I have just finished my first term as the new Head Teacher of the Dharma Primary School, the first primary school in the UK to be based on Buddhist values, with mindfulness at its heart. As a practising Buddhist, loving kindness is central to both my personal practice and the school’s ethos. Forgiveness is a companion to loving kindness. I believe the world needs more forgiveness because everyone makes mistakes; it is part of the human condition - and many people have a tricky relationship to their own, and other people's, mistakes. It is so important to teach children how to forgive; to forgive others and themselves. Making mistakes is part of life’s learning process and forgiveness helps us develop compassion for all living beings including ourselves.
As a Buddhist meditation practice, forgiveness has three aspects: the first is extending forgiveness to others (that you feel hurt or harmed by), the second is to ask for forgiveness from others for your own behaviour, and the third is to offer forgiveness to yourself. Forgiveness demands courage and is about moving forward with an open heart, free of the weight of hurt, guilt and negativity, so we can be fully present to life again. When I do this practice regularly, I feel lighter, as if my muddy thoughts have sifted and settled and things feel clear again.
Forgiveness is not weak and does not mean we condone the misdeeds that have been done, or that we are in some way letting people walk over us if we forgive them. Forgiving is not forgetting; it is not ignoring the consequences of our actions or that of others. We can make a commitment to ensure that those things do not happen again as it is important we learn from mistakes and that we are responsible for our actions and in how we address the behaviour of others.
Forgiveness is about applying insight and compassion to oneself and other people in order to better understand ourselves and the wider human condition - and to come to the peace we long for. It is a crucial aspect of well-being, both in a personal sense and for the world at large.
For more information visit www.dharmaschool.co.uk