I have three scars on my abdomen that serve as a constant reminder about my hospital visit six years ago. Two of them have mostly faded but the one above my belly button is too big to fully disappear. It would have been less obvious had I not gone back to work so soon after my operation. But I did and it got infected and the swelling distorted the incision point. Now, when someone sees my stomach, they often mistake the scar for my actual belly button.
When I practice yoga, as when I teach it, I don’t set an intention at the beginning of class. Instead, I invite myself or my students to listen for what is trying to make itself known in the moment. That message might come from the body, the heart, the mind, or the soul. Our practice is to create a channel for that information to flow. And to meet whatever arises with curiosity, grace, and a willingness to discover the unexpected.
So it was both surprising and not surprising when the thing that came up for me in a recent practice was a body-centred longing for forgiveness. Surprising because it felt like a new layer was being peeled back in my complicated relationship to my body. And not surprising because, as I heal the creative wound also connected to the events of six years ago, it makes sense that the other traumas of that time need to be processed too.
Forgiveness is something I struggle to make sense of most of the time. Despite my lengthy explorations of it as a practice, forgiveness always seems to be in conflict with my desire for justice and my apprehension about bypassing accountability. While I understand forgiveness’ potential to free us from things or people or the past, I also can’t help but feel like to do this is to give up the fight for a bigger truth that needs to be reckoned with.
Despite my reservations, however, it is very clear that what my body is seeking right now is forgiveness. And maybe it is trying to offer it as much as it wants to receive it. It feels like a weight that’s working to be released. I have the sense that this is an ongoing, somatically-informed process that I need to engage with. No amount of intellectual rigour is going to facilitate me letting go.
The more I sit with my longing for forgiveness, the more I sense that what I’m after is a way of showing myself some mercy. For what I put my body through all those years ago; for the fact that I haven’t completely included and transcended the way of being that gave me my scars. So I am holding forgiveness as mercy. Because I have the power to keep doing harm and I’m not going to. I want to remember what I’m capable of without carrying the weight of that truth.
So, how do you hold forgiveness as a practice in your life?