Christmas, a time of joy and giving or trepidation and withholding?
If you think you are enlightened, try spending a week with your family … for Christmas. We are expected to love our family, but often families treat each other with a disrespect that no one should have to tolerate. Each year many face Christmas day with dread. The pressure is on to pretend you are okay spending time with family members you really don't want to be with. For many it is painfully true that we wouldn't stay friends with anyone who treated us like our family. While tension may run high with certain family members, remember they are someone you once loved and were loved by.
This Christmas you can take the higher road, the path of letting go of past hurts because I have a crazy suggestion to help you get through your Christmas day
Hawaiian prayer of forgiveness releases you from the shackles of resentment
Ho'oponopono is an Hawaiian prayer for healing. It is designed to neutralise negativity by taking responsibility for our part in a conflict by recognising the flawed humanity of us all. How can we feel good and be free if we are holding on to resentment? It may seem counterintuitive for us to forgive people we feel have done us wrong, but the letting go is as much for us as it is for them.
I did Ho’oponopono with my ex in-law's family last Christmas, who after 20 years seemed to have turned against me due to their son's and my divorce. While the decision to split was fairly mutual and amicable, I was shocked and hurt by the immediate exclusion I experienced from what I had felt was my family for over 20 years. It was as if I suddenly didn't exist. But when it came to Christmas, I wanted to be able to be with my children in the same way we had been for their entire lives, at Christmas lunch at their grandparents.
It was a huge struggle to be invited to spend the usual Christmas lunch with my children who were going with their father. It was the first Christmas being spent as a 'not family'. I didn't want to spend it away from my kids, or alone. I was subtly and justifiably feeling hurt and resentful that I had to push so hard to be included.
I had learnt about Ho'oponopono at a yoga retreat, which was, incidentally, a retreat I had taken myself on to deal with the dissolution of the marriage. I found the simplicity of the phrase incredibly powerful, Everyone in the yoga group was reduced to tears as they held a family member in mind and repeated the simple yet powerful phrase:
"I am sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you."
In repeating the words while holding the person in mind, you are not condoning any bad behaviour but acknowledging the deeply flawed humanity that we all share. It is an invocation that heals you because you are speaking from your own divinity into the divinity of another. The healing is for you to let go by acknowledging your part in the conflict. We never act alone. Where we feel unjustly treated there is another feeling the same.
Never fool yourself that if you are feeling resentment toward someone that they, at some level, are not aware of it. We are all connected, especially if we are family. Had I attended last Christmas lunch with my resentment tucked away inside me, my behavoiur would have been different. I would have been withholding my hurt, may have seemed a little sullen and would have seen others' actions through a veil of my own hurt and loss.
As I drove out to the house I dealt with my mixed emotions by repeating the prayer out loud while imagining my ex in-law parents and sisters. In the process I was able to appreciate the loss and betrayal I felt and that they were feeling hurt and were also suffering. They shut me out of their lives because their loyalty was to their son and brother and they were doing what was in their cultural familial patterns to do. It wasn't as personal as I felt it to be. They were also feeling let down and sense of shock and loss.
When I arrived and saw my (ex) sister-in-laws and how eager they were to catch up with me, I realised that everyone was quietly missing my presence in the family also. My bristly hurt might have blocked all of this. I gave instant gratitude to the power of this prayer.
I realise my story is a relatively soft one. Things could have been different. I know of others who have family members who are very ill, emotionally damaged, or psychologically malicious--people, who from their own ignorance or wounding, have done terrible things to their own family. But always remember ... hurt people, hurt people.
Some things feel very hard to forgive, but remember, the release is for your healing, not to agree with what the other did. So maybe this time, where you can, invert Christmas and, rather than accumulating more piles of family drama, give yourself the gift of letting go.