As a citizen of this world and member of society, it is highly likely that you have felt wronged by someone before. We humans are imperfect at best and at our worst can be selfish, cruel and act in blatant disregard of others. Of course, these wrongs run the gamut in both duration and gravity. Some of us may have had traumatic experiences in our lifetime that were inflicted by someone intentionally. For others, it can be the build up of small infractions like being cut-off in traffic or treated rudely by a service provider that perfectly legitimately may gnaw at you through intermittent remembrances. Whatever it may be, we have all been there. We have all felt hurt or angered by others’ actions. However, it isn’t just the act of the wrong itself that gets to you in that moment. The grudge you may be holding about that wrong, no matter how small and seemingly unimportant, can do real damage to your health.
Recent research shows “positive and statistically significant associations (...) between bearing grudges and history of heart attack and disease; high blood pressure, stomach ulcers; arthritis; back problems; headaches; and chronic pain.” 1 This is more proof of what many ancient cultures have known for a long time, that the mind, body and soul are inextricably linked and that how you feel emotionally affects how you feel physically. In today’s high stress world, we are constantly doing battle with environmental and social pressures that weigh heavily on our health. Many of our readers do their utmost through diet, yoga, meditation and other lifestyle choices to ameliorate the damage done by our modern existence. However, the concept of grievance and forgiveness is ancient and still something we all struggle with in our daily lives.
Meditation can be a healthy way of addressing these negative emotions we harbor towards others and what we have perceived to be their ill treatment of us. I know that it has been extremely helpful for me personally.
To practice a Forgiveness Meditation prepare as you would for any other meditation. Get comfortable either on the floor or in a chair. Once you have had your eyes closed and are in a calm state, proceed with the following:
1.Count down slowly from 10 to 1, taking deep breaths with each drop. It helps to visualize that you are either sinking down or going down stairs each time as you count down.
2.Once you arrive at 1, you find yourself in front of a door. The door leads to your place of forgiveness. This can be a room, a forest, a beach--anywhere that embodies a place where you are most spiritually open and giving.
3.For the forgiveness action in this meditation you will use water to cleanse the person of their wrong. This can be in a pitcher you hold, a waterfall, rain--anything that works for you in the place you have chosen.
4.Imagine the person in front of you. Think of the wrong they have done to you. Let it play out in front of both you and them.
5.Look at them and tell them you forgive them and you understand. Really feel this as true inside of yourself. Keep doing this step until this feels honest and in harmony with your soul.
6.Once you have truly detached the bitter feelings from the event and feel at peace with this person, then you wash them of their actions with water. Do this as long as you wish. Remember that you are washing them of not only what they have done to you but the hurt feelings or angry feelings you have attached to them as people.
7.Feel free to bring in other people once you’ve adequately dealt with the primary person. Have them leave your place of forgiveness and proceed again from step 4 with a new individual.
8.Once you’ve completed the actions in your place of forgiveness, leave the room, imagining the other side of the door you came in from.
9.Open the door, seeing the bottom of the stairs or place you landed at the beginning of the meditation. Close the door behind you, feeling it latch gently shut.
10.Ascend, counting up from 1 to 10. Take deep breaths with each count upward, feeling yourself coming back and gently awakening with each breath.
You may have to perform this meditation again with the same people at times when you feel any bitter feelings seeping back in. That’s ok. Sometimes when grievances are long term and intense, it takes many trips down into the room of forgiveness before we have truly forgiven them. I hope this tool helps you in freeing yourself of negative emotions and contributes to a happier and healthier version of you.
1. Messias, E., Saini, A., Sinato, P. et al. Soc Psychiat Epidemiol (2010) 45: 183.