Like spotting something gross on the side walk, I want to sidestep and edge my way around the mess. The very word brings me to a place of dread. It makes my heart beat a little faster and causes my palms get sweaty. Simply hearing this word will initiate a lump in my throat and a desperate search for something decent or intelligent to say, anything to take the attention away from the heart of the matter. I search for something that is somewhat significant maybe from inside my own personal gate or front yard, but never of course anything from inside that closet full of skeletons. Heaven forbid I show an ounce of buried shame, a microgram of vulnerability or crack open the door to authenticity. It is so easy to push that word, the meaning of that word and all its implications aside. It is so easy to ignore it and pretend that it doesn't exist. I'm really good at ignoring things and I'm even better at pushing them aside.
It is exactly because of this gut level response that I now include Forgiveness Exercises in many of my workshops. If I feel this way, then other people are bound to feel this way too and if I find it hard to face those things hiding in my closet, then maybe I'm not alone.
When ever I think about this exercise it seems scary and I get nervous. However, when ever I jump in and give it a try I always end up feeling lighter and with more clarity in my life. It feels good to address what I've buried and it feels good to acknowledge past and present hurts on my end as well as that of others.
Forgiveness exercises can be found in various forms and are readily available if you look for them. They are becoming more and more commonly used in workshops and retreats as a form of self inquiry and exploration. A variation of these exercises can be found in most 12-Step programs (AA, Al-Anon, NA, etc) and more often than not you will see them crop up in the pages of self-help books and resources.
So this is why I feel that the exercise I am about to share with you is so important and so powerful. This exercise was first introduced to me by my good friend, Gary John and I am forever grateful to him for opening my eyes to the work. I recommend that you use this exercise as a method of self-inquiry or self-discovery. I really like the idea of using the questions to prompt some deeply personal journal writing. Another alternative that is especially powerful is when this exercise is done out loud with a partner, though this takes a great deal of courage and trust.
The Forgiveness Exercise - Instructions:
1. Solo: Write the first question and the first answer that pops immediately into your awareness. Follow with the second question and its answer, the third and the fourth. Once all four questions have been answered in turn then you start again with first question. You move through all four questions in sequence at least three times, journalling your answers as they pop up in your stream of consciousness. No second-guessing, simply writing down what comes up. You will be amaze at what you discover.
2. Partner: Sitting face to face close together one partner asks all four questions of the other partner, waiting for each question to be answered before moving onto the next. Once all four questions are asked and responses have been received, all four questions will be posed a second time to the same partner, and then a third time. The partners will switch roles only once all four questions have been posed and answered three times. This exercise is really powerful when done out loud facing a partner. If you are open and ready for this type of self inquiry then also be prepared for some very interesting results.
The Forgiveness Exercise - Questions:
1. WHAT is it that you would like to forgive yourself for?
2. WHO do you need to forgive you and what for?
3. WHAT do you need the World to forgive you for?
4. WHO do you need to forgive and what for?
*On a cautionary note, sometimes this can bring up some emotion and it is advisable to be in a calm, safe environment and have some tissue handy.
Have fun exploring your vulnerability (I know I will)!
Love and Light,