Yesterday’s class was most inspiring. I go to the end of the world, to a different reality, not knowing what will take place.
At the end of the class Benito raised his hand. “You talked about forgiveness,” he said. “Can I tell you something?”
Benito is one of the inmates that does not miss a class. Strong, self contained energy, waiting to open up and exhale.
“I have been here sixteen years,” said Benito. “I don’t know when I am getting out. I have done some bad things in my life. Since the age of four I am in foster homes. Always fighting, always hurting people. These sixteen years, terrible things were done to me. I learned how I hurt people. I got hurt the same way.”
There was silence in the room as Benito spoke. The guards suddenly straighten up, seemingly attentive, losing their blank faces.
Benito continued: “Forgiveness is tricky isn’t it? It come and goes for me. I forgive and then I get hurt and get crazy.”
“Look Benito,” I said. “Forgiveness is like being pregnant. You cannot be 80 percent pregnant. You are either pregnant or you are not. Same with forgiveness. If you haven’t forgiven totally, the 20 percent will screw you. It will come unexpected and fuck you up again.” Benito smiled.
“I have struggled with that for years,” I continued, “there were situations in my life where I thought I really forgave what was done to me. Then I found out that the seed of vengeance was still there. We all need to work a lot deeper than we are willing to admit,” I said. “Look at what happened to Christ. We don’t want a shock of that nature to force us to let go and forgive, do we?” Benito said, “Are you Christian?” “No,” I answered, “I was born Jewish.” “Forgiveness crosses over all religions, all cultures and colors. It’s universal. If you don’t learn how to forgive, your life is in the gutter.”
James raised his hand. “Would this meditation help us forgive?" “How can it not,” I said. “Basically, at our core, we are all a forgiving lot. We don’t want this poison in our veins. Sometimes we think we do because we have a void inside. You unfold inside yourself. You peel the layers and I promise you, amidst the pain, the anger, forgiveness will suddenly show its shiny face.” They all laughed. I laughed. At myself. I never considered myself a talker. I liked silence and the meeting of the eyes and souls. Talk to me was a distraction. A coverup. But here I was, talking away.
I looked at their faces and saw my words register in them. Little did they know they were teaching me an invaluable lesson. I love these guys. For their guts and their ability to survive in an impossible place. I love Rudi for taking the dead human being that I was and breathing life into him so he can bring life to others. As I was talking, I remembered the endless hours of sitting in Rudi’s company in his store. Sitting quietly. Most of the time, silence prevailed. Every now and then, Rudi would go into a long talk and then stop and work with me. He said that someday his energy would be such that there would be no need for talk. I remember thinking what a great goal to strive for.
The class stretched over two hours. The guards were getting restless. I was exhilarated. I knew I had to stop before it becomes my need and not the reality of the situation at hand.
Meditating by myself at home, Benito’s face appears in front of me. So does James’ and three other inmates that have made a connection to this work.
I drove back feeling tired and uplifted at the same time. I had to sit at home and surrender the experience otherwise it will flood me and turn into a fantasy.