Why the hell should I?
That was the last retort I would always make whenever I heard the words ‘forgiveness’ and ‘past’ together in a sentence.
I mean things happened TO ME right? I wasn’t in control of anything, therefore why on earth should I forgive anything.
So I trundled along with life, hands on hips, bottom lip stuck out, absolutely defiant in my belief that life happened TO ME and I just had to deal with whatever shit came flying out of the proverbial fan.
I was absolutely not going to forgive.
But here’s the thing.
By refusing to look back into my past and make my peace with it, I was constantly re-living every single thing that had rocked my world.
Every single day. Every single moment.
Multiply that by years and you have a rather large portion of life being taken up by events that no longer exist.
No wonder I couldn’t manifest an amazing life like Rhonda said I could. Too many of my thoughts (and resulting feelings) were taken up by re-living my past in some way.
We all do it. You may not realise it. Years of holding the same angst, pain, and frustration at a situation means that you constantly think about it. Usually deep in your subconscious.
Something happens and you feel it again. Then you suffer an emotion or release ranging from tears, to rage and depression. It’s an endless cycle.
Well the good news is you don’t have to suffer like this anymore. No matter what you have been through or are currently going through, this absolutely does not need to be your life. A rather bold statement to make but so confident am I in the results of this particular lesson, that I am prepared to make such a statement.
So what can you do?
What you need: A simple note-book/exercise book/A4 sheets of paper, something to write with, somewhere you won’t be disturbed, a box of tissues.
Head up a page with “My Life Path”.
I literally started with “26th April 1984 – Born”. I then listed every significant event in my life, in chronological order by month and year, in a very matter-of-fact way (see picture). A time-line of your life.
As you write, notice which events trigger strong adverse feelings within you – the ones where you put up the most resistance. Also notice which ones you skim over, or perhaps even miss out completely!
Interestingly enough, when I did this exercise, I had completely missed out my sister’s death. Really bizarre considering how deeply it had affected me. If you look really closely, you can see how I squeezed it in afterwards. It told me a lot about how I was dealing with that particular episode. Ostrich. Head. Sand.
Take it right up until the present day, put your pen down and take a deep breath. Have a moment. Or two.
Well done. That took some guts. Now its time to release it.
Read back what you have written, and each time you get to a difficult part where you start feeling all the upset again, stop here.
Really think about what happened to make you feel that way. What was said. What was done. How you reacted.
Write it down somewhere if you have to, or say it out loud. Sing it if it helps. Whatever you do, instead of judging the situation, person or yourself, just feel it knowing that it’s already happened and the feeling will pass again – just like it has before.
Now its time to heal it with a little help from Louise Hay and Ulrich E. Duprée.
“We are all victims of victims”.
This one statement from Louise’s book “You Can Heal Your Life”, completely changed how I viewed my past and how I choose to deal with life today. I highly recommend putting this book on your “must read” list.
There is a section in the book where Louise talks about parents and how they “could not possibly teach us anything they did not know themselves”. They were doing the best they could with what they themselves had been taught and had experienced.
She also goes on to write that “those who did all that stuff to you, were just as frightened and scared as you were”. This really had an impact on me and I remember sitting quietly for a while after I read it. The whole book in fact.
So I started to look at my past through new eyes. I went back through each event and realised that I didn’t know anything about anyone else’s past. My father, my step-father, my abuser; no-one really.
I had no idea what they had been through. Particularly my father. So I started to ask a few questions about his past and piece together bits of information I had learnt over the years.
My father was a twin. His brother died in an accident (apparently in front of his very eyes) and he had never been the same since. I know very little about his upbringing apart from the fact that neither his mother or father were particularly loving or nurturing. They had bigger things to worry about like putting food on the table and surviving, rather than attending to the mental well-being of their son.
He must have felt very alone dealing with the loss of his brother and illness that had slowly started to consume him; facing ridicule and isolation within his own community. I had also turned against him and used to have frequent arguments with him about his “weird” behaviour, getting angry when he couldn’t explain why he was the way he was.
My father doted on my sister and I. He absolutely loved us in the best way he could, so when I turned against him it must have hurt him deeply, but I just couldn’t see it. I was too young, ashamed and angry at having such a “weirdo” Dad to ever realise that what he needed was help.
So I started to think about all the good things that my father had done. He had taught me and my sister how to swim and ride a bike. In fact most of my time with him was spent feeding ducks at the park, riding our bikes, swimming and running around.
Some of my best memories from childhood were because of him, yet I had chosen to focus on all the negatives and allowed that to replay every time I thought of him.
Slowly but surely, my feelings towards my father started to evolve from anger and sadness, to that of compassion and understanding.
I did the same for everyone else. Where I didn’t know about someone’s past, I would think about how much my childhood had affected me and extended that feeling of knowing to the other person.
If it helps, write a letter to that person saying everything you want to.
We all have a story.
We all have the ability to understand and relate.
Ho’pono what now?
Sounds a little funny doesn’t it. But this little gem has really helped me with this forgiveness thing and I am hoping it will do the same for you too.
I first heard about it during my Reiki 1 course when one of the other participants mentioned it during a group discussion. Little did I know at the time the impact it would later have on me.
Ho’ponopono is a Hawaiian forgiveness ritual. It has four simple sentences at its core; “I am sorry”, “Please forgive me”, “I love you”, “Thank you”. Its basic premise is that we can only influence our ‘external world’ if we heal the corresponding inner resonance (remember the whole living inside out thing).
Ulrich E. Duprée has written a little A5 book that explains Ho’ponopono in a really simple way. It is so tiny it literally fits into a back pocket, but it is oh so valuable. I can’t possibly do it justice in this one blog post, so I would urge you to read it when you get a chance.
So how on earth did these four simple sentences help me?
Well, I said them out loud as I worked my way through my time line. If I felt a bit more resistance at any point to forgiving (i.e. familiar feelings of upset or anger arose), then I would keep repeating them until that feeling subsided and I felt calm again.
Once I got to the end of my time line, I placed my hands on my heart and repeated the sentences a few times.
Then I pushed the air away from me and said out loud “I let it all go”.
I remember feeling such relief after I did this. I didn’t have to carry any of it for a second longer. It was a freedom I had never experienced before and it was so simple. It was the fear of re-living my past that had stopped me from dealing with it. Once I understood that every thing had already passed and all I had to do was heal, it made it much easier to face.
The word ‘Forgive’ is derived from the Latin word ‘Perdonare’ meaning “to give completely, without reservation”.
It explains in a nutshell how I view forgiveness. The burden you carry can be “given away”, released if you like. Everything has already happened. Nothing is ever going to change that. What can be changed is your feeling towards it, and that will give you more freedom than you have ever known.
I am not saying condone whatever has happened or turn a blind eye and pretend everything is okay. Because it’s not. Otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this post.
What I am saying is choose how you want to live now. In the past, or in the present. One cannot be changed, but the other can.
Next week I will be looking at how we can incorporate forgiveness into every day and bring you some real-life examples. Leave me a comment if you want to ask anything or just want to let me know how you’re getting on with this whole forgiveness thing.
Thank you so much for reading and I really hope this post has helped you in some way.
I’ll leave you with another quote from Louise Hay and I’ll see you next week.
You don’t have to know how to forgive, and you may not be wanting to forgive, but just being willing to forgive and release the past will begin the healing process.