Forgiving others and ourselves is an important healing practice. We can often be unaware of how much we are affected by the burden, negative thoughts, and difficult memories we carry from not forgiving others. While forgiveness can be difficult it has been linked to improved physical and mental health. Benefits include decreased stress levels, blood pressure, and symptoms of chronic pain, depression and anxiety.
While you are sitting in meditation, ask for forgiveness first from others, then yourself, and finally forgive others.
Begin by sitting in a comfortable position and settling your attention on your breath.
Step 1) Asking forgiveness from others
- When you are ready, recall someone you have hurt in some way and feel into whatever emotions, such as pain, guilt, or remorse, you may have for what happened.
- Allow yourself to compassionately be with these feelings and reflect on the causes of your actions.
- This is not to vindicate yourself but instead help understand the fear, confusion or hurt that may have caused your actions.
- When you are ready, offer your genuine apologies and ask this person for forgiveness.
- Perhaps saying, “I am sorry for whatever hurt I have caused you knowingly or unknowingly, I ask for your forgiveness.”
- Feel into what sensations, images and feelings arise.
Step 2) Forgiveness of self
- Now, recall any ways that you have hurt or mistreated yourself in the past.
- Become aware of how it feels when you acknowledge the pain you may have caused yourself and gently and compassionately be with it.
- See if you can forgive yourself for the ways you may have caused harm, perhaps saying:
- “For the ways I have knowingly or unknowingly harmed myself, I forgive myself.”
- Be aware of any emotions that may arise as you say these words and hold yourself with deep compassion.
Step 3) Forgiving others
- Next, bring to mind someone who has harmed or wronged you in the past.
- Acknowledge what feelings are present and allow yourself to feel the sorrow or hurt from their actions.
- Contemplate the possible causes for their actions. Again, this is not to excuse their behavior but to cultivate greater compassion and understanding.
- Feel any heaviness from carrying this burden of hurt and grudge towards this person.
- To whatever degree you are ready, offer that person your forgiveness.
- Perhaps say: For the harm and hurt you have caused me, intentionally or unintentionally, I forgive you.”
- Don’t feel bad if you are not ready to forgive. Even opening to the possibility of forgiving someone can be healing.
- If you have trouble with forgiving someone, you can try to imagine them as a young child who is perhaps confused and frightened.
Repeat these steps if it feels right and allow yourself to feel the lightness or relief that can arise from forgiveness.
Forgiveness practices can be found throughout the world in both religious and secular contexts. The method here was adapted from guided forgiveness meditations by Buddhist teachers Jack Kornfield and James Baraz.
For more information about Jack Kornfield and James Baraz visit their websites:
Forgiveness meditation can sometimes be challenging and painful. Please be kind to yourself if you do not feel forgiving. Forgiveness takes time and we are only inclining the heart towards forgiveness in this practice and not forcing anything.
Also, it is critical to remember self-compassion when recalling past grievances towards yourself and others and remind yourself that all humans are imperfect.