The Lifeful Heart 

The Practice of Forgiveness

Find Openness and Healing with this Ancient Buddhist Practice

“If you want to see the brave, look to those who can return love for hatred. If you want to see the heroic, look to those who can forgive.”

~ Bhagavad Gita

In Buddhist psychology, forgiveness is seen as an important foundation for our physical and psychological health.

Craving vengeance and suffering to others, no matter how justified it seems, only serve to hold us chained to the hurt and pain of the past, condemned to live day after day with hatred in our hearts.

Marianne Williamson puts it beautifully: "Forgiveness is the choice to see people as they are now. When we're mad at people, we're angry because of something they said or did before this moment. By letting go of the past, we make room for miracles to replace our grievances."

Through forgiveness, we purify and let go of all the bitterness, hate, and pain we carry in our hearts bringing a deep sense of both psychological and spiritual well-being.

Buddhist texts describe it in a lovely way: "Your dreams become sweeter, you wake up more easily, men and women will love you, angels and devils will love you. If you lose things they will be returned. People will welcome you everywhere when you are forgiving and loving. Your thoughts become pleasant. Animals will sense this and love you. Elephants will bow as you go by. Your babies will be happy in the womb!"

As the practice of forgiveness grows through generosity and repetition, we gradually realize a state of mind where specific acts of forgiveness become less and less necessary because we grow less reactive to the events in our daily life. We naturally become more empathetic and compassionate towards others.

We start by setting the intention and willingness to forgive, and these alone start melting those walls around our hearts and opening you up to your most profound feelings of love. Just as nature does its part when we plant a seed in our garden, we can trust our consciousness to invariably respond to our intention to forgive.

How? According to Buddhism, the practice of forgiveness is done in three parts: (1) asking forgiveness from those you have harmed; (2) offering forgiveness to yourself; and (3) offering forgiveness to those who have harmed you.

Here are some quick recitations to guide you through each of these parts.

1) Asking for forgiveness

Start by reflecting on someone that you'd like to ask for forgiveness, for some way you've acted hurtfully, consciously or unconsciously. Leading another to feel rejected or misunderstood.

Mentally whisper the person's name and recite the following: “I see and feel the pain and hurt I've caused you and I ask your forgiveness. Please forgive me. I ask your forgiveness. Please forgive me.” How does it feel like for you to feel forgiven? Breath deeply and feel the release in your heart.

If you would like to apologize to different people, just repeat the recitation.

Next, when you are ready, continue with the practice of self-forgiveness. Just as others have been caught in suffering, so have we. If we look honestly at our life, we can see the sorrows and pains that have led to our transgressions. When we finally extend forgiveness to ourselves we can let go of the pain we have felt and caused with ease and compassion.

2) Self - Forgiveness

Sense where you have been unforgiven towards yourself. Let that part of yourself that has acted or behaved in ways that feel unforgivable come into the foreground.

Breath deeply while mentally reciting: "For all of the ways I have hurt or harmed myself, not loved myself, or not lived up to my expectations, knowingly or unknowingly, I offer myself forgiveness. I forgive myself now.”

Finally, for the third part, bring to mind where in your life you're holding blame and resentment towards another.

3) Offering forgiveness to others

Feel where you have been hurt, injured, or mistreated by another. Observe how your heart is armored towards this person.

Whisper their name and say: "I see and feel the pain and hurt you've caused me, knowingly or unknowingly, and I forgive you now. It's my intention to forgive you. "

If it helps recognize the fear, hurt, insecurity, or confusion that might have triggered that person's behavior.

Whisper their name again and say: "I see and feel the pain and hurt you've caused me, and can see where you are coming from, and I forgive you now. "

Lastly, remember that forgiveness is not a quick fix. Instead, the work of forgiveness is a tender process of the heart, where it slowly disengages from the pain and feeling of betrayal of the past.

Don’t worry if there is not a great rush of sensation during these practices. Instead, trust the force of intention to assert the human heart’s capacity to change and grow into love.

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