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Learning to Forgive

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Carrying Pain

Often we hold grudges our whole lives, I have found myself still identifying, 35 years later, as the child that was bullied at school. This pain and resentment still comes up and therefore was colouring my life, I was still being bullied, but this time by my own thinking. What happened to me at school was over a period of 6 years, it was devastating at the time, but the effect tainted my life for 35 years later. It changed my thinking, led to lack of trust, self dislike, defensiveness, aggression and depression. It is like a heavy suitcase that I have carried around, the reason I carried it was that I refused to forgive, instead of moving on and seeing how good things are now, I was tainting my life with the clouds of the past, carrying around this poison.

Many people have had some horrific experiences in their past, but allowing them to define our future happiness only prolongs the suffering. We need to learn how to put the past down, it is no longer who we are and we should not be defined by it. Forgiveness does not condone or deny what has happened to us, instead it recognises it and says, “What happened was wrong, but it can’t be changed and I will not suffer over it anymore”. As long as you do not forgive you will carry it around inside of you, suffering until your last breath.

Forgiveness also works both ways, often in our past we too have done things on purpose or accidentally that have caused pain to others. These acts whether we realise it or not, sit inside us and fester like an open wound that we react to whenever it is poked. The only way that we can heal this is to ask for forgiveness from ourselves, if not it develops into self dislike and leads to low self esteem, acts of self harm and depression.

How to Forgive

We practice this short meditation to heal ourselves, often we have lost contact with the people that were involved in the hurt either to us or from us and there are some people that it is not practical to approach because they also have not addressed their own pain. But this does not mean that we cannot start healing ourselves and it is from a physical and mental health point of view very important. Often we have also done things throughout our lives that we are not proud of, things that have hurt ourselves, so this is the first place to start to ask for forgiveness.

This practice can be done anywhere, but if you are in a place of quiet where you can gain some concentration the effects will be even better, this is because with concentration you go beyond judgement and also allow your wishes to be more deeply embedded in your mind.

The Meditation

Take a comfortable sitting posture that you can stay in without moving for the desired length of your meditation. Close your eyes and take a deep breath then breathe out letting all thoughts and tension drop away. Slowly scan from the top of your head to your feet and release any knots and tensions you come across by breathing into them.

Pay attention to your breathing, each time you breathe out let your body relax. Make a half smile on your face, relax once more and picture yourself sitting there smiling with either a thought or image.

Now gently inside you head say to yourself:

“ (your name here) if I have hurt you in any way, knowingly or unknowingly, please forgive me”

Say this slowly and gently with meaning three times and each time picture yourself gently saying back

“I forgive you”

Now think of someone that you have hurt in some way, picture them in a happy state of mind and gently inside your head say to them:

“ (their name here) if I have hurt you in any way, knowingly or unknowingly, please forgive me”

Say this slowly and gently with meaning three times and each time picture them gently saying back

“I forgive you”

With this one you can go through multiple people, start at the easiest and move towards the hardest, allowing your concentration to build up, your main focus is always on the emotional feeling behind the phrases, the feeling of forgiveness.

Now think of someone that has hurt you in some way, start at the easiest and work your way towards the hardest, one at a time, picture them individually in a happy state of mind and gently inside your head say to them:

“ (their name here) for any have hurt that you have caused me in any way, knowingly or unknowingly, I forgive you”

Say this slowly and gently with meaning three times and each time picture them gently saying back

“thankyou”

How it works

Emotions get attached to our thinking patterns, the more often we exercise certain thoughts and react to them the stronger the emotional charge that arises with those thoughts gets. When we think of that person or situation it triggers off the attached emotions and we get swamped, this then causes us to react and in turn we give more energy and importance to the memories and emotions then setting up a cycle that ensures that they will come up again and again with renewed strength.

By exercising a different thought pattern and purposely generating the positive emotion when we visualise that person or situation we start to weaken the old thought and emotional pattern with a new one. If you do this regularly the new thought pattern and its positive emotion will become dominant, the old one will weaken through lack of use. Because the new thinking pattern has a pleasant emotion to it, once the old pattern is weak you can then decide whether you want to pay any attention to either of them any more, or just put them down and move on with your life. Generally your obsession with these past events just gently fades away.

An example is of a well tended plant in a garden, if we regularly water and feed the plant, even though it is a thorny bramble that will cause us pain, it will grow bigger and stronger. But if we cease to water and feed that one and tend to a different plant, one that will bring us happiness, even though the old one is healthy and strong eventually it will shrivel up and die through lack of sustenance and be replaced by the new flourishing plant.

Summary

We cannot change what has happened in the past, we can learn by it but should not allow it to colour and control our happiness in the present. In reality all we have is this present moment, in its simplicity and beauty, why taint it with past memories and pain when we have a choice. To be happy or unhappy, its your choice not anyone else’s, no one can make you unhappy, it is something you decide by where you place your attention, what you think is important, knowing this how do you want to spend the rest of your life?


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This article was written by Stephen Procter, instructor from Tai Chi Health for Life, Australian College of Tai Chi & Qi Gong and Meditation Instructor from Meditation in the Shire, Kirrawee NSW, Australia. If you wish to post this article on another website or in a publication please respect the author and reference / link back to this website, thank you