant of forgiveness and how it’s doing. Of course, you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to and you could completely do the entire exercise privately. The idea is to build the community and discipline of self-forgiveness.
What if you have more than one regret? Can you write two on the same piece of paper? Will you burn two bodies on one pyre? No, right? So keep it limited to just one regret, your biggest. We can repeat this exercise at another suitable moment. At this stage, I can’t say whether that will be in six months, one year or some other time. To do justice to everyone and to honor the framework of sadhana, I will only take one regret per person. Further, I reiterate, I’d only take those that are mentioned in the comments in my previous post.
On a different note, I asked ChatGPT to give me a Mulla Nasurdin joke on forgiveness and it came up with the following (paraphrased):
Mulla Nasrudin went to the local mosque and asked the imam to forgive him for all of his sins.
The imam said, “How many sins do you have?”
“Not sure, but I have all the receipts!” Mulla replied.
Every karmic transaction is something like that. We may forget what we said or did, but there’s always a receipt, your proof of transaction. But it does not matter how many receipts there are, as I say often, as long as you are walking towards light, your shadow will always be behind you.
If enough of us did it, hopefully, one day these plants of forgiveness will turn Earth into a planet of forgiveness. After all, what is a planet without plants? Go on now, plant it already.
I hope you take it easy and prepare yourself to bid goodbye to your biggest regret on 18-Feb.