We have all been hurt and we have all hurt others. We all have a few things that we have done that we regret and we hold on to. We could all use a dose of gentle forgiveness…to lighten our daily life and to live and love more fully. To live without regret. To love without holding back.
Today I led a group of Georgetown faculty and staff in a sweet forgiveness meditation. It was beautiful to see how people looked different – literally looked different – at the end of the hour. Faces were relaxed. Eyes were softer. Mouths were smiling. There was a quietness to the group and at the same time, an aliveness. There was a sweetness and the softness was palpable.
This is the power of following that Taoist adage: “When in doubt, do less.” This is the power of OPENING to our present moment experience – even if there is pain and suffering in this present moment — and STAYING. BEING with the suffering rather than pushing it away or getting swept away in it.
As I looked around the room right before we finished up, I found myself in awe of the courage each of the participants had to show up and be willing to meet their suffering…and stay. To gently go to the places of hurt and be a gentle, loving presence. I teared up. Such courage gets me every time.
I am amazed again and again how LITTLE we need to “do” in order to heal. Our bodies innately know what to do to heal. Like when we get a cut on our hand. We don’t “will” our hand to heal. We do our part to gently clean the wound and dress it. Then we wait for the body to do what it knows to do.
The same goes for the wounds of the heart. We can do our part to gently tend to the hurts there…and then, to forgive.
How? Here are 5 Gems of Forgiveness:
– Recognize that forgiveness is a process. It’s not a “once and done” deal. Just when we think “Oh I’ve ‘arrived’! I’m done with that hurt”…it shows us another layer. Instead of beating yourself up with, “I thought I was done with that! Why can’t I get over it?”, forgive yourself! Be gentle with yourself. Say to yourself, “Ahhhh, so this is another layer!” Greet it with kindness, with the gentleness that you’d show to a child who just skinned their knee and is coming to you for comfort. Don’t push your own self away. Befriend him or her.
– Recognize that forgiveness is about SLOWLY opening, allowing and receiving rather than doing or forcing. Our intent to forgive + Grace (from the Universe, from the Divine) = forgiveness. The process isn’t about “doing” anything — thinking about it, going into the story again and again about how your mom hurt you or how you hurt your ex-husband, and analyzing it. We can’t will it. We show up. We offer our mustard seed of intention to forgive — ourselves and others. And then we just say, “I’m open to Grace.” And we wait. We allow and we wait. Our “work” is in cultivating the mindfulness and compassionate practice to “hold space” for ourselves. Our “work” is in creating the “container” that holds the space for forgiveness and healing to organically arise.
– Drop the story. While “sharing our story” has a place in every culture, the type of “story sharing” we often do is anything but healing. We call a friend and complain and complain. We go into the minute details of the story – “…can you believe….?!” While we might get a momentary sense of relief, that relief doesn’t last long. The wound is still there. Check in with yourself. See if this rings true for you. Healing isn’t in the story of he-said/she-said and talking about it over and over and over. Instead it’s about cultivating presence within our own selves to abide with whatever arises. There is a time for sharing and seeking the presence of another person to hear us and understand us.
– It’s about being with what arises in you IN THE BODY. In this compassionate and mindful approach to forgiveness, we learn to bring our attention to what arises within us — the sensations, thoughts, emotions, images, movements of the body, etc. As we practice, we deepen our capacity to notice what is here in our present moment experience, how to “get grounded” when necessary, and then very slowly (and this is what heals) how to be with the bound energy — the “activation” or “charge” — within us. And we learn to allow it to organically shift as we bring skillful presence. When we have caused others pain and when we have been hurt by others, there can be a lot we still hold/carry. This forgiveness practice is about going gently with the intention of honoring the innate longing within us for intimacy — with our own selves and others.
– Remember that you are not alone. When we are suffering, our world can become quite myopic. We can think that we are the only one suffering. This loneliness breeds more sadness, more hurt. Put a prayer out into the universe saying, “May every person who is experiencing this (anger, sadness, disappointment, grief) be free, be comforted, feel loved.”
Our fullest gentle and compassionate attention is our deepest expression of love and healing. True healing happens with “being with”, softening, and gently abiding with what arises.
Ask yourself, “Am I holding back?” In my life, in my affection for another, in my regard for myself? If a “yes” crops up, it’s possible that we are holding on to something…and in need of forgiveness. This holiday season, give yourself that gift of full, gentle, compassionate presence. Life will be sweeter, lighter by Spring. 🙂
Many blessings to each of you.Blessings,