Forgiving and Atonement

"Forgiveness is really not about someone's harmful behavior:
it's about our own relationship with our past.
When we begin the work of forgiveness,
it is primarily a practice for ourselves."

~ Gina Sharpe, The Power of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a spiritual practice.

It is a very powerful practice. And perhaps the most difficult. It is not for the faint of heart. But as the quote above notes, it is primarily something we do for ourselves - for our own inner growth and well-being, and research bears this up.

Today, Jews all over the world commemorate the "Day of Atonement," which has always been one of my favorite spiritual days. I often put my own spin on the traditional practice of Tashlich.

I go down to the river not far from my house, and I meditate and pray.

I think of all of those who have hurt me - and those that I have in turn hurt.

And I say whatever arises in my heart, but it often goes something like this:

"I ask forgiveness of all those whom I have hurt, 
intentionally or unintentionally - 
and all those whom I have slighted, 
or not stood up for. 
For those whom I have ignored, 
and for all those who have needed something 
I was not willing to offer or give. 
I ask forgiveness 
for my lack of compassion and love."

I throw a small stone into the river and watch the ripples expand.

And then I proceed by saying:

"I forgive all those that have hurt me, 
either mindfully or unintentionally. I
 release you from any 
and all ties that bind you to me."

Once more I throw a small stone, and watch it for a few minutes.

And then I pray:

"I forgive myself - 
for all the times that I am hard on myself, 
and feel I am not enough, 
and am overwhelmed by failure. 
I forgive myself 
and recognize the Divine within me, 
and I promise to strive to do better."

One last time I throw a small stone into the river.

You don't have to wait for the Day of Atonement. Any day is a good day to practice forgiveness. If you like this ritual, feel free to adapt it. If you are drawn to create your own, the follow your inner promptings.

And may you be inscribed in the Book of Life for a good year!


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