Last night I saw an online video of a woman who described the wondrous things that manifested in her life once she forgave the man who killed her daughter. She said she worked hard to forgive – it took her several days. I start screaming at the screen, “Several days! Honey, you think that’s bad? It’s taken me years to forgive several people in my life, and months to forgive others! And none of these people killed anyone! How can you say you worked hard and it took only several days?”
I calmed down and realized that we each have different time tables for forgiveness and we each have varying spiritual paths to forgiveness. I emphasize the need for forgiveness in my life – and in your life - because I know that holding grudges is a burden that I carry, not anyone else. Lack of forgiveness imprisons my heart. I recently read that Nelson Mandela, after being held captive in South Africa for 27 years, forgave his captors. His words: “We especially should learn to forgive each other because when you intend to forgive, you heal part of the pain, but when you forgive you heal completely.” (Mandela’s Speech on February 11,1990).
I believe that timing is everything in forgiveness. You can try all the forgiveness prayers, you can meditate until your knees bleed, you can journal your heart out - all of these help you peel away the layers of anger and resentment. However, sometimes total forgiveness is elusive, at least for me. I find I’m still carrying a thread of attachment to that anger, even after all my worthy pursuits. I realized I was in that situation last night when I heard that remarkable story of forgiving a daughter’s killer in a few days.
So, I decided it was time to let go and forgive several people toward whom I’ve been carrying around resentment. If that woman who lost her daughter could forgive the killer, surely I could forgive someone whose transgressions were merely my interpretation of events. I was giving myself tough love and eating humble pie!
I’ve been studying the concepts of Nonviolent Communication this week. This approach to conflict resolution and communication teaches you to identify and acknowledge the emotions and needs of both parties. I used some of those concepts in my meditation.
So, in the hopes that this might help you someday, I share my meditation:
I lit a candle and sat on my mediation bench. I practiced mindful breathing for several minutes, observing the in-breath and the out-breath, becoming aware of my heartbeat, straightening my back, loosening my stomach muscles. When I finally remembered to smile, I knew I was ready to do my visualization. I asked my higher power and spirit guides to help me, and I started.
First, I imagined all the needs of the other person. I mentally spoke to that person and acknowledged each imagined need individually, saying that I understood how it was important. I then thought of all my needs in the situation. Because I was totally honest with myself, the list of my needs surprised me, and I had a revelation. I acknowledged each one, saying that I understood how it was important. I said to the other person, “I let you go. I forgive you. My heart is now open to you.”
Then I did some mental deep cleaning of my heart. I opened the door to my heart and invited all the dark feelings to come out. In a whoosh, some feelings flew out as if liberated for the first time, but others dribbled over the threshold and dripped down my chest. Yuck! I took a broom and start sweeping out my heart. The un-forgiveness in my heart had turned to black sticky gunk that was affixed to the walls and corners of my heart! The sweeping only got the loose stuff out. I then took a powerful vacuum to my heart, and I vacuumed all the walls and corners of my heart. Standing back to inspect, I still saw brown goo ingrained in the wood of the walls, so I took a spiritual power washer that sprayed hot, pressurized soapy water, and I sprayed the heck out of the whole mess inside my heart. After the steam evaporated, I couldn’t believe what I saw – the walls of my heart were marble, not wood, and they were radiating a pure white light!
I knew I’d done good work. I checked with my spirit guide and asked her to bless the people I’d forgiven. I asked her to deliver a message to the other persons’ spirit guides that all is OK. She blessed me and told me she was proud of me. I opened my eyes, blew out the candle and went to bed.