by Adrian W. Hall, MFT, ATR

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The topic of forgiveness has been coming up a lot recently, so I thought I would take a moment to heed the signals by exploring and writing about it.  Honestly, I usually don’t think about this topic much.  I do believe it is something that is important for personal freedom and in relationships, so it comes up mostly in my work with clients.

But, personally, I haven’t paid much attention because I “understand” a lot of why people do what they do and believe that things occur in my world for a reason, so haven’t felt much of a need to focus on forgiveness. 

Well, it’s great to “understand”, but, as David Richo says “the mind knows about these explanations, but the body does not” (When Love Meets Fear, p. 27).  We know that the body is the where emotion is stored, so, really, intellectual understanding doesn’t exactly accomplish the work of letting go. 

While forgiveness has been coming up as a theme, the practice of Ho’oponopono has been presenting itself.  Ho’oponopono is an ancient Hawaiian practice of forgiveness and reconciliation. 

What attracted me is that the practice centers around the belief that we create and attract everything that is in our lives.  I love this for three reasons.  First of all, blaming other people and outside circumstances is just plain unproductive.  Second, if we acknowledge something as our responsibility, it puts that feeling/situation within our sphere of influence.  We are able to be powerful with it.  Finally, part of the underlying premise is that we are all One and all connected.

The history of Ho’oponopono is pretty fascinating; you can briefly check that out here and here

In this practice, you choose a person or situation where you feel conflict, resentment or grief.  You sit quietly, as you would for any meditation, and connect to a higher source of energy.  Next, you visualize a stage below you and invite the person or situation onto the stage.  Once you are connected and the person or situation is in front of you, you begin to repeat, “I’m sorry.  Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.”  You can say these things aloud or just in your mind.  It might feel awkward at first, but continue to say it until you feel emotion and feel like you mean it. 

If you are comfortable with visualization, I think it is helpful to watch how the person or situation responds to you while they are on stage.  It will likely change as your emotion changes.  When you feel a shift or the pain of resentment, conflict or grief is no longer present, let the energy from that higher source fill your heart space, then direct that energy toward the person or situation on the stage until they are filled with that loving energy.  That’s it!  The practice can be repeated until you feel that the charge of the situation is gone.

I really didn’t feel the need to forgive the person that I practiced with because I wasn’t feeling anger or resentment.  However, I definitely knew that something was unresolved, so I went for it. 

Going into this practice, I thought I was going in to forgive this person.  Well, what ended up happening is that I became astoundingly present to the other person’s pain.  I felt a tremendous release of emotion and compassion for the other person’s experience.  I don’t mean that I hadn’t heard their words or seen the emotion in their face or in their actions.  I mean that I had not fully connected to it and felt it.  Clearly, I was not aware that I had not experientially (rather than intellectually…big difference!) understood.  Not allowing myself to connect to it resulted in energy/emotion being locked up for years.    

Often times, especially in my work with couples, people come in blaming their partner or feeling, at the very least, that their partner has some work to do.  Initially, it seems like people want validation from me and to help them fix their partner.  But, you know what? 

The biggest relief and progress I see is when people become aware of how they have contributed to creating what they are complaining about.  This happens when they are able to move beyond their experience or current intellectual understanding of what is going on.  In therapy, I am able to look with them, lovingly, into their history and put their way of dealing with things into perspective, which creates space to be accountable for what they have created in their relationship.  This forgiveness meditation is another way to move into that receptive and accountable space.

Being in that space brings people to tears.  Overwhelming love comes into their relationship in the moment that they get it.  They feel connected immediately and it changes long-standing relationship dynamics.  It is powerful to really get another person’s experience and to really forgive ourselves for what we have done to create what is painful in our lives. 

Again: when I heal, you heal.  And vice versa.

If you are like me and prefer to do this through a guided meditation, my favorite one is here.