The unforgiving Octopus.
Don't get me wrong, Octopus are marvelous creatures. Intelligent problem solvers, they apparently have a little brain in each of their tentacles in addition to a big one in their head. My tentacles should be so fortunate. They also respond to affection.
That said, I had a vivid spiritual image this morning in meditation that involved an Octopus. The teacher that was holding the meditation invited us to do a forgiveness practice with, and for our ancestors. Western culture is not so big on ancestral focus, but those who came before us are responsible for our being here, and hopefully in a good place. Thank you grands, great-grands and onward.
"I wonder if, in the dark night of the sea, the octopus dreams of me."
N. Scott Momaday
I was meditating on the possibility of angels and other protectors who might be holding the dark at bay for me, and a vision came up in my mind of being on the other side of a big glass barrier with an angry octopus on the other side. It was looking at me with a scowl, and writhing its tentacles against the glass, trying to get through. It seemed like a concentrated symbol of all my karmic debt with souls that to whom I have caused suffering. I felt safe enough, so I had a dialog with this creature.
"Will you please forgive any harm I have caused you?" I asked.
"Never!" Shrieked the octopus. "I will never forgive you, forever I will not forgive."
Without pause, I said,
"Then you will be trapped in darkness forever. Is that what you want? To never be free? To never have light?"
"It doesn't matter, it only matters that you suffer for what you have done!"
All the while pounding against the glass. Looking closer I could see that there were manacles at on each of the tentacles, and that each tentacle grasped an object. One was what looked like a cannon ball, or a bowling ball, heavy and black. Another held a pitchfork, one more held a big live coal, burning red. All represented some long held bitterness, some long cherished revenge. All the animal would have had to do was let go of the object, and the tentacle would be free of the manacle, it would simply have slid off.
"Can you see that if you let go, your arm would be free? You would be free?"
The writhings of the Octo slowed a bit, it was thinking.
"But then you wouldn't suffer."
"Why is it important that I suffer? It won't change what happened. It doesn't seem fair, but that original suffering itself is bound tightly to you until you let go of it."
The creature hung motionless in the water, considering.
"Would it help if I said, I'm truly sorry that it happened, and I acknowledge your pain? I do deeply regret all stupidity, cruelty, indifference and unconscious behaviors I have caused any soul. I really do. I will do better, I will not do those things again. I will serve."
The Octopus continued to look at me with it's hooded eyes, unblinking.
I tried again.
"Just try one tentacle, let go of the live coal. Doesn't that hurt? Let it go. See what happens. If you don't like it I'm sure there is some other dark think you can pick up if you really want to."
Slowly, slowly, the tentacle with the fiery coal raised up, and released its hold. The coal fizzled away, and the manacle slipped easily off. The Octopus had seemed to be a sort of grey-brown color, but the liberated tentacle became filled with colored light, animated with life. It commenced to performing some kind of light art work in the water, a delicate filigree of intricate designs in gold and silver. The eyes of the Octopus popped wide with wonder, reflecting the light.
At this point, my mind came up out of the meditation, and the vision ceased.
The analogy seems clear enough. If we persist in clutching fiery coals, how can we be free to express our highest possibility?
My own experiences with forgiveness have been sometimes immediate, accompanied by a great whoosh of relief and joy. Others, more often, have been a process, a wearing away sort of thing that does take time.
I can say that I am more free, happy, peaceful and loving than I have ever been in this lifetime, and that a great deal of that condition comes from a persistent and sincere forgiveness practice. My teacher, Master Sha, has blessed me with countless gifts of blessing and learning, and forgiveness is surely one of the first and foremost of these powerful treasures on my spiritual journey.
It's like house clearing. What is in your house that can be let go? Let it go. Imagine if all our tentacles were set free.