When we consider how someone could behave in ways that create anguish for us, it is useful to recognize that their choices reflect the story they’ve been living. More often than not, it is because, given their existing level of awareness, they were unable to entertain other options to get their needs met in ways that wouldn’t create pain for another.
We are, of course, responsible for our choices, and there are abundant examples of people who, despite growing up in environments of abuse or deprivation, go on to live magnificent lives of service and compassion. Our past does not have to define our future. Still, understanding the experiences of others helps us move towards forgiveness, which is necessary if we are to fully heal and be free to love.
Creating a Story of Understanding
- What do you know or imagine about the emotional and physical health of their parents or caregivers?
- Was the individual who caused you pain planned and wanted by their parents?
- How was this person treated as a baby and young child?
- How did their family members and peers relate to them?
Intentions into Actions
What can I do to forgive this person for the pain I’ve experienced as a result of their words or actions?
The emphasis is on what you can do, not on what you want or expect the offender to do. You have no control over the other person’s choices, and therefore your heart’s freedom cannot be dependent upon their actions.
Possibilities include writing a letter, burying a memento in the ground, burning a token object that you associate with the person, starting an organization that helps others avoid or recover from similar trespasses, or writing an article or book that documents your experience for the benefit of others. The scale of the action doesn’t matter; what’s important is that you do something that demonstrates your willingness to forgive and move forward.
Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and settle yourself in your heart. Now bring into your awareness something that you have said or done that clearly generated anguish or distress for someone else. Consider the context of your life at the time you engaged in the pain-provoking behavior. Bring the details of the story into your awareness, noticing the important choices you made that ultimately led to pain for someone else.
Take some time to journal the story, describing what happened, the consequences of your actions, and the feelings that were generated in both the people who were hurt and in you. Now close your eyes again, settle your awareness into your heart, and ask yourself this question: What am I prepared to do to enable me to forgive myself for my actions that caused pain to another person?
Doing Our Best
Confession Frees the Heart
- I am sorry for the pain you caused.
- I’m sure you were doing your best from your level of consciousness at the time.
- Assuming you honor your commitment to make amends, you deserve to be forgiven.
Up in Smoke
The next step in the healing process is a ritual based on the transformative power of agni. In the ayurvedic tradition, agni is the digestive fire that processes everything we ingest in our life, including our food, sensory impressions, and experiences.
You will need a safe place where you can light a fire, such as an outdoor fire pit or an indoor fireplace. First take your list of painful memories and toxic traits which you created in Chapter 6. Add to it a few words that represent the personal transgression or oversight you just identified. Once you’ve completed your list, start a fire and offer your list to the transformational flames of agni. At Chopra Center workshops, we build a campfire and invite each participant to release their inventory of painful experiences and traits into the fire. Then we roast marshmallows and make “smores” with chocolate and graham crackers. The symbolism is simple: We have the capacity – you have the capacity – to transform sorrow into sweetness.
Get Ready for The Next Chapter
(courtesy Diva Village)