Pu'uhonua, The Place of Refuge
Whether you are unforgiving or the unforgiven, a sense of peace will prove elusive as long as bitterness or unrelenting guilt resides in your heart.
The same applies when you are unable to forgive yourself for a past transgression.
I know all too well – from my own personal experience – that it’s not always easy to forgive. Perhaps this explains the tremendous power in forgiveness to fully free your spirit.
I usually don’t hold onto grudges. But, one time, I felt so deeply betrayed that it seemed almost impossible to forgive. I wanted to forgive, but the sense of betrayal seemed embedded in my body. I could hardly think of the person, see their photo, or be in their presence without a visceral reaction. Of course, that visceral reaction only harmed me, but logic would not prevail.
It took time. In the end, what worked for me was making an aspiration – a prayer – to be able to forgive. Simply wishing again and again to have the capacity to forgive magically opened the way for me.
Reflection: The Place of Refuge
To inspire today’s reflection, I’ve selected this description of the “Place of Refuge” on the Big Island of Hawai’i, a monument to forgiveness and peace.
“In the Hawaiian world order, there was always room for forgiveness. Transgressors of the strict and sacred laws of the land could always find redemption and a second chance waiting if they could make it to the Pu’uhonua, Place of Refuge. Those who persevered, overcoming all obstacles and their pursuant, surely must have felt the grace of the gods.
The Hawaiin kapu system was a strict and severe codification of sacred laws. The chiefs ruled with a heavy hand. A transgression could mean punishment by death. However, if you could make it to the Pu’uhonua you could receive absolution and prayers form the kahuna before returning to your family and community to start anew.
Pu’uhonua o Honaunau, known to be the largest Place of Refuge, stands as a monument of peace and forgiveness, a sacred ground where life can begin again.”
- from Keola Magazine, November -December 2010
As the old year comes to a close and the new year presents an opportunity for a fresh start, you might want to take a moment to reflect on whether a lack of forgiveness is tainting your life in any way. Even holding onto a small grievance can get in your way.
- Is there someone you need to forgive?
- Do you need to make amends and ask for forgiveness?
- Do you need to forgive yourself? Have you been overly harsh with yourself?
I’ve learned that forgiveness begins when we make the wish to forgive or to be forgiven.
The true place of refuge is not external – it exists within your own heart.
While you too may encounter many obstacles on your way to this inner place of sanctuary, never give up. True forgiveness will indeed occur once you set your heart on it. It just may take a little time. Forgiveness is a process, but you can start in any moment. As the saying goes, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
What has helped you to forgive and forget?
Photo: The National Park Service
This article is part of a weekly series of reflective exercises to help you uproot limiting thoughts, emotions, views, and habits. See more mini-mind challenges.
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