As the leaves start to change color and fall to the ground, how can we let go of what we’ve been holding on to too tightly?
Autumn is a time of preparation. Preparation for winter. It is a busy time of year often feeling hectic after a fun summer. It is important in our practice to find the time to do a little spiritual maintenance and prepare for a winter within. One way we can do that is by letting go of resentments and grudges, small or large, and find forgiveness.
First, let’s not confuse forgiveness with acceptance.
Often when we come across a well meaning positive thinking quote or meme about forgiveness it can be confused with forgiving the action of the other person. This sets us up to fail on many levels. One, that is hard to do, especially when you don’t think you deserved to be treated a certain way or can’t understand why in the world someone would do such a thing. The action does not need to be accepted. What we do need to do is find a way to accept that something has happened the way we didn’t want it to go. The practice of yoga teaches us to let go of our attachments of outcomes. Nature will unfold the way it is meant to. People will be mean to us. Events won’t go as planned. On another level, it disregards the fact that what is often needed is a new sense of boundaries. A new way of defining how you will or won’t be treated. With forgiveness, we can find freedom and set boundaries. This will give us a stronger voice and redirect energy back to us that we deserve. Let me expand.
Forgiveness allows us to learn- about ourselves.
Many moons ago, I was ghosted by a close friend of mine that I worked with. She could no longer commit to plans and responses started to stagger. Soon, I was dropped. No reason why. I took a hint and let it go. At first I was deeply hurt but I soon began to see my own involvement. My own willingness to have a friend I considered close that didn’t really consider me that way. I then began to see how I allowed such relationships in my life on a grander scale. How I let people drop me and pull me back in when they needed me. How I let them call the shots. I began to learn more and more about relationship dynamics and traced it all back to a family member- a conditioning from day one. With all of that unraveling (healing is like peeling an onion or undoing a sweater) I found forgiveness for that friendship ending. I received a HUGE gift. If I stayed, demanded to know why, or let myself be pulled back in later, I would have never found the answers I really needed to find. I would have just been disappointed again and again AND I would have kept attracting these so called friends. Now I can stand in my worth. I see the red flags and I’m attracting what I fully deserve. Keep in mind, none of this is a dramatic action. In this instance, finding forgiveness didn’t mean taking her back as a friend or even talking about it. The work was done within. What I let go of was the negative energy surrounding it and found the positive. I let go of the hold that person(s) had on me. I was then able to move beyond the past.
The gift of release.
In my classes when we meditate I often ask my students to observe their breath. No judgments. No right or wrong. Just observe. This helps us stay focused and stay in the present moment. “Thoughts may enter” I will say. “But don’t react.” Don’t expand. When it comes to forgiving sometimes you just have to observe and not expand. Some grudges are down deep and we’ve been playing them out in our minds for a long time. By observing your body and breath you can start to feel where you are holding tension. This is where the asana (poses) of practicing yoga comes in. Movement, breathwork, and meditation can give us the gift of release. We can start to let go of painful memories that are literally stored in our tissues. When we are wronged, our sympathetic nervous system springs into action. It is designed to protect us. We enter fight or flight mode. When we re-live a stressful or painful memory filled with anger it is there for us. It can’t tell the difference between a 20 year old memory or an on-coming bus! We then hold the tension with each re-telling and re-hashing. To help you move beyond the past, get moving! We can let go of discomfort by doing heart opening poses. We can do twists to help wring out the pain. And we can end with restorative poses to feel supported and switch on our para-sympathetic nervous system to rest and digest. Then we can start to do the within work mentioned above. We can start to unravel the sweater and heal. This is the opposite of stuffing down the pain and just choosing to not think about it, or to only think positive thoughts. We’re not letting anyone off the hook and diminishing our self-worth in the process. Instead, we are allowing ourselves to learn, move on, and ultimately find forgiveness and love for ourselves.