“Remembering a wrong is like carrying a burden on the mind.” ~Buddha
When the mind is burdened by a perceived wrong for an extended period of time, the body automatically steps in to carry part of the load. We store many of our painful life experiences deep within the framework of our physical bodies.
If we don’t consciously feel and heal these hurts as they occur, they linger in our muscles, organs, and tissues long after the mind has consciously forgotten the specifics of the event.
The body is actually a repository that faithfully carries this load until the essence of the experience is cleansed “from the record.” Fortunately, a bit of conscious awareness focused on the simple exercise below can greatly help to release the baggage of past experiences.
While dining with a neighbor recently, I recalled the time we’d met several years earlier when he’d been suffering from severe back pain. I noticed that he was standing straighter and seemed so much more at ease now, even though he’s in his mid eighties.
There was such a marked difference in his countenance that I asked him how his back was feeling. “Totally fine,” he twinkled. “How did that happen?” I inquired, sensing I might be in for a good story. “Forgiveness! I forgave myself and everyone else I was holding any kind of grievance against.” He answered matter-of-factly.
“Just by forgiving, your serious back pain went away?” I asked. “That’s it,” he exclaimed, preparing to give me the full story. “Every grievance you hold against yourself or others shows up as a physical ache.”
I immediately thought of several idiomatic expressions, like: He’s a pain in the neck. It was gut wrenching. She broke my heart. He's shouldering too much responsibility, etc. I quickly saw the truth in what he was saying and agreed with him that our bodies warehouse the effects of our thoughts.
Buddhist teachings refer to these grievances as samskaras. The term essentially refers to the psychic baggage that gets lodged in your being every time you have a reaction to something.
Any time you want less of something (aversion) or more of something (craving), you are “in conflict” with the moment and adding items to your list of things that are not okay.
This sounded like the same thing my friend referred to as “grievances.” Remarkably, he discovered the incredible power that forgiveness has in cleansing one’s being of this baggage that gets lodged in the body over a lifetime.
As he spoke, I thought of a judgment I’d been harboring and silently said to myself, “I forgive myself for judging my friend…I release and let go.” A short while later, I noticed that the bothersome spot on my back was actually gone. I made a mental note to scan my body later in order to take inventory to see what else I could find to shed.
The next morning while teaching my Tai Chi class, I recounted the story to my students and suggested we add a short forgiveness element to our daily gratitude meditation.
I recommended that we take a brief moment to look at any judgments we may be holding and then try to let go of them by forgiving ourselves and any others we perceive as having wronged us.
After doing this, we visualized a white light symbolizing forgiveness radiating down from above the top of our heads and surrounding our entire bodies, cleansing us of our grievances. After completing the process we did our usual gratitude meditation in which we focus on things we are grateful for and feel it in our bodies.
As we finished our meditation and prepared to begin our Tai Chi practice, I asked if anyone noticed anything. One student spoke out with a big smile saying, “I've had a knot in my stomach for the last three weeks and now it’s gone!”
Relieving yourself of your grievances is a powerful and liberating exercise. If it gets rid of aches and pains too, so much the better. Clearing yourself of baggage can be done in three, easy steps:
1. Sit or lie down and notice where you feel pain or discomfort in your body. Focus your mind on it with gentle acceptance. Give it the attention it is calling out for.
2. Make a mental note of any judgment or grievance you're holding against yourself or anyone else. If nothing comes to mind, just keep your attention focused on the discomfort.
3. Mentally say, “I forgive myself and all others for any wrong that I've perceived.”
Even though we may forget the troublesome experiences we’ve had, our bodies are faithful servants that catalogue the work we need to do. Next time you have a minor discomfort in your body, start the process of healing by trying out this process. It couldn’t hurt.
Photo by crdotx