I do not know how others feel about this, but forgiving has shown up more as a duty or obligation in my life than a tool. But I now know from my own experience that it is a doorway to power and a source of huge joy. There are practices which will help you turn the key and open that door (more about those later) and there is a structure to forgiveness which is worth understanding as it makes the process more palatable and easier. Not necessarily easy, but at least less impossible.

The first step in forgiving, in this structure, is the event. Someone has done something to you that shows up like a betrayal, a wrong in your space. This causes a wounding, which hurts. Small hurts we can overlook, but big ones simply cannot be stepped over or pushed under the surface safely. If you are a reader of fairly tales, you know that the buried wrong will out. And generally it will rise up unexpectedly and bite you on the backside. It never seems to rise up and bite the person who did you wrong on their backside; no, it will be your bottom that feels the punctures. So, my touchstone in regards to being wronged is to start to work on forgiving as soon as I notice that I am wounded. The sooner I start, the easier the process is – because I have not become habituated into resentment.

Foot-traps and Wrong Turnings

I want to go through these first so that we all know we are talking about the same thing when we talk about forgiving.

First, there is a piece of our industrial western/northern culture telling us that forgiving a person who has hurt us is the same as telling the person that whatever they have done is all right. Clearly it is not, or there would be no need to forgive. And yet we sometimes conflate forgiveness and approval. Do not be fooled. If you have to forgive someone, that requires not-approved-of behaviour on their part. And when you get to the other side of this entire process and are no longer carrying the burden of resentment towards them, that behaviour is likely still to be not approved of by you. But you will be lighter and more full of the joy of creation than you were. Letting go, really not still being invested in their behaviour – past, present or future – is the best revenge there is because it is not revenge at all.

There is another piece of our culture that uses carping on about our exes, or men, or women, or our boss, or our spouse, the opposite politcal party (and so on…) as social currency. You complain about your ex and I complain about mine and we have established a (tenuous) social bond, much like talking about the weather. This easily can become an expected part of social interactions. The sinkhole here is that it keeps you engaged with the wounding and with the resentment that arises from it. So, rather than being a good and helpful thing, you may find that it keeps you stuck. Or you may find that, as you travel along the process of forgiving, you just lose interest and have to think of something else to talk about.

And then there is the matter of how we define ourselves. I was taught a prayer for opening sacred space which includes (in the West direction) “Teach us to be impeccable warriors, to travel light, with no need of enemies in this life or the next.” One of the ways we define who we are in this complex and sometimes confusing life is by who our enemies are. If I have an enemy, I can feel safe in saying “I am not that.” If we have a good list of what we are not, it helps us to define who we are. It builds a container inside of which our identity can exist with come sense of stability. If we give up the container, bit by bit, how will we know who we are?

I would offer, as an alternative to defining ourselves by who we are not, by our enemies, that we might try another way. That would be to be in the process of creating ourselves moment by moment as we rediscover who we are in our deepest, truest, finest, highest selves, the self we came into this life to be or to become. As we are on the path of transforming ourselves so that our families and communities and world transform, we are constantly being asked to recognise what it is that keeps us small and limited and to release that. Possibly this “container of enemies” form of defining ourselves is one of those things that keeps us small and is asking to be released.

Walking Forward

The making of enemies, whether personal or institutional, can often be used as a shield to keep out of our consciousness the grief caused by betrayal or other woundings. Coming at us hard on the heels of injury, the next thing that feels like the end of the world is the grief that this has happened at all. If you have any experience of grief (and what human doesn’t?) then you know that it is not a singular thing, or even a quick process. Grief is a journey, a necessary journey from wounding to wholeness. In order to become whole we must walk into the grey and barren desert of grief and through it to the other side.

I really don’t much know what to tell you about this. If you have made the trip yourself then you know what it is like for you, what it requires of you. If not, there is nothing but putting one foot in front of the other that will teach you about it. On the other hand, it sounds like a big deal, a grand adventure, and it is, but it is also not. You just do it. You walk through the desert one step at a time, one foot in front of the other. You keep your heart open even though it hurts, and you ask for help with that. It can be boring and it feels like it will never end, like this is the way your life will always be. It will end; your life will have other flavours and colours in time. But that is cold comfort when you are hurting and when joy is drowned by grief.

There is a big deal at the end of this, though. I write “end” with a wry smile because so long as we are in this life there is no end, just the journey. There is an end to this stage of the journey, though. And when your inner sky does finally begin to brighten, the light that shows up is the luminosity of your own true self, your highest, finest, deepest, truest self, the self you came into this life to be. That is what calls you onwards through the dull time and what allows your world and your soul to expand so that you are no longer simply focussed on what happened to you, but your view is large enough to see the event in a context, to get a measure of how it fits in the overall scheme of things, and to see what value may have come to you in the midst of pain.

All of this takes time. For us here in the body, working our way through space and time, it is a process that takes as long as it does. For some people and some woundings this could be weeks, months, even years. Or possibly a few moments. Or it may become the work of a lifetime. You cannot wish away this walk through the desert of grief; likewise I would recommend that you not tarry here, either. We humans have long legs compared to many others of Earth’s children – we are designed this way so we can keep moving. Continue to move through the grieving that follows wounding and it will lessen and then lose its power over you.

Move through it holding the intention of being free, the intention of continuing to become your truest, highest, finest, deepest self – not in some far away afterlife or reincarnation, but in this lifetime, in this here and now. This intention is like a lifeline in the dull landscape. Hold on to it, remind yourself as often as you need to why you are here. Let it lead you to the light and compassion at the heart of all things. Let your intention lead you to an expanded vision and an expanded self.


You may have noticed that I have not been wittering on about forgiving the person who hurt you. It is entirely possible that by the time you have spent your period of grieving the emotional loading will have completely evaporated and forgiveness will have occurred in your soul unnoticed. It could happen. Or possibly not. If this particular instance falls into the “not” category and resentment continues to hang around like a bad smell, this is simply an indication that there is more to be experienced – and, therefore, learned.

Never forget, despite the prevailing culture and beliefs today, we were not incarnated here so that we could be placid, never disturbed and always happy. Or so that we can get everything that we want, or do everything on our bucket list. We came here, according to many teachers, to learn and to become. You came here into this life with a purpose all your own, which only you can discern. 

You are absolutely free to pursue this intention in whatever way you choose. As you experience receiving forgiveness and, perhaps, granting forgiveness to others, you will find that forgiving is a powerful teacher. Should you choose not to forgive, no doubt you will find that resentment is a powerful teacher as well. But do keep in mind while you are choosing your teacher, that it takes a lot of energy to keep the blame / anger / resentment shield against grieving in place. You carry it all day every day, spending your own life force to keep it firm, come home pretty tired – possibly exhausted – fall into bed and get up the next morning having to reformulate that shield and hold it all day again. No wonder we are too tired to actually live. So resentment is a very powerful teacher as well. Just depends on what and how you choose to learn. Having spent years in the company of resentment I can recommend the journey to forgiveness as preferable – but the choice is entirely yours.

One other thing. For forgiveness to happen there is a need for justice to be addressed in some way. Or at least for it to be acknowledged that justice has not been addressed. In the face of the emotional rawness caused by hurt and betrayal it is difficult to see the difference between justice and revenge. As time passes the two will begin to resolve themselves as two distinct paths you can take. And you can see that forgiving does not necessarily mean stopping seeking justice. It will, by definition, mean stopping seeking revenge – but justice is another thing. I cannot tell you what justice is in whatever situation you find yourself, and you may not be able to say either, but do not abandon enquiring after justice, and it will come clear to you in time.

In this whole process, in which you will distinguish approval from forgiveness and vengeance from justice, in which you will experience the flatness and sorrow of grief in order to emerge into the daylight once more, you will expand your soul and your view of life so that you are aided in becoming more and more the person you came here to be. In fairy stories and folk tales the wounding or betrayal that puts you in a situation where you need to consider forgiving is in itself an initiation into power, an invitation to step into the person you came here to become. It allows you an opportunity to become the larger person who can do the task which is required. In many stories, betrayal IS the motivating force in the initiation into power.

And there are things you can do to help the process along.

For you to do:

1. Release heavy energy into the earth. Whether or not you are ready to release the wounding or betrayal, you can release the heavy energy that collects around it on a regular basis. This is a similar process to the creation of pearls in oysters, where they seal in a piece of grit and avoid the irritation it causes by surrounding it with a smooth coating. That is fine for oysters, but we are humans, and surrounding the wounding / betrayal with heavy energy is fine for a temporary patch while you get your feet back under you, but eventually it will weigh us down and hamper our expression of our selves. So, at some point release of the heavy energy accumulation will be needed.

Stand still, breathe steadily and deeply, maybe close your eyes. Using the tools of breath, will and imagination find the connection that runs from low in your belly down to the centre of the earth. It usually passes through the arches of both feet and through your perineum (pelvic floor) so that you have a tripod of energy lines connecting you to Earth, our mother. Locate any heavy energy that has accumulated in your body and your energy body and ask it to flow out through these energy connections as far down into the earth as it wants to. Some people see it going all the way to the fiery core and transforming there into light. Others see it simply emptying out into the earth we stand on and composting there.

If this makes you feel worried that you are giving more heavy energy to an earth already burdened with our abuses, here is what indengenous people say: The earth is very large, so large you can hardly imagine it. Your heavy energy entering the earth is like a teardrop entering the ocean, hardly noticeable. Furthermore, it is the nature of Earth to take heavy energy, which is after all only energy (it just looks “negative” because that is the shape we have allowed it to fill and the label we have put on it), and compost it into food for all her children. What was not helpful to us becomes nourishing for the biosphere by having passed through the Earth, who is by her very nature (as are fire, water and wind) transformative. Trust her. She can handle this. When she stops being able to or wanting to, she will just get rid of us. Easily done.

Allow the heavy energy to run out of you into the earth until you can find no more of it lurking around, until no more of it shows itself. Repeat this exercise whenever you begin to feel weighted down again – or maybe daily, just for maintenance!

2. Live into the questions.

If you are an impatient child of the earth like I am, you will have the urge to shut down any questions arising out of the wounding / betrayal that are uncomfortable – they feel like they might open doors onto aspects of myself that I will not like or onto internal landscapes in which there might be monsters. If I can settle the answer to any question quickly then I can slam shut each door that might open before I can even get a glimpse of the scary thing that may be on the other side.

This is fine for anyone whose primary intention for this life is to maintain the maximum comfort level that they can. However, the very fact that you are reading this tells both me and you that your fundamental intention is much deeper than this.

So, the idea will be that the questions that arise will remain unanswered so that they remain potent and powerful as tranformative beings. My advice is to respect the questions as the teachers they are. They will open the doors to power inherent in this process if you allow them to.

The first question that inevitably arises is “Who is to blame?”. This one usually is answered so fast you will not even know you have asked it. However, my invitation to you is to let this question hang, even if you know the answer beyond a shadow of a doubt. Every time you find it answered, let the answer go. Then see what happens.

The next question that often arises is “What did I do to cause this?”. The nice thing about this question is you can mostly rest assured that you did not cause the event, at least not knowingly. The reason I feel assured about this is that if you had caused it you would not feel betrayed. You did what you did, there was a consequence, you most likely did not like it, end of story. But there is a wound or a sense of betrayal, so most likely in your experience you are not the cause, this is not a predictable consequence of your own actions. When you come up with an answer, let it hang there in the air with the question. See what else turns up to keep it company.

Other questions will arise. My invitation to you is to entertain them like honoured guests, allow them space to be and see what they stir up. They are the openers of the gateways to power, the bringers of transformation.

3. Find or make a safe place to put the wounding and the offender so that you are not face to face with it in every moment.

Oldest sister, who is a mighty shaman with a feather-light touch, uses a cauldron – drawn from Celtic traditions – as her safe place. Whenever she finds herself plagued by blaming someone who has wronged her, she pictures a cauldron (Celtic tranformational motif) simmering away on a low fire cooking up something that is nourishing for the earth, for life, for the universe. With her spirit fingertips she picks up, very delicately, the situation or the wrongdoer or whatever aspect is plaguing her and slips it in over the lip of the cauldron. Then she turns and walks away and does not look back, leaving the plaguing thought form to simmer and do whatever it does in the cauldron of tranformation. Every time she notices this (or any other) thing related to blame that could benefit from forgiveness she repeats the process immediately. Some days she does this a lot, some days not at all. But invariably the longer she applies the cauldron to a situation the less frequently she finds it is required.

If a cauldron does not spark your imagination feel free to come up with your own safe place to digest and transform the wounding and the energy that gathers around it. I like feeding mine to the muppet Cookie Monster, a truly transformative being who also makes me smile on even the darkest of days.

4. Look to move into a state of neutrality.

As you let go of the heavy energy associated with wounding and/or betrayal and, thus lightened, move through the landscape of grief in which you find yourself as a result you will probably discover that the emotional charge fades, the blaming of the others who were involved fades. You may have entire days when the subject simply does not surface in your consciousness. Keeping in mind that we cannot un-do the wounding or betrayal, that the only direction we who are in time are allowed to move is forward, you can arrive (eventually) in a state of being which is able to recognise the events as simply events, to look at them from outside rather than as a participant. At this point they will no longer show up as an attack on you or a catastrophe or a knife in the back or as the theft of your very soul. They still happened, and most likely even in calm retrospect the actions were unacceptable. However, they no longer hold the power to do you in or to send you into a rage or to make you want to crawl into a hole in the ground and pull it in after you. The power in the remembered situation now resides with you, not with the perpetrator or with the events themselves. In the process of grieving your way through to even possibly forgiving, the power you lost has come home. And chances are very good that you are now more full of power, more able to live as your truest, finest, deepest, highest self than you were before the events that caused the wounding occurred.

This is the true meaning of forgiveness, of the word. To give as before. Not necessarily to the person who did you wrong – maybe that will happen and maybe it will not. You will, however, be more given to your life, to your self. You will give yourself to Life as before. Or more than before. That is what successfully going through an intitation into power produces. Richer life. Fuller life. Abundant life. Transformation.

If you get to this point of neutrality and do not see that you are transformed, look around you, ask your friends how they think you are doing. Ask yourself the question “In what way has this transformed me?” and let that hang in the air for a few days – see what the universe brings your way. You may be surprised.