Group Forgiveness Practice

scrabble chips that say please forgive me
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Yesterday, at a board retreat for, the board members were kind enough to participate in a forgiveness practice that I had been wanting to try for many years.

Ajahn Amaro, the Abbott of Amaravati Buddhist Monastery near London, England, mentions a forgiveness practice fairly regularly. With this practice, one monk says something like this: "Whatever I have done through body, speech, and mind that has been hurtful or inappropriate, and has caused discomfort or suffering for you, I ask for your forgiveness." Then the other person responds, "I forgive you, and please forgive me also."

I don't know exactly the mechanics of how the monks do this practice, and I've never asked Ajahn Amaro follow-up questions about this practice when he has mentioned it in dhamma talks. Yesterday, we just did what seemed most appropriate for our group, which was to go around the conference table, ask the whole group for forgiveness, and let everyone respond.

To do this practice, the person asking for forgiveness does not need to be thinking of anything in particular that they might have done. It could just be a way of clearing the slate.

I have asked other people to do this practice, and they politely declined. They felt like there were some things they could not sincerely forgive. I respect that honesty.

I offered everyone the opportunity to pass yesterday, but all of the board members participated. It felt like a safe space, and some of them even seemed eager to participate.

For me, it was every bit as powerful as I had imagined. Like everyone else, I frequently act, talk, or think in ways that cause harm. I say things that I regret and find it difficult to let go. But in that moment near the beginning of the retreat, when I had my opportunity to sincerely ask for forgiveness, and everyone in that room forgave me, I felt a tremendous sense of peace and calm.

The only thing that felt a bit odd was the "and please forgive me also." So if we get to do this again, I'll probably leave part out. Otherwise, if you are working with a group of people you respect and trust, I highly recommended this forgiveness practice.