Practicing forgiveness

For the past six months we have been descending into darkness and, symbolically and physically, to a more reflective and spiritual place. We want to sleep longer, do less, and spend more time in the dream realm. While the relentless pace of out modern lifestyle doesn’t leave much room for slowing down, it’s impossible to completely bypass this biological and rhythmic need.

This winter we celebrated the end of the Mayan Long Count, one of the major measurements of time from the expert astronomers of that civilization. As the solstice turned on Saturday, I was reminded of the symbolism of cycles embedded in Christmas and the birth and death of Jesus Christ. Hanukkah, too, is a celebration of coming out of darkness into light. Thousands of people over thousands of years have celebrated this special time of the year.

As the new year approaches we practice letting go of the past year, letting go of the things that no longer serve us–our sins, guilt, shame, anger, destructive habits–and the things that we have lost, to emerge renewed and “reborn” with the slowly lengthening day. As this blog has covered before, forgiveness and letting go is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your spirit and your relationships. Here is a prayer/meditation to help forgive, not only others but ourselves as we are often our harshest critics. (adapted from “Stephen Levine, Guided Meditations, Explorations and Healings (New York: Doubleday, 1991), p. 324.”)

Close your eyes…

For a moment just reflect on what the word forgiveness might really mean. What is forgiveness?

And now, very gently–no force–just as an experiment in truth, allow the image of someone for whom you have much resentment–someone for whom you have anger and a sense of distance–let them just gently come into your mind–as an image, as a feeling.

Maybe you feel them at the center of your chest as fear, as resistance. However they manifest in your mind-body, just invite them in very gently for this moment.

And in your heart, silently say to them, “I forgive you. I forgive you for whatever you have done in the past that caused me pain, intentionally or unintentionally. However you have caused me pain, through your words or actions or thoughts, I forgive you.”

Speak gently to them in your heart with your own words in your own way.

Allow them to be touched by your forgiveness. Allow forgiveness.

It is so painful to hold someone out of your heart. How can you hold on to the pain, that resentment even a moment longer?

Fear, doubt…let it go…and for this moment, touch them with your forgiveness.

“I forgive you.”

Now let them go gently, let them leave quietly. Let them go with your blessing.

Now picture someone who has great resentment for you. Feel them maybe in your chest, seeing them in your mind as an image, and invite them gently in. Someone who has resentment or anger, someone who is unforgiving toward you. Let them into your heart.

And in your heart, say to them, “I ask your forgiveness, for whatever I may have done in the past that caused you pain, intentionally or unintentionally–through my words, actions, thoughts. However I caused you pain, I ask your forgiveness. Through my anger, my fear, my blindness, my inaction. However I caused you pain, I ask your forgiveness.”

Let it be. Allow that forgiveness in. Allow yourself to be touched by their forgiveness. If the mind rises up with thoughts of self-indulgence or doubt, just see how profound our mercilessness is with ourselves and open to the forgiveness. Allow yourself to be forgiven. Let it be.

And gently…gently…let them go on their way in forgiveness for you—in blessings for you.

And turn to your own heart and say, “I forgive you,” to yourself. Whatever tries to block that–the mercilessness and fear–let it go. Let it be touched by your forgiveness and your mercy. And gently, in your heart, calling yourself by your own first name, say, “I forgive you.”

It is so painful to put yourself out of your heart. Let yourself in. Allow yourself to be touched by this forgiveness. Let the healing in. Say, “I forgive you” to you.

Let that forgiveness be extended to the beings all around you.

May all beings forgive themselves.

May they discover joy.

May all beings be freed of suffering.

May all beings be at peace.

May all beings be healed.

May they be at one with their true nature.

May they be free from suffering.

May they be at peace.

Let that loving kindness, that forgiveness, extend to the whole planet–to every level of existence, seen and unseen.

May all beings be freed of suffering.

May they know the power of forgiveness, of freedom, of peace.

May all beings seen and unseen, at every level of existence, may they know their true being.

Kay they know their vastness–their infinite peacefulness.

May all beings be free.