The key step to allow forgiveness to be more than an intellectual thing.
I hope life is finding you well as fall rolls on, and the winter and holiday season approaches for those of you celebrating. Now is a time we can take a deep breath before it all unfolds, and perhaps prepare to dive a little deeper, and turn inward in harmony with the seasons. So as we settle into a steady rhythm again, and take a nice exhale with relief and joy, I would like to pick up where we left off, and explore the nature of forgiveness.
What does it mean to forgive? Many have heard the saying that we forgive, not to excuse the behavior that initiated our grievance, but to free ourselves from the pain. The process of forgiving brings about healing. But how do you do it? Is it enough to think "I forgive you," or to say it?
Healing through forgiveness begins with the desire to find peace, and also claim your power in the situation. This may seem obvious, but I feel it is important to mention, because there may be times that we are still hooked on making someone else (or ourselves) the perpetrator and blaming them. In such a case we aren't even ready to consider viewing the circumstance in another way. A part of us may be juicing the effect of being a victim (we actually feed off of the biochemical response in our body).
When we are ready to find peace, and step into this power, it may not necessarily look like what you would expect at first. The first step in taking this responsibility is to tend to your feelings. What emotions does the said situation elicit, and how do you experience these feelings in your body? Perhaps you feel anger, sadness, despair, rage, powerless, or indignant. How is that emotion currently "living" in your body? Meaning, as you experience the emotion do you feel a flush of warmth in your face and torso, and weakness or emptiness in your chest, heaviness in your head, etc? Once you become aware of what sensations are associated with your emotions and this event, the practice is in allowing yourself to fully feel it exactly as it is in your body, without trying to push it away, or change it into something else. This may take some time. Be patient with yourself. Breathe.
After several minutes, a few hours, or maybe even days (there is no set timeline) of allowing yourself to be with how you feel, eventually the charge of the emotion will start to dissipate. It is possible that you may need to repeat this step several times. There may be more layers of the emotion, or the sensation might morph into something else. Just continue the practice of being with whatever it is, and breathe. If you have been carrying this resentment or guilt around for a while, may take some time.
Once the smoke clears, it is likely you will be able to access a deeper understanding of yourself, what was going on for you at the time, and if there is a nugget of wisdom there for you. You may also be able to see any other individuals involved, or the situation itself from another perspective. There may be lessons here to integrate regarding having healthy boundaries, or self-care. Make note of what you notice.
This is the space where true forgiveness is possible. A state of being where we offer ourselves the attention and compassion we've needed, and a willingness to see and understand the situation from a lens of a broader truth. From here, peace can grow.
So, what has been your experience with forgiveness? Have you been able to find peace with situations which once upset you? If so, what has supported you in doing so? If you apply the above process to cultivate forgiveness, and are willing to share your experience, I'd love to hear from you. Please comment below or send me an email.
Wishing you all deep peace, and a beautiful Thanksgiving.
What's in Your Gunny Sack?
It's time to throw your gunny sack in the fire.
Have you ever had an interaction with someone, where they get upset with you for a seemingly insignificant reason? It takes you off guard, and you can't really understand why they are so hot and bothered. Perhaps, eventually that person shares that there is really something else going on for them, and you both realize that the blow up was merely a trigger for what was happening underneath.
Let me introduce to you the "gunny sack." Each of us metaphorically has a gunny sack that we carry around with us. Anytime we feel an injustice and aren't able to forgive, we add it to our gunny sack. Anytime we choose others over ourselves, and we feel resentment because we aren't getting what we need, we add that to our gunny sack. Anytime we hold any sort of grudge or grievance we pack it into our gunny sack. If we don't pay attention, what was a light, clear sack becomes a heavy burden we carry around with us. The weight of others' responsibilities, being unappreciated, and not cared for makes us solemn, detached, and angry. Most of the time we don't say anything, and maybe we even try to pretend it isn't there because it feels so difficult to change. But every once in a while, everything that we have really been feeling, that we have stuffed into our gunny sack (perhaps even from years ago), is knocked from our shoulders and spills out onto those around us, those we care about. It becomes like a oil spill contaminating our environment and covering us all in slimy, goopy, sticky mess. So what do we do about it?
First of all, remember that we are all human. Please be kind and gentle with yourself that you have been carrying this around. It hasn't been easy, and most of us have not been taught how to work with these feelings and situations in ways that honor ourselves AND others. If you are an innocent bystander in the "spilled gunny sack", please have compassion (for both you and the person who is upset). Know that no matter what is expressed, it really has nothing to do with you.
Second, take a moment to tune into what you are feeling. There may be a variety of things going on within you. Give space to all of it. There is room. As uncomfortable as it may seem at first, these feelings will not kill you... that is the illusion of the "heavier emotions" (especially if you have been carrying them for a while). Giving these feelings space is what will bring you relief. Remember to breathe, and offer more and more room for the sensations to be exactly as they are. (Think of this as a practice in unconditional love.) If you feel overwhelmed by the sensations, go one bit at a time. Doing so will help relieve some of the pressure that has built up.
When you're ready, ask yourself what am I really needing here? What core value of mine is not being met? It may be space, solitude, quiet, safety, joy, freedom, appreciation, connection, purpose, etc. Please note, it will not something specific that you "need" someone else to do. If you find yourself going in that direction return to your feelings and give them room to be exactly as they are. Blaming or wanting someone else to change is a diversion from what is really going on. If you follow that blame, you will reinforce what is in your gunny sack and continue chasing your tail.
Once you have a sense of what you need, breathe it in. Feel that the air you are inhaling is saturated with love, joy, appreciation, safety, (whatever your need is). Visualize it going to the parts of you that have been shut off from receiving it. Hear yourself offering kind words filling this need. Be your own best friend. Know that all your needs are met once you allow it. Notice what begins to shift in you.
Eventually, things may shift within you enough that you are ready to empty the injustices in your gunny sack. You can imagine everything you have been carrying being recycled into your core value, or even throwing the sack into a fire so it all is released. You are free.
If you find yourself struggling with any part of this process, receiving energywork can help. It allows you to get out of your own way, and dissolve the gunk while you rest. Let me know if I can help you with this process.
Reiki Master Teacher and Owner of Embrace Your Essence
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