As intuition often works, the persistence of the idea ‘forgiveness’ had been peaking its head into my thoughts over the past couple of weeks. I finally had time to give it some focus and to make it the intention of last week’s yoga classes. This piece is long, but I believe it to be important. I invite you to read a little and come back, or read it thru completely and then come back again after some time of digestion.
“To eer is human; to forgive, divine.”-Alexander Pope
Forgiveness, by definition, is ‘the action or process of forgiving or being forgiven’. To forgive, by definition, is ‘to stop feeling angry or resentful towards someone for an offense, flaw, or mistake’.
As I first started to create the classes for the week, this time I started first with quotes and then journeyed into the embodiment.
“Forgiveness isn’t approving what happened. It’s choosing to rise above it.”-Robin Sharma
“It’s not an easy journey, to get to a place where you forgive people. But it is such a powerful place, because it frees you.”-Tyler Perry
Very quickly I began to feel how forgiveness and love were the truest of companions. Very quickly I began to experience how difficult forgiveness can be. With these feelings, I began to feel clearly that a heart practice would be best, and to use physical postures that would invite the heart to open. I designed the vinyasa classes around the peak pose of camel and upward bow. These more physically active practices, for me, proved to be a symbiotic embodiment in alignment with the active practice of forgiveness…
“Forgiveness is not weak. It takes courage to face and overcome powerfully emotions.”-Desmond Tutu
Just within that single quote from Mr. Tutu, I can see how forgiveness calls upon each of us to be in the practice of self-study and self-reflection. In yoga we call that practice svadhyaya. We must first be willing to acknowledge within our Self what we are feeling. It happened over the course of the week, in my physical classes that I led, that I started to cue how coming out of poses started first with the breath; then moving the breath into the body, and through that passageway the cognitive connection created, in turn, created the action for the body to physically move. This was so exhilarating and exciting for me to feel in real time because it was yet another embodiment of forgiveness. We first had to start with the “inner design”, We first had to start within our self, and create connections within. We were creating conscious connections with the body. And, in looking at forgiveness, we have to first start with a conscious connection to what we are feeling and what we’ve experienced. From that place, taking a breath, we start a creation of inner design in which we make our self more spacious inside and more open to just be present with what is. In that space, love will have an opportunity to move into that space. This might be the most challenging part of forgiveness for some…to start within our self, rather than looking outwardly upon the person or people who have harmed, or hurt us.
Pope John Paul II wrote, “Forgiveness is above all a personal choice, a decision of the heart to go against natural instinct to pay back evil with evil”.
There again, we can feel how we need to start with our self. And we need to look into our own heart. We must look into our own heart and remember that our heart is made of love and the strong ability to forgive. Within the system of the chakras, forgiveness is correlated to the heart center. We must look into our heart and remember that we are divine. Remember Alexander Pope’s quote from earlier. We must first treat ourselves as the divine, and from that place we can remember our worth….
Jodi Picoult wrote, “Forgiving isn’t something you do for someone else. It’s something you do for yourself. It’s saying “you’re not important enough to have a stronghold on me”. It’s saying, “you don’t get to trap me in the past. I am worthy of a future”.
I’m reminded of Robin Sharma’s quote from earlier, that forgiveness isn’t approving what happened, it’s choosing to rise above it. As I went through the week and all the classes, I began to speak to how forgiveness is not only not needing to approve what happened, but that forgiveness does not require that we forget either. And that perhaps in some cases, to forget would not be the best thing because there was a lot of learning from the experience.
One of my friends and students sent me this quote from Lily Tomlin, “Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past”. And while at first this seemed sad to me, it also simultaneously felt very freeing and inviting. Especially inviting on the level of just simply letting go. *I want to be careful in this moment when I say ‘letting go’, because this letting go is not meant to be a way of spiritual bypassing, and to just say “oh, let it go and life will be rainbows and stars and unicorns”. No, Again, you don’t have to forget, but you don’t have to keep reliving it and rehashing it through your thoughts again and again. In yoga we call those Samskaras.
Samskara is a psychological imprint, mental impression, or recollection (wikipedia). We can have negative recollections and we can have pleasant mental impressions. We can change those imprints. I’m thinking right back to my “inner design” embodiment that came up because of forgiveness. This is not to say we are changing the story of our past, but that, instead, we are not allowing it to pull is down, make us feel unworthy, or worse. Remember Jodi Picoult’s quote. **Samskaras are what we are diving into this week.**
From a place of neutrality, and having forgiven, we can continue on in life in a more freed way. We could even begin to redesign how we want to be, how we want to be living, how we want to be moving forward into the future.
Oprah once said, “True forgiveness is when you can say, ‘thank you for that experience’.”
How did you feel when you forgave someone? How did you feel when you were forgiven?
And I’m wondering how all of this works when we turn it inwards to forgiving our self? This reminds me deeply of the practice in yoga that is called ahimsa, or non-harming.
May we forgive ourselves for not treating ourselves as anything other than divine.
As I write this, I forgive myself for not being a perfect mother. I forgive myself for not being perfect, whatever perfect may mean to me at any given time. I forgive myself for comparing myself to others. I forgive myself if there are grammatical errors in this blog. I forgive myself for not being an incredible and amazing cook. I forgive myself for holding expectations that are unreal. I forgive myself for not treating myself in the best possible ways at all times. I forgive myself because I am unfolding, I am perfectly imperfect. I forgive myself because I am always learning how to love myself. I forgive myself for thinking negatively to myself more often than I’d like. I forgive myself for the pain I have caused in the past, acknowledging those actions, and learning from them. Where might you need to forgive yourself today, and how will you show yourself the forgiveness?
Here’s a great article on forgiveness in the context of yoga:
What I know is that forgiveness is a process. Be gentle with yourself today and always.
Breathe and Believe.