It is said that the first 10 days of Ramadan are about mercy, and the second ten days are about forgiveness. As we started this ashra (segment) a few days ago, we have the opportunity to forgive, to atone, to apologize, to make peace with others and also with ourselves, which is sometimes harder. When it comes to others, we start with our blood relations, our families first and then moving out to extended families and finally friends. It is said that forgiveness heals the soul, and the one who forgives first benefits the most. I find that to be such a beautiful teaching of the Quran as it is a pathway to peace through humility and conquering our egos!
What makes forgiveness so easy is to remember that as humans we all are subject to our animal brain, or the amygdala as it is called. When we get triggered by a comment or an action that we don’t agree with or don’t like, the amygdala takes over and puts the frontal cortex, our more evolved and advanced part of the brain in the back seat. The amygdala goes into attack mode or flee mode as it is programmed from our hunter gatherer origins to do so. This is also known as the amygdala hijack, as it does not allow the advanced brain to calmly reason and restore respect and dignity of all parties involved. What is so hard is to build awareness of this in the moment! Wouldn’t it be great if we took ten deep breaths, and restarted the conversation or the action all over, and come out peacefully, even if we agree to disagree? The next best thing of course is to reflect on a negative interaction, and put it right. So, there are many easy ways to forgive in Ramadan Inshallah!
I was walking in the park yesterday, and saw a young woman in her twenties walking her dog and her T-shirt said “Trump 2020”. I observed my own reaction: because it was Ramadan and I was trying to be forgiving, I did not roll my eyes or make some nasty internal comment to myself. I said to myself: I wonder what her challenges and worries are that led her to that political decision, and I hope that they get addressed even in a Democratic regime? Instead of being judgmental I tried to be curious.
Wouldn’t it be great if we applied it even to larger society, and had groups in conflict reconcile and make peace? And of course, it is being done in many different ways. Whether it is police violence or race issues or the Left Right chasm in America, we have so much inner work to do as we engage in the outer work with each other. Indeed, the inner reflections are key to having the productive dialogues we need for civic society to sustain and flourish. So happy forgiving to all!