Forgiveness is potent medicine that profoundly liberates us from the heartbreaks of the past and re-establishes awareness of self and other as fundamentally innocent. Forgiveness is not the same thing as reconciliation – about getting another to agree with our view. Forgiveness is a vehicle of transmutation that uses relational challenges as a way to access the deeper truth of who we are. It is a means of freeing ourselves from our own hurts and fixed perceptions, from which we stand a much greater chance of coming into rightful relationship with one another.
True forgiveness is not seeing error or guilt in ourselves or another, and being spiritually noble enough to ‘rise above it’. This is phony and usually backfires. Rather, forgiveness is an act of humility that asks us to question our judgments and be shown how to see outside the lens of guilt. Forgiveness uses the ego’s primary tendency to project guilt outwards as a vehicle to contact the deeper ground of non-duality, where there is only pure love indivisible from Itself. As such it is an immensely useful spiritual practice we can use whenever we get stuck in judgment and negative relationship dynamics, particularly the more deep seated ones.
Ultimately, forgiveness is an act of Grace – we cannot force the heart to forgive, but we can cultivate the qualities that support its liberating breeze to find us with broader vision and understanding. The following practice is designed to help you cultivate deep forgiveness. Take into this practice someone with whom you feel some kind of hurt for whatever reason. It might feel like a minor affront or a murderous rage!
To engage this practice, begin by contemplating someone with whom you feel some sense of hurt or anger, someone you feel has let you down in some way – with whom you feel closed-hearted in some way. (This could also be an aspect of yourself that you have difficulty embracing with complete acceptance). Take your time to go slowly through the following steps – taking as long as you need with each one:
1. Cultivate Desire for Liberation
The forgiveness process is initiated whenever you truly desire freedom from suffering more than you want to defend your position and justify your grievance. Claim your power to find genuine peace over:
- Being right
- Being superior
- Being in control
- Holding the moral high ground
Contemplating this in light of your hurt, you will probably notice that only a small part of you, say 10%, wants peace and freedom, and the rest of you is screaming ‘unfair’ and is addicted to pointing out another’s error! Accept that your desire is split between wanting to defend yourself and wanting to forgive, and don’t fight or judge yourself for this being so. Just feel the energy of the split and open your heart to that. Without repressing or denying anything, sit quietly and cultivate inwardly with each breath your desire for release for both yourself and the other (even if you feel they do not deserve it). Let every breath foster your willingness for true peace even though you have no idea how this could be possible. It’s OK. You don’t have to know.
2. Feel your Feelings
It is vitally important not to deny what you feel, be that rage, hatred, vulnerability or deep sorrow. Forgiveness asks you to truly own and meet the hurt and the defenses around the hurt with compassionate honesty. Meeting our feelings is not the same as talking about them, justifying them, trying to fix them, intellectualizing them or denying them.
Forgiveness invites you to inquire honestly into the sensations, the emotional flavors and the history, as most heartbreak is not present time but a triggering of some young hurt. No need to try making anything particular happen. Just open, soften and allow whatever is here to be here in the spirit of unconditional acceptance for our relative human experience. Most importantly, do not condemn yourself for whatever you feel or try to justify it. Just feel what’s there in body, heart and mind, and continue cultivating the desire for real freedom. BE with it.
3. Invite Grace to lead the way
Forgiveness moves through you but is not of you. You do not need to know HOW forgiveness will take place, just consciously invoke the dimension of your consciousness that has access to deeper wisdom and understanding to lead the way. Call on whatever spiritual references feel most direct and immediate for you – Tara, Christ, Shekinah, Kali, Great Spirit, your cherished teacher, or a healing inner guide/ angel. (Ultimately, these names and forms reflect dimensions of collective awakened consciousness within us all deeper than our ego structures – this Grace is here for us all the time offering help).
In humility, recognize that you do not know what anything is truly for. Our human hurts arise out of our limited perceptions, and that there is always more to the picture than we can possibly see and know.
Ask your spiritual guide to show you how to see the other person as they truly are; to be shown exactly what you need to see that would support your freedom and theirs. Pray in your own way something along the lines of:
‘Spirit, I give to You the way I perceive (name) now. I give You my hurt. My fears. I give you my defenses. I give You our relationship. Heal us both from this suffering. I give You my fears of love. I give You my fears of being free of this pain. Show me how to see past my hurts to the truth in (name) that we might both be free’.
4. Open beyond the story
Human beings are perfectly imperfect. Although we all in our ignorance make mistakes, our manifestations of ignorance do not affect what we truly are. Beyond what you know or don’t know about the other person (or this demonized aspect of our self), our true nature shines in radiant light, completely untouched by any mistake. This is true of you and of everyone. The spirit of Forgiveness utilizes this difficult person as a gateway to help you contact the pristine inner ground where we are all joined in freedom as the presence of love.
You are not asked to agree with another’s ego, approve of its actions, or engage with any unkind or unskillful behavior. Rather, drop to a deeper level by shifting your focus to that which lies beyond all egoic perception and behavior – yours and theirs. Claiming your own innocence depends on your willingness to see the seed of original innocence in another. The Truth of who we are rests in Unity. It is impossible to hold another person in guilt/ condemnation and experience yourself as free. That is why on some level – this person is your ‘savior.’
Invite Spirit to lead you in seeing a light ahead and a figure standing within that light. See yourself walking towards this light; representing the light of the truth about (name) or the truth about an aspect of yourself you have a hard time loving. This light is beyond any unskillful actions or words. Walk step by step towards the truth in the other person with an honest intention, and feel whatever arises within you as you move your undefended heart in the direction of the truth in them. As you walk towards them be willing to put everything else aside, and focus on joining from the purity of your own heart to the truth in theirs. Let the spirit of real love and courage lead you, until you begin to sense the untrue separation dissolving.
5. Trust the process
Having joined deeper than your defenses and mistakes, just rest open and don’t try to grasp onto whatever should happen next. Trust the spirit of forgiveness itself to lead. Be patient and know that your deepest intention will manifest in the way that is most appropriate. Be gentle with yourself when you hit resistance. If it feels helpful, stay with the above steps or review which one best reflects where you revert back to. Rest. Be still, Allow. Try to soften any expectations of what should or should not happen in this relationship.
Often, a lot of inner guidance arises at this point, that if we pay attention to can show us possible steps or actions that support the process of release. Be open to the possibility of new understanding, deeper communication and listening.
As you surrender old pains and old judgments, surrender also your fear of receiving (or not receiving) the enormous amounts of energy, love, joy, creativity and inspiration that is often unleashed when we come out from under an old story of suffering.
Surrender into the mystery of love and healing, and be willing to receive the blessings of self-forgiveness – as ultimately forgiveness of ‘other’ is really forgiveness of self. It restores us all to right relationship, and to true love.
‘Let miracles replace all grievances’ (A Course in Miracles)
Miranda Macpherson, a faculty member with the Shift Network, is known for her depth of presence and refined capacity to guide others into direct experience of the Sacred. Within a tangible atmosphere of unconditional love, she teaches and transmits a synthesis of self-inquiry, devotion, meditation and psychological wisdom that embraces every aspect of our humanity as a gateway home. She shares an integrated approach to non-dual realization born out of her own awakening process, inspired by the silent presence of Sri Ramana Maharshi, A Course in Miracles, extensive study of the world’s wisdom traditions and more recently, the Diamond Approach.