In order to fulfill your own life’s full potential, it is imperative to learn to let go of pain in the past. Forgiveness is a surefire way to end suffering, initiate healing and move towards internal harmony. But the truth is, sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. Here are some simple practices to get you started with the skill of forgiveness. Be compassionate with yourself as you embark upon this journey and remain open to what might arise, as you might be surprised with what the path to forgiveness teaches you.
- Acknowledge Your Feelings
The first step towards forgiveness — whether of yourself or another person who has caused you pain — is to fully acknowledge your feelings without judgement. Take some time to sit quietly and allow feelings of injustice, betrayal, suffering, pain, anger and sadness to arise. Feel these feelings deeply and practice self-compassion. Reflect with honesty on your role in the situation. Breathe deeply in and out and stay present. While breathing slowly, bring your attention to your heart and continue breathing in stillness for as long as feels right. If you like, visualize the heart slowly opening like the petals of a beautiful flower. This practice can be intense, so go slowly and be gentle with yourself. After your session, it may be helpful to journal about your experience, go for a walk or listen to music. Give yourself ample time and space to let your feelings settle. Be patient, this one may take some time to master.
- Metta Meditation
Metta, or loving kindness meditation, is a simple yet powerful practice anyone can do. It does not require special props, fancy equipment or a lot of time. To practice metta, simply find a quiet place to stand, sit or lie down in stillness. Take a few deep breaths and begin by saying out loud or quietly to yourself the following phrases:
May I be safe
May I be well
May I be happy
May I be free
May I know peace
May I move through the world with ease and joy
Once you have said the meditation several times for yourself, change the pronoun to the name of someone you love, like a friend or family member. Next, say the meditation using the name of the person with whom you need resolution. It may be uncomfortable at first but stick with it. Finally, repeat the metta phrases for your entire community and the world at large by using the pronoun "we." It is common to repeat each round of metta between one and five times, or more if you feel it’s needed. Conclude by taking several moments to breathe and notice how you feel.
- Write It Out
For this practice, you will need paper and a pen. Begin by taking several deep breaths to ground and center yourself. First, visualize the person you need to forgive. When you feel ready, begin writing a letter to that person (yes, it can be you!) explaining how you feel about the situation. Be very specific and don’t hold back. Once you are finished, read over the letter, then settle back into stillness and take a few breaths to recenter yourself. Then, write a letter to yourself from the subject of your first letter. For example, if your first letter was addressed to an ex-business partner, the second letter will be to you from that ex-partner. Be detailed and don’t hold back. Once you have finished, read the letter and take note of how it makes you feel. Try to avoid starting this exercise with any expectations, this one may surprise you.
- Journal Daily
Writing can be instrumental in moving towards forgiveness. The key is not to censor yourself. Once you begin writing, don’t stop — allow the words to flow freely until the page is full. Here are some prompts to get you started.
How does it feel to forgive someone I love?
Where do I feel resentment in my body?
Who has extended forgiveness to me?
What are the benefits of forgiveness?
Do I believe forgiveness is possible?
What do I need to forgive in myself?
- Be Consistent
Creating effective forgiveness habits may take some time, but if you commit to consistent practice, things will change. Try this forgiveness meditation with Jack Kornfield to keep things moving in the right direction. When out in nature, imagine what it would feel like to be free from resentment. Tuning into possibility is a powerful way to stay motivated when things feel stuck. Continue to remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes. Humans learn by doing and that means that sometimes things get messy. Once you become more skillful at forgiving yourself, it is much easier to extend the same compassion and understanding toward others. And remember forgiveness doesn’t mean tolerating or excusing bad behavior. It simply means your heart is free from the burden of resentment, as a gift from you, to you.