Thoughts on

Mindful Self-Compassion

Forgiveness; the role MSC may play

Session Details - November, 2017 - An exploration on forgiveness, how it may well be an integral part of compassion.

We started with a mindfulness practice emphasising listening, listening not just with the ears, but with all of the senses. Our heart practice was also around listening from the inside out. Listening to our inner response when we silently offered ourselves the word compassion. We then meditated on our inner courage, wisdom and commitment in regards to our intention to live a compassionate life. Finding these resources within, savouring and validating them in our own way. 

From our practice arose the discussion of what does compassion truly involve? What does forgiveness truly involve? Where does MSC and courageous presence sit within this?

“Compassion is the courage to descend into the reality of human experience.” – Paul Gilbert

"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid". - Frederick Buechner

So courageous presense... 

We came to the notion that forgiveness is an integral part of compassion, it speaks of acceptance, but there is a wounding involved - so first we must attend to the wound. 

Feeling the feeling:

The key to forgiveness may well be building our inner resources to be able to open to pain. The more we can open to acceptance with true compassion, the more a natural dropping off of resistance will occur, therefore forgiveness naturally arises.

The pain / suffering of disconnection can give us information. It often first presents with ‘harder’ type feelings and if we stay with hard emotions too long we can become a bitter or resentful, and as the saying goes they can start to ‘rot the vessel that holds it’. To transform harder emotions that are no longer serving us well, we can begin to look at the more tender / vulnerable / softer feelings behind them, perhaps loneliness or fear. Behind these soft feelings there often lies an unmet human need, such as to be connected, accepted, valued, safe or loved. Bearing kindly witness to the basic human need that may not have been met at the time we have the opportunity to respond with compassion - further strengthening the loving connection to one’s self and others. 


‘Every act of violence is the tragic expression of an unmet need’ - Marshall Rosenburg 

Story of compassion as forgiveness:

In December 2012, the unthinkable happened for Scarlett Lewis. Her beautiful six-year-old boy, Jesse, was murdered along with 25 classmates and teachers at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Scarlett could have easily gone down the path of blame, anger and hate, but instead she chose love, compassion and forgiveness. Inspired by the last words that Jesse wrote (‘nurturing, healing, love’) she founded the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement. 

“Nurturing means loving kindness and gratitude. Healing literally means forgiveness, and love is compassion in action. And when you have the courage to practice those three character values in that order….You’re choosing love.” – Scarlett Lewis

Common humanity:

Our deepest need as humans is to be loved, seeing into our shared humanity reveals this. Deepening into our 'interbeing' so to speak is yet another process that allows us to soften the harsh barriers that society creates - the 'us and them’ categories that divide rather than unite us. Seeing the one in the many and the many in the one is at the heart of compassion.

Below are some basic, preparatory steps towards forgiveness from Noah Levine:

1) Remember that forgiving doesn't let a transgressor off the hook; they still have to live with the legal and psychological consequences of their actions. We forgive so we can move on; those who have injured us have to live with their actions.

2) Start with oneself. Bring to mind times we've acted unskilfully, especially in letting ourselves down, feeling the disappointment somatically and allowing it to pass. A mind that pardons is a mind that is free to embrace the present and define life by many experiences, rather than a single, narrow story.

3) To forgive has etymological roots in the word 'unbind.' Harbouring resentments ties us to the worst and ugliest acts of others, rather than the many skilful actions they've produced during a lifetime. 

4) Forgiveness does not mean allowing someone back into our proximity or interactions; letting go of resentments does not mean letting go of boundaries, even staying away entirely from another. It is possible to forgive and to keep a safe distance. Again, we forgive so that we can let go of retaliatory obsession and move on with life.

5) When 'The Story' of the breach arises, try to envision the events through the eyes of the transgressor, creating a full backstory and life events, understanding how isolated acts do not define entire lives. Viewing events from another perspective takes a great deal of effort, but the long results are worth it. 

Redefining happiness:

“Happiness is closer to the experience of acceptance and contentment than it is to pleasure. True happiness exists as the spacious and compassionate heart's willingness to feel whatever is present.”  - Noah Levine


The Hawaiian shamans teach that our purpose here is to let go and allow LOVE to solve our problems. We have the opportunity with each situation to take responsibility for the problem and get out of the way. This brings the potential of going through the day with a readiness to see each problem as an opportunity, to let go, to allow the change to happen and to see where inspiration leads us.

Ho’oponopono suggests sitting often with the fundamental question of ‘who am I?’

Daily reflective practices on taking 100% responsibility:

° Practice connecting to the vast, edgeless heart-mind space (neck down). Once a sense of open-heartedness is there:

° Then think of something that needs attention in your life, ask – ‘what is it in me that is causing this event to take place, or this person to behave this way, or this sickness to manifest etc.?’

° Then repeat the following mantra, remembering to as best you can, keep it a neck down, open hearted experience. Letting go of any tendency towards blame, judgement etc. If these become sticky, or a lingering visitor then use that as your focus of practice – leaving nothing out!

The mantra:

° Dear creator (or whatever word resinates with you, e.g. god, Buddha)

° I am sorry

° Please forgive me

° I love you

° And I thank you and wish you peace 

Source: Ihaleakala Hew Len, Ph.D.

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