A Course in Forgiveness by Gerald Crawford

I offer you two day forgiveness course in Cape Town, Johannesburg, New York, London, Hong Kong, Singapore, Sydney, Melbourne, Los Angeles, Chicago, Ontario, ‎Dublin and Auckland. Develop gratitude with grace and change your life with a universal truth.

Namaste – “I bow to the divine in you”.

Namaste is usually spoken with a slight bow and hands pressed together, palms touching and fingers pointing upwards, thumbs close to the chest. This gesture is called Pranamasana. It means “I bow to the divine in you”.

The literal translation of the word “Namaste” breaks down into three sections. Nama means bow; as means I; and, te means you. Thus, I bow to you. The gesture is one of greeting in India. Most often we hold our hands together in the prayer position at our heart chakra.

Although in the West the word “Namaste” is usually spoken in conjunction with the gesture. In India, it is understood that the gesture itself signifies Namaste, and therefore, it is unnecessary to say the word while bowing. We bring the hands together at the heart chakra to increase the flow of Divine love.

So when they greet you with namaste they are seeking your blessings. You can respond to them by saying “Sukhino Bhava (सुखिनोऽभव)” which means be happy or “I wish you happiness”. This I believe would be the most appropriate response.

Namasté (nah-mah-stay). You hear this word at the end of every yoga class, but do you know what it means?

As in so many traditions in yoga, an opportunity exists to dig deeper into the intention and meaning behind what you say, what you do, and how you move through this world. After all, if you’re truly living “yoga,” you are more focused on the “how” and “why” of your poses than on the outer form.

When you bow your head and say namasté at the end of a yoga practice, you have the chance to do more than simply mark the ending of the session. In fact, a spiritual revelation is on the other side of a truly felt namasté and so, in the spirit of higher learning, take a look at the deeper explanation of this oft-heard, but commonly over-simplified piece of yogic wisdom.

Definition of Namasté
If the spiritual traditions of yoga could be encapsulated in one word, it might be namasté. This Sanskrit word brings about the essence of oneness, and an understanding of the true nature of reality.

At the base level, namasté is a salutation of respect and reverence. A traditional Indian greeting, it literally translates to “I bow to you” (namah or namas, meaning bow, te meaning you).

In India, the gesture of Anjali Mudra (prayer position of the hands) not only accompanies the word, but is synonymous with its meaning. People passing on the street, family members greeting one another, children acknowledging their elders, and strangers meeting for the first time all join their palms together and bow their heads in respect of one another.

How to Perform the Namasté Greeting
Western yogis have adopted the custom of closing their yoga classes with a bow of namasté. On the surface level, it is a way for the teacher and students to thank one another for time well-spent, and to close the sacred container of the yoga practice. The palms and all ten fingers touch one another, with the thumbs joining in front of the heart space or brow. It is common for the teacher to say it first, and the students to repeat it back.

A List of Translations
One of the most common translations of namasté is “The divine light in me bows to the divine light within you.” However, a simple Internet search provides many beautiful meanings and translations of namasté, such as:

  • I honor the place in you where the entire universe dwells.
  • I bow to the place in you that is love, light, and joy.
  • When you and I bow to our true nature, we are one.
  • My soul recognizes your soul.
  • We are the same, we are one.
  • I honor the place in you that is the same as it is in me.

The Spiritual Teaching of Namasté
It is always helpful to find a concise phrase that captures a spiritual teaching. However, there is more to namasté than what can fit on the side of a coffee mug.

Namasté represents the idea that all are one. It affirms that beneath the outer trappings that make you appear different from others, you are made of the same stuff. You are more the same than you are different.

Tantrik philosophy teaches that everything that exists is one Divine consciousness that longs to experience itself in different forms. As a human being, it is in your nature to forget this truth – that every person, thought, feeling, and experience is a perfect expression of the one Divine awareness. When a being does forget (by feeling separate, less than, better than, or identifying with any external, impermanent aspect of being more so than its true nature), it suffers. The teachings say that your spiritual practice is the art and act of simply remembering who you are.

Seeing Others
By saying namasté (and meaning it), you are saying that you see others for what you actually are. It’s an affirmation of the choice to identify with God-consciousness, rather than the ego, which would have you believe that you are somehow superior or inferior to any other being on this planet. It is an active choice to take the spiritual lessons derived from the yoga practice or meditation, and take it into the laboratory of life. What would life be like if you saw others as perfectly whole? What if you saw yourself this way? A namasté between two yogis is a pact made to honor the highest, truest, most authentic parts of themselves, and let their limitations fall away.

In his translation of the 1,000-year-old spiritual text The Recognition Sutras, Tantrik scholar Christopher Wallis describes how this understanding might affect your approach to life:

Once you become aware of the true nature of reality, everything you do becomes an act of reverence. Simply living your ordinary daily life with full awareness becomes a complete practice of meditation, a perfect form of worship, an offering to all beings and to Being itself. Tantra teaches that because there is only One in the universe, all actions are in truth the Divine exploring itself, reverencing itself, worshipping itself.

Sanskrit is a truly magical language because its words represent concepts that don’t have English equivalents. Because no single word in English can summarize the meaning of namasté, the process of unpacking it can be a spiritual quest of the heart. It is one thing to conceptually understand this philosophy, but it is another to feel it in your bones. To know this teaching as a truth is both the aim and the way.

Find a meaning of this salutation that speaks to your heart—to plant that meaning as a seed into your center, that every time you join your palms together, you nourish the seed and savor its nectar.


Forgiveness vs Acceptance: Tools for Emotional Freedom

Human history is filled with battles that started in individual minds and later resulted in human suffering. Learn why forgiveness and acceptance can be the key to your success.

The human mind is a labyrinth of emotions. You may often ponder about your past experiences and, by doing so, create a mindset that reacts to future events accordingly. The mind is a river of thoughts, which is flowing constantly. Your thoughts decide the state of your mental and emotional health.

Ayurveda and Yoga have given paramount importance to your ability to draw your attention inward – to look at your own mind that is not only generating the thoughts but also constantly changing the neurochemistry and various physiological functions.

The Sanskrit term for “mind” is Manas, which means to think, ponder, analyze, and decide. The six negative emotions (Shadripu) that weigh you down are the following:

  • Lust
  • Anger
  • Jealousy
  • Greed
  • Egotism
  • Delusion

Over-Attachment & Intoxication
These toxic emotions can make you bitter, inflexible, and rigid. The practice of Ayurveda and Yoga is a powerful form of behavioral medicine. They can teach you to be flexible, not just in the body, but in the mind. The very first sign of spiritual growth is to be kind, accepting, and forgiving without holding any grudges or resentment.

Psychologists define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate process to release feelings of resentment. The very first step toward self-realization is to accept things as they are and practice forgiveness. It frees your mind from the bondage of the past and the future. It cultivates infinite flexibility, which is the very secret to immortality.

Acceptance is not a passive or weak trait in your personality, but it makes you resilient and spiritually strong. It is recognizing a process or condition without attempting to change it. When you see and accept things as they are, you train yourself to be nonjudgmental, which leads to a stable intellect.

Any fear of acceptance and rigidity makes it almost difficult to practice forgiveness. Carrying old grudges, resentment, bitter experiences, and pre-conditioning makes your mind a stagnant puddle, which is not able to drain and flow properly.

These are all human emotions, but as you become more self-aware and work on self-regulation, you are able to correct the faulty patterns of your instinctual behavior. It is the way you train your mind to accept or feel accepted. Your lack of ability to accept people and situations often creates walls of false ego, isolation, and anger. Vedanta tells you that the world that is full of form and phenomena is an illusion, and you must rise above your sensory experience to understand the true nature of reality.

Below are the best ways to practice being self-aware, structuring a daily practice of self-regulation, and becoming more accepting and forgiving.

1. Detach
Develop a habit of detaching yourself from the experience for a few seconds. This will blunt the edge of the emotion you are experiencing. This is a conscious act of dispassionate detachment that creates a buffer between the outer and inner worlds. This can be done with some deep breathing or a quick one-minute meditation. The key is to do this in moments of joy and exhilaration, as well as anger and sadness. This prepares your mind for a state of equanimity.

2. Channel Opposite Emotions
Bring in the opposite emotion (Pratipaksha Bhavana …Yoga Sutra): Counter anger with love, fear with faith, and loss with gratitude. Bringing in the opposite, but positive, emotion helps you change your perception of a given situation. It can make you optimistic, resilient, and energetic. Toxic emotions take away your energy, and positive emotions restore your vitality down to the cellular level. It is a habit that you should cultivate to be present, listen, and choose a sacred response.

3. Express Your Feelings
Discuss, talk, or journal your feelings. If you cannot do it yourself, find a friend or a sounding board who can help you understand your pain, fear, or anxiety. You will suddenly realize that you are giving more power to the offender to dominate your mind and body. As you accept, forgive, and release the pent-up emotion, you feel powerful and happy.

4. Be Patient
The world is full of challenges and imperfections. The more you dwell on those situations, the more you limit yourself from experiencing freedom and joy. There is no perfect solution to every challenge, but time is a great equalizer, and patience is an expression of timeless awareness.

5. Reflect
Reflect upon what has happened and explore the reasoning behind why people behave in certain ways and how your reaction can make the matter worse. Practicing a gentle pause, giving them the benefit of doubt, and converting your hurt into compassion toward them remedies the situation.

6. Practice Understanding
Understanding your own personality, belief systems, upbringing, and conditioning is one of the main obstacles to acceptance and forgiveness. You acquire traits from good or bad role models and, hence, you have to be careful about the company you keep or your sensory experiences. Choose your friends wisely and look for spiritual qualities in their behavior.

7. Practice Self-Love
The last and most important is self-love. It is not narcissism but a constant act of personal growth with meditation, pure foods, exercise, and a positive but purposeful lifestyle. Healthy people are more likely to be happy and forgiving.

Empower yourself with a let-go attitude and create lightness of being. By inserting these practices into your daily routine, you will become resilient and self-aware.

The goal is not to detach from emotion, but rather to understand the basis of emotions and, using these tools, to learn from them for spiritual fitness.

How to Awaken Self-Compassion

While it may sound easy, practicing compassion for ourselves is quite the difficult task. Creating a practice to integrate self-compassionate feelings into your life will heal your mind and body, and open your heart to new heights.

Try this 10-step practice.

Self-compassion involves becoming aware of the presence of suffering in our bodies, emotions, thoughts, and actions – and then taking steps to diminish the suffering. Compassion is the natural and spontaneous feeling that arises when we witness suffering, and that triggers our taking action to alleviate the suffering. While it may sound easy, practicing compassion for ourselves is the more difficult of the two. Creating a practice to integrate self-compassionate feelings into your life can heal your mind and body, and open your heart to new heights.

Benefits of Self-Compassion

Research indicates that cultivating self-compassion can contribute to beneficial physical, emotional-mental, and interpersonal changes, such as:

  • Modulates hormonal functioning, especially of oxytocin and cortisol
  • Reduces the intensity and frequency of negative and chronic stress reactions
  • Copes with difficult emotional experiences
  • Moderates depression and anxiety
  • Increases emotional well being
  • Mitigates negative thinking, including rumination
  • Improves interpersonal relationships
  • Enhances patience, generosity, gratitude, acceptance, humility, openness, and gentleness

10 Steps to Self-Compassion

Set aside 15 minutes the first time you do this practice. Read through the sequence to get a feel for the flow of the practice before you begin. You will develop your own pace and rhythm as your practice grows, extending or decreasing the amount of time you need to get the most out of it.

Lie down or take a comfortable seat that feels both relaxed and alert.

Practice mindful breath: Become aware of your breath; breathe naturally while noticing in-breathing and out-breathing. Anchor your attention to a specific body-part, for examples you can focus at the tip of the nostrils or lips, sensing air entering and exiting the body, or you can focus on your belly as it rises while breathing in, and falls while breathing out.

Place one or both hands over the region of the heart, and bring a mental picture or memory of a loved one into awareness, someone with whom you have experienced a feeling of unconditional acceptance. This may be a human being or an animal, any being whose presence elicits natural happiness.

Recognize that your loved one, like all beings, experiences the vulnerabilities and the aspirations that life brings. He or she is subject to the sufferings of pain, accidents, disease, undo fear, or sadness, and eventual dying and death.

Bring the presence of this person into your heart-space while silently repeating the following:

  • May you be safe
  • May you be well
  • May you be happy
  • May you live with ease

As you notice that your attention has wandered elsewhere, gently encourage your attention back to the presence of the loved one at your heart center, and resume the practice of repeating each of the four phrases.

Add yourself to the goodwill you are generating from the space of your heart, repeating the following phrases:

  • May you and I be safe
  • May you and I be well
  • May you and I be happy
  • May you and I live with ease

Repeat these or other phrases that feel natural to you, while cultivating an attitude of openness, acceptance, and loving-kindness.

Picture the entirety of your mind-body. Gently and slowly begin to scan your body by moving your attention:

  • From the crown of the head down the neck, shoulders, both arms, hands and fingers
  • Along the front and back of the upper torso, and then the pelvic region
  • Up the body from the toes all the way to the crown of the head
  • Toward any areas of pleasantness and unpleasantness

Offer compassionate loving kindness to yourself by repeating the following phrases:

  • May I be safe
  • May I be well
  • May I be happy
  • May I live with ease

If it feels safe, then revisit areas of unpleasantness while holding a part of the mind-body in the heart space.

Consider naming the mind-body part within the phrases, for example:

  • “May the knee that I am trying to take care of be well …”
  • “May the fear that I have tried to push away be at ease …”
  • “May I be at ease with the negative thoughts that I have fought for so many years …”

Conclude your practice by bringing awareness back to the entire mind-body, and sensing the entirety of your being as a singular organism intimately connected with all other life forms. As you breathe, feel your connection with all of life. Lie or sit for some time in silence.

Shorter Options for a Self-Compassion Practice

At any time in your day, you can practice self-compassion, even if you only have 15 or 30 seconds. Whether you’re at work and feeling stressed, at home with your family, or anywhere you feel you need a little extra self-love, take a moment to activate self-compassion by bringing loving kindness to your awareness.

7-Day Self-Compassion Challenge

Form an intention to practice for seven consecutive days to see how the powerful the benefits can be. If possible, practice at the same time each day. After one week of practice, ask yourself:

  • What was your experience?
  • Has practicing self-compassion catalyzed more personal awareness? If yes, of what?
  • Has practicing triggered answers on what to do to alleviate your suffering?
  • Have you taken actions you had not taken before doing this practice?
  • Evaluate whether you want to commit to practicing for another week, and then another…

Formally practicing each day generates, solidifies, and strengthens deeply positive experiences in your life that literally etch into the brain. Being compassionate with yourself generates acceptance of your humanness and the humanness of others, an essential quality for a fuller awakening. Your focus shifts from the time-bound personal narrative of the small ego-self to present-moment compassionate awareness. When you awaken self-compassion, you can strengthen your familiarity with your essential nature and reconnect with the vast fullness of the All/the One/the Ground of Being.

After a steady practice, you will find yourself more often spontaneously feeling self-compassion, even when you’re not practicing.

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