Let Go of Your Chains

Photo Credit: Geralt, Pixabay
Photo Credit: Geralt, Pixabay

Don’t wait for another person to give you permission to be free. You are already free. Let go of your chains. You already have freedom–always. Remember.

We have so many ways to keep ourselves locked in and constricted, mostly thinking we are staying safe or being “good.” We tend to lock the doors to our cages and then give the key away to others, believing they control our ability to know joy, peace and wholeness. We can keep remembering to look for our own key.

This all comes back to lack of forgiveness, lack of trust in ourselves. We carry a judgment, trauma, hardship or a shame with us for so long because we feel it protects us from experiencing the same thing again. But really, we experience it every day, because we still hold it in our hearts and minds. There is scientific evidence now that we even carry it in the cells of our bodies.

There is so much talk about forgiveness. Unfortunately, we rarely hear what it really is or how to go about it. Forgiveness has nothing to do with the other person. It does not let them off the hook for causing harm or release them to do it again. It does not make you soft and weak to another attack. It makes you strong and healthy. It opens your heart and makes your mind more available to clarity of thought.

Similarly, self-forgiveness doesn’t mean that we neglect the harm that our actions have caused or that we proceed to do it again. I repeat, forgiveness is not weakness or giving in.

When we wait for the person that harmed us to do something to atone before we allow ourselves to forgive, we create a situation where we suffer. We usually believe that we are making the other person suffer and we even feel justified for that. But justified or not, most of the time, the other person simply doesn’t feel our suffering. We are the ones that carry it, not them. Often they are never even aware of it.

“Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die”–Buddha

But even if they were aware, holding on to suffering because of something another person did only allows them to create more harm for a longer time, long after they actually stopped doing anything. We are doing it to ourselves, through our minds every time we relive the experience and our brains send that rush of neurochemicals through our bodies telling us it’s happening all over again. Over time, our bodies can even feel worse than they did during the first event. It’s repeat trauma every time we relive it and tell ourselves we are justified. We keep telling ourselves that it’s the other person’s fault, when we hold the key to our own prison cell.

So what is forgiveness? It is laying down your chains. Setting yourself free from the internal prison that the situation has created in your heart, mind and body so that you no longer have to carry it around with you every day. It is allowing yourself to release the event to the past, recognizing that it can live there, rather than in the cells of your body and in the neural pathways of your mind.

We can decide to free ourselves when we recognize that what we carry today is only ours, based in what we decide to do from this moment forward. It is not decided by past events or by other people, unless we allow that. The decision is ours and we have the freedom to make it.

It is a very liberating thing to realize you are not a slave to the past or to the memories, events and people of the past. It opens you to your fullest potential. It also invokes great responsibility for your own life. You can no longer blame the past or those who hurt you for your decisions. Your life is your own. You are no longer a slave to your wounds. You can heal.

You can begin to release those old traumas that you have stored through lack of forgiveness by simply acknowledging that you are ready to do that. It sounds incredibly simple and in some ways it is, but it’s the internal shift that is important. That is the turning point and it is the part that can be most difficult to wrap your mind and heart around.

Don't wait for freedom2Whenever an old wound comes up and you feel the constriction in your chest or throat or belly–wherever you feel it in your body–notice that you are holding that pain in your cells. That is body memory. Use that moment to recognize that you have options. You could become lost in the old stories about how painful it was, how wrong it was, how it was unfair, etc., but that will reinforce the old patterns. You will feel worse in body, mind and spirit. Ask yourself if this will heal anything in your life.

Instead, you could shift your perspective and accept your own power in this moment. Ask yourself what you can do with the idea that you may not have to keep feeling this way. Say to yourself, “I choose to release this experience from the cells of my body and from the pathways of my mind. I accept the lessons and leave the rest behind. I am free.” Notice how that feels different in your body. You may feel lighter, more open.

See how that has nothing to do with the other person? Nothing is required of them. They have nothing to do with your healing at all. You are really free of them and of the past. You are also free of any past versions of yourself you may need to let go of.

Open the prison door. Let go of the chains. Pick up the key to your own heart. You have the power to free yourself, if you dare. Just remember.

How I Learned Forgiveness and Release Through Meditation

meditation

I have always known that forgiveness is important. Forgiving and being able to allow something to be in the past is important for being able to be in the present. Not being able to forgive can destroy relationships.

Carrying the burden of anger and hate makes us toxic to be around and depletes our energy. Most importantly, it destroys our relationship with ourselves. We lose our inner peace.

Knowing you need to learn forgiveness is a lot easier that actually doing it. The person we tend to be the most unforgiving towards is ourselves. We all have a mean spirited inner voice that criticizes us for not being even more perfect than we expect others to be. It relentlessly terrorizes our thoughts.

So maybe forgiveness starts within ourselves. When we can let ourselves be human and flawed, we are more ready to offer that same compassion to others.

When I began meditating, I realized that I maliciously attacked myself every time I attempted it. I beat myself up because thoughts and emotions kept coming up. I told myself I wasn’t a good meditator and I believed I would never get it “right”.

I have since learned that I am completely normal. There is no “right” and my mind will never completely stop having new thoughts arise.

Now I use the practice of meditation to acknowledge my grasping at perfection and my human inability to achieve it. This is what meditation is. It is forgiving oneself over and over each time a new thought arises. In doing this, the thought releases and floats gently away.

Of course, new thoughts do arise. And then I get to practice being forgiving and loving with myself again. I have learned to release a thought without the condition that it not return.

When I decide to cling to the outcome by having conditions, I almost guarantee the thought will return. Instead, I lovingly understand that my mind is doing what minds do. It is not the enemy. I am not trying to defeat it, only to work with it.

Of course there are those particularly important thoughts. The “what ifs” that some part of me feels must be solved, the item on my to-do list I have neglected three days in a row or that amazing new revelation that I am afraid to let go of lest I lose it completely.

The truth is sometimes I give in to them. Especially to the amazing revelations! But most of the time it is more constructive to allow that the thought may have merit and promise to give it more attention at another time. And I stick to that, sometimes making mental appointments with myself to focus on that issue for a few minutes at a later time.

By doing this, I have learned to be patient with myself, allowing myself to have what I need and to be what I am. I am practicing forgiveness, releasing myself from the domineering voice of shame.

In recognizing my own humanness and imperfection, I have been able to be more easily in the flow of understanding the imperfection of others. Not only that, I am learning to appreciate it.

But it is a practice and as such, I must keep doing it. Sometimes we don’t practice to “make perfect” but for the sake of the practice itself. Someone dear to me once told me that life is about “progression, not perfection”. With forgiveness and meditation, this is certainly true.

As I experience human frailty in myself, I am able to understand that we are all doing the best we can with what we know at that given moment. Forgiving allows for more progress rather than demanding perfection. Meditation has taught me the importance of continuing to forgive as a constant practice, with the recognition that we are all learning our own lessons, at our own pace.