The key to mindful living is developing an understand of our habitual reactions to how we experience life. It is a profound self-awareness which helps us to truly know who we are. This level of understanding helps us to respond to life in a way that lights us up, reduces stress, increases joy and brings balance and calm.
It is understandable that when we experience challenging emotions such as hurt and betrayal, we try to avoid them or bury them, but this takes so much of our precious energy and requires much internal struggle and tension, making us feel worse and holding us hostage.
Through Mindfulness we are learning:
- to pause, to be present and mindful of our thoughts
- to notice whether the mind monkey has taken over
- to offer kindness and compassion to ourselves and others in a non-judgmental way
- to see more clearly and respond in a way that is healthier for our wellbeing
The biggest block in our wellbeing will be the burden of carrying guilt, resentment, feelings of victimization, of hurt and betrayal so, no matter how far we are in our practice there are always more layers of forgiveness that we can peel back.
Forgiveness is NOT:
• giving our power away
• allowing people to take advantage
• pretending everything is OK when we don’t think that it is
The order of forgiveness:
• forgiving others for how we perceive they have hurt us
• forgiving others for hurt we perceive caused to those we love
• forgiving others for hurt we perceive caused to humanity/ the planet
Set the intention
“It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” Eleanor Roosevelt
There will have been someone or some circumstance that we haven’t found it so easy to offer kindness to, including ourselves.
There could be a whole host of justifiable reasons from our own perspective, as to why kindness doesn’t flow. It could be the source of much of our heartache and pain or a discomfort/ fear that we would rather avoid.
No matter how someone behaves or what the circumstance we find tricky, it’s our reaction that hurts us. The people we feel have been unkind or the situations that we feel are unjust, those are the ones that need more kindness pouring over, than ever.
Lighting a candle to spark a flame of kindness towards that person/ situation is a great place to start.
As we light the candle it sparks a flame in our heart and as you watch the light brighten I invite you to remember the parts of that person/ circumstance than you CAN begin to offer kindness and compassion to.
Spending 5 minutes considering kind and compassionate thoughts and if you feel yourself being drawn into a narrative that isn’t around kindness, draw your attention back to the flame .
Noticing how it flickers and moves, the colours, the smell, the heat…..and then bring yourself back to thinking about that person through a filter of kindness.
Offering kindness and compassion in this way and sparking that notion, helps us as a first step towards forgiveness.
It makes the impossible become a little glimmer of hope.
Letting it be
“It’s not a matter of letting go – you would if you could. Instead of ‘let it go’ we should probably say ‘let it be’” Jon Kabat-Zinn
The concept of letting go of the things in our lives which are preventing us moving forward and making us feel stuck, is desirable, yet can often seem unachievable.
Some things naturally begin to fall away as we acknowledge them and focus our energy elsewhere, but it’s those really stubborn labels, limiting self-beliefs, fears, toxic relationships, etc that can cause us more anxiety by focusing all our energy and forcing ourselves to let go.
We are giving all our precious attention to the thing we want least of all in our lives and it can consume us. It can get ugly! We begin to cling on for dear life and the mind chatter starts going all judgemental on us, telling us we should have moved on, that we should be doing better than we are….
That’s the time to make peace with ourselves as we have yet to learn the lesson it is here to teach. We’re not ready to ‘let go’ but we can absolutely begin to ‘let it be’.
Mantras such as ‘it is what it is’ and ‘we are where we are’ can be hugely beneficial in accepting and making peace with a situation or relationship as we almost step outside of it and view it in the third person.
Notice, without judgement
Forgiveness is such a huge subject and is such a massive part of how we experience our lives and in my opinion is the ultimate kindness.
Being able to open our heart, even when we feel hurt and bruised shows much courage and strength, which leads to greater peace, calm and happiness.
Through mindful living we are developing an awareness and curiosity in the present moment, of what we are thinking, how that makes us feel, any sensations in our body that occur as a result of these thoughts and feelings. We are beginning to learn to decode our default reactions rather than act on them, which gives us more capacity to make positive change.
Things we tell ourselves that we did/ didn’t do….
Things we tell ourselves that we should or shouldn’t do……
The why do I always……
It might be true, it might not, but we begin to believe it nonetheless and use it as a stick to beat ourselves up.
Noticing any thoughts that begin with:
I should / shouldn’t have…….
why did/ didn’t I……..?
if only I had / hadn’t ……..
These can cause feelings of guilt, shame and remorse and rather than beat ourselves up, we can begin to acknowledge the lesson to be learnt and move forward.
Being kind and compassionate towards ourselves as we notice the thoughts we are having, helps us to begin to move forward from any negative internal dialogue!
Letting it go through forgiveness
“I forgive you. Not for you, but for me. Because like chains shackling me to the past I will no longer pollute my heart with bitterness, fear, distrust or anger. I forgive you because hate is just another way of holding on, and you don’t belong here anymore”. Beau Taplin
• We are all human. We are all imperfect. We all make mistakes. We are all different. We have different views and perspectives. What we believe is right and wrong is purely subjective.
• Self-forgiveness – Before we can truly forgive others we must first learn to forgive ourselves. Acknowledging we are all human and practicing to forgive ourselves for our imperfections, helps us to offer more kindness and compassion to others too.
• No Judgement – We can’t read minds. We have no idea what people are going through, what they perceive of a situation, what story they are living, what baggage they are carrying. We can often misinterpret our intuition, believing our own thoughts as fact.
• Rescuing others – when we try to prevent others from being hurt. (Always with the greatest of intentions) we often add to the struggle and can create more upset.
Holding blame and holding grudges create a cage within which we react rather than respond.
Going through stages such as self-forgiveness, noticing and letting things be might be the first steps with some of our deeper wounds.
Once we are ready to peel back a layer and let go, this little ritual can be really useful. Clearing and cleansing is found in many cultures as a practice for forgiveness and I particularly love the Hawaiian name:
It is the Hawaiian ritual of forgiveness. It stems from an understanding of everything in the world being one, in spite of our feelings of ‘separateness’. Because of this unity or oneness everything that occurs in our own world creates a resonance in the observer.
‘What we see in others is a reflection of ourselves’
Different practices show variations to the phrases below, however the essence is always the same whether we offer forgiveness to ourselves or others:
I am sorry.
Please forgive me/ I forgive you.
I love you.
Taking a moment to think of the person or situation and chant the above or taking a little longer and consider each element in turn.
Some people write these down and then offer to a fire.
With all emotions that are trapped and cause struggle, allowing them to exist somewhere other than in our mind and body can begin to release us from that cage.