Learning to Forgive

Daniel Hertz (E-RYT 500) is an award winning teacher and counselor in the Minneapolis Public Schools and is on the faculty of The Meditation Center. He is the author of two Yoga-Meditation related books that benefit SRIVERM, the school in the remote Himalayas founded by Swami Hari.  Please see www.DanielHertzBooks.wordpress.com  for more information.

Hymla Learning to ForgiveThe practice of non-harming begins with forgiving yourself. Before you can feel compassion toward others, it is necessary to forgive yourself. Resentment and grudges we hold against ourselves are every bit as destructive as those we harbor toward others.  When we treat ourselves with love and compassion, we become nicer to everyone else.  In the words of Thich Nhat Hanh , Buddhist author and monk, “To truly practice forgiveness, we must first forgive ourselves for not being perfect.”

Forgiveness can be a heart wrenching process.  No one can tell you how, when, or if to forgive.  It is a very personal decision.  But it is worth the effort. Learning to forgive is essential for cultivating inner peace. It can lead you down the path of physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.  Some wrongs may be so extreme, that forgiveness seems impossible.  In apartheid South Africa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu witnessed some of the worst crimes people can inflict on others. In his Book of Forgiving  he writes, “I would like to share with you two simple truths: there is nothing that cannot be forgiven, and there is no one undeserving of forgiveness.” 

The practice of meditation gives us a strategy and process to move toward forgiveness.  It is about letting go.  When thoughts that cry out for forgiveness appear, remind yourself to remain a witness; relax and lighten the heart center; slow, deepen and smooth the breath; and repeat the mantra. Over time, as we continue to surrender, this type of practice lessens the intensity of the negative thoughts. Once you do arrive at the place where you are able to forgive yourself, it is as if a tremendous burden has been lifted from you. Research by the Mayo Clinic finds that the benefits of forgiveness include:

  1. Healthier Relationships
  2. Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
  3. Less anxiety, stress, and hostility
  4. Lower blood pressure
  5. Fewer symptoms of depression

The words Please forgive me and I forgive you are some of the most powerful words we can use. To forgive yourself is a decision and a choice only you can make.  It cannot be forced.  It comes in its own time as we practice meditation and continue the process of letting go.   At some point we learn to accept our mistakes and failures, take responsibility for our actions, and love ourselves in spite of it all. Swami Rama, in Conscious Living , writes, “You should always learn to forgive yourself. Prayer and repentance purify the way of the soul.  Don’t condemn yourself. If you think you have done something wrong, don’t repeat it, and you are free. Don’t hurt yourself.  Be strong.”

SRIVERM, INC. is a non-profit organization with the mission of communicating yoga instruction including meditation, breathing and relaxation practices in the Himalayan tradition and uplifting the poor especially through education. The Swami Rama Institute of Vocational Education and Research, Malethi, India was established by Swami Hariharananda Bharati in 2005 to give literacy, vocational and socio-economic development to the significantly underprivileged and underserved sections of the society in the district of Pauri Garhwal, Uttarkhand, in the Himalayas.  We invite you to visit their website: https://www.sriverm.net/home

Randall

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