The folks at Greater Good Magazine have identified forgiveness as one of the keys to well-being. They offer a lovely, succinct definition:
a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.
They also offer a summary of research indicating that forgiveness is helpful for personal health and interpersonal relationships.
Forgiveness takes time, they say.
It seems helpful, to me, to think of forgiveness as a skill we can build, a muscle we can bulk.
Meditation gives us practice. Each time we catch ourselves thinking and return to the breath, we are practicing forgiveness. We release that line of thinking (and the emotions it may have aroused), recommit ourselves to doing what we wanted to do, and return to our intended path.
I have not been significantly hurt for years, but I imagine that if I became aware of carrying feelings of resentment, it would make sense to attach the practice of forgiveness to the practice of meditation. I could create a special tonglen practice, wherein I breathe in the hurt caused by the specific actions and breathe out feelings of peace and clarity.
Forgiveness is a practice. As we notice we are harboring tight feelings around a situation, we release-recommit-return. We don’t expect to get it right. We are just making space, softening to things as they are.
In the same way that every breath is a fresh start, every moment is a new beginning. Every encounter is an opportunity to practice love and belonging and connection.