Sometime ago my weekend started out as a typical Saturday morning. I was reluctant to get out of bed and not expecting any grand turn of events.
At the time, I had a personal situation that bothered me. And I mean really bothered me. I had had a series of strained conversations with someone in particular, and it was hard to stop myself from ruminating over our highly charged “conversations.” A substantial amount of my energy was stuck in the anger of the situation and I continued to feel “tight” and edgy.
However, I did know that with some assistance, preferably in the form of a painstakingly analytical talk with my girlfriend who has Ph.D. in psychology, it would be possible for me to get to the other side of anger and look at the experience from a different perspective.
But I’m human. And frankly, I was having a hard time.
As “luck” would have it, right around the time I realized I wouldn’t be able to move into forgiveness without some form of assistance, I came across a flyer for a forgiveness workshop.
Earlier during the week I registered to attend the workshop on Saturday morning, and it was time to go.
I didn’t anticipate this workshop would be any different from any other workshop I had previously attended. Usually, the workshop material is presented and one hopes to learn something that initiates a change in perspective; thus leading to a new insight.
Sometimes this happens. Sometimes it doesn’t.
I pulled into the parking lot 15 minutes before the workshop was scheduled to begin and immediately found a parking space, up front. I graciously thanked my “parking angels” for their assistance, picked up my name tag from registration and proceeded to find a seat.
I sat and quietly watched other attendees settle into their seats and make light conversation. I didn’t make light conversation. I wasn’t in the mood.
Just then, the workshop facilitator, Patricia Kingery walked into the room. Kingery introduced herself and said, “Welcome to the Radical Forgiveness Workshop.”
‘What could possibly be radical about forgiveness?’ I thought.
I was not familiar with this technique, and how I overlooked the word radical on the informational flyer was beyond me.
Kingery explained that Radical Forgiveness is “massively” (her word) different from conventional forgiveness, because “you release enormous quantities of energy that were trapped in maintaining your original negative patterns.”
“Rooted in the metaphysical world of Spirit, it is simply the process of getting energy stuck in the body moving again.”
In order to get the energy moving again, Radical Forgiveness requires you to “look at the pain of your experience through a completely different lens.”
“All that is required is for you be willing to be open to the possibility that there might be a reason for everything that ever happens to you. Period.”
She had my attention.
According to Colin Tipping, the creator of Radical Forgiveness, “Our culture has long taught us to look at our experiences through the eyes of a victim: to judge, lay blame, accuse, and seek revenge. But this only anchors the pain and perpetuates our suffering.”
“Radical Forgiveness helps you discover that beneath the drama, hurt, and angst of any situation there is a spiritual component that is gently offering you an opportunity to heal and release the victim archetype.”
According to Kingery, a certified Radical Forgiveness Coach, “...most individuals who feel that they have been victimized in some way utilize 60% of their energy being emotionally tied to events of the past, 10% concerned with the event reoccurring while leaving 30% of energy to be in the present moment.”
Kingery went on to explain that during this forgiveness process, there would be no need to verbally re-tell the story.
Instead, we would go through the five stage process to change the energy and perception of the story, thus allowing the energetic release and healing to occur.
The five stages are:
1. Stage 1: Tell the story (not literally, but by physically moving throughout the healing circle). In this step someone willingly and compassionately listens as we tell and own our story.
2. Stage 2: Feel the negative feelings of the story by giving yourself permission to feel your pain.
3. Stage 3: Collapse the story by withdrawing the energy from the story to release woundedness.
4. Stage 4: Reframe the story by changing the perspective to see the experience as essential to your growth.
5. Stage 5: Integrate the new story into the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bodies so it becomes a part of you at the cellular level.
After the introduction, we moved toward the center of the room to create one large group and I had a flashback to my days with Dr. Phil:
“This is gonna be a changing day in your life…”
We were then instructed to move the group, close to sixty people, into a circular formation to create the healing circle.
Kingery explained she would read aloud a series of questions, one at a time. Each question would touch upon a broad issue, and would be posed in a way that simultaneously addressed the role of the victim and the perpetrator.
For example, Kingery began with the question, “If you have ever been lied to in a serious way that left you feeling betrayed, or if you have ever lied to someone in a serious way that left them feeling betrayed, then walk through the circle.”
If this question addressed something you experienced in your life, if you were betrayed or if you betrayed someone, you were instructed to “tell your story” by walking into the center of the healing circle.
Once inside the healing circle, we were instructed to meet with one person by standing face-to-face to maintain eye contact while holding hands. Everyone wore a name tag, so you would say the person’s name out loud and then validate the negative experience by saying, for example, “Kathy, I’m so sorry you experienced this.”
This portion of the process, which encompassed stages 1–3, went on for 30 minutes while Kingery asked a range of questions to address various issues such as: sexual abuse, health issues, addiction, depression, anger and so forth.
I cannot emphasize the power of this part of the process.
As emotional triggers were tapped into by each person who stood inside the healing circle, the negative energy forcefully rose to the surface.
I was completely taken aback with the power of the energy moving throughout the healing circle.
During the “telling of the story” some people cried while others remained silent with their pain. The effect of bearing witness to the compassion in the other person’s eyes, and having your pain acknowledged by someone who had the same experience was deeply profound.
This was very comforting because you could see that you were not alone in your experience.
During the 4th and 5th stages, we were “invited to try “re-framing” the upset — that is, to see it through fresh eyes.”
This is when the group was asked to be willing to “look at the possibility that there might be a spiritual purpose behind everything that happens, and that what happened to make us feel victimized was actually what our ‘spiritual self’ wanted for its growth, and that our spiritual intelligence had created the situation for us.”
Kingery continued with the second half of the workshop by posing the same questions, but the group was instructed to respond differently.
After listening to the same question about betrayal (for example), those who had experienced betrayal again walked into the healing circle and made eye contact with a different person.
This time we responded by saying, for example, “Kathy, I honor your willingness to see the perfection in this situation.”
Within a few minutes, the heavy, stuck energy began to lift like weight being released.
The healing circle had somehow transformed into a swirling vortex of safe, loving energy. I had never experienced a shift like this in such a short period of time.
After the workshop, I couldn’t believe how light I felt. And I can honestly say I “looked” for the tight and angry feeling that was present in my body when I walked into the workshop.
As I walked to my car, I glided through the parking lot. I felt so light, as if there was “extra” space inside of me.
That feeling of tightness was no longer present. It was gone.
I looked at the surrounding vegetation as if I was seeing clearly for the first time. I noticed the vivid color of the leaves, the fullness of the trees and expansiveness of the sky.
Everything seemed brighter, lighter, and richer.
Forgiveness is a journey that can take as long as we like. But it is only by “moving through this journey that we can see for ourselves that life doesn’t happen to us — it happens for us.”
And this perspective can indeed change everything.