Forgiveness is a process… not a light switch.
There is much written on the subject of this thing called forgiveness.
The practice of mindfulness naturally lends the space and opportunity to allow for a process of letting go that can bring about powerful healing . By engaging in a consistent practice of purposeful observation minus judgment, we naturally move into the process of forgiving ourselves, our parents, our siblings … whomever it is that did something or said something to us that resulted in some level of hurt.
I work with a lot of therapy and coaching clients who first seem to believe forgiveness is just a switch to flip. Then, they feel guilty that they are still angry despite their choice to forgive. The thing is… while forgiveness is first a choice, there is a process that follows that choice we must respect and observe gently and attentively.
Here are some practical tools you might try to fold the process of forgiveness into your every day life:
1. The Power of Breath & Visualization. Conscious breathing is the anchor that brings us into the present moment and into the physical body. It also helps to move uncomfortable emotion without running away from it or shutting it down. Breath paired with mental imagery is a powerful cocktail in the process of forgiveness. Close your eyes. First envision a ball of white or golden light at the base of your spine. Begin counting very slowly to 108 as you visualize this ball of light softly moving up each vertebrae of your spine, holding the light at each area of you back for 5-6 counts. Slowly envision the light moving all the way to the base of your skull all the while breathing deeply and rhythmically. Then, allow the ball of light to expand all around your head and extend out in front of you. Visualize the person whom you wish to forgive surrounded and enveloped in this beautiful, soft white or golden orb of light. Breathe deeply and rhythmically as you hold this vision and silently repeat, “[name of person], I choose to let go of what has happened. May you be surrounded and filled with this light.” Keep breathing through whatever emotion may stir or arise as a result. Hold the vision, repeat the statement, breathe through until you feel a sense of calm and then gently open your eyes.
2. Bilateral Stimulation: Swing Those Arms! Bilateral Stimulation is a tool that changes brain chemistry. Walking briskly, swinging the arms (right, left, right left) while feeling and thinking about the hurt that has happened provides stimulation to the right and left hemispheres of the brain, creating new pathways in the brain allowing for access to more positive emotions, memories, and beliefs. This practice helps negative emotions, memories and beliefs to have lesser and lesser impact. Mindfully observing the emotions and thoughts that accompany the past hurt that has occurred while walking briskly will bring you to a place of feeling calmer. Notice the experience of “calmer” while continuing to walk briskly and swing the arms. Be sure to breathe deeply and rhythmically as you are walking, feeling and noticing.
3. Sit in Silence and Stillness. Dedicate 15 minutes every day to sitting with the spine straight, eyes closed and simply focus your mind on the natural flow of your breath. Observe silence and stillness. This meditation practice creates an intentional space of simply being in the present with what is without actively doing, changing or fixing. As thoughts and emotions arise during this time, return the mind’s focus to the flow of the breath and the sensation of your sitting. This practice trains the mind to be okay with what is rather than being hooked by memories and emotions.
As you embark on this journey of forgiving what has happened and thereby healing past hurts, be gentle with yourself and know that progress is being made bit by bit as you incorporate these practices into your daily life.
Lynn Louise Wonders