Forgiveness is a subject that has never gone out of style. It seems to be encoded into our human DNA to take on resentments and then hold tightly to them, as though we no longer think that we will be okay without them. For many people, once someone has “done them wrong” once in life (and this someone can be one’s own self), everything that person does from that point on only adds to the accumulation of resentments. Like spiky leaves growing around the heart of an avocado, we add layers of protection to keep us from experiencing the vulnerability of our own hearts.
Most people know at least something about forgiveness. Breakups, divorces, being picked on and getting fired from jobs are all pretty common experiences, after all. Some people forgive reluctantly because they feel that it is something they “should” do, which, in my opinion, actually isn’t real forgiveness. Others genuinely forgive and move on. Some even forgive for the most extraordinary atrocities imaginable (don’t take my word for it, watch the extraordinary story of Eva Kor, Auschwitz survivor, here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxqQbXoDtIc)
Eva Kor’s story is beyond what I or anyone who is likely to read this can relate to. That being said, I have definitely earned my title as an authority on the subject of forgiveness. My life was permanently altered at the age of twenty-four, when a drunk driver caused me to become paralyzed from the waist down. There were two directions I could have gone – unimaginable suffering, or towards the power of forgiveness. I say towards because, in my experience, forgiveness rarely just happens all in one moment. Our hearts have to gradually learn to make more space for the feelings we harbor.
My process of forgiveness started shortly after my accident, when I first saw the perpetrator (who wasn’t harmed, everyone always asks) in the hospital. If I hadn’t been on morphine, I might not have had the courage to forgive him, but since I was, I did. At least I began to. My forgiveness of him was a process that took many years. It was much easier to forgive him when I was having fun with friends or sit skiing in Colorado. It was much harder to forgive him when I was spending over two years collectively in hospital beds.
What I have come to discover about resentment is, like anything, it exists as a phenomenon of energy within our physical and emotional bodies. It is part of us, but only as much as we relate to it as being a necessary part of our experience. In its purest form, anger, sadness and resentment are simply raw energy. For me, my practice of meditation and breathwork forced me to experience this raw energy firsthand. In the beginning stages of my meditation practice, the feelings would be so intense that I would lose focus and space out and fall asleep. This was my mind’s way of protecting me from the trauma. Everyone I’ve ever worked with does this to a degree to avoid feeling their own traumas.
With time, I learned to take this raw energy and move with it, let it move through my body and filter through my breath. What I discovered is that when this raw energy is circulated, it could actually be used productively and intentionally for creating more of what I desired in my life. All that was required was for the energy to move through my energy centers (or chakras, as they are called in yogic traditions). When the energy moved through my heart, at first it was painful, but eventually, it was met with love. When the energy moved through my head, it initially created nightmares, but, eventually, it began to open up my intuitive channels. Now, I am in no way implying that this has been easy. It has been the challenge of a lifetime. But it is possible, and that’s why I feel so compelled to share this as a learnable skill.
In this year of 2017, there is a tension in the air that people seem to be feeling around the world. Many people feel that human civilization itself may even be on the brink of total collapse. If you’re following the news, you may feel that the hope you still have is being eroded every day. This naturally leads to anger and resentment towards those who are causing the greatest harm. If this anger is allowed to fester unconsciously in your mind and body, you will inevitably seal off your energy centers in an attempt to protect yourself. This will then diminish your capacity to experience love in your heart, groundedness in your being, and intentional focus in your mind. However, if you learn to harness the power of this raw energy and transform it with forgiveness, you can take the necessary steps towards creating the world your heart envisions.