In the last 2 posts – Day 12 & 13, we looked at how physical body techniques and utilising the written word in angry letters as effective means for releasing pent up emotions. However there may be times when forgiveness is so difficult that ‘Divine’ intervention is needed. And on these occasions I recommend participating in a ritual. The idea of using ritual in forgiveness is not new. Rituals of forgiveness and atonement are a recurring theme in most religions, whether primitive or developed. These sacred rites are seen as the means by which the person re-establishes or strengthens his/her relation with others.
Scripture refers to the power of forgiveness as a gift received from God. Catholics ask God to forgive them their ‘sins’ through the intercession of a priest in the Sacrament of Confession. It is a religious practice that has kept me carefree and happy over the years!
It is important to stress, however, that the ritual I will refer to in this post is not taken from any religion. Nonetheless, it is a solemn activity accompanied by the burning of incense, sage and the lighting of candles.
Partaking in ritual allows us to acknowledge the sacredness of our being, to accept that a violation has occurred to our sanctity, and to recognise that special assistance is required to help us let go, forgive and move on.
This forgiveness ritual which I have called The Stage Exercise has evolved through my childhood experiences. When I was young my mother encouraged us to make up stories and enact these stories in little plays. Often she would tell us to swap roles and pretend to be the person we didn’t like. Many a row between my siblings and I were ignited and or resolved during these plays. My mother unknowingly has stumbled upon and used with her family, a modifications of psychotherapeutic techniques. But then again she was a very wise woman.
The Stage Forgiveness Exercise provide us with an oppertinity to examine painful memories in a non-threatening way.
When we release anger safely in a therapeutic environment, the chances of our projecting outwards and hurting someone else is greatly reduced. When we hurt someone, we need forgiveness. Before we are ready to ask another for forgiveness, we must first forgive ourselves. Forgiveness of the self requires a deep understanding of the fragility of human weakness. When we put our painful memories into a script form, we are playing a role rather than experiencing it. In this play, life scripts can be rewritten, giving us an opportunity to forgive or to tell someone that we love them.
And, when we do manage to forgive others, and ourselves we evolve into more compassionate, loving and spiritually aware human beings.
So let us begin this important healing work….
Before starting this exercise, light a candle and allow yourself some personal space to participate fully. Take the phone off the hook and go to a place where you know that you will not be interrupted. If you are a parent, this may mean that you will do this ritual in the early-morning hours.
Encourage your mind to focus on your senses, starting with your sense of touch, and moving in to your senses of taste, smell and sight (with your eyes closed, imagine you are seeing a soft, pale purple or blue light). Finally focus on your hearing, and allow it to expand by imagining that you are listening to the furthest sound and all sounds beyond it. This allows the hearing to become wide and free. Connecting to the senses in this way helps you to clearly focus on the task at hand.
When you are ready, begin the play. During this ritual, you are going to rewrite a painful scene from your life, using the tools of the theatre.
Imagine yourself sitting in a theatre, watching a play. You are in the audience, looking at the characters on the stage. Visualise a scene from your past, in as much detail as possible; this particular scene that you have chosen, is now being played on the stage. The scene could be a joyful reminiscence or a sad or angry memory. Perhaps you need to visualise a person whom you want to forgive or say goodbye to. Maybe you never got the chance.
Allow yourself to see the players:
- What are they wearing?
- What are they doing?
Fill in the scenery: night-time or daytime; urban or rural; indoor or outdoor.
You are there, with the other actors.
- What age are you?
- Can you get in touch with your feelings at that time?
- How do you feel — afraid, angry, upset, and lonely?
When you are ready, imagine yourself going on stage to acknowledge your other self. Embrace that self and tell ‘it’ that you love ‘it’. Acknowledge each of the other players in turn. Say what you need to say to them. Express your feelings without fear — it is only a play after all.
For example, you could say: ‘Peter, you hurt me. As an adult, I can try to accept and understand the reasons for your actions, but as a child, I was confused and hurt. What you did was wrong. Now I will try to forgive you.’ You may find it difficult to say this, and in your heart you may not believe it to be true, but the articulation of the words can help you to forgive the person who has hurt you. Then say, ‘I am letting you go; you no longer have power over my life or me. I am putting you into my past. I am moving on and I am leaving you behind on this stage with my blessing.’
When the time feels right, leave the stage. Walk firmly and purposefully down into the audience. You are leaving your old self behind with all the players. Symbolically you have let go and forgiven the people on the stage who have hurt you. Soon the ramifications of your actions will be felt in the real world.
This Stage forgiveness ritual allows you to let go, or partly let go, painful past memories.
It may be necessary for you to revisit the stage several times in a spirit of reverence and prayer, before you can let go.
You can modify this script to suit your needs, for example
- If you want to forgive yourself for a violation you have committed, place yourself at that time in your life on the stage, and say what needs to be said, forgive and walk away from the stage.
- Or if you want to tell someone who has died, that you love him/her, or alternatively that you forgive him/her, or you wish to ask his/her forgiveness. Place him/her on the stage and talk to him/her as if he or she was still alive.
The script is yours- your personal life story, which has helped you to become whom and what you are today. You are a unique and special person, on your own journey of life, learning the necessary lesions along the way, some of which can be hard, very hard indeed.
Partaking in ritual allows us to acknowledge the sacredness of our being, to accept that a violation has occurred to our sanctity, and to recognise that special assistance is required to help us let go, forgive
Then one day you will be free and the emotional wounds that festered and infected your life will be cleansed.
A final word.
Rather than crippling us, the bleakest darkest times experienced will, if we forgive, teach us profound lessons. Contemplation on, and the sharing of, these lessons will bring deep healing into our lives and into the lives of others who are willing to learn from our experience.
Note to self
Good luck in your healing work — believe it, you’re worth it. And remember, the world needs people like you who are brave enough to face up to the challenges of life and live with hope to enjoy another day.