Forgiveness As a Key to Freedom in Recovery

I’m Elizabeth Kipp, a person on a path of discovery and recovery and on a mission to live a conscious life, and a Recovery Coach, and I am honored and excited to share with you what I have learned about forgiveness as a key to freedom in recovery.

The beginning of forgiveness is surrendering to our experience.

What is surrender, and what does it mean in recovery and forgiveness?  Surrender is not about telling stories about the past. It’s about learning to be in the present with whatever you feel right now.

In the context of recovery and forgiveness, the word ‘surrender’ has nothing to do with giving up.

Dr. Peter Levine, Founder of Somatic Experiencing, states, “Surrender means being able to experience whatever we’re experiencing without judgment.”


Leveraging conscious breathing to surrender to our experience

Before we are able to forgive, we are in a state of protection. We perceive that we have been wronged in some way. When we feel threatened, we tend to hold our breath and clench our muscles – the opposite of surrender. In protection mode, we holding on for dear life.

Note that we cannot protect and connect at the same time.

And remember that addiction is a disease of disconnection. So, since we experience a lack of forgiveness as a threat that we need to protect ourselves from, we become disconnected.  We drop into the frequency of addiction in this disconnection and protection.

To better process the experience of not feeling safe, we can use a long exhale to help the body relax. This is not giving up but a coping strategy to help return the mind and body to normal more quickly. We can leverage the breath, using it consciously and in a targeted way to help ease our automatic guarding patterns and dissipate stress. Here, we are using the body’s resources to build our capacity for resilience and better manage the challenges in our lives.


How to use breathing to surrender to your experience and find ease

Consider for a moment what happens when we are startled or stressed. Our breath moves from a relaxed state’s easy, long, deeper breathing to a shortened breath. When we are surprised or feel fearful, we often hold our breath. We can become what is called “breathless.” It’s not as if we are literally without breath, but our breathing gets so shallow and irregular that it feels like we have lost our breath.

When we are stressed, we may experience a feeling of not being able to breathe easily. We may also feel tightness in the chest. Our anxious reaction to this stress can also result in hyperventilation or rapid breathing. We may also feel dizzy or disoriented from such irregular breathing. When these patterns continue, it makes us feel more and more uneasy and anxious.

So, how can we let go when we are so busy protecting?

We don’t. Recovery is about healing. Part of healing is moving from protection when we guard ourselves against a perceived threat to resting, digesting, and healing.

Begin with the nervous system and ways to bring it from the dysregulation of an unbalanced stress response to regulation and balance – and we do this through breathwork.

We breathe about 23 thousand breaths a day, so we have a lot of opportunities to practice letting go of the unnecessary, to practice relaxation, and releasing, which is a fundamental part of the forgiveness process.

Here is a breath practice that helps to regulate the nervous system. And, by practicing regularly and showing up for yourself, you will build trust in yourself and heal.  You will build your connection to you – the second part of the hierarchy to healing.


Eight-Stroke Breath to Surrender – Gunpati Meditation to Release the Past and for Making the Impossible Possible

Eight-Stroke Breath is a powerful technique to calm anxiety and the clear brain fog and confusion we experience in trauma.

Sit comfortably with a straight spine, tuck your chin in just a bit to flatten the back of your neck, lift your chest slightly, and bring your shoulders back. You can sit cross-legged on the floor or in a chair as long as your back is straight and your feet are on the ground.

Close your eyes. Focus on your breathing.

Inhale through both nostrils in eight equal portions or segments. Exhale through both nostrils with 2 repetitions of the mantra Sa Ta Na Ma Ra Ma Da Sa Sa Say So Hung on the exhale.

Use this recording: Gurucharan Singh Khalsa’s Breathwork: 8 Breaths and Sounds to Heal

Sa Ta Na Ma  Ra Ma Da Sa  Sa Say So Hung 


We have this beautiful tool of the conscious breath

to help us release the extra energy we carry when we experience trauma. It can help us keep the stress response in balance by allowing us to surrender to our energetic reaction to threatening experiences.

By finding our balance when stressed, we can easily surrender to our experience and face the truth. When we consciously surrender through targeted breath techniques, we can move through challenging times more quickly and gently yet effectively recover back to balance and realize our connection to ourselves, others, and Consciousness.


What is forgiveness?

Forgiveness means letting go of what no longer serves us. It can mean offering up that which no longer serves us to a power greater and more loving than us. It is more of a process, a shift of perspective. And I will outline a step-by-step process to help you with it.

One of the most powerful quotes on this topic is by Nelson Mandela, who said as he walked out of prison,

“When I was walking out the door towards the gate that would lead me to my freedom, I knew that if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”

Internal healing through forgiveness is what helps us take care of the rest of our world – the external one.

Forgiveness is simple and yet not always easy because we’ve felt the pain that others have inflicted on us. Perhaps our hearts have been broken, or we have been taken advantage of, or our trust has been betrayed.

The act of forgiveness doesn’t excuse whatever negative behavior happened; it prevents that negative behavior from harming us.


Can you shift your perspective?

One of the five yamas, or restraints, of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is aparigraha, which means non-possessiveness or non-clinging, which is helpful in this discussion. If I am clinging onto my point of view, “So and so did such and such to me, and it’s unforgivable,” I will stay in that place stuck until I do the work underneath it that’s keeping me holding on to my reaction, and the meaning that I am making of what happened.

If I am holding onto something, then I can only reach so far, perhaps an arm’s length away.

That is the reach of my possibilities from that spot. My tether then becomes a weight, anchoring me in a certain sphere of influence. The only way I can get another perspective is to let go of that thing I am holding onto, become untethered, and liberate myself. I allow myself to expand into the unknown where a wider field of possibilities lives, the Infinite Field of Possibilities. Beyond the mind. Beyond a name. Beyond words – that place where the unimaginable finally becomes imaginable.


Ishvara Pranidhana

is one of the ten virtues of yoga. It is one of the five niyamas – the observances – described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and is instructive for us in this space. To observe Ishvara Pranidhana is to surrender to the flow of life. Let go of the positionality of the ego, and it’s wanting to be right. We align our thoughts and actions with harmony and realization of our connection to Consciousness. As we surrender the ego, our hearts open to our higher purpose – love.

When we feel we have been wronged in some way, we feel a contraction.

We close in on ourselves and protect ourselves. This can include closing the heart to love and so the heart chakra is out of balance. Notice that we can be entrenched and vacillating between craving and aversion, or as Rolf Gates’ teachers offered – coercion and abandonment. These words beautifully describe someone who is doing whatever they can to alter their experience rather than accept it and surrender to it.

We’re not denying or condoning what happened.

In forgiveness, we release our attachment to our reaction to what happened.

This is not passive. This is a deepening into presence and compassion for those involved, including ourselves, and focusing on our Source of power – Consciousness When we remove the blocks to love, there is no problem.

Yoga Sutra 1.23 is translated by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait as “victory over the mind and its modifications can also be gained through complete surrender to God, the inner guide.” This corresponds to the meaning of surrender in the Twelve Steps.

As a word-by-word analysis of sutra 1.23 shows, the purpose of practicing yoga is (to borrow a phrase from the Bible) to “Be still and know that I am God.” Stillness of mind is a prerequisite to knowing oneself, to knowing God, to knowing this world, and to knowing our relationship with this world.



We offer up that which no longer serves us. And we offer it up to Higher Power.

1) The first step is presence.  

This is where we remember and experience our connection to Consciousness and where love is.
We need to be in the present moment to face whatever our resistance is around the hurt we experienced and allow ourselves to feel where it is expressing itself as a sensation in the body.

2) Ask for help from a Higher Authority.

The word “forgive’ comes from the words ‘to forgo or forget.’ We might be able to forgive someone intellectually, but if we do not remove the emotional charge around this event that we’re forgiving, then we have not fully forgiven. This is not saying we’re condoning what we are forgiving. We’re saying being able to release the activated energy in the body that we felt when we were holding onto in the first place.

If you are having difficulty truly forgiving, what do you do?

Where do you turn? You turn to a power greater than yourself to help you take this difficult step because you don’t want this event to stay stuck within you. Maybe you haven’t found a way to let it go by yourself. You ask, “Higher Power, all that You are, help me forgive all the events around this situation, no matter what. Help everyone involved in this situation to forgive me, and help us to forgive ourselves, completely and totally. Please and thank You.”

As you say this, you might notice a release of energy in your body.

The emotional charge that is built up inside the body dissipates. By asking for help, you gain access to transcending this block of resentment with the aid of your Higher Power. True forgiveness lies in releasing what is inside your physiology around the hurt or wrong you experienced. Otherwise, you are not addressing the core of the problem, and it will re-emerge.

We ask a Higher Power to help us forgive ourselves. If there are those we are not able to forgive, we pray for them, send them a blessing, and pray for ourselves that we will be guided to a path to freedom from resentment.

3) Strive to understand the meaning we are making of what happened.

We can’t change what happened, but we can shift our perspective on what we believe about this event.

Ask, “Is there some healthy way that not forgiving is serving you?” This is a powerful inquiry. In my example, by not forgiving and holding on to my anger and hurt, I felt a sense of power, but the source of that power was my biology and the emotional high I felt when the anger rose inside me. By realizing what I was doing, I was able to turn to the real source of power – Higher Power – for help in healing and shifting the meaning I was making about what happened.

4) Accept your humanness with self-compassion.

Anger and frustration are all part of the human experience. Everyone feels these emotions. There is no shame in this. Instead of feeling as if we are in a dueling match with these qualities, we can turn into and accept what we are feeling. We learn to know these feelings intimately and accept them as an integral part of who we are. Deepen into self-compassion. Once we accept that we have these feelings, we come to a place of peace with them.

5) Become willing to forgive.

The beginning of forgiveness is being willing to let go of whatever we are grasping onto so tightly around the hurt or wrong that we experienced.

6) Drop judgments about the situation.

Move yourself from a position of feeling so much negativity to one of neutrality and objectivity. Again, you can turn to a Higher Power of your understanding for help.

7) Remember your Source.

The most powerful teacher lives within you. Remember and honor your worth and own your power. And remember, the Source of your power is Consciousness itself, not the person who transgressed you, or the emotional high you get when you leverage your biology in anger to feel powerful in a place where you perceived you were powerless.

8) Live in the present.

Stop reliving the past and come into the present. Healing is only available to us in the present moment.

So, I ask you, what would it be like to release your position?


I have outlined the steps to finding forgiveness as a key to freedom in recovery. For a deeper dive into a forgiveness practice, I encourage you to take my 40 Days of Forgiveness Program, here. It has been very helpful to me and many others who have taken this evergreen course over the years since I developed it.

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