"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase each other, doesn't make any sense." ~Rumi
In early August I sat down to meditate. While I usually sit quietly with my Insight Timer focusing on my breath, I needed to find a guided meditation that would make me feel better about something. I was hurt by someone's words that I know they didn't mean to sound the way they did to me, so I wanted to forgive. In my search I found a perfect meditation called Guided Forgiveness Meditation by Tara Brach.
It made me feel better.
It allowed me to forgive this person for the words that hurt me. It also allowed me to forgive myself for reacting to those words with a feeling of low self-esteem and for allowing negative stories to arise because old wounds were scratched and brought to the surface.
My heart awakened to lovingkindness, forgiveness, and the space that I needed to bring myself back to Truth. Nothing major had happened. This person may have had an off day. The moon was in Aries - which may make us feel impatient and quick to anger - and Mercury was retrograde. In the end, all was okay, it was simply the thoughts that I attached to, triggered by patterns strengthened by the past, that created the negative feelings.
Since that day, I replayed that meditation a few more times for other reasons and seemingly insignificant, yet meaningful, interactions that triggered unpleasant feelings in me.
There is such power in forgiveness.
Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.
There's a saying that goes, "Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional." In the Art of Happiness, Howard Cutler and the Dalai Lama write, "Although in general, mental and emotional afflictions themselves can come naturally, often it is our own reinforcement of those negative emotions that makes them so much worse." It is our thoughts and beliefs and attachments to them that cause the suffering in us, that cause the anger, sadness, frustration, guilt, shame, and so on.
Had I not sat down for that meditation, I probably would have allowed my thoughts to create more and more suffering. The meditation allowed me to feel the feelings of hurt and anger, acknowledge my thoughts for being just that, my thoughts, and create the space for forgiveness that eventually led me to gently move on from the situation. It's not to say that thoughts about the interaction and my feelings toward that person no longer arose, but when they did arise I was able to come back to the here-and-now and move on more quickly.
As Tara Brach guides listeners at the beginning of the meditation, my heart needed to feel open and yielding; I needed to feel space in my body. I acknowledged that the pain I was feeling was of my own personal creation because there are as many ways to respond to something as there are stars in the sky.
The same goes when it comes to our relationship with ourselves. We all have mechanisms for survival.
In a recent podcast, Tony Robbins explained that for the most part, our actions have good intentions - it's how we perceive the actions and our stories that we make up that create our suffering.
When we forgive....
...we let go
...we begin a new life.
...we are free from the past.
...we are able to move on from thoughts that chain us to negative feelings.
...we are able to break certain patterns.
...we care for our soul.
Forgiveness is expansive. It fosters relaxation, ease, lightness, freedom. And when we shift on the energetic level, our biology changes too. We are no longer in a contractive state. We are fluid, we are changeable. We can release.
A note on forgiveness from the perspective of eating psychology
When it comes to our relationship with our bodies and our relationship with food, perhaps we aren't able to shed those pounds or we have toxic beliefs around our body because we're still harboring resentment toward our parents or others who have made us feel less than. Perhaps the weight is a protective mechanism. If we haven't forgiven, it's as if we're still hurting from past afflictions. And our mind, being irrational, creates a physical protection or maintains a low level chronic stress response (fight or flight response) to protect us from this constant "danger". But as I explained above, those words, interactions, and circumstances are in the past. We are also not the same. If the past is still making us suffer, it's our own beliefs and thoughts that we're creating that are causing the suffering.
In eating psychology, when you forgive, your body relaxes. And when your body relaxes, your body drops into an optimum state of digestion, assimilation and calorie burning, as well as healing, maintenance, and repair of body tissue. Harboring resentment, grudges, feelings of hurt, shame, anger all create a low level state of chronic stress in the body. This stress can trigger cortisol and insulin, signaling the body to store body fat. It's our body's protective mechanism. Stress manifests differently in all of us.
However it manifests within you - disease, excess weight, short-lived feelings of hurt, low self-esteem - consider forgiveness to induce a more relaxed biological state and notice if you feel lighter metaphorically.
I wanted to share this story and these insights because I know each one of us has both been hurt, caused someone to feel hurt, and harbored certain negative feelings toward ourselves or had certain thoughts that have caused us suffering.
But, I have faith in our humanity. I have faith that the vast majority of us have positive intentions. We are all innocent.
Perhaps it's in the stars, or perhaps it's my hormones (likely a combination), but I've been extra sensitive and emotional this past year. As a mother, I'm seeing patterns I've held onto since my childhood and I'm working on forgiving. Doing so I open up to more loving personal relationships, especially my ever-evolving and constantly stronger relationship with my husband. With awareness and practice, I relax and enter that field beyond wrongdoing and rightdoing more and more often. In that, I find tranquility and freedom.
What part of yourself or your past do you still need to forgive? Who can you forgive? Send me a note and let me know if this blog post inspired to action in anyway. Or feel free to share in the comments below.