An extract from the first draft of my new Yoga & Dharma manual which I'm using in my trainings...
The Practice of Forgiveness
“Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed. This is the ancient and eternal law.” - The Buddha
If you want to see the brave, look to those who can forgive.
Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.
All human beings experience betrayal, conflict, loss, and pain during their lifetime. When we consider forgiveness practices we are finally willing to let go of carrying a heavy burden for the rest of our lives.
While we all vaguely know that forgiveness is an important spiritual practice, it can be important to realize that forgiveness for others is also done for ourselves, not necessarily for the person that hurt us. Most of us do not realize how much energy goes into carrying a grudge. Truthfully, we need all the energy we have for our own transformation; carrying resentment uses up a lot of energy. This insight can provide additional motivation to undertake the task of forgiveness.
There are some important thoughts around forgiveness that need to be considered.
Forgiveness comes from a place of strength, not weakness. When we forgive it doesn’t mean that we condone what happened to us or others in any way, shape, or form. We may do whatever it takes to make sure it never happens again. In fact, the first step may be to make sure that the trespass cannot be repeated.
We may have to leave a situation or create proper boundaries. We may never forgive the action, but we are contemplating to forgive the person, since we realize that we too have done things that need forgiveness.
As forgiveness is such a difficult practice, we tend to avoid it and shove it to the back of our consciousness. Of course, if it were so easy everyone would do it right away. It is a good thing that even the contemplation of forgiveness will start the process.
Forgiveness doesn’t happen all at once. We can’t achieve forgiveness by covering up our genuine hurt. We may have to fully experience feelings of grief, rage, despair, and pain before a sense of forgiveness can even begin to happen. We may need to seek and pursue justice, but can still be willing to engage in the practice of forgiveness.
We truly need all the energy for our own transformation – that is why forgiveness practices are often done before any other formal practice. We don’t want part of our energy trapped in the past.
When practicing forgiveness, sometimes we will notice that we feel genuine forgiveness. Sometimes we will feel all the resentment we are still holding. Remember that it is a practice, and we just continue on doing it for the time being until it starts to work and we feel the release. It is the process that matters. Tears will wash away our bitterness and bring healing.