An Act of The Heart

The mind alone can never forgive. True forgiveness is an act of the heart.

I’ve met plenty of people who told me they ‘thought’ they had forgiven. What they mean is they formed the mental intention to forgive, only to later discover that the judgment and resentment were still there.  Does this sound familiar?  I call this forgiving from the neck up, or, emotional bypass.  It may provide temporary relief, but it is not lasting. I also frequently encounter people intent on analyzing their experience. They seem to believe that if they fully understand the situation, it will enable them to forgive – but this is not the case. True forgiveness cannot be intellectualized. 

You can say the words “I forgive”, and have the thought “I forgive”, until the cows come home, and still not have actually forgiven. The mind can only take us so far. At some point we must enter the arena of feeling in order to release the anger, blame, resentment, and so on.  They must be addressed.  Of course feelings are vulnerable and possibly unfamiliar, which is why we might want to avoid them, but the only way to heal is to walk through them. Feelings are the true pathway home.

So, how do you enter the emotional realm?  How do you forgive from the neck down?

One of the keys for me is guided meditation.  I start with the breath, and then bring awareness to the body step by step.  This creates the foundation for all the other work.  For some, it might feel uncomfortable and even unsafe at first to bring awareness into the body, so we go as slowly as necessary to create safety.  When we can feel our body and not push our feelings away, we discover that the body has vitally important information for us, information far more reliable than that acquired from the mind alone.  

Here is a powerful passage on the topic of coming into the body, embracing our emotions and forgiving, written by Eckhart Tolle in The Power of Now:

Unless you give it some attention, emotions will prevent you from gaining access to the inner body, which lies at a deeper level underneath it. Attention does not mean that you start thinking about it.  It means to just observe the emotion, to feel it fully, and so to acknowledge and accept it as it is.  Some emotions are easily identified as anger, fear, grief, and so on.  Others may be harder to label. They may just be vague feelings of unease, heaviness, or constriction, halfway between an emotion and a physical sensation. In any case, what matters is not whether you can attach a mental label to it but whether you can bring the feeling of it into awareness as much as possible.  Attention is the key to transformation — and full attention also implies acceptance.  Attention is like a beam of light – the focused power of your consciousness that transmutes everything into itself. 

In a fully functional organism, an emotion has a very short life span. It is like a momentary ripple or wave on the surface of your Being. When you are not in your body however an emotion can survive inside you for days or weeks, or join with other emotions of a similar frequency that have merged and become the pain boy, a parasite that can live inside you for years, feed on your energy, lead to physical illness, and make your life miserable.  

So place your attention on feeling the emotion, and check whether your mind is holding on to a grievance pattern such as blame, self pity, or resentment that is feeding the emotion. If that is the case, it means that you haven’t forgiven. Non-forgiveness is often toward another person or yourself, but it may just as well be toward any situation or condition – past, present or future — that your mind refused to accept. Yes, there can be non-forgiveness even with regard to the future. This is the mind’s refusal to accept uncertainty, to accept that the future is ultimately beyond its control. Forgiveness is to relinquish your grievance and so to let go of grief. It happens naturally once you realize that your grievance serves no purpose except to strengthen a false sense of self. Forgiveness is to offer no resistance to life — to allow life to live through you. The alternatives are pain and suffering, a greatly restricted flow of life energy, and in many cases physical disease.

The moment you truly forgive, you have reclaimed your power from the mind. Non-forgiveness is the very nature of the mind, just as the mind-made false self, the ego, cannot survive without strife and conflict.  The mind cannot forgive.  Only you can. You become present, you enter your body you feel the vibrant peace and stillness that emanate from Being.  

 A potent reminder that we are so much more than our minds, thoughts, beliefs and words.

About Eileen Barker

EILEEN BARKER has been writing and speaking on forgiveness, and guiding people who need to either forgive themselves or someone else, for many years. A practicing litigation lawyer who rejected the traditional adversarial role, Eileen has focused her practice on mediation, helping thousands of people resolve disputes outside of court. This work led her into a deep exploration of forgiveness as it relates to resolving conflict and making peace, both with others and oneself.

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