The world breaks everyone and afterwards many are strong in the broken places.
Forgiveness is the cancellation of all the conditions in your mind that are preventing the flow of love, joy and vitality through you, independently of the behaviour of others or of any circumstances. It is a decision not to punish yourself, not to continue to diminish your overflowing love, joy or freedom because of the real or imagined wrongs done by others, or because of outer circumstances. Forgiveness is an act of loving will - of mental and spiritual will. It cannot and does not take place on the emotional level, the level on which most problems arise.
Forgiveness is a process that takes place in stages and one set of tasks needs to be completed before the next step can be taken. A great deal of damage is done by making the demand of ourselves or others that they "forgive" prematurely. If it still hurts, then you have not yet found that special place where the heart heals and the flow of love is restored. If we have not acknowledged exactly what happened, told the story, identified why it hurt so much, we cannot free ourselves from the distress we carry. Intense emotion distorts perception, so it can help to separate out the events themselves from the meaning they have for you, to check out your assumptions. We cannot forgive until we are ready to, until we want to; the world is full of people stuck in grief and bitterness, with resentment towards others and life itself for the way they have experienced the unfolding of their story. We continue to block the flow of love through our lives until we reach the point where (generally because it hurts so much) we want to release ourselves from the distress we are causing ourselves. Another person hurts us once and we repeat the injury over and over again as we recount our tale and drive the knife into our flesh and weep that the world is so.
Forgiveness is such sweet release. Our holdings cause us suffering; opening the heart, letting go, restoring the flow of love, releasing all our demands that anyone or anything should be the way we think, for us to love ourselves, others and life itself has the power to transform even the deepest of hurts, the strongest of holdings. To open to the flow of love, to cradle ourselves gently and acknowledge that yes, it is so, it hurts THIS much, is to begin the journey that leads to a heart at peace with the world.
(by Stephen Levine)
Begin to reflect for a moment on what the word "forgiveness" might mean. What is forgiveness? What might it be to bring forgiveness into one's life, into one's mind?
Begin by slowly bringing into your mind, into your heart, the image of someone for whom you have some resentment. Gently allow a picture, a feeling, a sense of them to gather there. Gently now invite them into your heart just for this moment. Notice whatever fear or anger may arise to limit or deny their entrance and soften gently all about it. No force. Just an experiment in truth which invites this person in. And silently in your heart say to this person "I forgive you". Open to a sense of their presence and say "I forgive you for whatever pain you may have caused me in the past, intentionally or unintentionally, through your words, your thoughts, your actions. However you may have caused me pain in the past, I forgive you." Let go of those walls, those curtains of resentment, so that your heart may be free, so that your life may be lighter. "I forgive you for whatever you may have done that caused me pain, intentionally or unintentionally, through your actions, through your words, even through your thoughts, through whatever you did. Through whatever you didn't do. However the pain came to me through you. I forgive you. I forgive you." It is so painful to put someone out of your heart. Let go of that pain. Let them be touched for this moment at least with the warmth of your forgiveness. "I forgive you. I forgive you." Allow that person to just be there in the stillness, in the warmth and patience of the heart. Let them be forgiven. Let the distance between you dissolve in mercy and compassion. Let it be so.
And now gently, giving yourself whatever time is necessary, allow the person to dissolve as you invite another in. Now gently bring into your mind, into your heart, the image of someone who has resentment for you. Someone whose heart is closed to you. Notice whatever limits their entrance and soften all about that hardness. Let it float. Mercifully invite them into your heart and say to them "I ask your forgiveness. I ask your forgiveness. I ask to be let back into your heart. That you forgive me for whatever I may have done in the past that caused you pain, intentionally or unintentionally, through my words, my actions, even through my thoughts. However I may have hurt or injured you, whatever confusion, whatever fear of mind caused you pain, I ask your forgiveness." Allow yourself to be touched by their forgiveness. Allow yourself to be forgiven. Allow yourself back into their heart. Have mercy on you. Have mercy on them. Feel their forgiveness touch you. Receive it. Draw it into your heart. "I ask your forgiveness for however I may have caused you pain in the past. Through my anger, through my lust, through my fear, my ignorance, my blindness, my doubt, my confusion. However I may have caused you pain, I ask that you let me back into your heart. I ask your forgiveness." Let it be so.
Feel their forgiveness now as it touches you. If the mind pulls back, thinks it deserves to suffer, see this merciless mind. Let it sink into the heart. Allow yourself to be touched by the possibility of forgiveness. Receive the forgiveness. Let it be. And now gently bid that person adieu and with a blessing let them be on their way, having even for a millisecond shared the one heart beyond the confusion of seemingly separate minds.
And now gently turn to yourself in your own heart and say "I forgive you", to yourself. Calling out to yourself in your heart, using your own first name say "I forgive you" to you. If the mind interposes with hard thoughts, such as that it is self-indulgent to forgive oneself, if it judges, if it touches you with anger and unkindness, just feel that hardness and let it soften at the edge. Let it be touched by forgiveness. Allow yourself back into your heart. Allow you to be forgiven by you. Let the world back into your heart. Let forgiveness fill your whole body. Feel the warmth and care that wishes your own well-being. Seeing yourself as if you were your only child. Let yourself be bathed by this mercy and kindness. Let yourself be loved. How unkind we are to ourselves. How little mercy. Let it go. Allow you to embrace yourself with forgiveness. See yourself in the infinitely compassionate eyes of the Buddha, in the sacred heart of Jesus, in the warm embrace of the Goddess. Let yourself be loved. Let yourself be love.
And now begin to share this miracle of forgiveness, of mercy and awareness. Let it extent out to all the people around you. Let all be touched by the power of forgiveness. All those beings who also have known such pain. Who have so often put themselves and others out of their hearts. Touch them with your forgiveness, with your mercy and loving kindness, that they too may be healed just as you wish to be. Feel the heart we all share filled with forgiveness so that we all might be whole. Let the mercy keep radiating outward until it encompasses the whole planet. The whole planet floating in your heart, in mercy, in loving kindness, in care. Whole world floating in the heart. All beings freed from their suffering. All beings' hearts open, minds clear. All beings at peace. May we heal the world, touching it again and again with forgiveness. May we heal our hearts and the hearts of those we love by merging in forgiveness. By merging in peace.
The basic forgiveness process
(by Guy Pettitt)
- I choose to stop hurting myself for what (name of person) has done.
- Address the person in imagination - use a chair or cushion to represent the person.
What you did made me feel …………… I would have preferred if you had said and done ………….
- But you didn't do that. I don't want to hurt myself any more for what you have done. I'm tired of the discomfort I get from all this. I want to finish this now. I choose to heal this and let it go completely. I am choosing to be free of it now.
- I would have preferred that you had ……………. but you didn't do that and I cancel that expectation.
I cancel all demands, expectations and conditions that you do (or say or be) what I would have preferred in the past and now. I cancel the demand that you be any certain way. You are totally responsible for your actions. I give that responsibility back to you now (gesture that for you is giving back that responsibility), and I release you now to your own good."
- Close your eyes and raise your consciousness to the Higher Self. Imagine the love that your Higher Self has for you. Allow the compassion and love from the Higher Self flow into you and release all the demands and conditions and expectations. Feel the positive qualities of the Higher Self, the part of you that has protected you, loved you and nurtured you all the days of your life.
- With eyes still closed say to the person you are forgiving
I send this love out from my Higher Self to you just as you are and have been, and I release you to your highest good.
Feel this love flowing out from you to this person. Take your time to experience this.
Now be aware of your body and how it feels. Find out if you are still holding on to any demands that this person change in anyway. When you have done what you can, feel deep gratitude that you can feel love and send it out to the forgiven person. The relief will come.
My experience of forgiveness
A final comfort that is small, but not cold: the heart is the only broken instrument that still works.
My motivation for this entire project comes from the power of the experience I had that magical weekend in Benburb when I did the love and forgiveness skills training with Guy Pettitt. I have done lots of powerful training courses in my time - like the deep ecology work I did with Joanna Macy, but nothing has transformed my experience of the world more than that weekend with Guy.
It took more than a decade's hard graft, the bombing of Omagh and that weekend for me to find the place in myself where I could truly and wholeheartedly forgive my daughter's father for his behaviour both when we were in a relationship and subsequently. It was a long, challenging road and I didn't always behave myself particularly well - people in pain do dreadful things. I remember clearly, the morning after the Omagh bombing finding that for the first time, I could see that everything he had ever done was just human. It took exposure to that atrocity in all its gore for me to see that he was no more that someone acting out of pain and confusion, much as I was.
But when I did the love and forgiveness skills training, stage by stage, step by step, over the weekend days in a safe supportive circle, I release myself from all the holdings I had around him. The benefits of doing so act like a stone thrown in a pond. Slowly the ripples move outwards and I can see just how much I have healed beyond myself in healing this within myself.