The word below has been hailed in just about every major spiritual text, it is the centerpiece of hundreds of songs (rock, folk, and even opera), and if used properly, it can create almost immediate transformation in your life.
The word is forgiveness.
Over the past month I’ve had the honor of meeting with a few people who miraculously healed themselves of serious illness. In these conversations, one word has come up repeatedly as being the secret to their recovery. You guessed it.
We learn about forgiving others when we’re young, but somehow when we get older and more set in our ways, this simple act can become elusive. Life is funny that way, right? Often when we find ourselves in a life “predicament”, we just need to revisit the basic travel tips that were laid out for us early on.
“To err is human, to forgive divine.” – Alexander Pope
What is actually happening during this godly act? One thing is for sure, we are doing the unthinkable. We are defying every impulse that has led us to associate an individual with pain and suffering. Rather than continuing a tempting pattern, we are hitting the reverse switch and flooding unconditional love and compassion back into the equation.
Unconditional love and compassion. These three power words feel so right, but sometimes it’s hard to find a cut and dried, no B.S. way to work them into our reality. When we’ve made a decision about someone after they’ve broken our trust, it can be very difficult to overturn our initial ruling and do the opposite.
A backdoor approach that helps us get around the ego and be less rigid is a regular forgiveness practice. This is absolutely critical if you are trying to recover from an illness naturally.
Wisdom of the ages
Whether you’re talking to an Amazonian shaman, a bush medicine woman from the Caribbean or a granny healer from North Carolina, they’ll most likely tell you that herbs, prayers, and energy techniques are only part of the healing picture.
My friend Christine, a granny healer from North Carolina, pretty much summed it up last week when we were talking about a few cancer patients she was helping. She is too humble to tell most people this, but Christine has helped a number of folks heal their cancer naturally over the past few decades. Many of them would tell you they owe her their lives.
According to her, “The herbs and other interventions won’t do a lick of good if the patient doesn’t have their life right. All the natural medicine in the world can’t undo a toxic relationship with another or one with yourself.”
Her first prescription for her patients is a daily forgiveness practice.
“Sometimes we must do the unthinkable if we are to experience the impossible.” ~ Unknown
It is a common shamanic understanding that spiritual and energetic blocks are what lie at the center of disease. If this is the case, then consider your grudges and resentments to be the bricks and mortar of these walls of inner stagnation. The fastest way to dissolve them and begin recirculating life force is through forgiveness.
The biggest misconception around the term forgive is that this act is mainly benefitting the “offender”. “He insulted me and I was angry, but you know it’s been a long time and he’s learned his lesson, so I guess I’ll forgive him.” In this context, forgiveness is considered a sacrifice we make to take the moral high road.
But what about the benefit to us, the “offended”, who have been wasting countless hours stewing, fearing, belaboring, plotting, regretting – all sour mental activities that do not lead to a harmonious existence?
Like a rising tide, forgiveness floats all ships, including our own. And we all know someone, whether friend or foe, who is ripe for a pardon.
Forgiving ain’t easy. Sometimes it can feel darn near impossible. Our rational mind has a set of black and white rules accompanied by some absolute no-fly-zones. When these boundaries are violated, it can be hard for us to lower the drawbridge again.
This is the real work. No smoke and mirrors or fancy candlelit ceremonies – just you and your truth.
If you are to truly thrive in this life, grudges and resentment have no place in your spiritual or physical organism. There is a reason this is spoken about in every major religion on earth – our health, happiness, and the well being of our cherished loved ones depend on it.
So where to start?
Below is a very simple forgiveness practice that you can try right now. If it moves you, keep it in your back pocket for regular use. But most importantly, find some way to integrate forgiveness for yourself and others into your spirit path. For those of you that already do this actively, a gentle reminder never hurt anyone, now did it? ☺
A simple forgiveness practice:
1. Write out on a piece of paper any relationship that immediately comes to mind when you think of forgiveness. If that doesn’t work, think of the one or two people in your life that you have an unresolved conflict with. I would advise you use a pen and paper for this – it helps to get yourself off the computer screen and really take some space for this.
2. For each person, write out exactly what it is that created the sense of uneasiness, offense, or negativity. Be as specific as possible as these thoughts and beliefs are what hold the charge in us.
3. Feel into the memory: put yourself in that situation once again and remember the pain or discomfort that you experienced from what your “forgivee” did or said. Sometimes looking at a picture of the person for this part is very powerful (Facebook can be a sacred helper here!).
4. Cultivate empathy: it is much easier to forgive someone when we can imagine what it’s like to be them. Flip the script and try to imagine what they were feeling, what challenges they were facing, how they were suffering when they committed the act.
(I’ve gotten into this weird habit of over-sympathizing with the other driver when I get cut off in traffic. I tell myself that I have no idea what kind of day they are having or where they are speeding off to. Could be the hospital, could be a terrible job they hate… Might be none of those, but this practice immediately brings in compassion – I’ll take it.)
5. Repeat this as many times as it takes until you feel the emotional intensity around the scenario begin to ease. If you begin to feel compassion for the other person, it might be time to pick up the phone, or pull out the stationary and bring conscious closure to this issue. Whether that means rekindling a friendship, or a peaceful pardon before moving on.
6. Be patient: real and lasting forgiveness doesn’t happen instantaneously. It can take time. This is why an ongoing forgiveness practice like this can be so beneficial.
Director, The Sacred Science