Being able to forgive yourself could very well be the most important part of any mindfulness practice. This is talked about in many different ways through many different philosophies, but the end result is this: forgiveness will leave you feeling better in the long term. But, why?

The roots from which the word “forgive” come are for and give. Give, in this case, means something like it does now but more completely. This completeness is the most important part of the equation.

The mind essentially works in a loop. It has to process an enormous amount of information, and it does a very good job by and large. However, when something isn’t completely processed, that thought will stick until processing occurs. This can take years and often ends up with the thought lodged in the subconscious or “back of your mind.”

To rid yourself of one or more of these troubling thoughts is to forgive yourself. How do you do it?

1. Get out a pen and a pad of paper. If you feel more comfortable on a computer, then close everything and just open up a word processing program. Write down every single obligation of any kind you have. This includes intrapersonal dramas you need to address, relationships you wish to maintain, bills you need to pay: Everything. Anything at all that you cannot forget. Assume you will never share this with anyone. This list could take upwards of an hour. If you have more to write about something, especially something complex you need to forgive yourself for, do that. If you feel guilt and beat yourself up, that’s fine, too. Get it out.

2. Now relax. Once you have everything on a piece of paper, put it somewhere safe (or save your file) and disconnect. You can forgive yourself for doing this, because everything you need to remember is on those pages. If, as you're trying to disconnect, you remember something you can’t forget, go and write it down. Your relaxation will wait, and will be more complete when it comes. Often, I disconnect by losing myself in music or poetry. I know many people appreciate a good bath. A good yoga class can do wonders. Whatever works for you.

3. Revisit your list. Whenever you have more to write, write it. If you beat yourself up over something before, write what your actions will be going forward. Don’t write “because” in these sentences. You don’t need to justify yourself to yourself. Every moment is an opportunity to become a new you. The past can be sour or sweet, but it cannot be changed.

This is all easier said than done, but the beauty of using this method of writing is how it allows you to continue to make progress. So long as you continue to revisit your list, you will be moving forward in your self-forgiveness. You can see your progress, slow as it may be. Over time, your mind will be more organized and healthy. You will realize an amazing difference in your life!

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