Zen and Taoist author William Martin of Chico writes that "forgiveness is not something to be figured out." Instead, it's something to be practiced, but from the perspective of what he calls the "Tao Mind," "a direct experience of the spacious unconditional acceptance found in the Tao . . . the Mystery behind all mysteries."
Rather than offer "Ten Tidy Tips to Total Forgiveness" Martin writes that "I am constrained by the nature of the Tao Itself to offer stories, parables, poetry, and meditative exercises." He is a gentle and self-deprecating guide as he ushers the reader into "The Tao of Forgiveness: The Healing Power of Forgiving Others and Yourself" ($15.95 in paperback from Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin).
Martin is scheduled to appear on Nancy's Bookshelf, hosted by Nancy Wiegman, this Saturday at 4:30 p.m. on KCHO (Northstate Public Radio) in Chico at 91.7 FM. In addition, he'll be signing and discussing his book at Lyon Books in Chico on Wednesday, May 19 at 7:00 p.m.
For Martin, what stands in the way is "the conditioned mind, or ego in its many forms, that does the resenting, clinging, shaming, blaming, wanting, needing, judging, and suffering that limit our experience of the intrinsic forgiveness of the Tao Nature and of our Tao Mind." The twenty-three short teaching stories in the book are designed to help the reader move, if for just a moment, from the labels and categories applied by the "conditioned mind" to the nonjudgmental acceptance of all that is.
But such acceptance doesn't mean that everything is "okay." In one of the Tao Mind exercises, Martin writes that "I would never suggest that our anger is wrong. It is merely what it is--an emotion stirred by a reaction within us that someone or something is wrong and that wrongness makes us feel unsafe. Our forgiveness practice involves turning our attention, first to the one within us who is feeling that anger and fear, and then letting the natural energy of our Tao Mind, uncontaminated by this fear, direct our course."
Though Martin's worldview is very far from my own, his book offers interested readers a taste of how an ancient tradition might speak to a modern world full of anger and fear.