As a process, forgiveness can take some time and may have to be conscientiously repeated to achieve freedom. The process is one of “emptying the vessel”, similarly described in Buddhist philosophies. Empty and cleanse the metaphorical bowl of your heart & mind that it may be filled with something sweeter and more nourishing. Forgiveness is to release the feelings, actions, & reactions that go along with experiencing conflicts, challenges, and changes. It’s not about saying, “It’s okay,” or “That was so long ago, I don’t even care.” It’s about truly feeling the freedom of not having to respond to a memory with the same resentment & hurt feelings, to not have to respond to a new situation with the old feelings from the memory of that time, place, person who did the same thing, to be free to say “No” from a place of self-care, self-preservation, self-respect, self-efficacy. There is also clarity and peace with this freedom, which drives us to say, “I can do this,” or “This is who I am,” or “This is what I do/will do.”
So, let’s look at the emptiness of the vessel. The emptiness… I can recall a time when the comfort of the suffering was so familiar that the fear of the emptiness kept me from the freedom of forgiveness. I was afraid that if I let go, something worse would fill the empty vessel. It took conscious and conscientious effort to keep the vessel completely empty for a time to allow the goodness to trickle back in, and then pour. Every time something went in that didn’t need to be there, I had to clean the vessel again. The key to the emptiness was allowing myself to be emptied. Call it the Universe, Spirit, Divine Grace, as you will; I merely asked (at the advice of a lovely friend) for the capacity to forgive. By allowing myself the capacity it meant that I had both the space and the ability for forgiveness. That alone in meditation for about a week did the emptying for me. Some grieving and working through emotions offered cleansing. And, finally, there it was! That emptiness, that Void! It wasn’t scary at all… It was a sigh of relief, and – oh! – how I could breathe again.
Like I said earlier, in all the healing work I have done for myself and others, the process gets repeated. We don’t realize how many tangles are in the webs of our thoughts and emotions and interconnections. Unraveling them, clearing the channels of connection, giving and receiving good vibes, supporting one another in healing… it all takes a bit of conscious effort, conscientious attention, mindfulness, awareness. However, once you’ve drained your vessel once, it’s a lot easier to learn how to clean it and clear it, and welcome new energy with gratitude and compassion, and reset boundaries and recognize vulnerabilities coexisting with strengths. And, it’s a lot healthier for relationships – to self, environment, and others, past, present, and future – right here, right now.