Posts Tagged ‘Forgiveness’

Elder Retreats Launched

December 2nd, 2011

Carol and Peter - Shalom Elders

by Michael Thomas

I don’t think I’m qualified to be an Elder” was what I said when Lawrence asked me to step into that role.  In fact, I wrote him a very long letter to elaborate on my feelings (which he completely ignored). But something happened over the 2011 work weekends. An invitation went out from Joy and Lawrence to any of us who thought we were at least old enough to qualify as elders: Let’s convene over Sunday breakfast to hang out together and discuss—what? Not sure. And what’s an elder anyway?  Come and see and let’s talk about who we are today and what we want.

In those little meetings in the back office, we fell gratefully back into the arms of community as we had known and loved it at Shalom. It was still there. We told our truths, shared our uncertainties about whether we still belonged here, wrinkles, bellies, and all, we shared our longing for renewing that powerful core sense that there was a place beyond our own homes our own families where we could still belong fully expressed with all our warts and glories. We wanted more.

And so was born the first Shalom Mountain Elder Retreat ever. It was overbooked solid without a single phone call. The waiting list remained long. It didn’t matter that we were still figuring out what an elder is anyway. The magic of the mountain was still strong. We spent a super time reconnecting with our tribe, our cohort, those with whom we share so much history.

It started low key, Joy and Lawrence leading. Stories Friday morning in which we all began to articulate what it meant to us to have arrived at this point in our lives. Friday afternoon we took time to list our personal and professional accomplishments over our lifetimes, and then to share with the groups those of which we are particularly proud. Many of those accomplishments express skills and talents that still have significant value not only to Shalom but to the broader world community in which we live.

In the evening, we were reminded that along with the bright light of our accomplishments, we still have darker sides to attend to and heal. Sobering questions explored in a fair witness framework: Who has hurt or betrayed us who we now need to forgive? Who have we hurt or betrayed who we now need to ask forgiveness And finally, how have we betrayed or hurt ourselves and what can we do to make amends and heal?

We then looked beyond our own lives to examine our relationship to the wider Shalom community. It was a little challenging, since there were no members of the wider community there to express how they see and what they would like from us. Nevertheless, being intrepid elders, by this point of the weekend, we pressed on to draft a statement of our purpose and role on the Mountain.  Here it is:

“We the Elders of Shalom continue to dedicate ourselves to the transformational journey of living life to the fullest. We are a dynamic community that embraces the Skills and Principles of Loving. As a vital part of the Shalom community, we use our resources to inspire generosity, creating positive change. As we look to the past and the future with wisdom, love, and spirit, we share our gifts and passions with each other, the Mountain, and the world.”

Additional Elder Retreats are being planned for the future. We can’t wait!

The Call to Radical Intimacy, Radical Forgiveness

August 20th, 2011

Tom Goddard

Shalom Mountain’s founder, Jerry Jud, said a few years ago that, in all the process work he led at Shalom over the years, he never witnessed one that did not involve forgiveness. I found this to be a surprising statement when I first heard it, but have come to understand it more deeply as I explore the relationship between intimacy and forgiveness.

To “walk a mile in another’s shoes” is the first step to forgiveness. If we can simply see, even at the most basic level, from another’s perspective, we are more likely to understand how it is that they took the actions they took, made the decisions they made. At this level of perspective-taking, we might get to the point of being able to say, “well, I can see how he/she might do that, but I still cannot forgive him/her.”

Greater understanding, certainly, but not quite forgiveness.

Perspective-taking has different levels. At the most basic level, we are looking purely at exteriors. We might see another’s upbringing, or social status, or gender, and gain a deeper, if incomplete, understanding of their perspective.

When we move into another’s interior experience — imagining their thoughts, emotions, sensations — we are engaged in an exercise of intimacy, or “into me you see,” as some have called it. There are many levels of intimacy, of course. If I don’t know someone’s interior landscape at all, my rendering of it in my imagination is more like a cartoon — broad assumptions that bear only a passing resemblance to a complex inner reality. The more deeply I know someone’s interior — the more intimate I am with him/her — the more subtle is my rendering of their interior landscape. This is why, sometimes, we can more easily forgive people with whom we are intimate: our perspective-taking is deeper, freeing up our capacity to forgive.

There is a level of intimacy that we cannot attain through our experience, however, no matter how well we know another. In fact, we would be hard-pressed to attain that level of intimacy with ourselves, in large part because so much of our own activity is borne of processes operating out of our own conscious awareness. If we cannot fully know our own process, how, then, can we fully know another’s?

This is where we are invited to make a radical move involving faith and imagination. Imagine that there is a perspective on a person’s activities and choices that takes into account all of his/her interior landscape. This perspective incorporates the simple exteriors (the biography), the conscious interiority, and the unconscious interiority. From that perspective, every action, every decision, makes perfect sense. From that perspective, if only we had access to it, we might even say, “ah, that was the only choice he/she could make.”

Again, we do not have direct access to this perspective. We can, however, imagine that such a perspective exists. This perspective might be called Radical Intimacy. What is fascinating is that, as we contemplate Radical Intimacy, we are likely to conclude that Radical Forgiveness flows easily from it. How could we not forgive actions, decisions, that make such sense at this deep level?

Here’s the last move to which we are invited, then: If we believe that such a level of intimacy exists — a level at which Radical Forgiveness is almost automatic, and that it is only our human limitations that prevent us from accessing that intimacy, might we not be able to forgive based purely on this belief? Might we not be able to say, based on this belief that this Radically Intimate perspective exists, the following?

“I know that this action of mine/his/hers is radically understandable, and therefore radically forgivable? That being the case, I will forgive my/his/her action based on my belief.”

Yes, it’s a stretch. Yes, it is an advanced practice. Yes, it could take years of practice to get to such a place. Yet, the call for us to forgive — ourselves and others — is relentless and urgent.

All the more reason to get working on it right away!

This blog post is adapted from a post that originally appeared at The Integral Company. For more posts by Tom on issues related to consciousness and mindfulness practice, click here.

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Tom Goddard has been a member of the Shalom Community since 1997, and leads the Men’s Gathering and retreats on consciousness at Shalom Mountain. He serves as a member of the Shalom Mountain Executive Council. Tom is the CEO of The Integral Company and Integral Healthcare Solutions. He received his doctorate in psychology from George Mason University and his law degree from the University of Arizona.