I've had a lot of deep thoughts about forgiveness lately! Forgiveness is one of those illusive and ethereal terms - let's be real - it's one of those things that SOUNDS lovely on paper or when someone we really respect talks about it, but who really understands forgiveness? And who REALLY wants to forgive? Especially when we think someone who has offended or hurt us, doesn't deserve our forgiveness.
As someone who has been a world-champion grudge-holder, I know it's a challenge. And being honest, reflective and forgiving often feels - well - yucky and uncomfortable and strange. That is, until we practice. Then it can become a liberating tool! One of the greatest lessons I've learned in being a practitioner (hey, there's that word again, PRACTICE) of yoga, is that it's a practice - life's just practice folks! We're all learning here! (I certainly hope so anyway) Every time you step onto your yoga mat - it's a practice of acceptance of not only where you are mentally, but physically in each moment. When an opportunity arises where you have a choice to forgive someone - or stew - or fume - or even hate (this can even include yourself, because no one is more deserving of our compassion and love than ourselves) it's a new moment to build this valuable skill. What's the benefit of forgiveness anyway and what does it have to do with your health? Several thoughts I'll quickly share:
--- In Traditional Chinese medicine, holding ANY emotions inside, failing to express them (in a health manner) or grasping tightly to a grudge - all cause blockage within your body. Is this something you can see on an x-ray or MRI? Perhaps not immediately. But who of us hasn't experienced a lump or tightness in the throat when angry or sad? How about a sinking in the stomach when experiencing something traumatic? A tightness in the chest when anxiety strikes? Or a headache after a particularly stressful day? In Chinese medicine, this is a blockage in the free-flow of good things - we call them "qi and blood" in the Chinese medical biz (roughly, it's energy and blood, but it's a little more encompassing than that). This is why it feels good to cry, scream or just talk about our feelings. Disease comes when we fail to address these blockages or ignore them and hope they will "go away". Emotional blockages work like dams within the body. Everything clogs up - and may eventually break down, spill over, or worse, explode! It's easy to see how forgiving yourself or another's transgressions can regulate health - and best of all - it's free - and you have total control over it! You always have a choice!
--- Forgiveness is one of those precious gifts we can give to another. Even to a complete stranger or our greatest enemy. One of my favorite teachers, Don Miguel Ruiz, says: "You must forgive those who hurt you, even if whatever they did to you is unforgivable in your mind. You will forgive them not because they deserve to be forgiven, but because you don't want to suffer and hurt yourself every time you remember what they did to you. You are going to forgive them because you don't want to feel sick all of the time. Forgiveness is for your own mental healing. You will forgive because you feel compassion for yourself. Forgiveness is an act of self-love." --- The Mastery of Love: A Practical Guide to the Art of Relationship.
Groovy. So now we all want to give and receive some yummy forgiveness. One simple and powerful technique I'd like to share is something I recently came across and I LOVE LOVE it! Sometimes we need to forgive a person from our past - or someone we must be around regularly - or someone we know would likely not be receptive to our need to forgive them. Yeah, because in a perfect world, everyone will sit down, face-to-face and calmly air their grievances (well, that's something that I pray for) but we live in a world where most of us are still practicing. The link below is a free download from Natalie Lue (all the credit to this insightful and honest teacher! http://www.baggagereclaim.co.uk/). She explains and provides a template you can use to release your feelings of frustration, anger, sadness, fear, etc. towards another person. You can do this alone, and any time. As always, here's to your health and wellness! - Holly Christiansen L.Ac.
The Unsent Letter Guide
About the Author:
Holly Christiansen, Licensed Acupuncturist, currently practicing in the gorgeous, horse capital of the world: Lexington, Kentucky.