Because all of us have unhealed scar tissue from past relationships, practicing forgiveness plays a major role in spiritual eldering work. When we heal our major wounding, along with the minor bruises that accompany intimate relationships, we release feelings of anger and resentment that armor our heart with defensiveness, drain out energy, and reduce the level of out vitality. Forgiveness work has two dimensions. First, we need to take responsibility for initiating acts of forgiveness. This means overcoming our passive attitude that makes forgiveness dependent on the other person's apology. Second, we need to forgive ourselves for our contribution to the misunderstanding.
Because this kind of enlightened behavior does not come easily to us, we need to train ourselves in this noble and beneficial practice. By gaining proficiency in the art of forgiveness, we can learn how to transmute out sorrows into the capacity to love, enabling us to reach out to others with a spontaneity and openness that will add emotional richness and enjoyment to our lives. As you practice the following exercise, you will discover through firsthand experience why forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts that we can give ourselves.
- Sit quietly and take a few deep breaths to center yourself.
- In your mind's eye, visualize being in the presence of someone toward whom you have unresolved anger or resentment, someone who has wronged you and toward whom you harbor a grudge. As you contemplate this person's actions, consider how your lack of forgiveness keeps you chained to this relationship, drains your energy, and disturbs your emotional equilibrium.
- Place yourself in your adversary's shoes for a moment and investigate whether your own unacknowledged needs and expectations or a misunderstanding in communication contributed to the upset or rupture in your relationship.
- Allow your awareness to move back and forth between yourself and the other person, giving you an enlarged perspective and an objectivity with which to view the relationship.
- Imagine that the two of you are bathed in a ray of golden sunlight that melts your resentment and allows forgiveness to take root within your heart. Rest in the warmth of this sunlight for awhile.
- With a sincere desire to mend the relationship, say, "I forgive you with all my heart and wish you nothing but unalloyed goodness. And I forgive myself for my complicity in creating this misunderstanding. May neither of us have to suffer any further painful consequences from our past encounter."
- Now visualize being in the presence of your former antagonist and mending your relationship with kind words and gestures. As you contemplate this auspicious encounter, feel how a great weight is being lifted from you and how a sense of inner peace is replacing it.
- Slowly open your eyes and relax for a few moments. When you return to everyday awareness, record your observations in your journal.