When someone’s actions create pain for us, it is natural to engage in an inner conversation of resentment. The mind replays the offense, repeating the stories over and over. My wife betrayed me. My father destroyed my trust. My partner didn’t come through for me. And so on. The dialogue of blame disturbs the peace of both mind and body. The Buddhist text the Dhammapada reminds us how important it is to free ourselves from the toxic conversations that preoccupy our mind:

Hatred can never put an end to hatred; love alone can. This is the eternal truth.
People forget that their lives will soon end.
For those who remember, quarrels come to an end.

Consider a person in your life whom you associate with painful feelings. It might be an ex-spouse, an offensive boss, an abusive stepparent, or a best friend who betrayed your trust. Contemplate the interactions you’ve had with this person who created pain for you. For the purpose of freeing your heart from the constriction caused by resentment, shift your focus from what happened to you to what was happening in the life of the person who caused your pain.

Accessing what you know about this individual’s life, begin constructing their biography. The goal is to understand how the person who caused you pain could do what they did. Journal the details you are aware of, and then fill in the blanks using your imagination. Here are some questions that can help you with this step:

• What do you know or imagine about the emotional and physical health of their parents or caregivers?
• Was the individual who caused you pain planned and wanted by their parents?
• How was this person treated as a baby and young child?
• How did their family members and peers relate to them?

Having gained insight into their behavior, you are now ready for the next step. Sitting comfortably, close your eyes, center your attention in your heart, and ask yourself this question:

What can I do to forgive this person for the pain I’ve experienced as a result of their words or actions?

The emphasis is on what you can do, not on what you want or expect the offender to do. You have no control over the other person’s choices, and therefore your heart’s freedom cannot be dependent upon their actions. To clear the slate, consider what behavior will enable you to let go. Take the energy trapped in the pain and redirect it into a healing and life-supporting action.

Possibilities include writing a letter, burying a memento in the ground, burning a token object that you associate with the person, starting an organization that helps others avoid or recover from similar trespasses, or writing an article or book that documents your experience for the benefit of others. Do something to transform the bad into good, the pain into benefit.

It is not the scale of the action that is important here. The issue is not whether you make a small financial donation or start a new non-profit organization. What is important is that you do something that demonstrates your readiness and willingness to forgive and move forward.

David Simon, M.D. is the Co- Founder, CEO and Medical Director of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing. Dr. Simon is dedicated to catalyzing the evolution of the prevailing health care system into a healing system that encompasses the emotional, spiritual as well as physical health of the individual. His new book Free to Love, Free to Heal: Heal Your Body by Healing Your Emotions comes out on June 25, 2009.

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Author's Bio: 

Intent.com is a premier wellness site and supportive social network where like-minded individuals can connect and support each others' intentions. Founded by Deepak Chopra's daughter Mallika Chopra, Intent.com aims to be the most trusted and comprehensive wellness destination featuring a supportive community of members, blogs from top wellness experts and curated online content relating to Personal, Social, Global and Spiritual wellness.