In this post, I'll use my experience with Ringo (see Part 1), to demonstrate self forgiveness, a powerful tool in service to inner healing.
As mentioned in Part 1, I was fifteen years old when my dog Ringo was hit by a car. As I ran to his side, he acknowledged my presence with one last wag of his tail . . . and then he died. I was devastated. I blamed myself for his death. I also blamed my mom, who was at work. I believed that, if she'd been home, this never would have happened. I thought Ringo shouldn't have died when he did.
There are four steps to this process:
Step 1. Give voice to feelings: Create a safe space in which feelings are allowed to flow, especially if they were initially suppressed. In this situation, I felt sad, helpless, afraid, angry, and guilty. As I recall the events of that day, these feelings are present and I am allowing myself to experience them.
Step 2. Identify the judgments, assumptions and misunderstandings:
a. Ringo shouldn't have died when he did.
b. I was responsible for Ringo's death.
c. My mother should have been home.
d. If my mother had been home, this wouldn't have happened.
e. Death means Ringo's gone for good. Death is bad.
f. I would have been better off if this hadn't happened.
Step 3. Practice compassionate self-forgiveness: I recognize and forgive myself for the judgments, assumptions, and misconceptions I imposed on myself, on another, and on the situation. (I find it helpful to place my hands over my heart, which reminds me to drop into heart-centered compassion.) Continuing with this example, I'd say:
a. I forgive myself for judging that Ringo shouldn't have died when he did.
b. I forgive myself for the misunderstanding that I was responsible for Ringo's death.
c. I forgive myself for judging my mother as wrong for being at work when it happened.
d. I forgive myself for falsely assuming that if my mother had been home, this wouldn't have happened.
e. I forgive myself for the misunderstanding that death is bad.
f. I forgive myself for the misunderstanding that I would have been better off if this hadn't happened.
It's important to note that I am forgiving myself for the judgments, assumptions and misunderstandings and NOT for what I or anyone else did or didn't do. For example, I am not forgiving my mother for being at work, as she doesn't require my forgiveness. I'm forgiving myself for having imposed a judgment on her. This is a vital distinction.
While I may become aware of more judgments as I go deeper, these will suffice as an example.
Once I’ve cleared the judgments through self-forgiveness, I’m left with . . . SPACE. And what do I do with the space?
Step 4. Fill the space with loving, affirming truth: Continuing with my example, I'd say:
a. The opposite of birth is death. We can't have one without the other. The physical experience is finite. Life, however, has no opposite. Life is eternal.
b. I chose to share this experience with Ringo based on wisdom that’s beyond the logic of my mind. Experiences aren’t good or bad, right or wrong—they just are.
c. I can’t know that my mother wasn’t where she needed to be. My mother was doing the best she knew how to do . . . and I was doing the best I knew how to do, too.
d. I can’t know with certainty what could have or would have happened if my mother had been home.
e. Death isn't inherently good or bad; it's an integral aspect of the physical experience, which is finite. I am grateful for Ringo’s love and devotion. I love you, Ringo!
f. Had I not experienced this, I can't say with certainty that I would have been better off. I can only guess. It’s up to me to make the most of every situation. Given that each and every experience has contributed to who I am today . . and I love who I am . . I am grateful for loving Ringo and for the experiences we shared.
That's the process. When I forgive myself for having innocently imposed the judgments, assumptions, and misunderstandings in the first place, I move out of duality and into acceptance. When I complete the process, I feel lighter, as if a weight’s been lifted or I’ve been washed clean. There’s a shift in consciousness that’s discernable. While the concept of self-forgiveness begins in the mind, the experience of self-forgiveness is in the heart. Self-forgiveness is an expression of self-compassion that moves my awareness into my heart.
Remember when you were a baby and you could do no wrong—or you were with a baby and they could do no wrong? Sometimes, as I’m practicing self-forgiveness and I'm holding an intention to move into my heart, I think of myself as that baby, or I think of my adult children as babies—and my heart expands. My priority is acceptance—of myself, of others, and of what is.
Perhaps the greatest contribution I can make is to resolve my own issues as quickly as possible, accessing the highest level of consciousness available to me. When I practice self-forgiveness, I’m cultivating an attitude of self-compassion that fosters awareness of the Authentic Self.
I hope this is helpful. If you have questions or comments, please post. Remember: outer experience is a reflection of inner reality. Change what’s going on within and your outer experience will naturally change.
Copyright © 2009 by Irene Kendig