Do you know how I know meditation is working in my life?
For starters, I don’t shame myself or beat myself up about something I’ve done, or failed to do. I show myself the same kindness and compassion that I’d give to my best friend.
For example, last week I spontaneously decided to drop in to a community meditation. (I love the collective energy of group meditation. Sharing silence is decadent and the ripple effect is powerful.) I stroll in to the meditation room with plenty of time, cozy up in a corner and settle in.
My mind starts to scan the day. It doesn’t get very far. I gasp and feel a stab of pain as I realize that I completely forgot about a meditation I was asked to guide that morning.
I was a no show. I was mortified and devastated.
Then, something magical happened.
I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and meditated. I didn’t beat myself up. I didn’t travel down the rabbit hole of how horribly flawed, imperfect and unworthy I am.
There was nothing I could do to change what happened. I offered myself compassion and meditated for 30 full minutes without the torture of guilt, shame and humiliation.
Living in the past
How often do we let the past gnaw at us long after an experience is over, or allow ourselves be consumed by something or someone who has done us wrong?
When we are deeply hurt or ashamed, the natural tendency is to relive the experience again and again: what happened, who failed, what injustice was done, what should have happened, what can be done going forward to make sure it never happens again, and on and on.
We live in the past.
The actual situation of the past is not the problem. The unwillingness to let go is the problem.
Clinging to the past starts a vicious cycle of suffering. It’s toxic. It blocks the natural flow of energy. Tension and stress accumulates in the body. Vitality is lost. Eventually, inflammation and illness set in.
The only way to be free from suffering is to let go and forgive, both ourselves and others.
Forgiveness demands courage and compassion.
It doesn’t ignore the truth of what happened. It does not condone behavior. I knew I’d made a terrible mistake. I promised to never let it happen again (and later started a backup system for my calendar). Then, I let it go.
That meditation was one of the most wonderful experiences. Instantaneous forgiveness. It’s rare, especially to self.
The old me would have relentlessly beat myself up for disappointing others. I’d spiral down to a place of unworthiness. The incessant voices inside my head would repeat telling me how undeserving of love, belonging and connection I am.
Meditation increases self-compassion. It is a powerful tool to begin the process of forgiveness.
Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Release the past and heal in the present moment.
Five steps to forgiveness
These 5 steps and Forgiveness Meditation will open the door to your heart and bring compassion and understanding to yourself and others.
Start the process of forgiveness by noticing where energy is blocked. The body never lies. Bring to mind a painful experience in the past or a subject you try to avoid. Think about that experience.
Do you notice any physical sensations in the body? What are you feeling? Where are you feeling it?
Physical discomfort or negative emotions are signs that something needs to be released. Do your best not to resist or ignore messages from the body. They are intelligent signs to help you heal and rebalance.
Reflect on the experience. If it involves another person, become curious about what they were going through that led to their actions.
Step into their shoes. Feel the pain they may have been experiencing. Notice any conflict, confusion or external pressure they had to navigate. What internal feelings of fear, shame or unworthiness might have been present?
Everyone, including you, is doing the best they can from their level of awareness, no matter how tense or confused they may have been at that time. Stress affects the quality of decision making. Reactions are never the same in stressful situations. Begin to give context to the experience and understand where the person may have been coming from.
There’s nothing fun about reliving past wounds, but the reality is this is what happens every day you don’t forgive. You walk around carrying past pain, anger and resentment. It’s heavy. It’s dark. It’s damaging.
Do the deeper work (in some situations there are many layers to be released). The earlier and more often you practice forgiveness the easier it becomes.
Set aside quiet time to feel emotions and sensations associated with the experience.
Find an undisturbed, safe space to allow each emotion to rise up. Breathe into each sensation allowing the exhale to cleanse and the inhale to heal and bring in new possibilities.
Be mindful not to judge, analyze or push discomfort away. I urge you… simply notice what comes up and be kind and compassionate with yourself.
What happened in the past is past. The pain is real, but ultimately pain subsides and another experience takes its place.
Suffering is the killer. It continues when you cling to the past or refuse to move on.
Recognize the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual harm of residual and ongoing negative emotions.
You are exactly where you are meant to be. Acknowledge this. Perhaps, take a moment of gratitude.
Every experience is an opportunity for growth. It may sometimes be difficult to see the gift during tough times, but light always emerges from the darkness.
Meet the present moment with fresh awareness. The present moment is untouched by the past or future.
Meditation is a powerful tool to access the present moment and help with the process of forgiveness. During meditation, you access an infinite field of possibilities beyond thought, pain and suffering.
Use this meditation to alleviate suffering, heal past wounds and reconnect with your true self: