Nearly all of us have been taught that forgiving is virtuous and beneficial, and most of us believe that to be true. Yet what if the practice of forgiveness could be far more than we imagine?
Author and teacher Stephen Levine observed that we are constantly under assault from the effects of life. He concluded we must attend to these psychological and spiritual insults lest they harden our hearts and callous our souls.
Consider the many ways we can be hardened or harmed:
· Wrongs inflicted upon us by others, whether imagined or real
· Failures in relationships, careers, and lives
· Unrealized desires and dreams
· Forces in the world that are unfair or unjust
· Inadequacies or shortcomings in ourselves
· Unfortunate circumstances that befall us
Individually or collectively, the effects of these can block us from realizing our spiritual potential by producing fear, discouragement, depression, anger, and even loss of faith. Unaddressed, these factors can grow to become great obstacles.
Letting go of every grievance or limitation creates a much broader perspective than the typical view of forgiveness. The broader perspective also calls for a continuing practice of releasing over and over again—not just mentally, but physically as well. Many of us find that we can’t just think about letting go or pray for forgiveness—we need something much more potent.
Here is a releasing practice that operates on body, emotions, and mind:
Pick some person, or situation, or circumstance that is somehow diminishing you. Close your eyes and visualize it as clearly as you can. Take a few deep breaths and intensify the visuals. Then turn your awareness to your body and, as you breathe, try to locate an associated feeling. Describe the feeling you find—for example, tightness in the diaphragm or fluttering deep in the belly. This is a physical indicator of where you are holding on… literally.
Breathe gently into the feeling. Probe it with breath. Notice how it clings, or extends, or even how it moves in response to awareness. Explore altering your breath and whether you can intensify or soften the feeling. See if you can get the feeling to release by breathing it away. Keep playing with it. Notice the sensations.
After the exercise, come back to the moment and write about the experience. How does it feel to hold on? What does release feel like? Do you gain insight into what you’re holding onto or the underlying thoughts that produce the feeling?
Once you’ve written all you can, discuss what you have learned with a friend you can trust. Try to deepen your understanding of the experiences, thoughts, and emotions that bind you to injuries or grievances. Repeat the exercise. With each repetition, see if you can discern changes within yourself and perhaps the shifting that leads to resolution.
With practice, we can learn to release any insult or injury that arises. Over time, our capacity for forgiving becomes like the proverbial spiritual muscle that strengthens.
This experiential releasing practice is complementary to other efforts to forgive. It assumes that the ways in which we are stuck are not simply cognitive, but are embedded in the body. As we become clearer and clearer, we are scoured of what some would call limiting beliefs and perspectives. Greater and greater potential is unleashed.
In my experience, we do not need to find wholeness. Rather, through forgiving, letting go, and releasing the things that block us, we open ourselves to resolution and healing. Eventually we find within us that which was never broken. We come to understand that we cannot be injured. Then we see there is nothing in need of forgiveness. The practice of forgiving proves to be the entry point to spiritual transformation.
For thirty years, Ronald Chapman has been exploring the ways in which our lives are impoverished by spiritual obstructions and limitations. He has published four books and two audio sets addressing various aspects of these challenges. In 2016, Ron launched the Wonder Road Tour, a nationwide forgiveness campaign. www.SeeingTrue.com
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