5 Steps to Forgive Your Past

Heartbreak, Self

A bird's eye view of your past will allow you to forgive yourself and the people who hurt you.

A few years ago, I went through a very challenging relationship. The relationship was "on again off again" and involved a fair amount of yelling and boundaries being crossed. Even though the relationship only lasted four months, it was certainly one of the most stressful, difficult and emotionally taxing relationships I had ever experienced.

For nearly three years after that relationship ended, I found myself re-experiencing the emotions from that time over and over again. Feelings of anger for what happened, sadness for trying so hard to make things work, being used and disrespected. 

I never knew when the feelings would come back. Every time they did, a big wave of feelings would consume my energy for several hours or days.  I could feel that 24 year old woman who so desperately wanted to feel respected, loved and supported. But it all seemed out of reach despite all her efforts.

Then there came a point when I found myself consumed by the memories and feelings once again. I realized how much these past experiences were holding me back from the present. In that moment, I realized that the reason I still had unhealed feelings was not because of the experience itself, but my own perception of that past experience.

I was still heavily associating this past experience with all the pain from that time and the bitter resentments that I still felt the need to hold on to.  When, instead, all I needed to do was step outside of my own limited experience. I needed to look at the whole situation objectively from a bird's eye view and allow myself to see both of us through eyes of pure love and compassion. It was a matter of clearly seeing us both for our ego-driven mistakes and how we had hurt each other rather than how he hurt me.

This mindset shift may be seen as forgiveness, but it goes a step beyond what we commonly believe forgiveness to be. It is a total shift in our perception from our own limited view of ourselves to a more collective view. It allows us to see how we are all connected as one and how we impact one another through our oneness.

So how can we begin the journey of making the mindset shift needed in order to truly and fully forgive? The following are steps that you can do anytime that you feel that you need to practice forgiveness.

Step 1: Be still and look inward.

To get started, you want to be sure that you sit down in a quite location where you won't be disturbed for a long period of time. This may be in a quiet room in your house or apartment, a beach, the mountains or any location in nature that is fairly secluded. If you are indoors, you may want to consider playing some nature or meditation music.

Step 2: Recall a painful memory.

As you sit still for a moment, allow a painful memory to arise. It may be one that you were thinking of before doing this exercise or it could be one that popped in your head in the moment that you sat down and got still.

Step 3: Write (or Draw)!

Grab a pen and paper and write out any thoughts, feelings and images that come up as you remember this memory. You may also want to use crayons, colored pencils or pastels to express any images that come to you. 

It doesn't matter if you write and not draw or draw and not write. As long as you do the one you feel most comfortable with. As you write or draw, allow yourself to relive as much as you feel is needed so you can fully "paint a picture" of your past experience.

Step 4: Reflect on your impact.

After you have finished processing your memory, turn the table. Discover how you have impacted the situation by asking yourself the following questions: How did I cause the other person pain? How did my own ego-driven blocks make the situation difficult for them? 

Allow yourself to really step outside of yourself and look at the situation from the other person's point of view. If that is too challenging, focus on looking at the situation from an objective "bird’s eye" point of view.

Step 5: Send them some light and love. 

Once you have finished writing and processing, sit back and take the time to do a short visualization meditation. Allow yourself to be still and focus on your breath. Visualize yourself breathing in white light down through the top of your head and exhaling it out through your heart.

As you breath, visualize this white light surrounding you. The light protects you, supports you and provides you with compassion and love.

When you feel comforted and calm, visualize the person that you are trying to forgive right in front of you. As you are exhaling the white light out through your heart, send some of this white light out to this person on each exhale. Continue to do this until you see the other person fully encompassed in this white light.

When you see the other person completely surrounded by this white light, mentally say to them, "I forgive you". Continue to mentally say this with each exhale.

When you feel complete, tell them goodbye and send them on their way. Then, take the time to bathe in the white light yourself. Mentally say to yourself, "I forgive myself for the mistakes I've made. I love myself."

Once this meditation is complete, take the time to reflect and journal on your experience. Write down any thoughts or feelings that came up.

Making this mindset shift can be very challenging at first. You can do this activity for several days or weeks in order to better embody this mindset shift of forgiveness.

Above all, remember that forgiveness is a journey. There is no switch that we can flip and it all suddenly goes away. It is only with time, effort, practice and dedication that we can allow ourselves to fully see our past experiences with love and compassion

Take action now! 

Go through the steps I listed for a person from your past. How was the experience for you? Share it in the comments below.

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