There is no word for guilt in Tibetan. The closest translation is “intelligent regret that decides to do things differently”.
Today, I’ve made the decision to move away from shame and guilt and allow only for intelligent regret. This enables me to do things differently and more purposefully. The following are three of my deepest regrets and the commitments I’m making to live a more joyful and beneficial life…
1. I regret wasting my energy on judgement and resentment instead of cultivating compassion. I have been angry for so much of my life, I didn’t even notice the severity of it until I began to move away from it. I was angry as a child, which continued throughout my teenage years and well into my early 40’s. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I made the decision to look at my anger, dive into its source and pull it out by the roots. I discovered that most of it came from shame and guilt for things I’ve done or should have done, said or should have said, and stuff I allowed to cling to me, even though it wasn’t mine. I know I never set out to intentionally hurt anyone. I do the best I can with what I have to work with at any given moment in time. As I learn and acquire better tools, I become more adept at expressing myself honestly and productively, with less collateral damage. When I’m wrong, I accept responsibility and endeavour to right that wrong. Denying my culpability only wastes enormous amounts of energy. Holding onto the lies necessary to keep denial alive keeps me frozen in place. I cannot move forward and enact change in my life if I’m not accountable for everything in my life. I am the sole creator of my life experience. It’s not always easy to see what my part is. It takes skill and rigorous honesty to unravel the knot and discover what’s mine and then real mastery not to wallow in shame and guilt over it, which is another waste of energy. This investigative process leads me to a much deeper understanding of myself and others. I know that if I’m being harsh with myself, that harshness will seep into all my relationships and even my interactions with strangers. With this realisation, I commit to being more patient and compassionate with myself and all beings.
2. I regret not allowing others into my heart. I don’t know when or why I closed off my heart and, honestly, I didn’t even realise it was closed until a few years ago. When I first began to notice this, I made a few excuses….. “I can’t handle the input that comes through an open heart.”; “If I remain open, I’ll get hurt.”; “Some people are unsafe and if I’m open, they’ll get in and wreak all kinds of havoc!”. I’m slowly learning that all these excuses, which sound quite reasonable, are simply untrue. There is a way to keep an open heart in the presence of negativity by recognising that it’s simply a cover for suffering. Showing our suffering makes us feel vulnerable. I don’t handle feeling vulnerable well. In fact, I go to great lengths to hide it, even from myself. This is why I started this blog. I made a decision to open my heart and allow my vulnerability to come through. This is the path toward joy and being of greater benefit to others. I will only be hurt if I allow others’ negativity to imprint on me. If I accept what is not mine and what is not true, take personally what is not about me, then I will suffer. If I come from a place of negativity, I will only add more negative energy to the dynamic, which is unproductive. I commit to remaining open-hearted and affirming positive intentions even in the face of overwhelming suffering.
3. I regret spending so much of my life running…. Running from love, running from connection, truth, responsibility and just being present in the moment. I have a fear of being trapped. The technical term is Cleithrophobia. I only know this because my colleagues and I were goofing off at work one day looking up phobias for fun. This particular phobia caught my eye because it describes me perfectly. My husband and I have an inside joke about me mentally packing my bags whenever we have a disagreement or any kind of discord. It used to worry him, but after 17 plus years together he’s learned to trust that I won’t actually leave. I always do a runner in my head as it fills some need in me that has to feel free to go, free to be free. The moment I feel tethered or restrained, my fight or flight response is activated and I go through the mental exercise of packing my bags into my car and speeding away, leaving skid marks on my driveway. Over the years, with a lot of determination and training, I’ve managed to slow down the reflex to fight or run and simply be in the moment. I allow for the mental process instead of denying it. I find that resisting the feelings by labelling them “bad” and trying to banish them only makes them stronger. I’ve learned that there are no bad feelings….there are just feelings. I have a practice of finding a safe place (for me it’s writing in a notebook) and allowing all my feelings to pour out, unedited and unrestrained, onto the pages. I take them as far as I can into the realm of pure ridiculousness until they have no power anymore. It’s quite funny sometimes, reading it later. Humour somehow takes all the potency out of even the strongest of emotions. So, I commit to continuing this practice of staying, remaining like a log, as they say, being present in the moment and allowing all my feelings to have a voice.
These commitments might seem hard and even downright impossible to some. But I know from personal experience that they are possible to achieve. I may not maintain them perfectly, all of the time, and that’s ok. By renewing my intentions every morning, and even moment-by-moment when I catch myself wobbling, I reinforce and continue the momentum of positive energy being put forth. What comes back to me is pure bliss.
Om mani padme hum.