article by Melanie Younger
Freedom Skills: Forgiveness
Freedom is something we all desire. The sense of boundlessness, to live without being hedged in my limitation. Many of our limitations are self-generated. The Freedom Skills series aims to explore practical tools for liberation.
Hanging on to old wounds powerfully limits our ability to progress. To give a visual idea, imagine playing a game of Twister where the left foot is in an old unhealed reality and the right hand is reaching all the way over to the other side of the Twister mat, reaching over a couple of other players to touch down in a new healed reality where we are trying to manifest our dreams. It’s easy to see how we may not be able to give our full attention to manifesting if we are stretching ourselves, reaching over people and straining to have the energy to get there.
What happens when we forgive is that we free up energy. Whether we know it or not, it takes a certain amount of energy, in fact a portion of our personal power, to hold on to resentment and un-forgiveness. In letting that old emotional pattern run in the background of everything we do, we not only drain our power but we colour our perception. We begin to attract circumstances that are in affinity with the harmonic of resentment. So more than just pulling away from our capacity to manifest, un-forgiveness begins to shape our reality. When we forgive, we are able to observe the world with fresh perspective uncolored by the wounds of the past.
Tools for Forgiveness: Tonglen Meditation
Tonglen practice is a method for connecting with suffering —ours and that of others. It is a method for overcoming fear of suffering and for opening the heart to compassion. In Tonglen we visualize taking on the suffering of a person we know to be hurting and who we wish to help. I have found it to be helpful in forgiving, to identify with the idea that anyone who I make be in conflict with, is suffering just as much as I am. In this way Tonglen can be used as a tool to actively work with forgiveness in your meditation practice.
Tonglen in Tibetan means “Giving &Taking.” In Tonglen practice, we use our infinite potential for compassion to take on the various sufferings of others: their fear, hurt, pain, anger, loneliness, doubt, etc. In return, we give them our loving-kindness, happiness, peace of mind, well-being and healing intention.
The Tonglen Process
1) Sit quietly with your eyes closed. Focus on your heart center and awaken feelings of compassion. Imagine that you have the capacity to bring peace, healing and well-being to others through your heart and your intention.
2) Imagine in front of you, as clearly as possible, someone you know who is suffering. If you are using Tonglen as a forgiveness tool, imagine the person who you need to forgive. See them in detail. Imagine their clothes, their hair, and their face. Open yourself to the idea of this person’s suffering. Imagine him/her sitting so close that your knees touch each other. Imagine what the pain of their suffering might be like. Allow yourself to feel fully connected with him or her, aware of their difficulties, pain, and distress. Then, as you feel your heart opening in compassion toward the person, imagine that all of his or her suffering comes out and gathers itself into a cloud of black, grimy smoke outside of their body.
3) See your heart as a radiant blue flame dissolving all of your selfish intent and negativity. Let the flame become as radiant as it possibly can and then visualize breathing this mass of black smoke that is their suffering into the blue flame of your heart, see it dissolve into the flame at the core of your heart center. The compassionate wisdom in your heart completely destroys all traces of suffering, fear and negativity.
4) As you breathe out, imagine the energy purified in the heart-flame is transmuted into loving-kindness, compassion, peace, happiness, and well-being directed towards the person for who you are doing the Tonglen. See this brilliant radiance offering them what they need to heal their suffering. Send out any feelings that encourage healing, relaxation, and openness. Do this with complete sincerity
5) Continue this “giving and receiving” with each breath for as long as you wish. At the end of your practice, generate a firm inner conviction that this person has been freed of suffering and is filled with peace, happiness and well-being. You may also wish to dedicate the merit and virtue of your practice to the benefit of all sentient beings.
Another Powerful Form of Tonglen
Clearly imagine a situation where you have acted badly, one about which you feel shameful or guilty, and which may be difficult to even think about. Then, as you breathe in, opening your heart, accept total responsibility for your actions in that particular situation. Do not judge or justify the behavior. Simply acknowledge wrong-doing and wholeheartedly ask for forgiveness. Now, as you breathe out, send the compassion, reconciliation, forgiveness, healing, and understanding. Breathe in the pain and the blame, and breathe out the undoing of harm. Breathe in taking full responsibility, breathe out the compassionate intention of healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation. This exercise is especially powerful.
Forgiveness frees us! Let go of something today. The process of letting go opens us up to something better and helps us to align with the fluid nature of the Universe.