Self Healing Techniques:
Heart Opening Exercise to Let Go of Anger

Self healing techniques, like the one I am going to share with you today, helped prepare me for the deep forgiveness experience I wrote about in my book Taming The Tokolosh: Through Fear into Healing.

How Anger Poisons and Forgiveness heals

Experiencing anger is not a bad thing. It helps us survive. In fact, it is one of the body's primary defense systems.

When we get angry, the brain releases hormones and chemicals such as Cortisol and Adrenalin. Healthy body functioning is suspended so all energy can be directed to overcoming whatever the threat is that is causing danger.

No harm is done if the danger passes quickly and the body goes back to normal functioning. But because our brains can’t tell the difference between what we are experiencing and what we are hashing over in our minds, holding onto grievances can takes a terrible toll on your body. Not to mention the emotional pain and suffering you continue to inflict on yourself.

So when we say "anger poisons you," it is not just a figure of speech. Research shows that when people invest time in forgiveness their mental and physical health improves.

In a medical research study, Yoichi Chida, MD, PhD, linked anger and hostility to heart disease (Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 2009). Other studies show that forgiveness actually improves cardio vascular and immune system functioning.

In a University of Buffalo study, Frank Fincham and Julie Hall found that forgiveness promotes higher self esteem, more confidence, better moods and healthier relationships.

Self healing techniques often create a placebo-like effect i.e. because you believe yourself to be getting better, your body responds accordingly. But self healing techniques like the one below are scientifically proven to trigger chemical responses from your brain that are beneficial to your overall well being.

Heart Opening Self Healing Techniques:
Laying The Ground For Forgiveness

Sometimes the hardest part of letting go of anger is WANTING to forgive. And that is what this desire- building technique focuses on. 

Though I describe this self healing technique as a "sitting" practice, I like to experience the last part of the practice when I am walking outdoors.

  1. Get into a relaxed state and spend a few moments focused on your breath: nice slow deep breaths. Try to maintain slow rhythmic breathing throughout the process. If your mind wanders, bring your attention back to your breath for a minute, then return to the place in the exercise where you got distracted.
  2. Think of a person that you are having difficulty forgiving and spend a few moments tuned into the feelings you feel toward that person, noticing where in your body you feel those feelings and the qualities of the sensations. Your goal is to STAY with the feeling and work through resistance. Remember you cannot heal what you won't feel. Notice how a feeling shifts when you are willing to sit with it.
  3. Think about someone or something you feel unconditional love/friendliness toward. It could be a child, pet, or even someone from your past. Notice where in your body you feel those feelings of love and notice the qualities of the sensations. Really allow yourself to enjoy those feelings.
  4. Imagine how great it would be to feel this type of open-hearted feeling more often.
  5. Compare those feelings to the feelings of resentment. Given the choice, which feelings would you rather have?
  6. To expand the feeling of open-heartedness, imagine the person, pet or thing you thought about earlier to generate good feelings, and send her/him loving-kindness and compassion and feel them sending rays of unconditional love back to you. Enjoy the sending and receiving for a few moments.
  7. Start adding people you know into your visualizations, sending love to them and imagining them sending love back to you. Begin with people you know who are easier to love, and work on expanding it to people you are neutral toward. It is natural to feel resistance. Don’t worry if it is hard for you to keep connected to those loving feelings. Your intention is what counts. Make believe you can feel it.
  8. Eventually work on expanding those feelings to people you don’t know, and then to those you don’t like or have disagreements with.
  9. Expand those feelings to people who have hurt you in a small, unintentional way, sending them a wish that they be happy and free from suffering. Notice how good it feels to send love or compassion to people. Notice how different this feels from anger and resentment. Imagine how it would feel to have this level of friendliness toward all beings.
  10. When you are ready, you can work with the harder cases, using this technique or some of the other self healing techniques for forgiveness offered here.

More on Forgiveness

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