Article by Phillip Hawkins
Reiki helps us to realise that the definition forgiveness is very precise; we are asked to stop blaming someone for their actions or attitudes, or for the hurt and damage they have caused us in the past. Forgiveness never asks us to like or love the person or their actions only to forgive them and in doing so, we free ourselves from the situation and the people we wish forgive. As long as we hold on to hate, blame, and resentment we remain trapped in time by the incident, no matter how long ago it took place. It also means that the healing of oneself can’t take place. Forgiveness requires us to break and detach from the cycle of blame and to let go of the negatives that form the attachment to the pain and fear we feel. Yes fear as well; because whenever we experience negative feelings and emotions we can be certain that fear is present in some form even if we are unaware of its presence. Before we can do this, we must forgive others and more importantly ourselves; and to be able to accomplish this we must begin by trying to understand the process of forgiveness.
Forgiveness like love is never about condoning or accepting excuses for what has happened, forgiveness is about retaking control and power over the situation, detaching from the past and moving on with your life. It’s not about denial, whitewashing events or rewriting history, it about acceptance the love of oneself, the desire and determination to draw a line in the sand and say ‘so far but no further, it’s time for me to let go and move on’.
It has to be said before we go any further that some will find it easier to forgive than others, and because of traumatic events in their lives some may never feel able to forgive and move on without professional help and guidance. If you are one of those people who need that level of support and guidance it’s imperative that you get all the help you need. Reiki, complementary therapies of any description should never be seen as a substitute to professional medical assistance. If you need it make sure you get it. All personal development requires a solid foundation to build upon and Reiki is no different.
Blame and resentment are indicative of more dangerous emotions such as anger and guilt. We can feel anger at being a victim, and guilt through misplaced responsibility for whatever happened, a vicious circle is set in motion that is both debilitating and self-perpetuating. Forgiveness for things that took place in adulthood is easier to give than situations that happened in childhood. Forgiveness for childhood experiences can be far more complex; firstly the people involved may not be alive and without realising it we may still be try to live up to some unrealistic standard set by someone who is no longer there to acknowledge our attempts or take great comfort from our perceived failings. We also need to remember that our perception of those people and the events that took place were from a child’s perspective, this doesn’t mean they are any less valid or just but time, distance and maturity change perspective, and what is remembered may not exactly reflect the reality of that moment in time.
How many times have we had the opportunity to revisit our childhood haunts only to be slightly disappointed because it’s not how we remembered it? The teachers we met later in life that bore no resemblance to the giant ogres that looked down on us in our formative years, those cathedrals of learning that were in reality just dusty old buildings full of dead animals in glass cases whose eyes seemed to follow us every time we had to walk past them. A child’s perspective has value and worth but problems can arise when we try to judge others and ourselves based on blurred or out of focus ‘mental snapshots’ taken as a child.
It’s often said that we can’t change the past but we should also remember that it’s also said that we never deal with reality only our subjective perception of what that reality is so while we may not be able to change the events themselves every time we revisit the past we leave a little of ourselves and bring a piece of the past into the present time thus re-establishing contact that can literally span a lifetime. We may feel completely justified feeling the way we do and we may have every right to blame and resent those involved yet we must ask ourselves how much time energy and emotion are we sacrificing to those people and events and the price we are paying and its negative effect on our health and well being.
If they are no longer with us we have simply taken on their role in their absence are in effect doing the job for them by becoming the harsh authoritive figure and helpless victim all rolled into one. If the damage was done intentionally with malice and forethought what greater pleasure could that person achieve than to know years down the line they still had the power to hurt and inflict pain even if it is by proxy and the power of your own mind. To those people even your anger and hatred are wasted because they simply wouldn’t care what you felt towards them or anyone else because of who they were and the mental and emotional dark place they were in.
Our minds are complex organs that we don’t yet fully understand and research continually provides us with new and fascinating insights into how our brains work and what separates our minds from the physical organ of the brain. One thing that is certain is that our memory is not foolproof and is at times suspect and unreliable. Because of the way it works, our brain can’t handle confusion and it will try to make sense of the situation it finds itself in. If we remember certain things that are charged with emotion, our brain will take those images and make a picture of them, if something doesn’t quite fit, it will modify it until it does. Part of our picture may be totally unrelated to the experience or the memory, but our brain will use anything it can find as a point of reference to fill in the blank spaces. Certain of what we were going to find how many times we have said ‘Oh it’s not exactly how I remembered it?’
We never remember everything or every detail, our memories are selected in many ways by the emotional charge that’s created in association with the memory, and the boring everyday stuff is ‘forgotten’ and filed away into our subconsciouses. Because we are selective in the memories we retain this may create gaps in the story of our lives, these gaps can be no more than a word or a sentence on the pages of our memory, but in some cases, whole chapters disappear from our ‘memoirs’ and our brain will fill in these gaps in such a way as to ensure they provide a sequence of events.
Further problems arise because we think that what we see is real and that our eyes can’t deceive us, unfortunately they do, and this adds to the confusion. Our eyes aren’t very good at seeing, but our brain is and because of their relationship a paradox is created, we believe what we see and we also see what we believe. Our brain takes the information provided by our eyes and then interprets it in order to make sense of it based on our beliefs, past experiences and memories.
Personal experience is subjective and relevant to our belief system as much as it is to reality and actual events. Memory is a two Way Street that allows us to re-connect to the past, but it also enables us to re-evaluate and modify those memories every time we connect to them. Each time we handle a memory we leave a piece of the present on it and in doing so we change its shape in some small way and re-establish a bond that may need to be broken in order for healing to take place. As the Bible says, “When I was a child, I thought as a child, when I become an adult I shall put away childish things”. If only we could, unfortunately as far as forgiveness and memories are concerned we continue to think as children and with some of us, the older we get the more childish we become.
As a child, everything we experienced, everything we saw and thought about was with the mind and brain of a child, we tried to rationalise with a child’s intellect and view point that required us to look up to everyone and everything around us. As we grow, we begin to develop and understand, rationalise, evaluate and consider our actions and of those around us. Unfortunately, our child like perceptions forms the basis of our formative development, which is the foundation of our adult expectation. The child sees, the adolescent assumes and the adult remembers, if only we could have viewed those moments in our past through the eyes of the person we have now become, how much pain and suffering could have been avoided before it became established in our hearts and minds and requiring of our forgiveness.
Knowledge and understanding is the key to all forgiveness for it is the key to all healing and once we have found a place for forgiveness in our hearts healing can also move in and start to do its work. It’s difficult if not impossible to hate and hold onto negative feelings and emotions and have true knowledge and understanding at the same time. Forgiveness is a paradox in many ways; it is both selfish and selfless at the same time, selfish in as much as we put ourselves first in order to understand our own feelings and why it’s important to forgive ourselves and others in order to gain the release necessary that will allow us to move on. Selfless in the release we bring to others in a non judgemental way that detaches us from the mental and emotional pain that may be attached to certain people, events and memories. Forgiveness does not condone or justify actions or events, but it does release the part of us that is trapped in time and connected via our memories and emotions to the past. Forgiveness allows us to be released from the past and move into the here and now and create the kind of future we desire free from the baggage that has dragged us down for so long; it also allows the healing process to begin.
Some people see forgiveness as giving up the right to feel angry and the right to punish others for their actions. People do what they do because it works for them; we are all a product of our own experiences, memories and dreams, a self-perpetuating circle that can only be broken through understanding and forgiveness. What we can’t understand we tend to fear and what we fear we eventually try to destroy and in doing so we take one step closer to becoming the thing that we fear the most. Before we can forgive others, we must first understand and forgive ourselves. With this understanding comes the realisation that if we look closely we can begin to recognise ourselves in others and the common ground we share, it is this very connection that allows us to shape and influence each others lives and once we realise this we can truly say, there but for the grace of God go I.
Failure to forgive others can be based on ignorance, refusing to forgive ourselves can be arrogance of the worst kind, we see ourselves as special and to which the normal rules of forgiveness don’t apply. We know what happens when we don’t forgive, the pain and anger, guilt and frustration, a vicious circle without end. What would happen if we dared to begin to bring forgiveness into our lives, what effects could that healing process bring about? More often than not we feel that we have a responsibility to punish ourselves by withholding our forgiveness and that if we begin to forgive we will in some way be punished for daring to replace anger and fear with love and compassion.
Fear can only exist in the shadows of our mind, it has no substance in itself and gets all of its power through association, and it whispers to you that if you dare to stop punishing yourself and have the nerve to forgive, then something awful will happen. This awful thing can only exist when we create it through our own fear, and in doing so we give fear the illusion of power and control. Understanding this allows us to recognise fear for what it is; a False Expectation Appearing Real, a shadow cast by our own thoughts and given substance by our belief and actions. Shine the light of forgiveness and understanding directly on to fear and it will disappear, because it has no substance, it is only the absence of the light of knowledge and understanding that creates the illusion of darkness.
Forgiveness comes in many ways and each has merit in its own right. Whatever form it takes forgiveness is about self preservation and the belief that we deserve to be healed which is the basis of the Reiki precept that we must begin by healing ourselves. Whatever form it takes, if it works for you then its right for you for forgiveness comes in many ways but healing will always be the ultimate outcome. When someone does something to hurt us and we can bring ourselves to forgive and let go, we bring love and healing to one level of our existence. When someone hurts us and we realise that they are working through their own pain and fears, our forgiveness creates a release and healing on an even higher level. Forgiveness born out of knowledge and understanding also helps us realise that while we are unable to forgive and let go we are also punishing ourselves, which is one of the reasons why like charity and Reiki, forgiveness should always begin at home.
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A Reiki practitioner since 1999, Phillip started teaching Reiki in 2000 and using those skills and abilities he has spent the majority of the last seventeen years working with a wide range of social and educational needs including Autism and ADHD. Working with addicts dependent on alcohol and drugs, people whose lives were extremely violent and abusive, and others who had to deal with severe mental health issues. This has enabled him to work extensively in the private sector, schools, colleges, education and care in the community, the prison service and psychiatric units.
In 2016, Phillip decided to semi-retire from full-time employment to concentrate on developing his career as a published author and the setting up of his Reiki personal development programme at the Chilton Community College.