Forgiveness is an Act of Self-Love (& How I'm Learning to Practice It).

My heart sank when I saw her name pop into my inbox.

My chest instantly tightened and my stomach started burning.

My mind raced back to the last time we'd seen each other. There had been emotional manipulation. Threats of violence. And to try to make it all stop, I'd agreed to things I didn't really believe were right.

It sounds like the end of an unhealthy romantic relationship but it was the dissolution of a business partnership and friendship. Our relationship had been fleeting but intense. Looking back, I realized I'd been drawn in by her charismatic personality. She made me feel like I was special. Like I was part of something. But there had never really been space for me. Whenever I didn't agree or if I stepped outside of her carefully laid plans, things got heated. So I didn't push the envelope. Until things got so intense that I had no choice but to stand up for myself and say that I wouldn't go along with it all anymore.

I'd like to think that it isn't typical for me to kowtow like this. I'm outspoken. I have strong opinions. I like to do things my own way.

But there's a definite stroke of people pleasing that runs through my veins as well. I don't like to let anyone down. I'd hate for them to feel disappointed.

I'd tried to force that door shut but whenever she'd come to mind, I'd get a sick, knotted feeling in my stomach. I felt resentful that the aftermath of our relationship was still affecting my life.  I blamed her but also myself for not standing up for myself.

So I decided it was time to put my foot down. To act in alignment with my values, not out of fear. And, of course, that meant her name popped up in my inbox.

Panic flooded my body. My hands shook. I squeezed tears out of my eyes.

And pretty quickly, I realized this was an opportunity. An opportunity to heal. To forgive. To let go.

That chapter of my life is over but as long as I remain emotionally tied to it, I was still carrying around the baggage and it was weighing me down.

I learned so many lessons from that time in my life. It shaped who I am in many beautiful ways. As flawed as she is, my former friend taught me a lot about being spontaneous, taking chances, and going after the things that I really want. And as devastating as the end of our friendship was, it taught me so much about being true to myself, following my intuition, and standing in my power.

I have gratitude for these lessons but my default reaction to remembering that period of time was fear, panic, and shame. In fact, my hands are shaking as I type this. I feel terrified at the thought of hitting publish. Terrified of whether I'll have to deal with her reaction. Of sharing such a messy and vulnerable part of my life with you.

To fully integrate these lessons I need to heal these wounds and forgive so that I can release the fear and resentment.

Forgiveness is such an abstract concept and so often we avoid it because it seems like we're letting the other person "win." That we're condoning their behaviour if we forgive.

But forgiveness is a gift to ourselves. It's more about us, than the other person. It allows us to drop that heavy baggage and truly step forward. To intentionally choose our response. To really heal and release the negative energy once and for all. To move on, if you will.

When I thought about forgiving her, I felt all twisted up. It sounded like a nice idea but I had no idea where to start. So I looked for practices that would help me and I began using them as a sort of daily practice. My living commitment to forgiveness and letting go. A tangible way to begin dismantling that resentment and letting it finally fall of my shoulders so that I can leave it behind me.

I wanted to share this practice with you in hopes that it will help you as much as it's helped me.

I'm allowing myself to fully feel it all.
I know that I don't want to feel like this anymore but pushing it down and pretending that I don't has meant that I'm allowing these feelings to fester (remember: "What we resist, persists."). I'm learning to sit with this discomfort so that it can run it's natural course and truly leave my body. I've been using Louise's practice of telling myself: "I feel [ANGRY/sad/afraid/anxious] and that's okay" instead of beating myself up for it. I lean into the act of surrender simply by telling myself "I surrender."

I intentionally cut the cords.
Cord cutting is a powerful visualization exercise where you imagine yourself cutting the emotional and energetic ties that exist between the two of you. If this sounds a bit too woo-woo for you, listen to this: studies have shown that the neural pathways that are activated when we undertake an activity are similarly activated when we just think about doing that activity. The effect is so powerful that in a study of weightlifters, a group of participants who just thought about exercising rather than going to the gym still increased their muscle strength.

Visualization is a tool for priming your brain and mentally training it. Even if you don't believe in energetic ties and our ability to sever them, cord cutting draws on the power of visualization by telling our brain to cut the emotional and mental ties we feel with this person. On a more spiritual level, it's a way to decide what type of energy (if any) you want to have binding the two of you.

Simply sit somewhere that you won't be disturbed for 5-10 minutes. Close your eyes and take a few long, deep breaths to begin clearing your mind. When you're ready, picture the person you want to cut ties with standing in front of you and allow the feelings that brings up for you to start flooding your body. Remember that you're safe and really tune in to where these feelings sit in your body. For me, it's usually a tightness in my chest and burning sensation in my stomach.

Visualize cords connecting these places in your body to the other person. When I started this exercise I saw thick, black, rubber cords extending between the two of us.

There are a couple of ways you can cut the cords. Many people like to think of themselves holding a large pair of scissors or a sword and slicing through the cords and letting them fall to the ground.

I prefer to put my hands on the parts of my body where the cords are connected and picture pulling them out as if they are hooked right into my skin and then dropping them to the floor.

You can choose whether you want to maintain some sort of energetic connection with this person. You could replace the cords with a thin cold chain, a delicate thread, or anything else that represents the level of connection you wish to create. In my situation, I chose to visualize the cords completely evaporating so that there is no longer any connection between us.

Finish the visualization by imagining a hoop of pure, white light moving up and down your body, cleansing your energy and clearing any residual ties with this person.

Because visualization is a kind of "mental training," I found that I needed to consistently practice this cord cutting exercise (and I still am) in order to begin letting go of the emotional, mental, and energetic attachment I feel towards this person. You might find that you experience a release right away or that you need to repeat it everyday but that the cords connecting you begin to look different. It's a tool that you can use whenever you need to, but it's more effective when practiced consistently.

I practice loving kindness, for myself and others.
I've been reading How to Love Yourself (& Sometimes Other People) in preparation for interviewing Meggan Watterson next week. In it, co-author Lodro Rizler describes a meditation that you can use for cultivating loving kindness towards yourself and other. It felt like the missing piece of my forgiveness puzzle. Because although I've dedicated myself to cutting the ties between myself and my former friend, I still felt resentful for what had happened and I don't want to carry that kind of negativity around with me.

I've adapted the meditation a little bit and created an audio file that will lead you through it but the premise is simple: sit for five minutes and tune into your breath. There's no need to manipulate it, just notice the sensation of your breath entering and leaving your body. When your mind your wanders just say "thinking" to yourself and let these thoughts float away. Set a timer for two minutes and say to yourself: "May I be happy and free from suffering." Notice whether you have any resistance to offering yourself this loving kindness. If your mind wanders, bring it back to the mantra. Reset another timer for two minutes and bring to mind the face of someone you love dearly. Insert their name into the mantra: "May ______ be happy and free from suffering." Think about what contributes to their happiness. Consider what makes them suffering and how their life would be different if this suffering ended. Continue bringing your mind back to the mantra. Repeat this process for a colleague or friend you like, an acquaintance you don't know very well, and finally, the person you wish to forgive. Finish by extending this wish to everyone on your street, in your neighbourhood, your city, your country, and then the entire world. Spend a few minutes sitting with the feelings of loving kindness that you've created.

 

Ultimately, I'm trying to remember to be gentle with myself. Forgiveness is a process. But these practices are allowing me to move through it a little more tangibly and a little more gracefully.

I hope that they'll offer you this same peace of mind. That you'll forgive yourself as you commit to forgiving the other person. That you'll give yourself the gift of moving past this once and for all. 

I love you, babe.

Want the guided meditations?

 

Click below to download two free guided meditations that will lead you through these forgiveness practices.

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