Brief Forgiveness Meditation Instructions
Short Forgiveness Instructions as Taught by Bhante Vimalaraṁsi
Based on the Book “Guide to Forgiveness Meditation”
This meditation is the practice of compassion and generosity towards yourself and others. It is an act of kindness. So, set aside a minimum of 30 minutes each time you practice. Find a comfortable sitting position and promise yourself you won’t move or change your posture.
Now, begin by repeating the phrase, “I forgive myself for not understanding.” Put a sincere wish for forgiveness for yourself in your heart and stay with that. Gently smile as you do this- just put a little Buddha smile on your face. This will keep your mind light.
Sincerely wish this forgiveness for yourself. This feeling or wish of forgiveness is your object of meditation. Any feeling of Forgiveness can be there, but the feeling is not the object – just the wish. The phrase ‘not understanding’ means that in the past you acted negatively to yourself, or someone else. Maybe you got angry, or someone else caused you pain, and they did not understand either. You reacted, and then afterward, you felt sorry. We have all acted without understanding. This has created guilt and remorse in our lives. But, all you need do is just keep the phrase to ‘not understanding.’ That is enough.
It is essential that the phrase sinks in — that you give it time to work and not change it before it has a chance to work with something that comes up that you did or something someone else did, from a past event. If nothing comes up, you could try another one like "I forgive myself for causing myself and others, pain.” You are removing any trapped negativity bit by bit with this practice. But please do not use phrases that put yourself down; negative phrases do not work.
Now, when any hard feeling or painful experience comes up in your mind, you forgive that, relax, smile again, and keep going. For example, you could have a thought like "I don’t deserve to be happy” or “I don't like myself because...” If a thought like that arises you immediately forgive yourself and let go of that negativity. Just FORGIVE and RELAX in two steps.
Do this with everything that pulls you away from forgiving yourself for not understanding.
Be sincere and keep up your forgiveness process going. Let it flow with everything that arises. Forgive any stories and hard feelings that come up. Forgive anything that arises that tries to stop your intent to forgive.
Your objective is to keep forgiveness going until you feel there is nothing more to forgive.
As you continue forgiving yourself, memories of various people and situations will come up which need your forgiveness. Your goal should shift now to forgive those persons. You repeat the same phrase you used for yourself directly to them: “I forgive YOU for not understanding.” As you do this, do not get involved in any story about what happened. In your mind just look them in the eye and forgive them. Stay with them for a while and let the wish for forgiveness take hold. This time, if you get distracted from this process, you know what to do. Forgive the distraction. Even if it is thinking about ‘what’s for lunch,’ forgive that as it is distracting you! Any kind of thought that is distracting you forgive it and come back to do more forgiveness.
Keep working with the same phrases that you used for yourself until there is relief — only then change your phrases and begin again with new cues. Your phrases might be about forgiving yourself or for holding grudges, or for holding negative thoughts about someone. Keep your thoughts aimed at positive change and forgive those judgments.
While forgiving, you might have a thought that comes up like, "I am not going to forgive this person because they are just plain mean...they don’t deserve forgiveness." Forgive that feeling, and then, keep on going. Soften and release these thoughts. Relax and re-smile as you return to forgiving.
Remember, having a sad feeling is OK, and if tears come it’s ok. Tears take the pressure off your heart and mind. It is a good thing. So, do not be tough on yourself. Just let those tears flow. Get some tissues or a towel and let them come out. Your objective is to keep your forgiveness going and completely forgive yourself and others. Then, any attachment to those memories will just fade away.
It is not unusual in this meditation for the person you are working on to smile back at you and to forgive you as well. This is a potentially positive result. Some wonderful relief can arise when this naturally happens, and that can mean that you are done with that person. But be careful that you don’t ask them to forgive you because this is all about pure compassion and generosity. Your job is to provide the right conditions for you to receive and accept forgiveness from them — and… this can happen.
If that person comes back again in another session later, that’s ok. You treat them the same way again. But this time the forgiveness will go faster and more easily. Gradually they won’t come up anymore. Now that person is gone. So, you go back, and quietly say the same phrase again and forgive yourself until someone else comes up, and you forgive them in the same way. If you aren’t sure of when to let go of forgiving someone, just let go. They will always come back if they need to. Don’t worry, they will only disappear when you are finished with them.
Going for a walk
When your sitting ends you can do some walk meditation and, in your mind, as you walk, keep on gently saying, “I forgive you, you forgive me!” “I forgive you, you forgive me! — this keeps drumming into your brain that you want to stop holding onto past painful memories and forgive them. You want to let go of all these memories. Forgive anything or anyone that comes up during that time.
When a phrase goes dry, it’s done. You choose a different phrase and then start again. In the beginning, it might take a little time for your brain to trust that you really do want to do this. In the beginning, there can be periods of resistance where nothing comes up — be patient and continue.
When you are not sitting or walking, you can commit to forgiving whatever is going on in your life. Bring forgiveness into your workplace; take it into your home. Practice it with your friends. Make it a habit of forgiving and softening. In this way, you can continue letting go of this pain, and finally, become free from the heaviness of the past.
1. Sit for 30 minutes- Forgive yourself for not understanding. Forgive anything that arises that takes you away from this.
2. Then, walk for 15-20 minutes in the way outlined above.
3. Continue this way for the rest of the day. Forgive anything that comes up during the day.
***Read Bhante's book for the complete instructions
Or listen to the instructions again here.