Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Power of Forgiveness

A few years back I had the pleasure to watch a friend's three year-old daughter playing with a friend. Some kind of dispute ensued, and they each pushed each other. Both girls cried and yelled to their parents about the injustice caused by the other.

Five minutes later, the girls were hugging and playing again. You see, forgiveness is god-given capacity we all have from birth. We are not meant to carry around painful emotional burdens forever. Somewhere along the line we create the belief that, in order to protect ourselves from future harm, we must armour ourselves with grief, anger, and fear.

There is an old story of two Buddhist monks who were on their way to the monastery. They come upon a woman who is stuck, unable to cross a stream. The older monk picks the woman up and carries her across the stream and the two monks go on their way. The younger monk is disturbed and frets the entire journey. When they reach the monastery the younger monk asks, "how could you carry that woman across the stream when our vows forbid us physical contact with women?" The older monk replies, "I put that woman down on the other side of the stream, you continued to carry her all this time."

Every major spiritual tradition includes lessons of forgiveness. Sometimes they are wrapped in parable, but they are there. Why? Because forgiveness is a spiritual practice that moves us closer to the state of perpetual love.

The only thing stopping you from forgiving your perceived past wrongs is you. Maybe you get lost in your stories - "my mother did this to me, that man did that to me." The truth is that your stories are no less serious or relevant than the three year-old's.

Perhaps you feel that if you forgive past injustices that you will become vulnerable. That's fear lying to you. Forgiveness doesn't mean that you lose your good sense. On the contrary, getting rid of your emotional baggage means that you are free to discriminate and make better decisions. Fear of reliving past pain does not make us wiser.

That fear is a tightening, damming-off of he natural flow of love that would otherwise naturally pour forth from you. Look at how easily children love. The law of attraction states that like attracts like. The more love you pour into the Universe, the more you get back. Love will create abundance in every area of your life.

Here is an exercise to get the flood of love flowing.

  • Hold an image in mind of someone for whom you hold other than 100% feelings of love.
  • Notice any tightening or clutching feelings.
  • Now think of just one positive thing about that person. Maybe it is the color of their eyes, or the fact that they are passionate about politics. Anything will do.
  • Merely allow yourself to feel as much love as you do for that person in this moment (even if it is not much).
  • Now keep asking yourself, "can I feel in more love for this person now?" and let that love feeling grow and grow.
  • You may notice that, instead of rewarding that person for the injustice, you begin to move towards a feeling of bliss, love and acceptance of that person.
  • Once you have powerful feelings of love for this person and you are in bliss, ask yourself, "can I now let go and forgive this person, and allow them to be just as they are now?"
If you love this exercise, why not try it with every person in your life. You can even try it with people that you have mainly positive feelings for. It's a great way to deepen love that you already have as well.