Continuing with our series of Yogic concepts that we can use in our daily lives, we’re looking at yet another popular, well-known but often misunderstood idea. If you have missed out on the earlier concepts we have discussed, you can check this article. It has an introduction to the concepts as well as links to the ones we have already discussed.
Forgiveness and what it means
Let us start by looking at some dictionary definitions of the word. They usually provide us with a lot of insight into our own understanding of certain words.
- To forgive – to stop blaming or being angry with someone for something that person has done, or not punish them for something (Cambridge online dictionary)
- To forgive – to cease to feel resentment against (an offender) (Merriam Webster online dictionary)
- To forgive – to stop feeling angry or resentful towards (someone) for an offence, flaw, or mistake; to no longer feel angry about or wish to punish (Oxford online dictionary)
Let us spend a few moments reading these definitions and thinking about them to see if they match our understanding of the word. There are a few other definitions of the word but they are usually used in formal communication or in terms of debts, so we will not be considering those to avoid confusion here. We are only considering the definitions that relate to the emotional aspect of the word.
A few key words that pop out to me from these definitions are blame, resentment, anger, and stopping or ceasing to feel these. Are there any other words that stand out to you?
Forgiveness in Yoga
Like all the concepts we have discussed earlier, Forgiveness from the Yogic perspective always looks at the individual first. Our first duty is towards ourselves, our own wellbeing, and all these concepts apply mainly to ourselves and our lives. Yoga believes we are the only people we can change and so the ideas spoken about in Yoga apply mostly to the self.
What this means is, forgiveness is given not for someone else but for our own sakes. We do not forgive someone or something for their benefit, but only for our own. In the process, if it also helps others make peace with themselves and us, that is a bonus. Forgiveness releases us from the prison of guilt, sadness, fear, anger, hatred, and self-inflicted suffering. If this isn’t very clear yet, stay with me and I will try to demystify the idea for you a bit more.
I was angry with destiny for having taken my father away from me at a young age; I was a teenager when he passed away. I was always unhappy I did not have close friends as a youngster. I resented that I was too shy to talk to people and make friends; no teenager wants to befriend someone who barely ever talks. I was frustrated that I had developed a chronic skin condition that I now have to manage as long as I live. I justified holding on to all these negative and painful feelings by saying none of it was my fault and that I had every right to hold them close to me. I was using them as a shield to keep everyone out and keeping myself locked in in the process.
But as life brought wonderful people into my life who had faced unimaginable circumstances and still smiled and remained genuinely happy and hopeful, I began to question my beliefs. This was also the time when Yoga entered my life as a philosophy. I had enrolled in my first basic teacher training course for a month and had some of the most amazing teachers I have met on my journey.
I was the youngest in the course and everyone kept encouraging me, appreciating my efforts, and reaching out to me whenever I hesitated. Over time, other people did the same; they reached out when I couldn’t, made me believe in myself when I struggled to do it. Slowly, I became less afraid of reaching out, asking for help, and giving help when I thought I could. These people, without even realising it, made me understand that I could move forward, be happy.
I slowly, and unknowingly at times, started the process of healing by bringing in all the concepts we have discussed. I accepted that this is what I was like, what my life was, whether I liked it or not. I slowly started letting go of unrealistic expectations I had for myself (I have always been introverted and hated it for many years. I wanted to be extroverted, to have many friends, to be the popular one in school, to be the one everybody knew). Over the years, I have slowly fallen in love with my introverted self, which has brought immense contentment and joy.
Most importantly, though, I started forgiving. And that has been an experience I continue to be amazed by!
- I forgave destiny for taking my father away. I accepted he probably did not take care of his health and that he had struggles of his own; that sometimes, things are out of my control and that that is okay.
- I may not have had great friends as a kid, but today, I am grateful for the small bunch of people in my life who have stood by me through everything and who I could blindly trust with my life. Forgiving myself for my nature brought me here.
- My shyness has made me a good listener and this has helped me help others who need a kind ear to listen and understand; who need someone to listen without judgement and make them feel less lonely.
- My skin condition has made me appreciate the fact that I can manage it by being mindful of what I eat and drink, of my sleep, and of the products I use on my body; it has brought in awareness of clean living and the importance of self-care.
Acceptance, letting go, being content, and forgiving have become some of the most life-changing ideas in my life thus far. Every day, I see the effects of these ideas as I continue to explore them and bring them into my life. Be it exercise and physical practices, emotional health, or my inability to achieve something I really covet, these concepts keep me sane, hopeful, and striving to be better and do better every single day.
Above all, applying these concepts to life inspires me to care for myself, work towards my wellbeing, and prioritise myself when I need to without feeling guilty about it. Forgiving myself has been the greatest gift I could ever give myself!