Feather Shaped Forgiveness

ForgiveHandsForgiveness. A word that instantaneously tastes bitter on my heart. When I was invited to write about forgiveness, I knew it was calling me. Despite every nerve ending that preferred not to have another go round with that particular healing opportunity. I love yoga and personal growth yet, sometimes, I really want to pass on exploring the hard stuff. I hesitate. I finagle. Yet, my interest is peeked because I am keenly aware that a particular trespass is shadowing my world. I wonder if I take it onto the mat if I can turn bitter into sweet.

Most days my yoga practice follows a particular flow. It goes like this; take a seat, breath, meditate, set an intention, do asana, give gratitude, and mindfully transition into whatever is next. Like most yogis my hope is to take some part of the practice into my day or life to perhaps make me a better human being. With resistance and a little hope I decide to do a practice with forgiveness.

I came to my mat with my issue and sat down. I made myself try. I started to meditate. No sweet seat for me. All I could find was a bunch of grungy history playing across the screen of my inner forehead. I tried to breathe in peace, breathe out anger. I tried to wiggle and release the tension forming around my temples and jaw. I had more anxiety than connection. I gave up on meditation and set the intention to at least explore and search for forgiveness. I wanted to see if I could find it within my body, mind or heart to feel relief on my subject matter with one particular person, one craw stuck in my throat.

I began to move through rigid cat/cows and into disjointed sun salutations. My exhales were longer and deeper than usual. On this day they were the kind of exhausted exhales that come naturally with disgust and disappointment. Inside my chest it felt like grit was being loosened from around my heart and lungs. It was not pleasant, it was dark and scary. I kept moving but I was brushing up against hurt and resentment and I was finding myself wanting to push it back down. Quitting seemed like a good idea, but for the sake of the “assignment” I kept breathing it out. So far, forgiveness was not feeling good on my mat or in my body. I was hedging my bet that forgiveness was not accessible or possible. Ever.

Warrior OneThen an idea came to me. I remembered a class a few weeks ago and one cue in particular that the instructor gave. Each time we moved from Down Dog to Warrior 1 she would say, “move from your center, bring your leg forward”. It was a simple enough instruction but each time she said the word “center” I would feel my mind searching for the strong place from which to direct movement. I began to feel how my center point was deeply connected to my desire to initiate motion. By noticing the feeling generated by focusing on the center point I was connecting with different emotions. Interestingly, each time I moved from my center I felt stronger and more connected. It felt good and I wanted to do more. With this helpful teaching cue, I decided to try this internal dialogue and move with “forgiveness” placed at my center. I wanted to see what I would feel if I connected this emotional word to my physical center.

With each transitional movement I shifted my focus. Instead of trying to move from center, I tried to move from center with forgiveness in mind. I found I could still feel forgiving and be strong. My practice revealed a new awareness from this perspective. I was able to connect with what forgiveness felt like in my body. I found that forgiveness resides in the past and that when I focused on the past I noticed tension in my body and the tightness in my breath. When I let go of thinking of the past and settled on a future version of my story, my issue felt lighter and the yoga required less effort. It felt like I could at least begin to explore the possibilities of what I wanted the future with this person to be like rather than brooding on my emotional discord.

Once I got into a flow with my center I was able to identify those places of tension in my body that were holding the emotions of betrayal, disappointment, hurt and sadness. It wasn’t pleasant at first but it began to feel better as I changed my perspective and felt myself letting go and staying strong. The shift was working really well until I started to fatigue. There was not going to be enough time to get through this in one session. Clearly, time was a limiting feature in making peace with this.

I was hoping that with one intentional practice on forgiveness I could forgive and happily let bygones be bygones. Instead, I had to accept that forgiveness takes time. There was not going to be a forced forgiveness any more than there was going to be a change in the circumstances of the past. I could not make it different. I could only come to terms with my desire to feel better, have resolve with the past and strengthen my connection with what I had hoped to create.

There was not going to be a moment on my mat that would wipe the slate clean. It was not a surprise, but I still wanted it. I would have to accept that forgiveness requires a commitment to letting go of the past, time and time again. Dreadfully I had the thought “oh no, I have to do this again” followed by a moment of acceptance. If what I want is relief from my story of a past hurt, this practice helped me realize that forgiveness is more within my reach than before I started.

I started my practice wanting to forgive someone. What I continued to see was that forgiveness is for me. It is for my relief. It is to sooth my own hurt and to forgive any thoughts, behaviors, and unfairness’s that reside within me about another. Hurt hurts and there is no making that any different. Only I can turn my bitter into my sweet.

The practice ends and I have not landed with resolve. I can see the bigger picture to accept what is present not past. That maybe not now or ever will things be forgotten or better. I am left with me and how I feel in the moment of closing. I have lightness. It feels like I moved some dirt in a large excavation project in my chest and I released a smidgen of hurt. The potency of my emotional charge has been diluted. I am grateful no one was harmed in my own personal process of forgiving. I know with my soul that I had a private, well intended session with a dragon that I would have preferred not to dance with.

In some way, I laid down my sword.unnamed-1With those final thoughts I reached up and took my feather shaped necklace from the top of my mat, read the inscription “free bird” and held it gently between my palms. I smiled knowing that I dedicated the practice to healing a particular relationship. I felt a softening in my underbelly and a returning of the loving part of myself that wants to be free from the tangle of the past. I was happy to find a new way to move forward from my center with forgiveness. I bowed my head with gratitude for the invitation and took it all with me, into life.


Dr. Erika Putnam

By Dr. Erika Putnam

Dr. Erika Putnam is a chiropractic physician by trade, a writer at heart and a yogi by fate. She has practiced chiropractic for almost two decades and owns a yoga studio in Idaho. The two practices connect structural stability with the true core of well-being. As a doctor, she brings a hearty helping of nurturing nerdiness to her classes. Her venue is a colorful mix of teaching. She teaches anatomy to students at yoga teacher trainings, yoga for medical professionals’ classes, and creative writing classes with yoga-inspired exploration. She pines for a view of the Montana skies and the smell of Idaho mint from her road bike. Pedicures in the shade of Rocktoberfest are her favorite self-care indulgence.

1 comment

  1. Amazing stories Erika! Exactly what I needed to read at this moment. I’ve been feeling that perhaps I had descended to deeply into this dark abyss to climb, swim or crawl out of it! These stories shine a new light on this situation and make me realize there is a great deal of work to be done and I had better get started….there is no time to waste! It also made me realize how much I miss you and our always enlightening albeit absent friendship ! I’d like to change that……

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