The first time I intentionally expressed forgiveness, the hair on the back of my neck stood up and I felt tingly all over. Something inside me had changed. It felt uncomfortable, as if my organs were subtly re-positioning themselves. Then came a rush — a wave of emotion that rolled over me, spilling me onto a shore of complete peace.
, like so many other aspects of the human condition, is experienced differently for different people. Some people feel shivers. Others describe it as a feeling of being wrung out or completely exhausted. Still others say they feel lighter, as if a weight has been lifted from them.
While forgiveness might feel different to people, it has much the same physiological effects on us all. It lowers our heart rate and blood pressure. Improves our sleep and our breathing and relaxes our muscles and on and on…
Over the last decade or so, there have been literally hundreds of books written on the subject of forgiveness. There have been countless studies performed, internet sites published and no doubt most of us have seen the subject discussed at length on Oprah or one of her master classes. The forgiveness experts have told us that :
· Forgiveness is a gift we give to ourselves, not the person who hurt us
· Forgiveness is taking back our own power…by taking responsibility for our feelings
· Forgiveness is a choice. And it is a skill that can be learned through training just like any other.
It's essential for us to understand WHY forgiveness is so important for our bodies, minds and spirits and also to learn the process of HOW to forgive. But do we fully realize
We’ve all been there… through the BIG hurts, disappointments, betrayals. Friends, family, a spouse, a co-worker … someone who has done something to us that is – unforgivable.
We know what it feels like to have that BIG, monster boulder smack in the middle of our path. That unforgivable boulder is so big, we can’t move past it; we can't seem to move around it; and we can’t move forward with our lives. (Though some of us foolishly try to pick the darn thing up and carry it with us – yet we certainly never get very far). Those hurts and betrayals are so big, sometimes they are not only obvious to us, they are obvious to everyone around us, as well.
But what about the little hurts…the little deceptions and betrayals…those small stones of disappointment and anger? Do we know what they look like? Do we realize how many of them we collect in our lives? How many are filling our pockets and weighing us down?
It was in 2011 after hearing the Dalai Lama speak at a lecture in Montreal that I realized how many stones I had in my pockets — how many little hurts and disappointments I’d been carrying around – and how much they’d been weighing me down.
If you're ready to stretch your forgiveness muscles, join me in this exercise.
Go outside in your garden, yard or out at the curb and find a stone - any stone. Grab more than one if you like. If you can't get outside now, use anything that fits in your hand like a walnut or a large button. Got it?
Now take a few moments to think about the last time you COMPLAINED about another person in your life. Maybe it was one of your children taking you for granted. Maybe a friend let you down or a co-worker set you up for failure yet again. Or maybe your spouse "disobeyed" you.
We all complain. But according to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the key to identifying WHAT needs forgiveness in our lives can be found in our complaints. Why? Because COMPLAINTS are the expression of our GRIEVANCES and GRIEVANCES are the catalyst of NEGATIVE EMOTIONS which, in time, adds up to STRESS. Therefore, every time we complain about someone in our lives, we should think of it as filing a grievance away in our pocket. It doesn’t matter whether we say it out loud, write it in an email or just think it to ourselves.
The bottom line is .... nobody makes us complain – they just give us the opportunity to fill our pockets with stones. So with that in mind, grab your stone, close your eyes and think about one of your complaints, your grievances. Can you feel the weight of it in your hand? In your mind? In your heart?
By forgiving that grievance, you give a gift to yourself. You take back your power by taking responsibility for your feelings. This is an exercise - a choice - you can make every day.
Jeannette is the author of the novel "Diary of a Teenage Empath" and two HSP/Empath workbooks for children & teens. She is an Integrative Health Coach who, with her mentor Dr. Wendy Nickerson, launched the first-ever accredited HSP training program for mental health professionals. She leads an HSP community group in Halifax and advocates for HSPs in the mental health community.
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