Forgive Others, Heal Yourself

Forgiveness is divine, we’re told. But what does that really mean?

DSCF3483Throughout our lives there are bound to be people who trample on our feelings and hurt us emotionally, even physically or financially. Pretty horrible things can happen in life, and beyond the immediate damage caused by the incident, lingering anger, grief, pain and other negative feelings can create a lasting effect on our bodies and minds.

There are a few aspects of forgiveness to consider. First of all, harboring all those negative thoughts and feelings toward the person who has done you harm really doesn’t DO anything to hurt them back, punish them for their wrong, or teach them lesson. That’s what karma, universal law, or the legal system is for. When you forgive them, you’re not necessarily changing the fact that they will, on some level, get what is coming to them.

On the other hand, think about how you feel when you think of that person. You might feel tense and angry, your shoulders tighten, you grind your teeth, or you feel sad and lonely, give yourself a stomach ache or a headache. By allowing one person and their actions to have a lingering affect on you like that, you’re only punishing yourself, not them. If they’re real jerks, they probably don’t even care what you think or feel.

Additionally, it’s not unusual that a lot of the turmoil, anger and negativity we feel about a person or situation is not so much towards them, but towards ourselves. We feel stupid for getting ourselves into the situation, for trusting someone we shouldn’t have. We beat ourselves up over what we could have done differently, for not seeing the situation coming in time to stop it or fix it. We feel regret for things that are lost.

So, equally, when we take the steps to forgive someone else, we need to also forgive ourselves. Not always easy, I know, but when you do, it is immensely freeing. Here is a visualization that I recently led as a guided meditation, but something that you can also easily do at home or sitting quietly at your desk:

  • Take your mind to the person who has caused this hurt or wronged you in some way. Take inventory of the emotions that you feel when you think about the person or situation. How do you feel physically?
  • One by one, recognize each emotion or physical reaction and let it go. Put them in a brightly colored balloon, let go of them, and send them gently floating away.
  • Send this person love and forgiveness and let go of them. Imagine physically cutting the tie that keeps dragging you back to that painful moment, like a big pair of scissors cutting the string.
  • Take a moment to reflect on the space where you kept those negative thoughts and emotions. Fill that space with love. Imagine it healing the damage left behind.
  • Reflect on the positive lessons you have learned because of this person or situation. Has it made you smarter? Stronger? Did you learn something new about yourself because of it?
  • Take one last moment, feel your own power and strength. Send yourself warmth, love, and forgiveness. You might even find it most effective to say the words out loud “I forgive myself.”

Picture 240You can do this as many times as you need to, to help you let go of the negative emotions and hurt caused by others. You might feel like you need to do it more than once for the same person or situation. But, each time you do, remember that forgiving yourself is an equally important part of the healing process.

Forgive and let it go.


[Recommended Reading]: Life Was Never Meant To Be A Struggle by Stewart Wilde

My schedule the last few weeks has been kind of insane and I of course feel bad that I haven’t really had the time to contribute a nice blog post. So, I thought I would start adding some of my favorite books to the blog, to give you something thoughtful and enlightening to read when I am not being so myself. 🙂

"Life Was Never Meant to Be a Struggle" is one of those books I love to go back to every now and then. It’s a nice book that helps you identify the causes of struggle in your life and how you can get past them and learn to live life more “in the flow”. A really good reminder for those of us who tend to get caught up in the rush and struggle of life, and need to remember to stop and take a moment to reset ourselves and stop struggling and trying and just “do” and “be”.

Winter Solstice

Winter TreesSome people approach the winter solstice with gloom and trepidation. The first day of winter, oh god it’s going to be dark and cold for months and MONTHS…

For many of us, though, it’s already been cold for at least a month, or at least cold on and off, maybe since as early as October or September.  (Or whatever passes for winter-like weather where you live!) For some, it has already snowed. A lot. So really, the calendar may mark today as the ‘First Day of Winter’, but that is mostly a psychological thing, man’s need to trick himself into believing Mother Nature is not completely in control. (Sure she isn’t!)

Technically, winter solstice occurs exactly when the axial tilt of a planet’s polar hemisphere is farthest away from the star that it orbits. (Wikipedia) For those of us in the northern hemisphere, that was Thursday, December 22, 2011 at 12:30 A.M. EST. While winter solstice is actually more of an instant in time, it is a term more commonly used to describe the day with the shortest number of daylight hours and longest night in the year.

Historically, the winter solstice appears to have had significance is many cultures, with some evidence dating back as far as the Neolithic era, specifically the Goseck Circle in Germany, which is a set of concentric ditches carved into the earth with opening “gates” that line up with where the sun rises and sets on the solstice. Pottery fragments and other artifacts found at the site date it circa 4900 BCE.


More famously, Stonehenge, in England, whose exact purpose remains shrouded in mystery and speculation, would appear to include allowing prediction of the solstice, equinox and other celestial events. Archaeologists estimate it was built anywhere from 3000 BC to 2000 BC.

Photo by Jeffrey Plau 2004

Similar sites throughout the world, including North and South America, point to how important the movement of the sun and the changing of the seasons was to ancient people.

Beaver Lake Sunset In modern times we are typically less worried about the starvation that might set in over the winter. Modern grocery stores and the ability to obtain food from all over the world certainly cuts down on our need to have spent the summer and fall stockpiling our food reserves. So, Winter Solstice, as an occasion, is not necessarily our last great feast before winter sets in and most of our ancient superstitions about the solstice have been forgotten through the centuries.

The tradition of Winter Solstice is not completely forgotten however. Many modern traditions and religions honor the day. From the website

In Poland the ancient December solstice observance prior to Christianity involved people showing forgiveness and sharing food. It was a tradition that can still be seen in what is known as Gody. In the northwestern corner of Pakistan, a festival called Chaomos, takes place among the Kalasha or Kalash Kafir people. It lasts for at least seven days, including the day of the December solstice. It involves ritual baths as part of a purification process, as well as singing and chanting, a torchlight procession, dancing, bonfires and festive eating.

Many Christians celebrate St Thomas’ Day in honor of St Thomas the Apostle on December 21. In Guatemala on this day, Mayan Indians honor the sun god they worshipped long before they became Christians with a dangerous ritual known as the polo voladore, or “flying pole dance”. Three men climb on top of a 50-foot pole. As one of them beats a drum and plays a flute, the other two men wind a rope attached to the pole around one foot and jump. If they land on their feet, it is believed that the sun god will be pleased and that the days will start getting longer. Some churches celebrate St Thomas’ Day on other days in the year.

The ancient Incas celebrated a special festival to honor the sun god at the time of the December solstice. In the 16th century ceremonies were banned by the Roman Catholics in their bid to convert the Inca people to Christianity. A local group of Quecia Indians in Cusco, Peru, revived the festival in the 1950s. It is now a major festival that begins in Cusco and proceeds to an ancient amphitheater a few miles away.

One of my favorite interpretations of Winter Solstice is the Season of Light. Celebrating the return of light to the world. I have been watching the days get shorter and shorter this year, watching the night arrive earlier and earlier. While I am generally a night owl, I can feel the early darkness kind of dragging me down. Perhaps its like I mention in my post You Are What You Think, this kind of dwelling on the darkness getting into my mindset and getting me down. I am ready for the light.

DSCF4564This as a time for letting go of the past, moving out of the darkness and into the light. This is a good practice for anyone, regardless of your spiritual path,  regardless of the flavor of your religion. Let go of the past, let go of regrets, grudges, resentment and anger. Forgive. Forgive others, forgive yourself. You can symbolically let go of these negative feelings weighing you down by writing them down, venting all your hurt, stress, distress and anger, then burn the paper (safely please!), let the ashes float away into the darkness. Tomorrow the light returns and the future looks a little brighter.