‘Because you are alive everything is possible’ Thich Nhat Hanh
Yesterday was the International forgiveness Day and I have taken the opportunity today to write down some of my own readings and explorations on forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a powerful self-healing tool. Its positive effects can help us find peace in our own heart! It can help us find new ways to free ourselves from self-limiting beliefs we hold about ourselves and the suffering and internal turmoil these beliefs cause us. These may have been caused by previous lived experiences of real or perceived wrong doings to ourselves or others.
Observational studies and some randomized studies have shown that practising forgiveness can lower levels of depression, anxiety, reduces substance abuse, hostility and help raise self-esteem and promotes a greater satisfaction in life in general.
When we step beyond the ties of suffering and pain these experiences caused us – we can realign our self with our true essence. Remembering all our unique talents and treasures and how we can use them to live rich and colourful lives.
‘Letting go gives us freedom and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything- anger, anxiety or possessions- we cannot be free.’ Thich Nhat Hanh
Forgiveness means freeing yourself of the pain caused through these happenings. By forgiving yourself or others you give yourself the gift of re-newal.
It doesn’t mean you forget what happened, or simply accept the wrongdoing. In fact its crucial to take steps to empower yourself to step out of negative situations. However, moving forward it allows you new perspectives on the situation and possible paths of re conciliation. Most importantly it can free us from the recurrent impact of negative emotions.
‘Forgiveness doesn’t mean forget what happened; if something is serious and it is necessary to take counter measures. You have to take counter measures.’ Dalai Lama
A recent Harvard study on forgiveness also explores the power of letting go.
It discusses that forgiveness can be both decisional and emotional.
According to Dr Vander Weele-co-director of the Initiative on Health, Religion and Spirituality at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health-
Decisional forgiveness involves the conscious decision to stop wishing bad things to happen to the person who wronged you and replacing it with a neutral or positive outlook towards the person. This can be relatively quick to achieve with some support and focus.
When working on emotional forgiveness, we try to shift focus from these negative feelings and work towards reducing the time we spend revisiting the wrongdoing. This can take longer to achieve as it is common to re visit these emotions regularly especially when thinking of the offender or being faced with something that re triggers the memory. This can lead to you as such reliving the situation.
So how can we learn to forgive:
Dr Vander Weele suggests practising small acts of forgiveness: for instance, if someone is rude to you or cuts you off in the traffic. Realise it was uncomfortable, accept it was not directed at you personally and forgive the person on the spot. That way you have the power to immediately stop the negative chain reaction and feelings associated.
Similarly, I have found that the simple rule ‘don’t take it to bed’ works very well.
Resolve any disagreements with a partner, family member or child before you go to sleep. This has hugely beneficial effects in allowing you to get the full restorative and rejuvenating effects from sleep without your subconscious and emotional body carrying on processing the hurt and resentment overnight.
As discussed earlier the Harvard study undertaken by Dr Vander Weele recommends the REACH method for unravelling forgiveness:
The first step is to re call the wrongdoing in an objective way. The goal is not to think of the person in a negative light or wallow in self-pity, but to come to a clear understanding of the wrong that was done. Visualise the person and situation and all the feelings that come with it. Don’t push aside anything, especially if it makes you feel angry or upset
Try to understand the other person point of view regarding why he or she hurt you, but without minimizing or downplaying the wrong that was done. Sometimes the wrongdoing was not personal, but due to something the other person was dealing with. ‘’People who attack others are sometimes themselves in a state of fear, worry, and hurt’’ says Dr Vander Weele. ‘’They often don’t think when they hurt others, and they just lash out’’.
This step is about addressing your own shortcomings. Recall a time when you treated someone harshly and were forgiven. How did it make you feel? Recognizing this helps you realize that forgiveness is an altruistic gift that you can give others.
Commit yourself to forgive. For instance, write about your forgiveness in a journal or a letter that you don’t send or tell a friend. ‘’This helps with the decisional side of forgiveness’’ as per Dr Vander Weele
Finally, hold on to your forgiveness.
This step is tough because memories of the event will often recur. ‘’
So when the going gets tough remind yourself of your forgiveness, wish the other person well, talk to a trusted friend or seek the support of a professional therapist or health practitioner.
‘’Forgiveness is not erasure; it’s about changing your reaction to those memories’’ Dr Vander Weele
A similar approach is taken in the ancient Hawaiian practice of Ho’oponopono.
Ho’oponopono is a Hawaiian prayer- a practice of forgiveness and reconciliation. This powerful practice has been used for centuries in Hawaiian tradition to promote self-healing and also the healing of the whole community who was thought to be affected when digressions happened amongst its members. Traditionally it would have been guided and facilitated by experienced elders or medicine men and women in the community.
In modern-day, this practice has found its way into family therapy settings, daily meditation practices as well as having been found of enormous benefit as part of rehabilitation programmes in prisons.
It uses the prayer and mantra
‘I am sorry –
Recognizing and accepting responsibility for the actions, thoughts and emotions that have caused conflict to manifest into your reality
Please forgive me
A request to make amends with your higher self and the universe alike
I thank you
An opportunity to show gratitude to your higher self as well as the universe for allowing your negative thoughts actions and emotions to be cleared.
I love you
Can be sent out to yourself, another person or the universe itself as a form of gratitude. I love you for these earthly experiences and the learning I have gained.
‘In common with other shamanic traditions, the Hawaiian tradition teaches that all life is connected. Ho’oponopno is, therefore, not only a way of healing ourselves but others and our world as well.’ Timothy Freke, Shamanic Wisdom keeper
So take a moment for yourself today and see what is holding you back in your life. Take the leap! Commit to the path of forgiving and be free 😊
Karin Mueller is co-owner of Solaris tea and has been working in the field of wellness and health for over 20 years now. She is a Medical Herbalist (BSc Hons), practising Midwife (BSc Hons), Massage and Spa therapist and experienced course facilitator and teacher on a wide range of topics related to mindfulness, meditation and women’s health. She is currently also studying in the ‘Medicine of Light’ school to deepen her spiritual practise.
If any of the content above has triggered difficult emotions in you or you feel you need extra support please do talk to a trusted friend or family member, link in with a local support group or connect with a professional counsellor or health practitioner.
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