Previously i wrote about the benefits of retreat. This evening I want to expand on this and speak about forgiveness. Forgiveness can be very challenging especially when we have faced hurt and betrayal from people we trust and care for. However, forgiveness is necessary if we are to fully live in the present.
Forgiveness from a psychological view point means letting go, not necessarily condoning the actions of another or our selves but letting go in order to fully engage in the present and live a flourishing and valued life once more.
Letting go in this sense means to once and for all let go in order to regain being fully in the present.
When we have not forgiven we are forever trapped by the action that resulted in feelings of hurt, anger or betrayal. Emotion focused therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy have tools that aid in the process of forgiveness. The empty chair technique is a powerful tool for enabling the processing of strong emotions of betrayal hurt and mistrust. When we are faced with the empty chair we imagine the person who has hurt us sitting in the chair. We can then have a direct conversation with the person as if they were there. This technique is very powerful and can enable people to fully experience the hurt feelings behind feelings of anger and sadness.
Acceptance and commitment therapy invites us to imagine the person in front of us and offer them forgiveness for the actions that have hurt us. We do not condone but forgive. We then imagine that the person receive the forgiveness and thanks us. A simple statement while practising a meditation such as “in order to fully live in the present I am making a choice not to condone but do forgive”. With this we offer our forgiveness fully and completely. We may need to do this as a meditation once a day for the full effects of the meditation to benefit.
I had the good fortune to be able to enter a five day retreat this Easter. The retreat was an opportunity to spend time to simply take time to Be. The focus of the retreat was stages of training the mind with a particular focus on loving kindness and forgiveness.
A retreat whether it be a day,five days, 10 days or longer is a wonderful gift to give yourself and others. It is an opportunity to simply get to know your mind by spending time quietly observing your thoughts, physical sensations and action urges. The aim of a retreat is let your mind settle into its true nature. If you have never been on retreat, it is good to start slowly, by planning a morning or an afternoon for quiet time. As you become more familiar with taking time for retreat the time you spend for retreat can gradually increase. You can create a retreat atmosphere at home, by planning to switch your phone, ipad and computers off for a morning and setting aside a special place for meditation and awareness. You can use the time simply observing nature, writing in a journal or quietly sitting a watching your breath.
Coming out of retreat can also have its challenges. Even though I had five days of focusing on practices of kindness and forgiveness the stress of my work life quickly challenged me.
Meditation tools, such as creating a special space for practice, help to focus our busy minds. Photos of images reminding us to practice or helpful phrases or affirming books are also tools for enabling our mind to settle and focus.
Mini retreats or mini pause moments are also moments of retreat for our busy mind. Pause moments can be a mini vacation that returns our mind back its present calm state and can be helpful to maintain the positive effects of retreat.