A Simple Practice for the Holidays

The holidays are a special time. We reflect, celebrate, and share in more meaningful ways. We go to office parties, see old friends, and visit family. For some, this is an opportunity for joy and connection. For others, it brings up unhealed or partially healed hurts. Forgiveness in isolation is easy. Mastery requires us to face the fullness of it and still find compassion and understanding.

So, as you prepare to spend time with those who compel you to master forgiveness (or die trying), my gift to you this year is a simple practice that will surely nurture seeds of gratitude and love.

While the complete forgiveness process might take several months or more to finish, you can make a lot of progress in a short period by using these tools. The work begins now, as you prepare to spend time or communicate with someone who has hurt you.

Step 1: Awareness

Every time you think of the person, notice how you feel. Do you feel anxious, tense, angry, sad? Be specific. Then observe what happens next. Almost instantaneously, the story you have about the things that have happened will fire up inside of you like an engine responding to the spark of ignition.

Step 2: Go into the Body

Instead of letting the story play out as it always does, go back to how you feel. Now go a little deeper. What sensations do you experience in your body as you feel those feelings? Is your chest tight, breathing labored? Do you feel warm? With as much focus as possible take a detailed survey of the sensations you experience in that moment. Every time the story barks, go back to the body. Go back to your perception of the present moment in your body.

Step 3: Breathe

Now, take a deep breath. See if you can count to five as you inhale and extend the exhale for as long as you can. See if you can breathe into the tension you feel. Repeat 1-4 times.

Step 4: Reframe

Now draw your attention to the person again. Rather than continue down the path of suffering, with as much intention and authenticity as you can, wish them well. The more you do it the easier it will get.

Loving Kindness

You can use the Buddhist practice of loving-kindness, and say, “May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be free from suffering. May you live your life with ease.”

Big Book Mantra

You can use a simple mantra like the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous offers, “I wish you health, happiness, and prosperity.”

Ho’Oponopono

Then there is the Hawaiian prayer, Ho’Oponopono, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.” Even if they have hurt you, this prayer is powerfully healing.

Lastly, you can create your own wish for them but don’t make it about you and don’t embed a judgment. What life-affirming desire would bring them happiness? Can you visualize them joyful and free?

Do this every single time you think of them as you prepare to see or talk to them. Look at the work like tending to a garden. Every time you think resentful or unkind thoughts you are watering the weeds. Stepping into the practice of forgiving by becoming present and extending love, feeds the seeds of radiant blooms and abundant fruit. You can tend to the weeds, and they will grow. Or simply begin to cultivate a beautiful, bountiful garden nourished with conscious love.

I promise if you begin now, you’ll be ready to see those who challenge you most toward the mastery of forgiveness by Christmas. Who knows, you might even find a little gratitude along the way.