As you begin to seek inner faith and come to trust yourself and your abilities, you must first cross a small bridge. We call this the "bridge of forgiveness". At this point in your journey you make the emotional decision to evolve.
You have come this far by making the intellectual decision to move forward, but now you must make the emotional decision. Now you must step upon this bridge of forgiveness so as not to carry the past into the future.
Forgiveness Exercise: The Bridge of Forgiveness
Put your hand on your heart, take a deep breath and relax. See yourself standing at the foot of a bridge. Stand there quietly. Take a brief moment to look back. See the past you leave behind. See the old disappointments and ancient sorrows as vague shadows far in the distance. You do this so you may release them. The way to let them go is to forgive.
Take another deep breath. Calm yourself. Even though this is a small bridge it can be a difficult one to cross.
As you start across the bridge you will begin to call forth all those in the past and those presently in your life who have hurt you. Allow into your awareness the faces of those who have caused you pain. Some people will appear suddenly before you, people you have almost forgotten, and people you remember all too well. With each face, each name and each memory of pain, begin to forgive.
Recall the classmates and childhood friends who laughed at you and forgive them. Recall when your parents acted unwisely, or were insensitive and forgive them. Recall employers who may have been unfair or caused you stress. Forgive them. Now is the time to forgive those who died and left you alone.
Allow to come into your mind all those you loved but who rejected you, not because of who you are, but because they could not see, could not accept, because they were frightened. Begin now to forgive them. Bring into mind the lovers in your life, even if they were a part of your life for only a brief moment. Recall the pain, the difficulties, the misunderstandings, and their final departure. Remember how it felt and begin to forgive.
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Now is the time to forgive all those who hated you, who despised and ridiculed you, those who considered themselves to be your enemy. Forgive all enemies.
Let their faces come to mind. Let the incidents of the past be remembered no matter how painful, no matter how much you would rather forget. Allow the images and feelings to arise so you can release them with forgiveness.
Realize you have kept these memories and their remnant pain within you. You have held on to them. You may have thought you had forgotten, that you shrugged them off and turned your back against them, however, realize that each experience is held within your memory and still effects how you walk in the world. You have not yet released the pain through forgiveness. You have not looked upon each experience with wisdom and love and strength.
The ego uses these memories to remember what is painful and to keep you guarded against future pain. This keeps you from moving forward. Unless you forgive and release the pain it will always be a part of you like a heavy chain dragging behind you, clanking loudly and slowing your evolution. Release this chain that binds you.
Walking Across the Bridge...
As you walk across this bridge and encounter the faces of pain and sorrow you may feel once again the anger, the heartache of rejection and loneliness. Even the memory of physical pain could be felt anew and cause you to retreat in fear. Realize those old feelings stand in your way of truly forgiving. Use your inner strength to cross this bridge, forgiving those who would stand in your way, determined to go beyond the pain of the past.
With some memories you may see clearly and with amusement the misunderstandings that occurred so long ago. With other memories the images may seem quite solid, quite real as you re-experience the pain. In such a case you may feel great reluctance to forgive. You may feel only anger towards the person who caused you such harm. It is then you must take the staff of perseverance and walk steadily past the offender with the simple words, "I forgive you."
And in those relationships that were especially close to you, in those experiences in which the pain is too deep and the heartache is too devastating, great strength will be needed. When you resist having to look at the experience again and you fear the anguish and torment of the open wound use the sword to cut away the fear, to destroy the weakness, and dispel the darkness of that memory. Use the sword to cut away the chains of that memory that darken your life and use the power of forgiveness to end your suffering.
Yes, there are those people you would cherish hating, those you say could never be forgiven because the hurt is too deep, the damage too great. Begin to understand that your anger and hate, your fear and pain keep you bound to the situation and the people involved. By holding on to such feelings you keep those people in your life, connected to them on an emotional level. Even though the ones who hurt you may be long gone, even dead, you remain connected to them by your feelings. They are still with you. They are still tormenting you. With forgiveness you let them go.
Be Aware of Your Feelings
As you cross the bridge and face those who hurt you be aware of your own feelings towards them. If you ask yourself why forgive them; why forgive those who died and left you alone; why forgive those who rejected you; why forgive those who were so cruel? Simply say to yourself, "They did not know what they were doing."
If anyone of them had truly known there was another way of being in the world they would not have acted according to the fear and desperation of their egos. Had they known otherwise, they would not have allowed their own fear and anger and hate to blind them. How could they act from love and goodness when they did not know such power? They did not know there could be another way. Their actions towards you were according to their limited understanding.
Yes, there are those in the world so lost in darkness, so ruled by their own selfishness, so much a part of what you call evil, that their actions seem cruel beyond imagination. Forgive them so you do not fear them. Forgive those who have lost their souls. They did not know what they were doing.
Forgiveness may not heal all the pain for some people. It is to their benefit that some pain remains during their journey on earth. It may be difficult to understand how a painful experience can actually be a blessing. Many lives are altered by a single, traumatic event that forced their souls to take a new direction in life. Many are reading this because sorrow and confusion has led them to seek answers, to seek new understandings and seek healing for the pain in their lives. Though forgiveness may not remove all the pain, it will remove the fear.
As fear is released with each step along the bridge of forgiveness you will gain strength and perhaps some understanding as to why certain events have occurred in your life. Even if you do not fully understand, even if you find it hard to feel true forgiveness, nevertheless, continue to walk, continue to say to all you meet, "I forgive you. Go in peace." After all, you can never know true forgiveness unless you have someone to forgive. And, when you begin to forgive others, you can then begin to forgive yourself.
Halfway Across the Bridge...
Halfway across the bridge stop for a moment and look inward, stand alone and seek within yourself the sadness, the shame, and the guilt of your own past mistakes. With the power of forgiveness you can do so with clarity and courage. You must look at your own past and begin to forgive yourself.
You cannot step off this bridge until you have learned to forgive yourself with the same love and wisdom and strength you have given to others. You must call to mind what should be considered not sins or flaws, but simply errors in judgment.
Recall the times you acted unwisely, and forgive yourself. Realize that through ignorance and pain, you have hurt other people. You, too, were blind to those who were in need of your love. Forgive yourself. You, too, rejected those who may have been seeking your understanding and compassion. Forgive yourself because you were limited by the ego.
You must take responsibility for your actions in the world. You must accept the consequences. True forgiveness is to acknowledge the errors of the past, acknowledge what was done out of ignorance, and move forward in another direction. The errors were part of learning. There is no need to repeat what you have already learned. To forgive yourself is to overcome the snares of the past so errors will not be repeated. Forgiveness heals the past so the blindness, the fear, the resentments of the ego have no hold upon you.
Forgiveness is a power. It is a force that cleanses, heals, and transforms. The ego will have you believe that to forgive is to be weak. It interprets forgiveness to mean condoning an action, acquiescing to the pain, and forgetting what happened. Forgive and forget are two different words. You cannot forget the experience. That would be foolish. The experience, though painful, has made you wiser.
If you would cleanse yourself of bitterness and hate, it will be easier to see the wisdom you have gained. The ego, however, will hold on to anger, hate, sorrow, and loneliness as a shield to protect you from further pain. The ego sees itself as protecting you, but it just keeps you limited and entrapped within the darkness of ignorance. All that has happened in your life did so for a reason, though you may not always understand why.
Releasing Yourself from the Prison of the Past
Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the prison of the past. Don't linger trying to understand why you should leave behind the limitations that bind you. Use the power within you, use the force of your spirit to unlock the door and forgive. It is the way of the spirit, the force of your True Personality that can replace hate with love, exchange weakness for strength, and bring the light of wisdom to conquer the blindness of ignorance. It does so with forgiveness.
If you are willing to forgive all those who have hurt you then you have made the emotional decision to evolve. Let the past remain in the past. Realize those people are gone. Realize they have no power over you. Understand that those experiences are ancient memories and will not happen again except in your mind, if you allow it to be so. It is only with the power of forgiveness that you leave behind the pain and sorrow.
The amount of pain you feel during this part of your journey, the intense feelings of resentment and revenge that arise as you cross this bridge, are in direct correlation to the amount of resistance you have towards forgiving. If you are hesitant you will cross the bridge slowly and increase the time spent reliving the hate, the hurt and the disappointments. You can cross this bridge with sure and steady steps if you allow yourself to feel the power of forgiveness.
As you reach the part of the bridge where you begin to forgive yourself you may be hampered by feelings of shame and guilt. Do not allow such feelings to stop you. You may also feel the opposite and struggle for justification through self-pity. Do not allow such self-defense to blind you.
Feel the shame, feel the guilt, feel the self-pity, if you must, then let such feelings go and seek instead the feeling of forgiveness.
Do Not Be Afraid to Look Back
Do not be afraid to look with wisdom, strength, and gentle kindness at how you have lived your life. The errors you made were simply because you did not know any better. Had you known otherwise, you would have acted otherwise. You did not have the experience to teach you that there is another way of being in the world.
The world you came into, the people in your life, the experiences you had were all within the limitations of the ego. So were you. This is no longer necessary. Let this experience of forgiveness be the first of many experiences to teach you that a new way can exist. You can feel more than what has been felt in the past. You can be more than what you thought yourself to be. Wisdom is yours. Strength is within you. Love awaits. Put down the shield of self-protection and raise the banner of forgiveness.
Crossing this bridge is a battle. It may be difficult for some readers. For others it will go quite easily. A few might think they have crossed the bridge only to find they have fooled themselves. Their journey will take them back to the bridge so once again they have the chance to forgive. You may have to cross this bridge many times, each time strengthening your resolve to battle ignorance with forgiveness.
Only you will know if you have acquired the full force of forgiveness. The power of forgiveness is not a power of the mind. Forgiveness is a power and energy that comes from the heart. You will know it by feeling it. You will feel its power as it heals your emotions. Do not hesitate to open your heart and forgive the past, forgive yourself and move in a new direction.
On The Other Side of the Bridge...
On the other side of the bridge you enter the realm where you find the true meaning of compassion. The concept of compassion has been so misunderstood. The ego reduces compassion to pity. The full realization of compassion is limited to feeling sorry for someone, feeling sorry for ourself. The ego's judgments limit understanding and sorrow is felt for any experience it defines as bad, that is, harmful to the ego. It looks upon such experiences with pity rather than true compassion and spiritual understanding.
Compassion is a jewel. Pity is a rock. Understand the difference. In the past you have used the rock of pity against yourself and against others. Yes, you cause more harm than good when you use that rock. You hurt others. You hurt yourself whenever pity is used. Whenever you use pity the limited judgments of the ego are reinforced.
Pity grows from the ego's sense of helplessness in a situation. You try shedding tears as if that would change it. You try throwing money at the problem, as if that would change it. You may spend great lengths of time using the intellect to analyze the cause of the problem, as if that would change it. Still, there is suffering. Still, there is poverty. The earth in its wisdom adjusts itself and you call the resulting floods, earthquakes, and windstorms a pitiful tragedy. You feel pity for those who suffer, as you would feel pity for yourself under the same circumstances.
Pity is a noose you put around your neck as you await circumstances to come along and kick the chair out from under your feet. Pity is suicide. You are killing yourself mentally and emotionally by feeling sorry for yourself. Realize that pity keeps you trapped. It is a cage also for those you feel sorry for, as you reinforce and project upon them your own fears and sorrow. When you are trapped in pity you forget your inner strength. You lose trust and faith. You become deaf and blind to the force of God available to you.
If in your heart you feel the need to alleviate the suffering you see in the world then get up and do so, but not with pity. Realize that pity changes nothing. Go forth with strength, wisdom, and true compassion, and then you will have an effect in the world. Pity cripples, compassion strengthens.
You will need your strength to escape the trap of pity. Strength is needed so you can lift your feet and continue on with life. If you are willing to let go of the ego's pity you will soon discover true compassion. Therefore, put down the rock and pick up the jewel. Seek a greater understanding than what the ego offers.
We warn you against the limits of pity so you do not carry it any further. You leave it behind. As you cross the bridge of forgiveness you looked upon the experiences of your life. Once you reach the other side you begin to look upon the circumstances affecting the world, affecting the lives of those around you, and still playing a part in your own education. You will learn to look with compassion.
Compassion Is A Magical Tool
With true compassion you will be guided towards a greater understanding and a more expanded awareness as to the nature of both physical and spiritual reality. Compassion will lift you to a higher level of consciousness. It will keep you from relying on the limited judgments of the ego.
Compassion is a magical tool. It is there for you, for your journey on earth, for your soul's evolution. You will know you possess the jewel when you experience it working in your life. You will not have to think about it, though you may have to remind yourself in the beginning to put away pity and learn to see things in a different way, to look deeper than what is apparent, to see beyond the limited judgments of the ego.
Compassion is insight. It is a part of your human consciousness that needs to be awakened by developing your spiritual abilities. Only when you possess compassion will you truly understand its abilities. Though you may struggle and search for it, know that compassion is close at hand. Know it is yours.
In order to find the jewel we speak of, you must lift yourself out of the quicksand of hate, out of the darkness of anger, out of the shackles of pain and fear. You must throw off the yoke of pity. With the power of forgiveness, with the power of your heart and the wisdom of your soul, the gleaming jewel is within your reach.
The Next Step in Evolution: A Personal Guide
by Vincent Cole.
About the Author
Vincent Cole is a wandering monk who has been facilitating prayer and meditation groups, as well as Women Healing Circles for the past 15 years throughout the United States. While on a personal yearlong retreat in the desert outside Tucson, AZ, Brother Vincent took a collection of channeled messages given to a small prayer group many years ago, and edited them into the book "The Next Step in Evolution -- a personal guide (first edition)."