Forgiveness. One word can stir such emotions in a person. I have listened to, read, and heard the verses of forgiveness countless times throughout my life. Jesus says in Matthew, chapter 18, to forgive one who wrongs you seventy times seven times. Have you ever pondered this? Truly, deeply?
It occurred to me this past week that perhaps I have been looking at forgiveness and the rule of seventy times seven all wrong. Perhaps this doesn’t mean at all that someone can do a wrong to you multiple times and you are expected to continuously forgive that person. Perhaps, this means something more, something deeper, something inside yourself.
What if someone you love wronged you or hurt you? Just one time. What if that hurt was deep and difficult to feel, painful to think about, impossible to overcome? When someone you love and trust hurts you, intentionally or unintentionally, it leaves a scar. You want to forgive this person and you do. But then, the next day, you feel betrayed again. You feel hurt again. You feel angry again. So, you decide, again, to forgive this person for the one hurt they caused. This continues to happen, day after day, for one wrong thing, one mistake. Each day you wake and make a decision to forgive, until you have truly let go and given it all to God.
Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when he said to forgive seventy times seven times. Perhaps Jesus knew that forgiveness takes more than just words. It takes time, soul searching, prayer, meditation, and relationship rebuilding. Perhaps Jesus knew that we would not be able to give it all to God on our first try.
So, how do I work on Jesus’ command of forgiving seventy times seven times on my mat? How does my yoga practice enable me to do this? Patanjali’s Sutra 2:33 states, “When obstructive thoughts arise, practice the opposite thought.” This is just the start of forgiveness. When thoughts enter your mind and you focus on them, this creates a pattern in your thinking. When you focus on being a victim or on a hurt someone caused you, you continue to feel this pain and be victimized by this action. However, when you think about this situation, the moment the thought enters your mind, you have the opportunity to reverse the thought to the opposite. When you begin a negative pattern of thoughts about someone who hurt you, intentionally stop the process and create a positive pattern of thoughts about that person. This enables you to create a new pattern in your brain and free yourself of the negativity. This is quite difficult on its own for a few reasons.
Choice and practice alone may not be enough. Biologically, when you intentionally make a decision to replace a negative thought with a positive thought, this process takes place in the frontal cortex of the brain – your brain of rational thought. However, stress, trauma, and reactions to hurt are stored in the limbic brain – the emotional reptilian brain. So, if you are feeling from your limbic brain, it will be very difficult to cultivate an opposite thought in your frontal cortex. So how does this happen? Meditation.
This type of transformation, from your reptilian to your rational brain, occurs when you turn inward. When you meditate, you reach into your own depths and create an awareness within that can connect you to a higher power. When you meditate and pray, you can reach God. You can harness the healing power of grace and forgiveness. It lives inside of you.
Pairing this deep meditation and thought transformation with powerful and intentional asana will free you from whatever you are holding. Poses that open your heart, bring confidence and strength, and lift you up will bring healing power as well. Poses such as Warrior II, Reclined Bound Angle, and Fish Pose are heart opening poses to accept grace and forgiveness into yourself.
I feel blessed that Jesus knew we would need to start over each day and give our hearts to God. I feel blessed that I have created a practice for myself to enable me to meditate, pray, and find poses that bring me closer to God, open my heart, and transform my mind. I love that I start each day anew in God’s eyes and He forgives me each day. With that same intention, I am able to forgive others each day, over and over again, seventy times seven times, until my heart is healed and full of peace.