Learning to live without regret
Regrets are part of the human condition. Regret means ‘I think I would be happier or better if things were different in the past’. Things are recorded in our memory tracks. So many stories swirl around in the mind; things that are unresolved, unfinished business, things we wish we had not done or said, things we wish we had done or said. Some of these things go quickly away, some fade with time, but some linger and are as vivid as when they happened.
Part of a spiritual journey is to begin to resolve the feelings of regret inside. We can first of all understand how things can be learned from these experiences; they can help me to do things differently in the future. However, we also start to dismantle the effects and impact of these regrets. There are two effects of having such deep regrets. One is that I do not feel happy in the present, because this regret is hanging over me like a shadow, and the other is that it damages the relationship with myself.
There is a cycle of regret. First there is denial; it did not happen — it has to go away. Then there is bewilderment; ‘how could I have done/said that?’. Then follows self-punishment; ‘I could kick myself for doing that!’, and, finally, a reinforcement. By playing it out over and over again, I continue to reinforce a negative attitude towards myself. This is very damaging.
At the heart of a quality life, I need to reinforce love, respect and value for myself. It is impossible to do that if I constantly reinforce a negative view of myself; it weakens me. If I do not respect myself, I will have no respect for others, society or the environment.
I have to make friends with my conscience. I have to learn as I go along the spiritual path to only do and say that which is in tune with my deepest held beliefs and resist the pressure from others, and any kind of temptation, to behave against those beliefs.
To do this I need to understand who I really am. I am not the physical identity; that sense of self taken from my body, my gender, culture or education — all that is temporary and leads me to feel arrogant and superior at one moment and at the next moment, be filled with lack of self-respect and feelings of inferiority.
I have to understand that I am a soul. A spiritual, eternal, immortal being of light — the atma; the living dweller in the costume. The soul exists. A point — no breadth or width or length. It is full of power and light.
Once I begin to understand and experience this truth, I feel so sweet and easy about who I am. A natural state of peace begins to emerge. I can understand that in the past, I was under the influence of the temporary state of thinking I was a body, and therefore under the influence of many things. Now I can receive the power to do nothing I would regret.
This spiritual path and the practice of meditation begins to heal the past and the effect it has had on me, and a different relationship begins to grow with my conscience. I become my own best friend and not my worst enemy.
Charlie Hogg, based in Sydney, has been a daily meditator with the Brahma Kumaris for 45 years.