When I was 18 years old, two major life events happened to me for the very first time.
- I fell madly in love with a boy.
- The bastard completely broke my heart.
Our relationship lasted for a blissful 4 months, until the school year ended and he left to travel around Europe for the summer. When we met again 2 months later, the spark had gone…for him, not me… and he ruthlessly broke up with me.
I specifically remember not being able to absorb WHY he broke up with me. I remember feeling like some clerical mistake had been made and it was all a big misunderstanding which would soon be sorted out. When I realised that no one was going to turn this around for me, I became sad…and I must admit not only a little bit angry!
Of course at that age it doesn’t take too long to bounce back and move onto the next, but I couldn’t seem to shake the anger and the feeling of betrayal ….until one week…. 4 years later.
It was 1995 and I was backpacking through Nepal. I randomly decided to spend a week in a Buddhist monastery to learn a bit about the religion, but it turned out that I got much much more.
I got onto a bus in Kathmandu, looked at the bus driver who had a bottle of whiskey in his hand and an evil smile on his face, and braced myself for a very scary ride through the bumpy Himalayan mountains. By the time we arrived, I had no blood left in my face, I was on the verge of tears and my stomach was turned upside down. I managed to stumble to the registration office, where I was promptly told that I had to take a vow of silence to participate. THIS IS NOT FOR ME! But my only alternative was to get back on the bus with the insane and inebriated bus driver…. so I decided to stay. I asked the nun behind the counter what the course was actually about?
‘FORGIVENESS’ she said.
I was awoken at 6am the next morning and led to a colourful temple filled with pillows and a huge intimidating statue of the Buddha. The Lama in charge was dressed in a comfortable orange robe and the most adorable smile. He looked so much like Yoda from Star Wars that you couldn’t help but like him. ‘To become enlightened’, he said, ‘you must learn to overcome negative thinking. Every thought leads to another thought and so you must always think with compassion and wisdom’.
Yoda tells us to close our eyes, and think of the one person who has made you the angriest in your life….So I conjured up memories of the Heart Breaking bastard. ‘Now try to see the situation from their point of view’ he says ‘ What drove them to behave this way? Try to put yourself in their shoes and remember that they are human just like you, with problems and worries, trying to be happy and make the best of life.’
It was tough, but I did manage to find another way to look at the situation…. He must have had a severe case of heat stroke! Yes, that was it. He went temporarily insane with the high temperatures and possibly the topless babes on the beach. Why had I not seen this before?!
The week was full of different perspectives that challenged the Western way of thinking, but the most profound lesson of all was this:
Difficult situations are the most productive in personal growth. Therefore someone who stimulates anger is actually giving you the chance to learn what you need to develop. It follows then that when people make us angry, they are actually your greatest teachers….
What did the Heartbreaking Bastard teach me?
Caution? Humility? How to be young and bitter?
No, this man actually gave me the opportunity to learn about forgiveness.
Having spent the last 4 years feeling hard-done-by, I realised that the only person suffering was ME. The feelings of sadness, anger, hurt were doing nothing but burning up my insides, giving me a cynical edge. I realised that I had a choice, that I will always have a choice, to not hold onto anger….. and instead to forgive. It is simply a healthier way to live.
I left the monastery feeling at peace as I headed towards the Annapurna circuit to start trekking. All the time I was wondering how much of a difference the Buddhist lessons had made in real life. Would I still feel so forgiving outside the secure walls of the monastery?
With a backpack on my back, I headed down the Himalayan mountains, and when I finally reached the bottom….. standing right there in front of me…….was my ex-boyfriend. (This is a true story by the way, I am not making this up).
I stared at him in shock, and he stared back at me. It took several minutes to realise that this was real. We broke the silence with a big hug and a long chat, and it didn’t take long to realise that I had learnt the valuable lesson of forgiveness.
Thank you for reading,