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Stay In The Know:

The First Breath of Forgiveness

Our emotional landscapes are often riddled with dark undertones- they swell and subside, come and go, dominate and then get pushed away. What do we do when we are overcome with anger, frustration, and hurt? How do we manage shame, perfectionism, and self hatred?

It is these deep well worn grooves of sadness and anger that weigh us down and prevent us from showing up in life. These grooves are where the seeds of our anxious racing minds and feelings of being unsafe are sown. Where our depression takes hold. Where we resist what is, and spiral into stress. Our sadness and history will dominate each of our todays if we don't tend to it with love and compassion. A noble goal that many spend there whole lives in search of but how do we actually begin moving towards this?

I am a student of emotions. I am working hard to feel them, know them, connect with them and welcome them in. I am often reciting the poem"The Guest House" by Rumi with my clients encouraging them to welcome, "The dark thought, the shame, the malice. Meet them at the door laughing and invite them in..."

We spent so much time running from, masking, and hiding from our negative feelings instead of feeling the depth of sadness they offer us. Offer us? What could they possibly offer us? It is only when we go deep with these emotions, with their darkness, can we then find forgiveness and start living. When we don't feel our emotions, when we spend our time running from them it's like we are holding our breath. We can never relax or be at peace, our bodies are running on empty, and we are only half present. We have to feel them, feel our bodies brace against them and then they can move through us and we can breathe anew. One of the paths to going into the depth of our big and little scary emotions is forgiveness.

Forgiveness is the ongoing intentional act of how we interact with this world when it rubs up against us and bruises us. Forgiveness is the path to compassion and empathy. Forgiveness is the doing part of how we become free from the shackles of our past, our pain, our indiscretions, and our hidden feelings.

But how do we forgive? We forgive with intention and love. We forgive by showing up to our dark feelings and meeting them with love. We offer forgiveness through the power of words, thoughts, and prayers and we do this until the forgiveness has mined all of our hidden sadness and anger and offered it to the world. We set the intention to forgive ourselves and others everyday until we can finally begin breathing again.

So many times we know that we need, and should, forgive ourselves or others, but we can't. We hold on to our self shame, and our blame, and our hurt, because we know that if we let it go that we are surrendering control.

We fear that if we don't hold ourselves or others accountable then we are handing a get out of jail free card and we know that the next reoffence is just around the corner. We don't trust ourselves and we don't trust others, we think that we need to hold onto the hurt so that we don't forget, and so that we can make sure that we expect more from ourselves next time.

But all of that stems from tomorrow and the fear of it. Our hurt comes from the past and our fear of forgiveness is what prevents us from showing up in this moment.

Here is your permission to let it go. To absolve yourself from the blame and pain. You are not to blame for what has happened to you. You are not responsible for your genetics, your parents struggles and harms, your addiction, your trauma, your anger, your rage, or all of the times when you hid out and willfully hurt others. You were dealt a hand in life and you played the cards as you did. Forgiveness is a new hand. Forgiveness is healing the things that happened in the past and not letting them to continue to hurt you and sabotage you into the future.

I heard an incredibly powerful story of a young woman who was in recovery from depression. She shared that she had harmed herself and cut herself as a child for many years. Her pain was indescribable.

She said that the turning point for her was realizing that it was like she was holding her breath and swimming towards the bottom of the ocean and that all she had to do was let herself float up. She was holding onto the pain because she didn't know anything else to do, she couldn't imagine what was on the surface. Forgiveness was the path to her allowing herself to float up and breath again.

How many of us are swimming toward the bottom of the ocean gasping for air? How many of us have become accustom to this depth and can't imagine anything else? We can see the light at the surface and we want it, but we just can't shift our momentum. We can't turn around. Forgiveness if a way to begin changing directions.

I came across a forgiveness prayer the other day on Tara Brach's Facebook page. It was a tool she shared as part of a meditation retreat she was hosting. It resonated with me and called to me to help it find a place in my heart. I know very little of is origins or it's author but I instantly knew it's meaning and significance. It is a tool for forgiveness, a practice that can help shift the momentum in your life.

You can call it a prayer, a mantra, a meditation, an intention, or whatever you like. Essentially, it is a collection of loving words meant to be taken deep within where it can meet with our darkness and give it the care and attention it needs.

Take this prayer and bring it into your life. If forgiveness feels like too much or is too scary please find a trusted metal health professional to support you in gently opening your heart up to this journey.

What can you do with this prayer?

  • Recite it as part of a daily meditation

  • Turn to it when you are lost in a moment of anger and shame

  • Memorize it, let the words become part of you, integrate it into yourself deeply so that the intention becomes a part of you. Memorizing words and prayers is a powerful practice. If you don't know something by heart perhaps this can be a first....

  • Say it as a nightly prayer

  • Display is as a reminder somewhere in your home or perhaps even on a digital device as a background.

  • Build it into an art journal page

  • Copy it out into a journal each day.

  • Share it with someone you trust and talk about it, read it and support each other to revisit it from time to time.

The only way to actually find forgiveness for ourselves and others is to show up and practice it until it becomes part of us. Many times we have to almost script it for ourselves until it becomes part of us and we can do it in our own. However you choose to open the door to forgiveness I hope that you will allow it to become a part of you and your becoming in this world.

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