Forgiveness is something few ask for, and yet it’s a beautiful facet of the complex relationships that we create as human beings. Forgiveness is about others, true – your spouse, your parents, your siblings, a co-worker, a long lost friend…but don’t forget yourself. Forgiveness begins with you, with your willingness to check in with your heart and ask yourself, “have I forgiven myself today?”. It is important to take a moment to investigate your own mind and emotions, especially if you think this is something you don’t need, “so I’ll just skip practice for today…”.
But remember, our theme this week is TRANSFORMATION, and authentic, meaningful transformation requires a bit of investment. The more you put into it, the more you’ll get out…
According to Dr. Samantha Boardman, and many, many other reputable sources, the regular practice of forgiveness is scientifically linked to lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol rates, lower mortality, lowered stress hormones and a lowered rate of cardiovascular disease. Forgiveness also correlates with improved immune function, healthier sleep habits, longer, more satisfying relationships and an increased sense of overall well-being.
Start with today, try and recall all your thoughts from the last few hours. How many of those thoughts were negative and directed toward yourself? “I’m so bad, I slept in.” or “I’m so stupid, I forgot to make that phone call.” or “I don’t deserve to be treated with respect.” The tape goes on and on, doesn’t it? One of my teachers used to tell me, “burn that tape!” meaning I need to stop reinforcing those negative and self-defeating thoughts.
But when we examine the root of these negative thought patterns, we find a lack of forgiveness. Not the kind of forgiveness that you require from someone else who wronged you in the past, but the only kind of forgiveness that can transform you from within: you have permission to forgive yourself right now.
“I forgive myself for sleeping in, I forgive myself for not making that phone call, I forgive myself for not taking a stand…” If this is a difficult process, please take that as a good sign. It means you have touched something authentic, a real obstacle to your spiritual growth…and we all need obstacles! Try free-form writing, ad-libbing a speech to yourself, talk to yourself in the mirror, share with a close friend. “I regret that I wasn’t closer to my mother before she passed…I recognize that I could have done things differently. Today I forgive myself. Today I let go. Today I move forward with my life.”
“…and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…” is such a powerful line from the Lord’s prayer. May we extend the same generosity of spirit in forgiving ourselves as we willingly and lovingly extend to others. In the Shamanic tradition we speak of “cords” that others may have psychically tethered to you. These cords are common within family dynamics and have to do with unmet expectations, broken promises, betrayal and unfinished business. They can transcend time and space, and truly do sap your vital force, keeping you from realizing your infinite potential and living in your true wisdom. It may help to use the image of ropes or strings or chains when invoking the ties that keep you bound in unhealthy relationships. What do they look like? How strong are they? Where do they connect or wrap or tie to you?
Once you have meditated on these cords, you now have the golden opportunity to free yourself and others through forgiveness. “This is mine, that is yours. I forgive myself for allowing this cord to linger between us for so long, I forgive you for trying to control, manipulate or change me with this cord. I cut this cord with love, with compassion and with forgiveness so we both may be free.” If you have access to a real shaman, they can help guide you through this process or you can use this as a way to meditate on forgiveness.
Now is the moment to recall past hurts or wrongs, to acknowledge lingering emotions and to let them go. Now is the time to offer to others your compassion and generosity of spirit in openly sharing forgiveness – even if you don’t know exactly what for. It is not uncommon for those who are close to death to ask their loved ones for forgiveness. For what? we may never know. But that doesn’t matter. In those precious moments that we share, when our hearts and souls are bare and grieving, forgiveness is a salve for aching spirits and a key to the gates of infinite love and compassion.