Forgiving Oneself for Being Unforgiving

August 3rd was International Day of Forgiveness and this reluctantly spurred me on to use this as my theme for the week. I rarely use this theme in class as I feel as though I haven’t quite grasped this concept to perfection and I therefore feel like a hypocrite bringing up forgiveness in the yoga room with my students. I do however still pressure myself to try and touch on the theme of forgiveness once a year in my yoga realm. 


forgiveness blog by Martine Ford of Spirit Yoga

It is not that I can’t forgive or don’t want to, it’s the complete opposite, the intent is there, the action is there. After a therapist told me ‘I just needed to forgive’ and then gave me no instruction at all on how to do so, I read lots of literature on this exact topic and I found for me it’s a case of, ‘where ever you go, there you are’. I fled the homeland of my hurt and was able to move on really well, or so I thought. Then another situation arose where I again had to deal with emotions of betrayal, only this time I chose not to move away. I instead declared my love for those involved and then set boundaries to distance myself from the relationship temporarily to maintain my equilibrium.

I regularly went back to my original homeland of hurt and finally discovered that each time I went back I felt uncomfortable as my baggage of betrayal and hurt was unfastened and lay like dirty laundry along my host’s floor. I am a yoga teacher and spent a lot of my time reading, teaching and absorbing myself with the teachings of love and compassion, so why was I still being triggered with feelings of anger and sadness after such a long time?

When I started my research for the week’s theme forgiveness, my reluctance turned to inspiration with a flip of the page (okay, flip of Google search). The first act of grace was reading that… “When you are forgiven for a mistake, you must learn to forgive yourself. Sometimes learning to forgive ourselves is harder than forgiving others.” I felt that I could easily work with this, it was baby steps, to break me into talking about forgiving others. So, I began the week with the theme ‘forgiving ourselves’, just as we need to fill up our own cup of compassion before we can fill up other people’s cups, we need to be able to forgive ourselves first as well as forgive others. So I applied this message to myself and to my offering for the week.

I also incorporated into the week’s classes yoga poses that assist in balancing the liver, heart and lungs. According to The Chinese Medicine Theory when these organs are imbalanced we can experience feelings of anger and envy (liver), hatred and depression (heart) and sadness and grief (lungs). So by activating the meridians (energy channels) connected to these organs we can restore feelings of joy, love and hope and bring us closer to forgiveness and peace.

My next act of grace was an article I read by Sally Kempton, Forgiveness Heals that states, “From the biological point of view, replacing negative thoughts, and the willed choice we make to shift out of grievance, are both performed in the front brain, the cortex—the seat of rational thought. But the emotional reactions to hurt, stress, and trauma are stored in the limbic brain—sometimes called the emotional or ‘old mammalian’ brain—where our more deeply rooted emotional patterning tends to be lodged. Many of these patterns play out automatically in the body, regardless of our intentions or rational decisions.”

So, after years spent working on forgiveness and finding I still had triggers that unleashed anger and sadness, this explanation definitely helped ease any guilt, that had welled up inside of me. 

“If time is a healer
Then all hearts that break
Are put back together again
Cause love heals the wound it makes.”

~ Eva Cassidy’s lyrics

Learning that the limbic brain does not respond to rational intention but rather to ritual was inspirational, and I could now let go of the guilt, that forgiveness had not been instantly achieved. I know with a little more time chipping away at the deeply rooted emotional patterns, that healing and freedom will be the end result. I know that my time spent in meditation and with the intent to forgive, have brought me much closer to that goal and I can now let go of any guilt that it may be taking longer than I or others expect. Phew!

Article by Martine Ford