Humility reflects an awareness of, and appreciation for, the vastness and beauty of all that is. An overinflated ego can dress up as humility, with qualities such as meekness, cowering, self-loathing, or other forms of smallness. When we believe thoughts of our own overwhelming inadequacies, the ego is just as active as when we indulge in ideas of superiority; the two variations are simply two sides of the same egoic coin. True humility encompasses a sense of wonder – an awareness that the world is bigger and more mysterious than we could imagine, and a profound gratitude and a blessed appreciation for our own smallness within that immensity.
Forgiveness and Letting Go
When we allow non-forgiving attitudes to solidify, they tend to empower our egoic ideas – whether on the one hand ideas of superiority or self-righteousness, or on the other hand ideas of lack, smallness, or vulnerability. Embracing ego as it grows in either direction tends to limit true humility. As well, it limits our awareness of our intimate connection with Light (Love, Eternity, God/dess, whatever speaks most closely to your heart).
Thinking through Forgiveness
There are many useful cognitive techniques for working through non-forgiveness and towards letting go. From my perspective, compassion and discriminating wisdom are essential components, regardless of specific methods or practices. One technique that I have found tremendously useful is to hold space for myself and others by accepting each of us as being a “work in progress.” I let go of my ideas of how things “should be”, and I reflect on the situation to see how the person (whether it’s me or someone else) was doing the best they could with the particular circumstances, skills, and limited awareness that they had in that moment.
Of course, forgiveness doesn’t mean staying in an unsafe situation, or repeating my same mistakes. Acting with discriminating wisdom – honestly assessing situations and adjusting accordingly – is essential. In particular, when forgiving myself for past mistakes, an essential next step is to reassess, adjust as needed, and to live as mindfully as possible with a new pattern of being. When I live mindfully, putting forth “right effort” the first time around, sweating the details, knowing when I need a “time out,” etc., there is less to forgive, and a much greater sense of ease and gentleness while being out in the world.
Forgiveness In the Body
As I reflect on forgiveness, I realize that, for me, it occurs at a few levels. I can cognitively forgive someone for some perceived offense, or myself for some shortcoming or mistake, while still holding non-forgiveness at a deeper level, and I can feel it as tension in my body. When I think about the person or situation, I might feel a tightness in a specific area (such as my heart, forehead, or gut). When I truly feel gentleness in my body – when I feel no increase in tension when a person, situation, or event comes to mind, I know that I’ve stepped more completely into true forgiveness.
Seated meditation can be a profoundly useful practice for breaking through non-forgiveness. In this practice, I have found that it is counterproductive to “think through” whatever is on my mind while in meditation. There is certainly a place for that type of mental activity; it can be useful to think through one’s past, whether alone, with a psychologist, or with a dear friend. However, in meditation, I’ve found that that sort of cognitive processing gets in the way. Instead, I’ve found that it is much more useful to let go of the story entirely. Since non-forgiveness has a specific sort of tension in my body, I have found seated meditation with visualization and body awareness to be far more helpful in unwinding those sorts of “knots.”
Visualization with Body Awareness
First, visualize grounding deeply into the earth, extending roots that reach through the crust and into the molten core. While maintaining that connection, feel within your body for points of tension, and visualize flushing the knots out, watching the tension travel down your roots and dissolve in magma, purifying and transforming into light. As the knots soften and release, visualize light coming through the crown of your head, filling the now cleared space with light (I’ll often visualize golden or pink light, but please use whatever color feels most appropriate for you). Continue releasing tension and inviting Light to fill its void until you sense the tension has been purified and cleared. When your meditation feels complete, re-seal by dissolving your roots and visualizing your personal bubble, and then finish the visualization with an offering of deep gratitude.
Letting Go, and Letting Light Shine
When I can truly feel gratitude for a person or situation, or for my own self, specifically towards the ways that I once felt resentment or fear, I know that forgiveness has occurred. There are many techniques out there to invite forgiveness to take root and unfold, and many are helpful. However, I think the most essential ground for truly forgiving is to love the direct experience of Light (or, Eternity, God/dess, “peace beyond all understanding”, or whatever concept speaks most closely to your heart) more than you feel driven to cling to ideas of limitation. Though that sounds like an obvious choice, our minds often require reflection to regain that perspective, and training to maintain it. Techniques can be helpful in regaining that state of ease, love, and gratitude that I feel is our natural way of being.