Swaying palms

Today in yoga class, my instructor had us do the Swaying Palm Tree pose. It’s not one of my favorites because it’s not very challenging for me, but I appreciate what it brings to the table: it strengthens joints; stretches ligaments, side abdominal muscles, back and spine; improves balance; and increases mental focus.

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My instructor usually has something to say about each pose, and often mentions during the Swaying Palms pose that we can learn to sway and bend without being broken. Today she said she wanted to focus on forgiveness. Uh oh. That’s something I’m not so great at. Once I get mad, I stay mad — sometimes for years. I have been unforgiving about a certain issue with certain people for a long time, and thanks to my know-it-all yoga instructor, it’s time to change that.

Ms Know-It-All said that when we don’t forgive or sway or bend, we can become brittle and hard, and that we can sway without becoming uprooted and we can bend without foregoing our principles. Great. I can’t argue with that. It became clear that I needed to pay attention. I needed to listen to what the universe was telling me, even if it’s something I don’t want to hear. One of my favorite things about yoga is that it makes me think about things I don’t want to think about and it makes me hear things I don’t want to hear. The Bhagavad Gita said, “Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.”

I definitely did not want to think about forgiveness today, but the yoga gods had other ideas.

My instructor cautioned us againstthinking that forgiveness means forgetting. She said that few people can go from suffering an injustice, whatever that may be, to forgiving and forgetting easily. It’s a process. A journey. A journey through the self, in my case.

She then asked us to consider the price we pay for holding a grudge, for refusing to forgive.

It’s big. Holding a grudge can cause stress and toxins to accumulate in our bodies. It can raise blood pressure, impair the immune system, encourage stress hormones, and increase inflammation. It can also contribute to anxiety and depression.

The last thing I need is more stress, toxins, and inflammation in my life. Perhaps it’s time.

Time to let go of the anger and injustice. Time to move away from heartache and toward happiness.

Noted ethicist and theologian Lewis B. Smedes was an expert on forgiveness. He asked, “Will we let our pain hang on to our hearts where it will eat away our joy?” He’s the expert, and according to him, we don’t need to excuse the wrong, or even stop feeling angry about it, to forgive the wrongdoer. We just need to change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.

Like the Buddha said, “Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”  There are plenty of things I like to drink; poison is not one of them. I’m setting it aside and beginning the process.


10 Comments on “Swaying palms”

  1. Eddie says:

    Does this mean I am forgiven?! Yay!
    All kidding aside, I addressed this topic with some students last Friday. I suggested to them that the hardest part of forgiving is surrendering the need to be right. Congratulations on letting go.

  2. David Benbow says:

    I’ve been through this process, but without the help of yoga. It took me many long nights of soul searching to realize (on my own) that “forgive and forget” may be impossible, but “forgive and remember” is pretty good too. Once I learned to forgive without carrying a grudge, I was able to rebuild an amazing friendship. You have such a strong sense of principle that you don’t want to make the first move when someone else is at fault. You should read The Zax by Dr. Seuss.

  3. Barb Fernald says:

    I love every bit of this post. Sometimes it seems easier to carry a grudge because the weight feels so much more familiar than the release that comes from forgiving.
    Sometimes I forgive and then forget that I forgave and I have to do it again and again until I learn to let go!

  4. Drink2that says:

    It is so much easier to stay mad and hold a grudge, but life is so much better when we let go. I like the idea that “forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting”; I suppose that would mean the lessons were forgotten too.

    Namaste. I don’t even do yoga…I just wear the pants.

  5. Christy says:

    So glad you’re enjoying yoga! I love it. Miss my classes. Doing it alone isn’t the same although it’s pretty peaceful…except when Ringo decides to share my mat. Great message today. Forgiveness is good for your health!!

  6. Forgiveness can’t be forced or faked. it took me 35 years to forgive a great betrayal, but once I truly was able to forgive, I felt free and truly released from the hate…..deep deeded hate…that was dragging me down. I have no doubt that this hate contributed to my cancer diagnosis.

    It took serious meditation….prayer…..work to get there. So glad I did.
    Another great book is “Left to Tell” by Immaculee Ilibagiza a Rwandan genocide survivor who was able to forgive those responsible for killing her entire family.

  7. KeithC says:

    Quitter!

  8. […] do you find it hard to forgive when others have hurt you? You are not alone. I loved the Pink Underbelly’s lesson this week on […]

  9. helensamia says:

    Not always easy but a great relief when you are able to do this …

  10. Catherine says:

    Forgiveness – that’s something I need to give to myself. It’s a big thing, but a thing that certainly needs to be address. Good luck to you in becoming that palm tree.


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