The Art Of Forgiveness

Rays of Wisdom - Astrology As A Lifehelp In Relationship Healing - The Art Of ForgivenessAre you feeling resentment, pain, anguish or maybe even fury? It doesn’t matter whether your emotions are directed at the general idiocy of worldwide governments, a close friend or family member. It makes no difference whether you are raging at a complete stranger on the road, in a moment that’s quickly gone or whether you are dealing with years of abuse or emotional torment. Forgiveness is a spiritual act that requires us to view things from a different angle and with an increased understanding of our own needs as well as another person’s.

It doesn’t seem to be so when we are thinking of the wrong another has done to us, or the hurt they have so carelessly lavished out, but forgiveness can free us from even the seemingly most unforgivable acts. Many of us hold onto our anger in the hope that this emotion will somehow anchor in some Universal Justice, as though gritting our teeth and furrowing our brow could somehow balance the teetering scales of justice in our world.

Sadly, the hurtful act or words of another that we keep running through our minds work like an emotional cement that keeps us stuck and unable to move on into a peace mode. Our inability to forgive often doesn’t even affect the ‘other’ as much as it does us. There is a Tibetan Buddhist story about two monks who encounter each other many years after being released from prison where they had been horribly tortured. ‘Have you forgiven them?’ asks the first. ‘I will never forgive them! Never!’ replies the second. ‘Well, I guess in that case they still have you in prison, don’t they?’ the first monk says.

•    Many mistakenly believe that forgiveness somehow absolves others from their wrong-doings. That in forgiving, we helplessly accept, give up, surrender to defeat – that we are helpless. The exact opposite is true. When we face a terrible wrong and look within to see how we can prevent the same incident from happening again, then we are truly on the correct spiritual path.

Dr. Fred Luskin is the Director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Projects. He has led the largest research project to date to study the effects of forgiveness on hurt individuals. He has dealt with people suffering from a huge range of things needing to be forgiven – from a romantic break up to the murder of a child. He believes that there are specific steps one can take to reduce the stress that comes with holding onto hurt and make the progress of forgiveness as easy as possible. I tend to agree. Forgiveness usually takes a little time, but it needn’t consume your life for years. You can start with the following steps to move your heart into the right place, and begin to forgive:

•    We are often afraid to truly articulate just how much we have been wronged, but this is necessary. In cases that are more obvious, such as losing a family member in a war-torn country to the hands of an unfeeling mercenary, it is easier to explain how angry and sad we are, but in other cases, such as with long-term familial abuse, we may have even come to think the behaviours we were subjected to were ‘normal,’ and only later do we realize how much pain and hurt we stuffed down over the years in order to function within our family unit. When that pain is realized, it is helpful to articulate it to a counsellor or a few close friends. Keeping those emotions locked inside does not permit the process of forgiveness to begin.

•    Forgiveness is a personal journey. You do it for yourself and not for the person you think needs to be forgiven, or anyone else. Once you make a commitment to do whatever it takes to let go of the pain and feel better – and do it for you, then forgiveness starts to become an easier endeavour. When you feel better about yourself, after all, you will find it more difficult to hold grudges against others. When needed practice self-care and self-love. If you are still involved with the person or people who you are trying to forgive, you can simply explain to them that you need time to care for yourself. If this is not appropriate due to the ongoing behaviour of another, then simply practice uncompromising self-love and distance yourself from the other person until your feelings of anger and hatred dissipate. Reconciliation may be possible in the future.

‘Your forgiveness should be such that the person who is forgiven does not even know that you are forgiving them. They should not even feel guilty about their mistake. This is the right type of forgiveness. If you make someone feel guilty about their mistake, then you have not forgiven them.’ Patanjali Yoga Sutras ‘The Art of Living’

•    While reconciliation sometimes is possible, on other occasions it is not. If someone is emotionally unstable and is likely continue to act in hurtful or harmful ways again should be approach them, there is no need for being physically or emotionally near them to forgive them. What you are after is internal peace. Forgiveness can be defined as the peace and understanding that comes from dropping the blame for whoever has hurt you, changing your never-ending story of grievance, and realising that they were possibly playing a role in the grand play of life – known as maya to some – to help you learn more about yourself.

This does not mean that murdering your child is right or that stealing, cheating, emotional abuse, or other ‘wrongs’ are ‘right.’ It simply means that you choose to see that person’s pain as the impetus for their own actions and not as a personal affront to you.

Maya Angelou once said: ‘You can’t forgive without loving. And I don’t mean sentimentality. I don’t mean mush. I mean having enough courage to stand up and say: ‘I forgive, I’m done with it.’’ If someone has been narcissistic, selfish, hateful or jealous, you can forgive them for your own peace of mind, and allow them to learn from the Universal lessons, which are surely coming their way, to help them forgive those who hurt them also. While you don’t have to reconcile with others who are not ready to do this spiritual work for themselves, you do have to reconcile your own emotions.

•    Your hurt is coming from what you feel now, not what happened ten minutes, an hour, days or even ten years ago. The old adage about time healing all wounds is true. But this is because we tend to get caught in karmic cycles that cause us to mentally recycle pain instead of letting it go. In the book ‘Karma and Reincarnation Transcending Your Past, Transforming Your Future’ Elizabeth Clare Prophet and Patricia R. Spadaro explain that while ‘Karma means accountability and payback, reincarnation is simply another word for fresh opportunities [which the Universe offers us].’

•    Karmic retribution is not a punishment, but the benevolent and infinitely wise Universe’s way of allowing us free will. What it does mean is that what we send out into the world must return to us. Therefore, what we do unto others will in due course be done unto us, somehow, at some time, in some way – maybe in a far distant lifetime. But return it will, of that we can be sure. The Sioux holy man, Black Elk, explained how everything in nature comes full circle, and Voltaire mused: ‘It is not more surprising to be born twice, than once.’ Everything in nature is endlessly recycled and then resurrected. Understanding the cycles of karma and reincarnation helps us to get a better grasp on family, community and even wider society patterns in need of changing.

When we stay stuck in thoughts of the pain another has caused us, we are missing one of the main opportunities of our present incarnation. After talking about a hurt with another person, expressing it fully and looking at the patterns that created this situation, the time has come for releasing it and letting it go. The true gift of being ‘hurt’ be another is the recognition that on the inner level of life we are all one and when one of us gets hurt, everybody else suffers with us. Therefore, in truth when we hurt another, we are doing the same to ourselves.

Carl Jung once said: ‘I had the feeling that I was a historical fragment, an excerpt for which the preceding and succeeding text was missing . . . I could well imagine that I might have lived in former centuries and there encountered questions I was not yet able to answer, that I had to be born again because I had not fulfilled the task that was given to me.’

•    Stop your fight or flight response. When we start to ruminate about what another has done to us, our hypothalamus gets into gear and engages both our sympathetic nervous system as well as the adrenal-cortical system. When the effect of these systems sets in, our fight or flight response begins and in no time flat we are in moderate to full-blown fear mode. This is because we are afraid the same thing will happen to us again. We are feeling the incident as if it were happening right now, no matter how long ago it occurred. Our heart rates and blood pressure rise. We might even sweat a little. Our body gets flooded with thirty different stress hormones and all of it together makes forgiving very difficult.

Through practising a simple, calming mantra meditation, a few yoga asanas, yoga nidra, nadi shodhana or going for a short walk outdoors, we can reverse the fight-or-flight response. This enables us to deal with the fear behind our pain from a more level emotional state.

•    Give up your expectations of others. Dr. Luskin calls this ‘recognizing the unenforceable rules.’ In other words, you can’t expect to get from others, what they have no ability or desire to give you. While we can practice love without expectation, we also should be aware that others aren’t always capable of loving back. If your inner child is still bemoaning the inability of an emotionally shutdown father to be affectionate and caring, or you expect a selfish boss to behave differently, then you are setting yourself up for more pain and this often. Realise that what you seek from others – kindness, love, affection, support – will come from those willing and able to give it, and the more you offer it to yourself, the more likely individuals of the same calibre will come into your orbit. Just let the others be, who are not ready to act as evolved. Let go of all resentment by acknowledging that’s just where they are in their present evolutionary cycle of karma and reincarnation.

•   Know that a life well lived is the most constructive and positive way of resolving the outstanding issues between any of your relationships. Staying hurt and angry does nothing for you. It only feeds the ego of the person who hurt you and gives them power over you. You are still in ‘prison’, as one of the monks put it. Empower yourself by focussing on the good things in your life. Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough are two of the leading American investigators of gratitude. They describe this quality as personality strength and the ability to be keenly aware of the good things that happen to you and never take for granted. Grateful individuals express their thanks and appreciation in a heartfelt ways, not merely to be polite. Wise ones who possess a high level of gratitude, often feel an emotional sense of wonder, thankfulness and appreciation for life itself. Start a gratitude journal or instead of getting stuck in your hurt feelings, every day take a few moments to quietly contemplate and reflect on the many blessings the Universe is bestowing upon you. Counting them is good for your health because it helps to dissipate sadness, anger and frustration.

•    Change your ‘story’. Instead of telling a story to yourself and others about how you were done wrong, decide to re-write the script. You can, instead of being a victim, decide to use the experience as a way of healing  others, one of the most profound spiritual practices ever taught. Imagine the ripples that the pebbles of your forgiveness could send out into the world. I give the example of a man named Robert Rule to explain how profound changing your story can be:

‘Gary Leon Ridgway is better known as the infamous Green River Killer. In 2003, he confessed to the murders of 48 women. In 2011, Ridgway was convicted of the murder of Rebecca Marrero, bringing the victim count up to 49. By his own confession, he may have murdered as many as 60 women. Ridgway especially despised prostitutes and targeted them for his killings. At Ridgway’s 2003 sentencing, the families of the victims had the opportunity to speak out and address Ridgway directly.

Understandably, many were angry and lashing out at Ridgway for the sorrow and pain he had put them through. As Ridgway stonily listened to the family members express their grief and anger, one person came up and said something unexpected. When the time for speaking came for Robert Rule, the father of teenage victim Linda Jane Rule, Ridgway finally showed a glimpse of remorse. Rule’s words to Ridgway were: ‘There are people here who hate you, but I’m not one of them. You’ve made it difficult to live up to what I believe, which is what God tells me to do and that’s to forgive. You are forgiven, sir.’ His words brought Ridgway to tears.’

From ‘Wisdom Pills – Something For Your Soul’
Edited by Aquarius

Recommended Reading:
•    ‘Healing Prayer For Parents And Children’

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The above is a chapter from ‘Astrology As A Lifehelp In Relationship Healing’.
If it has whetted your appetite to read more, please follow the link below:

‘Astrology As A Lifehelp In Relationship Healing’

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