Thursday, May 23, 2013

Forgiveness: Finding Freedom from Past Hurts

Forgiveness is all about freedom from the binds of the past.
Forgiveness is all about freedom from the binds of the past.

I consider myself a rule follower and I try to live by the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. But, I've noticed, we are all here, on this planet, together, doing the best we can do in the moment. Sometimes we make choices, conscious or unconscious, that hurt other people. Occasionally our own feelings get hurt. We feel slighted, judged, abandoned, shamed. 

What we do with these hurts, resentment and guilt, can offer us a prison of our own making or a life of freedom.

For Azim Khamisa the opportunity to hold onto resentment far exceeded what most of us have endured. In 1995, a gang member gunned down Azim's only son, Tariq, in San Diego while he was delivering a pizza. 

His son was an innocent, un-armed college kid. The murder was a random act of senseless violence perpetrated as part of a gang initiation. Instead of fighting for justice insisting an "eye for an eye," Azim found a path to forgiveness and compassion that he generously shares with others through his speaking engagements, workshops and books.  

This Memorial Day weekend, world-recognized speaker and humanitarian, Azim Khamisa offers us a path to freedom. He will be in San Clemente speaking during the Sunday service at 10:30 a.m. and teaching a mini forgiveness workshop from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Center. During the workshop Azim will teach and lead the group in releasing resentment and guilt, resulting in a more fulfilled life. Attendees will participate in guided meditations to facilitate real forgiveness at the "soulular" level, a term Azim created to explain the spiritual release of past hurts. Suggested cost for the workshop is a $20 donation.

The workshop sounded interesting but I wanted to know more. Recently I had the opportunity to interview Azim to explore what forgiveness healing is really all about.
            
Who could benefit from a workshop on forgiveness? Is it only for people who have experienced tragedy?

Holding on to hurt is typical and the things people keep locked inside can range from little slights to life-altering tragedies. Many of us live in resentment for what's happened or feel guilt for the things we have done. It's very common. We all have a story. We've all experienced conflict. It can be husband disappointed wife, father wronged son, daughter won't speak to mother, siblings don't get along, or ex-wife hurt her former husband. Forgiveness is about letting go of all of these hurts not just tragic events.

Why is forgiveness beneficial in leading more fulfilling lives?

People get stopped by resentment or hold onto guilt creating debilitating emotions that prevent many of us from living at our highest potential and giving the world 100 percent of our best selves. Sadly, forgiveness is not a well understood concept. In our society, we are conditioned to be judgmental. But, what I have come to know through experience is this: I have my journey and he has his.

My son's killer has his own journey. He has to live his life in prison knowing he killed a unarmed innocent person. And, I have my new path. Before my son was murdered I was an investment banker, but today my work is about saving children's lives and teaching about nonviolence. I had a very full life before my son was murdered and then I had no life. I realized that if I stayed in resentment who am I hurting...me. Unless I forgave, I would remain a victim and I didn't want to go through life on crutches. I'm no longer a victim. I leave all judgment to God.

What are the steps of forgiveness that workshop participants will experience?

I take workshop participants through three milestones for releasing resentment: expressing grief, letting go of resentment and reaching out to the offender.

It's important to grieve and we do not promote grief in our culture, which is unfortunate. Those who hide their grief do not find a remedy. In my workshop, I teach how to grieve. It's a painful process but very necessary and healing.

Next I use a guided meditation to promote the second step: letting go of resentment. Forgiveness requires developing a high level of empathy and setting a clear intention. The meditation helps workshop participants move through the hurt to compassion.

The final step is reaching out to the offender. Reaching out to the offender can be a tough last step, but  the first two steps makes it easier. Usually the resentment you are holding is against someone you used to love. It helps to remember that.

Khamisa will also take participants through steps to release guilt, the other side of the forgiveness equation.

Give yourself the gift of forgiveness and freedom this Memorial Day weekend and join us at the Center for this life affirming workshop.