Like many of us, I tried many methods of forgiveness prayer to heal the deep wounds from childhood, including methods for anger control, self-acceptance, controlling behavior, and coping with stress, as well as numerous spiritual practices and meditations.
While they all had their place and many helped on a surface level, I still felt ruled by a deep inner pain and self-attack, which would easily flip into reactivity and lashing out at others.
While I could hold a nice mental concept of forgiveness for short intervals – a kind of bandaid that helped for a little while – it wasn’t long before the same deep and painful wounds would get triggered again.
I came to realize that whatever is resisted (and therefore unhealed) within us will continue to create scenarios in our relationships, work environment, our bodies, and our entire life experience, which expose our inner wounds again and again, until we can accept them as they are and bring love to them.
Through the guidance of teachers Adyashanti, Bruce Tift, Jeff Foster, Eckhart Tolle, and many others, I’ve learned and practice a far simpler, more direct approach to forgiveness prayer that is based on acceptance and love. You can find this practice here.
Rather than trying to correct, heal or fix inner wounds, I’ve discovered that peace can only be realized by letting my intense feelings and inner sensations be as they are, bringing love to them, and experiencing them within Conscious Awareness.
This approach is what I call forgiveness prayer, a way of living daily life as a kind of prayer, committed to healing for ourselves, others in our past and present, and ultimately all life. You can learn how to do this healing practice here.
I define prayer as shifting attention to and living from what is divine with us, our Essential Being. This can be called Presence, God, Spirit, The Divine, Awareness, Consciousness, your True Nature, or many other descriptions that point to the truth of our Being.
Becoming conscious of the reality of Being is essential for true forgiveness.
We can only truly forgive from what within us is already and always forgiving. From the state of Pure Awareness, forgiveness isn’t even an issue because everything is automatically accepted as it is. It resists nothing, including resistance itself.
Consciousness allows the world and all life within it to be as it is. All of it is arising IN Consciousness. WE are Consciousness.
However, on the human level where we are identified with being a body / mind, forgiveness is the sincere willingness and heartfelt intention to:
Forgiveness also means that when our wounds get triggered and we forget to practice forgiveness prayer we can bring kindness and love to OURSELVES as well.
Forgiveness prayer takes practice and patience with ourselves. Don’t be hard on yourself if you
feel awkward doing this at first, or if you don't remember to do it at all.
In my experience, the pain of holding grudges itself points me back again and again to the forgiveness prayer practices shared here. Pain is a great motivator.
Remember, you as a person aren’t what does the forgiveness. You, Awareness are already doing it. We just have to shift our attention and allegiance there.
In my life, as in the lives of many of you who are reading this, some pretty horrific stuff happened in childhood. I tried everything I could to forgive my parents for all that happened. I finally realized that the way I was trying to do it made it impossible.
As long as I held the belief that what they did was wrong and THEY were wrong, that in itself insured that I couldn’t come to peace with them. Even when I saw that they were operating from their own wounds, then my emphasis shifted to “LIFE is wrong” which only deepened my suffering.
Thankfully, out of an intense desire to find love in my heart for myself and all those in my past, a series of realizations allowed me to see my pain and suffering from a different perspective, which began to open the door to a naturally occurring forgiveness prayer.
I became aware that any time I argue with what was or what is, I suffer.
What was, was. What is, is. Period.
No amount of resistance will ever change the past as it was or the present as it is, including our reactions to the past or present.
In a series of meditations, I saw a past life where many people died as a result of my greed for power. In that lifetime, when I realized what I had done I made a vow to never have power again. I decided I was unpardonably bad and deserved to be punished.
Next, I saw subsequent lifetimes where I was a slave in one, murdered in another, raped, attacked, imprisoned, and etc. in others. The series culminated in the realization that even this lifetime was an outward experience reflecting the inner belief that I was bad and should be punished.
These images clearly showed me that what we hold in our minds to be true (consciously or unconsciously) creates situations that reflect it.
I realized that all of what happened in my childhood as well as every moment since then has reflected and continues to reflect my own beliefs about how I honestly believed / believe I should be treated.
Another realization came in the form of a multi-generational image. I
looked at how my father’s parents treated him and saw that he treated me
the only way he knew how – the same way he was treated. I witnessed the
same thing when I looked at my mother and her upbringing.
Then this vision opened up further and I saw my father’s parents’ parents, and ditto on my mother’s side, with all of their hurts being passed down to the next generation.
I knew this isn’t just with my family. This is what happens with all life.
This cause and effect dynamic went back in time as far as I could see, like a series of dominoes. One “domino” was touched from behind and fell forward, touching the one in front of it, which then leaned into the one in front of it in the same way. On and on it goes.
Why and when did the first “domino” get the impetus to “lean forward” and start the chain reaction of passing on unhealed wounds? I have no idea.
But I do know that Consciousness has allowed all of this to be this way or it wouldn’t be happening.
As my perspective moved out from just my personal story, back to the beginning of time, I felt the tight knot of anger, blame, fear, and frustration start to unwind.
In my experience this aspect of forgiveness prayer is essential for healing. As long as we keep our perspective narrowed down to “you did this to me” we can’t truly heal.
But seeing it from a wider, more realistic context opens the door to healing.
Layering a thought about forgiveness on top of a thought of blame and resentment won’t produce forgiveness. Believe me, I’ve tried.
We can only truly forgive from what within us is ALREADY forgiving. We must shift attention to the Conscious Awareness within us which isn’t hurt by what happened to us, and has ALREADY accepted what happened with love.
You'll find help with this here.
Our first step is to fully accept, allow, and bring kindness to the pain, anger, fear, sadness, and all other intense emotions we experience within ourselves. Until we do that, true forgiveness prayer is impossible.
Then, once we’ve attended to our own wounds, we are in a much better position to interact with our loved ones in a less reactive, more open manner.
In the current climate of political divisiveness in the US and in many areas of our planet, all of our worst character flaws have the potential of being activated. As long as there is anything unresolved within us, something will manifest “out there” that will uncover and touch into a wound that already exists “in here.”
When this happens we actually have a tremendous opportunity for healing and awakening to the truth of Being.
We can shift our attention away from our thoughts and instead place it on the tight, uncomfortable sensations in the body. Then we can bring a feeling sense of love and kindness to these energies within us, literally being willing to embody the intensity we feel.
Unconsciously, most of us believe these intense inner feelings and energies will overwhelm and maybe even kill us if we let them come up.
They generally originate from a very young time in our lives when some aspect of our behavior wasn’t well received by the adults around us. An inner intelligence within us finds a way to try to protect us, which in many cases is to try to push the pain down and out of our Conscious Awareness. Consequently, these energies become unconscious, but still get triggered in our daily lives.
These hurts are here whether we want them to be here or not. By trying to ignore them or pushing against what or who it is that is triggering them, we actually feed more energy to the pain within.
However, by choosing to allow them to be here (because they ARE here) and finding within us a feeling of kindness toward this young, wounded aspect of ourselves, past hurts within us can gradually, eventually unwind. This page can help you with this.
I also highly recommend Bruce Tift's book, Already Free, which I know you'll find very helpful:
“By training ourselves to remain present with our anxiety [and ALL feelings], we have the opportunity to discover that it’s our avoidance of our core vulnerabilities that gives them the appearance of being a threat; there is nothing inherently harmful in these vulnerabilities themselves. We begin to live as adults, basing our lives on what is currently true, rather than as if we were children, basing our lives on what used to be true.”
~ Bruce Tift, MA, LMFT, Already Free, pg 186
In the unfolding of forgiveness prayer in my own life, I have found it important to investigate within and notice that when I have a strong reaction to a political figure (or anyone for that matter), or to something someone is expressing which I don’t agree with, these hurt and reactive energies were ALREADY in me before this person appeared in my life.
Our adult reactions are often our unconscious strategies which were formed in infancy or childhood to avoid feeling intense emotions which as infants we believe will kill us.
Noticing and investigating this for yourself is a powerful way to open to forgiveness prayer.
Since these reactive hurts are already here in us as adults before we even met the person who triggers them, we can’t honestly make the other person responsible for them. The responsibility for our own healing (to feel the intense inner feelings we don't want to feel and bring love to them) lies within us.
In the midst of the current political divisiveness in this country, there is a meditation therapy practice I frequently use while I’m watching the news, and many other times during the day, which I find quite healing.
As I said before, even though watching the news and the actions of various folks seems to trigger a reaction in me, they are not the CAUSE of the upset I feel. So I’m using the daily events to evoke wounds that were already within me, so that I can respond to these wounds lovingly within myself.
I highly recommend practicing Meditation Therapy, a variety of do-it-yourself practices which facilitate forgiveness prayer.
I'd also be happy to guide you through this healing process in a WellBeing Alignment Session.