June 29, 2011

Forgiveness Meditation Instruction

     Step One—Remorse
See if you can get in touch with the remorse of going against your own heart—that by holding onto resentment you are hurting yourself more than the other person is hurting you.

     Step Two—Resistance
Picture the person you feel resentment toward and try to breathe their image into the area in the center of the chest. If you feel resistance, don't try to force it; just stay with the physical experience of resistance as long as it takes for the resistance to soften. This might take numerous occasions of doing the forgiveness meditation for this softening to begin to happen.

     Step Three—Surrender
Ask yourself: Can I surrender to what is? Whatever you are feeling—whether it is hurt, anger, resentment, bitterness, or fear—try to stay with the physical experience of the emotion. Label any strong thoughts that arise, but keep coming back to the body over and over. Gradually try to breathe the painful feelings into the center of the chest on the inbreath, until they can rest there without struggle. This step may also take a fair number of practice sessions.

     Step Four—Forgiveness 
Silently say the words of forgiveness.

[Say the person's name],
I forgive you.
I forgive you for what you have done,
Whether intentionally or unintentionally,
From which I experienced pain.

I forgive you,
Because I know that what you did
Came from your own pain.

Return to this meditation as many times as you need to until the words of forgiveness come forth naturally from the heart. At that time, the words are no longer tools to help nurture forgiveness—they are simply a verbal expression of your genuine openhearted compassion.


From June's Tricycle Retreat leader Ezra Bayda’s new book, Beyond Happiness, The Zen Way to True Contentment

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Kat's picture

My problem is with step two. I don't want to soften toward the person who has seriously injured me. I want to hold her away from my heart. I want to forgive my husband and feel whole and healthy again but I don't want to process any forgiveness toward her. At all. How do I overcome this? How do I start to want to forgive that person? I do see how my anger is injuring me. I do see how my anger is not touching her at all and I'm the one still living in that place of pain and anger. I want to let that go and stop hurting myself. But I want to do that without forgiving her. Not possible or very emotionally developed but that is where I am. How do I move past this point of not wanting to forgive?

mar's picture

From my experience, TIME plays huge role... Sometimes we are not ready and we need to accept that, we need to accept what we are "right now"... Time softens our grasp ... If I let be it as it is without trying to change it, I have found that later (days/months/years??) I have began the process of forgiveness ........

lyndab54's picture

I think it takes time and practice; like learning any new strategy or changing any habit. Each time the angry thought arises it's replaced, intentionally, with one of forgiveness. I do believe we have a choice as to how we feel about a situation or another's behaviour, as difficult as this might be for us to accept. In my experience I've found that time and sheer effort is required to bring about sometimes the tiniest shift in my emotions. I just keep chipping away little by little. There have also been many occasions when this persistence has led to great positive outcomes.

Kat's picture

I agree that we choose how to respond to circumstances. I am meditating on the desire to begin to forgive. I think I need a pre-forgiveness process so that I can be ready to enter the forgiveness process. lol. I go on my first retreat in September, possibly being away from my day to day life will allow me the space to enter this process more fully. I feel the possibility of change in a way I haven't before so that's something.

lyndab54's picture

I think you mention an important point - having the desire to begin...
Once the desire is there it seems just a matter of time before the action follows.
Enjoy the retreat!

moonaysl's picture

I had the same question!

moonaysl's picture

One question I really feel I cannot understand right now is why my anger is hurting me more than it hurts the person I am angry with. My anger feels like it is protection for my heart, not going against it. I think it would be great to have a guided meditation that focuses on really grasping this first step.

Sam Mowe's picture

Personally, I don't think there's anything wrong with anger itself, but rather in how we choose to express our anger. In his book Spiritual Bypassing: When Spirituality Disconnects Us from What Really Matters, Robert Augustus Masters writes:

"When we are angry, we might express it as hostility—emitting unmistakable negativity, bristly and mean-spirited, tight and heartless. Yes, we are angry, but we are filtering—and forcing— it through a darkly twisted lens, so that it is expressed not as clean anger (that is, anger free of aggression, blaming, and shaming) but as hostility.

Does this mean that anger itself is therefore a negative emotion? No. It means we have handled our anger negatively, putting a mean-spirited spin on it. Our choice. Hostility is not a negative emotion but rather a negative framing and expression of anger.

Anger itself can be a positive force: getting angry that you have just lost your job may give you the energy and sheer drive to pursue more fitting work. Likewise, getting angry about the abuse you are suffering in a relationship will help fuel you to form healthy boundaries, providing much of the motivation and strength needed to either improve the relationship or leave it."

julieful's picture

I agree, in my own experience it does feel like I'm protecting myself from further pain, but maybe what you said in the last part is really the point, we are grasping...at self.