The spiritual practice of forgiveness

The people who hurt or disappoint us are our greatest teachers. They enable us to grow at a spiritual level more deeply, or more rapidly. In this sense, although it might be a tall order, it could be said that we should be grateful for their presence and impact in our lives. Consequently, it’s important that we can forgive and love all who pass into our world, and also that we’re able to pardon ourselves – if not least, to ensure that toxic energetic residues resulting from unprocessed emotions are eliminated from our subtle and physical bodies. In my experience, this is oftentimes easier said than done. Sometimes it happens that I think I’ve done the forgiving and it’s finally done and dusted and I can move on with positivity, when suddenly my “emotional pain body” is awakened and I find myself face-to-face with old memories and feelings of regret, remorse, anger or disappointment – all eager to envelope me. What is there to do in such circumstances? Well, firstly, I try to be gentle on myself. Emotional echoes can be very enduring. I consider them to be like astral shells, which are empty inside but not yet fully disintegrated and, as such, still cause ripples at an energetic level, including within my own etheric energy field. Moreover, non-attachment is an important tool to use when faced with such astral echoes. I distinguish non-attachment from repression. I recommend the former, not the latter. Tantra teaches that: “It is absolutely important to acquire the supreme virtue of non-attachment in order to be able to forgive.”[1]

Inversely, I must acknowledge that there are some mistakes I’ve made in my life the consequences of which I can never change, the hurt I caused that I can never take back, the misunderstanding I can never put right. Notwithstanding this reality, it’s important that I find a way to forgive myself – without in any way justifying what I’ve done. The simple act of recognising that my behaviour was inadequate, unjust – or worst – led to the suffering (emotional, mental or physical) of another living being, is an important first step. In line with taoist and tantric philosophies that promote the concept that we’re all energetically part of one living entity, it follows that nothing can ever be totally destroyed; it can only be transmuted or transformed. Moreover, if as a result of my past behaviour I can act in a better way today, then I can also consider the person, animal, etc. that I harmed to be my teacher and, therefore, I can feel gratitude for his/her sacrifice, through which I’ve been able to learn an important life lesson.

Excerpt from “She Who Is Unto Herself”

[1] Bhattacharya, B. (1988) The World of Tantra. Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd: New Delhi, pp.443-444.

10 thoughts on “The spiritual practice of forgiveness

  1. I’ve heard and read this mantra many times from many sources, but I think your words encapsulate perfectly the predicament we all face, so well done for that! I mentioned the following to a fellow blogger yesterday: “The present is the only place to be. Actions of the past cannot change what has been done, but we must learn from previous mistakes and attain forgiveness where it is required if at all possible. Actions of the future may not even happen so why concern ourselves with potentiality, but know the correct path to take from previous experiences when it comes. Of course the theory is much easier than the practice :)”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, totally agree. Thanks so much for the additional insights. Forgiveness is a standard “mantra” for self-development, as you mention. I personally consider it to be a “practice” because it tends to be a “process” that necessitates time and repeated effort – otherwise, the risk is that the outcome is “repression” rather than authentic and liberating forgiveness. Easier said than done – as you say 😉 Warm greetings, Sam 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Rob, for asking this important question. I would define forgiveness as a relational process of an energetic and not solely rational nature.
      Forgiving the small stuff can be relatively simple and even instantaneous. However, when a person has been subject to substantial emotional or physical violence/stress, perhaps over a protracted period of time, forgiveness will probably involve a dedicated process that engenders a transmutation of energy (rajas/anger, tamas/depression) in order for there to be a return to balance (sattva). Forgiveness might necessitate time – maybe a long time – before it is fully complete. It includes healing an inner wound of an energetic nature. From a rational perspective, a person might have done the forgiving; however, through mindful awareness he/she will know if the forgiving is complete depending on the level of tension in the body whenever the episode in question is thought about.
      Forgiveness is relational for two reasons, namely, the energetic charge needs to be transformed: i) between the rational and emotional self; ii) between the person who “did wrong” and the person who “was wronged”. I believe we can forgive without necessarily condoning what was done, but rather accepting, which is a precursor to letting go and moving on.
      As a final comment, I would say forgiveness is critical for health and wellbeing. Holding on to painful memories, a grudge, remorse, etc. is like inner pollution.
      Warm wishes for a joyful day, Sam 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • This is the stuff that breeds complexity 😉

        The desires, thoughts, and actions (energy) of an individual or the collective force of a society are utterly transparent and cannot be hidden. No determinations or deliberations are necessary to “prove” the occurrence or the source thereof. Thus, we enter the challenge of energetics and forgiveness.
        Energetics, in the context of the energy flows created by the Human Species, function within the laws of cause and effect. Cause and effect dispense with formality and is absent of considerations such as forgiveness. Human Beings, individually and collectively, are held accountable by those laws. If an individual, or a group, victimizes another individual, group or even Nature, cause and effect impact is immediately present within the energetics that compose Human—to—Human and Human—to—Nature relationships.

        The Human “attribute” (or invention) of “forgiveness” has no role or definitive existence in the structure of cause and effect. An intent to “forgive” does not absolve the offender from the cause and effect outcomes. Alternately, as you allude to, an offended individual or group must be mindful of the response to the experienced offense. Perhaps then, “forgiveness” may best be engaged in the form of detachment. The perceived action of “forgiving” is double-edged. It is a de facto judgment of one or many, preceded by, or in concert with the negative thoughts generated by the experience, e.g. anger, hate, fear, etc. The danger is that the offended party now becomes a source of projected negativity into the energetic flow. At this point, the offender and the offended are equally culpable sources of chaotic influence.

        Fundamentally, only an individual who has emerged as a force of unconditional love would have a capacity for true “forgiveness”, and the clarity of what that actually means. But that is another discussion.

        Just some guy thoughts…..thank you, Sam… 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • Cheers Rob 🙂 Loads of food for thought 🙂 Really appreciate you taking the time to engage, and I resonate with what you write. Wishing you a peaceful Sunday evening, Sam 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Sam, it is simply wonderful to read more excerpts from your book ‘She Who Is Unto Herself’ on your blog today. Although I have already purchased and read this truly remarkable book I really enjoyed this passage once more. In your reply to infinity beckons I agree with you wholeheartedly that ‘forgiveness’ works best as a practice … otherwise there remains an opportunity for ‘repression’ and ‘ambivalence’ even ‘denial’ to raise their unsatisfactory heads.

    I have learnt that forgiveness begins with the self and from this perspective I find it simpler to forgive others. Sometimes it takes an age to forgive, sometimes a moment, I feel it often depends on how our own personal shadow. I wrote a poem on similar lines called ‘Happiness is the Art of being Broken’ where I explore how the encounter of pain and suffering in my life became a profoundly healing revelation to me!

    Although I’m not familiar with Tantra teachings I greatly enjoyed the quote and look forward to learning more about ‘non-attachment’ in your forthcoming book. I love your writing Sam! My heart lights up whenever I notice you have posted a new article. Thank you so much for being you and for lighting such a wonderful transcendent fire that helps to illuminate the approaching winter’s dark. Wishing you a happy and blessed Samhain.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Deborah, thank you so much for your hugely insightful and supportive feedback. It’s always greatly appreciated. I totally respect what you have to say on forgiveness as you have had the strength to move through some very difficult life circumstances. Through your poetry you light the way for all of us regarding how to deal with darkness, pain and the shadow. In addition, your inspiring and evocative pieces bring us hope by pointing the way forwards on the path to integration and a heightened human consciousness. It’s always a joy to exchange thoughts and friendship with you. Love & blessings, Sam 🙂

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  3. Learning to forgive is something some find so hard to do.. And yet once achieved it is so freeing and liberating ..And I agree with the thoughts presented here.

    ” The simple act of recognising that my behaviour was inadequate, unjust – or worst – led to the suffering (emotional, mental or physical) of another living being, is an important first step. In line with taoist and tantric philosophies that promote the concept that we’re all energetically part of one living entity, it follows that nothing can ever be totally destroyed; it can only be transmuted or transformed.”

    Each of us with thought, word or deed create a ripple effect that affects those around us for better or worse.. learning we are indeed Energy Beings, that thought once created comes back eventually to the source of its creation.. ” What goes around comes around”… We would do well to watch what we ‘Think’.. 🙂 first and foremost 🙂 ~ Thought Creates..

    Learning forgiveness, and living from our hearts, in helping spread Love, forgiveness and compassion, is helping heal the world..
    Its hard in today’s world as we are so ‘Fear Based’ driven.. Fear destroys, controls, and separates us ..

    Loved reading your thoughts here, and you have a wonderful Blog..

    Love and Blessings
    Sue

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much Sue for adding these additional valuable insights and for your kind words. Forgiveness is such a fundamentally important spiritual practice that it warrants our individual and group attention time and again. Love & blessings, Sam 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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