Zen Spot #182 — Mindfulness, meditation and the rowboat of forgiveness May 9, 2018 00:00


In my family of origin, it was common for family members to go years without talking to each other. Serving soup instead of pot roast could cost the server ten years in isolation. Walking by a relative’s home on the way to a scheduled appointment would be met with shunning. Asking to borrow hedge trimmers instead of buying one’s own was akin to Pete Rose betting on baseball.

I was taught how to hold a grudge. Grudges are warm blankets. Grudges are strong houses. Grudges are the most beautiful camouflage. Grudges are more tasty than dark Swiss chocolate — or so I thought.


Early in recovery, I was introduced to the idea that we are all born with two gods — our mother and our father. With each comes a power no less perfect than the god to which they teach us to prostrate ourselves. Blind trust is built into the relationship, no matter the result. And, like the language and accent of the dieties, we mimic what we see and hear, more than almost anything we are formally taught.

One’s interior

Feeling forgiveness, I’ve found, is like pushing a row boat with a very small hole in the bottom away from a dock at sunset, with the knowledge that it will eventually fill with water and sink somewhere on the lake, shrouded in darkness, never to be found again. Pursuant to the analogy, the boat was my grudge and, depending on the perceived offense, I could have been rowing for years. Too, at times, I’ve owned a fleet so massive, I could have walked across a miles-wide lake by hopping from boat to boat. 


Forgiveness is a decision that comes one boat at a time. Waiting for forgiveness to arrive, like a ship into port, means the vessel will never arrive. In a sense, the boat must be built in the shipyard of the mind.


The feeling of the bow separating itself from my foot, as I sit on the dock, having pushed it toward the horizon with the ball of my foot, is as sweet as the chocolate mentioned above, Olympus be damned. Dangling one’s feet in cool water following its departure is sweeter still. Relief ensues, as does forgiving oneself for wasting precious time withholding forgiveness.

Damning Olympus

Forgiveness requires a decision — a rational decision about a learned feeling so gooey that no amount of math or analysis can justify the decision. Reason, paradoxically, must be rejected in the same way that one was taught to reject rational thought in order to water the tree of grudgedom. Trust, rather, must be embraced, with the belief that one’s pain will subside.

Admitting to feeling the pain can generate another grudge.

One’s pain

The human mind is an amazing invention. Its ability to adapt and contort knows few bounds. In particular, with time, the pain inextricably chained to a grudge grows far beyond the grudge itself. Like a burrowed tick, it can fill with so much blood that the insect will grow to twenty times its original size. The growth, however, happens so slowly, that the increase in pain is barely noticeable until one pushes the boat away from the dock and allows one’s feet to dangle in the cool water.

Build the boat. Drill a hole in the bottom. Wait until dusk. find the bow with the ball of your favorite foot.

Push it away.


About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?