Monday, May 2, 2011

Forgiving Others ... Why It's a Gift to Ourselves

In the past, just the thought of trying to forgive others for serious transgressions against me had always seemed so difficult as to be impossible.  I would be filled with fear and reluctance.  That is until recently, when I realized once again that I have a dream for the rest of my life, and the achievement of this dream requires me to be free of anything that blocks my good.  With that awareness, I knew that there were three people in my life that I still needed to forgive.

I had moved past the misconceptions that were primarily responsible for forgiveness remaining such a dreaded activity for me and many others. Today, no one believes that forgiveness means condoning the behavior of the offending person or that you have to maintain a relationship with him or her. Yet many of us still don’t know how to forgive or understand why forgiveness is one of the most vital and self-helping processes we will ever undertake.

Most of us are aware that no matter how strong our negative emotions are around people who have hurt us, those feelings have absolutely no affect on them. They don’t know what we’re thinking or experiencing and probably wouldn’t care if they did.  They are just going on with their lives. But the truth is that this energy can and will eat away at those holding onto it and will undermine our health and block us from living full and happy lives. That last part really got my attention.  Even though my life is good, there is more goodness I desire in the future.

I had used a daily forgiveness prayer for several decades, and truthfully the negative emotions had lessened and I rarely thought of the people who hurt me.  But when I did, I realized I still held emotional energy around the unhappy memories and each person. What I had failed to realize, until recently, is that if we’re still suffering, we’ve taken full ownership of the energy and the only resolution lies within us.

It wasn’t until I fully accepted the vital importance of forgiveness and sought out another method of accomplishing it that I was finally able to clear these undesirable emotional energies.  I also opened to the fact that whatever technique we choose, we must come from the knowing that forgiveness is an act of self-nurturing. We are seeking our highest and best good and are focusing on what is healing and healthy for us—and no one else. 

My approach began with setting my intention to forgive, and spending time in meditation and prayer. I chose to use the following affirmations that were inspired by the Dalai Lama. I started by repeating the statements for myself: May I be happy.  May I be safe.  May I be healthy.  May I be loving kindness.  May I know the power of love and forgiveness. I allowed myself as much time as needed each day to further imprint the process on my subconscious.

Then I repeated the same desires individually for all my family members and friends, using May you be ... .  As I focused on my loved ones, I practiced seeing their faces and bringing up all the love I felt for each one of them while stating the positive affirmations.  I became very familiar with the energy, how it felt, where I felt it and— after a while—how easy it was to bring it up.  I practiced staying in this loving energy for as long as I could.

That step is so important because we are practicing coming from a higher energy vibration that is vital for the next part of the exercise. I had become so facile in repeating the positive statements and switching between May I and May you …, that I could do it automatically. One day, while bringing forth and maintaining this love energy, I allowed a thought of the offending individuals to come up, one at a time—then their faces.  I spontaneously repeated and meant it: May you be happy.  May you be safe.  May you be healthy.  May you be loving kindness. May you know the power of love and forgiveness.

All the time I was doing this, I knew that to clear the undesirable energy I had to hold onto the higher energy vibration of love.  This step did take several attempts, but I didn’t give up.  When I could make the positive statements while coming from the love within me, I was able to feel a palpable shift in my physical body.  I knew at the core of my being it was a release—full, complete and lasting.

As we free ourselves from the fear surrounding forgiveness, we are then able to welcome any opportunity to forgive ourselves and others.  We know the truth that forgiveness is an inner process that has nothing to do with anyone else, and specifically the ones we believe hurt us.  It truly is one of the most important things we can ever do for ourselves, for it frees us to create a better future, brings peace to our souls and harmony to our lives.
Copyright © 2011 Fern Stewart Welch

The author’s books including, “Tea with Elisabeth,” recipient of the 2011 Silver Award for Nonfiction; “You Can Live A Balanced Life In An Unbalanced World”; and “The Heart Knows the Way—How to Follow Your Heart to a Conscious Connection with the Divine Spirit Within,” are available at other online booksellers, and bookstore chains such as Barnes & Noble.