Forgiveness in Practice

Let it go.

Let it all go.

Let go of the burden of being mad, sad, and wronged.

Give yourself permission to forgive. Set the intention in your life to practice forgiveness. On the regular.

Forgiveness has the potential to be an emotionally loaded word. Even as I type this, the word ‘forgive’ creates a sensation of resistance within me, a physical reminder of the protection that I wrap around myself by holding on to anger and the memory of pain in an effort to prevent future hurt. Maybe in reading the word ‘forgive’, either a strong reaction or no reaction is evoked, giving indication to your relationship with the act of forgiving.

The theme of one of my recent yoga classes I taught was forgiveness. Us yoga teachers are always on the hunt for class themes that speak to our struggles as humans, and there is nothing more universal than our struggle with forgiveness.

As we sat on our mats, legs crossed with awareness to the breath moving in the body, I spoke to the fact that according to Nikola Tesla - an inventor and engineer – everything is energetic in nature.

Tesla says, “If you want to understand the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.”

Why is energy relevant to forgiveness?

A large part of our suffering as humans is our ability to hold onto things that harm us. If what Tesla says is correct, then even our thoughts and emotions are energy, a tangible force that impacts our being, good and bad. As humans, our brains are wired to remember ‘bad’ and harmful things so we can prevent them in the future. It’s essentially a protection mechanism of our ancient brain. However, when we consistently hold onto toxic emotions that come from real and perceived negative events, we allow our reactions and behaviors to be the driving force in our lives causing us to feel negative, imbalanced, heavy, and anxious.

Our capacity to heal as conscious beings is an invitation to move out of the toxic emotions, to release the heaviness and to move the pain that we are holding. Not that this is an easy-breezy process, because most of the time it is not. Being a human can be complicated. Being alive is to experience trauma and we are reminded constantly of the fragility of our existence. Or we are busy proving how not fragile and “tough” we are, missing the opportunity of moving through hurt towards spiritual, mental, and physical healing. In my own journey as a human and in my profession as a yoga teacher, I encounter constant opportunities to heal and grow. This process may sound fun, but as a human with an ego and such this is of course challenging.

To prove just how human and flawed I really am, let me share. Remember the yoga class I taught on forgiveness? Immediately following the class is another class in the same room, which means there is a transition from yoga to Body Pump. I have only been teaching at this gym about a month, and the instructor that follows me on the schedule hasn’t been very receptive or polite to me since I started. On this particular day, she berated me for not ending 6 minutes early (I ended 4 minutes early, when I could have ended on time). She was angry that her class didn’t get as much time to set up their equipment. As I left the gym, I asked the manager. The manager said I didn’t do anything wrong and she would talk to her. Feeling righteous and wronged all at the same time, I was caught in the struggle of emotion surrounding this unpleasant encounter. What I failed to see is that this was life giving me the opportunity to practice what I preach.

Consequently, I spent my 45-minute drive home acknowledging and processing my emotions around the incident. And I forgave her, several times because it didn’t “stick” the first time. My forgiveness drive really came down to changing my expectations around the behaviors of others, and letting go of my emotion around it. The thing is, we think others should treat us a certain way or be polite and kind, and the reality is that doesn’t always happen. And nor should we expect perfection of other humans when we ourselves are caught in the same struggle. We have bad days, sick days, and hard days when we aren’t always able to show up in love and light.

Be the Light

Paul Selig, professor, writer, and speaker says that ‘you cannot be the light and hold another in darkness’.

I take this to mean that we cannot be true forces of good in the world if we view others as “bad”. The laws of the universe remind us that we are all of the same source (call it God energy, Creation, or whatever your word is), we all come from the same place, we are all brothers and sisters, regardless of what our limited human beliefs and learned behaviors may indicate to the contrary.

In the book, The Initiation Process, author Dr. Alberto Villoldo describes universally recognized life stages that we all journey through as a part of our human experience. These stages are meant to be initiations that teach us the lessons we are here to learn on a soul level. To be clear, the lessons are not punishments, but rather gifts of awareness that assist in our understanding of higher perspectives and ultimately our ability to heal ourselves and co-create our lives. It is essentially about turning obstacles into opportunity for inner transformation and self-actualization.

Part of this process of journeying through all of life’s stages that we all have the choice to experience is the conscious choice to move out of the suffering of our chronic toxic emotions and healing them, with recognition, awareness, reflection, compassion along with the action of shift to higher level thoughts, thus changing our behaviors and ultimately our life experience.

Dr. Villoldo says, “Our unhealed emotions are the source of our deeply ingrained beliefs that convince us that a particular situation is a problem we are powerless to change. All of the drama and suffering in our lives is brought about by our unhealed emotions, which give rise to our beliefs about how the world works.”

Toxic emotions (in Christianity commonly referred to as the 7 deadly sins) are the energetic manifestations of our disconnect with our truest nature, which is that we are beautifully interwoven with the divinity of all of creation. You are divine in nature because you are a part of the same energy as God. The very lesson of Jesus is the recognize the divinity in humanity. Christ is the representation of the realization of the divine as who and what you (we) are. Christ is a teacher that represents that we all have the capacity to be good, to do good, and to be the light and love in the world. Obviously, we know this is difficult to do in a less than perfect world filled with less than perfect people, doing less than perfect things. Who we truly are is far more than the petty drama that we identify with and become victim of. And this is where forgiveness comes into play.

And we what we miss is that we aren't 'bad' for feeling wrath or greed or lust or sloth or envy or gluttony or pride. But rather that these emotions are toxic energies, they are literal poison to us, so we are wise to figure out the best course of action for the least amount of emotional 'poisoning.

We see these as sins, or wrongdoing, in ourselves and in our experience with others. And we get righteous in being 'wronged' We expect to be treated well, in all situations with all people that we interact with, failing to see that we all fall short from time to time. People have and will wrong us, intentionally and unintentionally. But when we end up holding the toxicity in the form of emotion about the experience that we perceive as wrong in the form of one the 7 deadly sins, we are ultimately harming ourselves.

The Answer is Forgiveness

In all honesty and transparency, as I write this post, I am no expert on forgiveness. All I have to offer is my perspective, my lessons, and my knowledge as I walk this path with you. I personally have a lot of forgiveness to give to my mother (working on it) and to myself for probably too many reasons to list (who doesn't). I have to forgive the people in the yoga class I took yesterday that were chatting loudly IN THE ROOM as I tried to meditate, and I have to forgive the woman sitting behind me at the café I am working at as she bumped my chair THREE TIMES as I currently type this.

Forgiveness is the opportunity to let go of your expectations of others. Forgiveness means to set yourself free of the heaviness of your life experiences and move with more ease through your life. Forgiveness means to not hold others responsible for your experiences.

How to Forgive

The first part of the process is to recognize when toxic emotions arise within our being, and let them exist without shaming ourselves, numbing them, stuffing them, or blaming others for our emotions.

**It is also important to distinguish between acceptance and forgiveness. The act of forgiveness does not mean you accept something, but rather you release the energetic hold that the person has over you.**

Finding a method of moving through the less than pleasant emotions surrounding hurt and suffering can be extremely helpful. This process is about being present with the emotions and have the space and awareness to release the unhealthy energy (obsessive thoughts) behind the emotions. Taking a walk to clear your head is a great way to ritualize the art of forgiveness, as is a yoga practice. For my husband, he snowmobiles for hours on top of mountains to attune his energy. For you, it might include cooking or gardening. It doesn’t matter. The key is to find a way that works for your lifestyle and schedule – it’s ultimately a practice of finding the space to process and move through the energy.

But I Suck at Forgiveness

It is important to be aware that forgiveness is not a one-time act, but rather a constant and intentional choice to release and let go in every moment. It is an act of self-care. Just as we take a shower, live our lives and ‘get dirty’, then need to take a shower again the next day, forgiveness is similar – it needs to be a daily ritual in our lives. So practice and practice and practice. Forgive the person that cut you off in traffic. Forgive your boss for being bossy. Forgive your challenging co-worker and forgive your spouse. Forgive your parents, forgive your children. And forgive yourself.

Maybe you feel in your heart that it is time to let go of the heaviness you are carrying around from 5 minutes ago, 5 years ago, or a lifetime ago. This has been a year of unwanted changes, uprooting, and overwhelm because the world is shifting. We are shifting. Collectively and personally we are seeing dramatic changes in power structures and in relationship dynamics. We are becoming more and more affected by our personal and generational trauma. And we are being called to heal.

To move through the upheaval and the messiness that we may or may not be experiencing requires us to put down the heaviness and the hurt. That is the nature of forgiveness - to release the hold that negative experiences have on us. Forgiveness is our key to unshackle ourselves from victimhood and to rise into higher forms of thought. Forgiveness is a powerful catalyst to our spiritual growth, stopping our old, limiting beliefs and stories in their tracks allowing us to instead step into our power and peace.

So be honest with yourself. Meditate on who and what you need to forgive, starting with yourself. Let yourself be guided by divine forces into huge forgiveness, knowing that the gifts of forgiveness is a form of love, and that our very nature is to love, that we are love.

On that note, let us leave you with the Ho’opnopno prayer:

I love you. I’m sorry. Forgive me. Thank you.

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