Meditation and Forgiveness

A friend of mine from my 12- step fellowship, who is about to embark on a meditation practice for the first time asked me this question over email today:

“Hey Beth,

Do you think meditation will help me forgive someone?  I’m having a really hard time forgiving this person and I don’t even know why anymore.”

My answer [revised for this blog]:

“In short, yes.

I struggle with the same issue. I can’t quite imagine what it will look like to truly forgive certain people in my life, and drop my resentful base nature, but I have the faith that I will come to that place of forgiveness. My yoga practice has given me a pathway to access this faith, and to see that practicing dedicated, step-by-step work, does in fact work.

Of course, forgiveness is a process. Meditation and 11th step work will work in you as you work your 12-step program.

I have experienced in my practice and in my teaching, that the use of breath and mantra (verbal affirmations repeated over and over – aloud or in one’s mind) centers the mind, and to slowly helps to change one’s thought patterns. I like to really prepare myself before a period of meditation by practicing this mantra/affirmation repetition. I see this as a practice of re-programing my perceptions. A type of contrary/counter action practice for the brain.

When we meet together, we can do forgiveness meditations and focused mantras that deal with forgiveness. When I am teaching and practicing a “Yoga of Recovery” I usually use 12-step literature, or the Daily Reflections as the source for finding mantras/affirmations. We can find what works for you and with you.

This is what I am praying and meditating on currently from the BB page 552:

“If you have a resentment you want to be free of, if you will pray for the person or the thing that you resent, you will be free. If you will ask in prayer for everything you want for yourself to be given to them, you will be free. Ask for their health, their prosperity, their happiness, and you will be free. Even when you don’t really want it for them, and your prayers are only words and you don’t mean it, go ahead and do it anyway. Do it every day for two weeks and you will find you have come to mean it and to want it for them, and you will realize that where you used to feel bitterness and resentment and hatred, you now feel compassionate understanding and love.”

You may have already tried this… I can talk to you about my experience with it. (I have yet to actually do it for two weeks straight – i always end up forgetting one day!!!!)

Side note: I believe forgiveness does not mean validation. In my opinion, it does not justify the person’s deeds against you. All I can do is clean up my side of the street. Then when I see my part, and let go of resentment – forgiveness will mean freedom!

Last note, science is also showing meditation helps with forgiveness. Again, we see that spiritual traditions (our 12-step program as just one example) already know what science is still discovering. “Almost any [12 step member] will tell how his affairs have taken remarkable and unexpected turns for the better as he tried to improve his conscious contact with God” (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, 105).

Here are some links to abstracts on this field of study:

1. Meditation + Forgiveness

2. Meditation + Brain

Of course, we can start a dialogue over the phone/in person tonight if you like to discuss this in further detail. I look forward to the discussion.

See you soon.