This is my notes on Ajahn Brahm’s session entitled “Living Without Guilt and Regret”.
If you want to be a better person, do not feel guilty about things in the past. If you keep on thinking about your mistakes in the past, you become a worse person because you lose self-respect and motivation, and you may become depressed. The mistake of the past becomes ball and chain prohibiting you from achieving success in the future.
If you make a mistake, you should:
- admit it or acknowledge it
- let it go
- learn from it
Adopting from modern psychology technique, if you have done bad things in the past:
- Bring it up, acknowledge it by writing it down on a sheet of paper, clearly, neatly and in detail.
- Write it on toilet paper!
- Read it! Because it is written on toilet paper, you tend to associate what’s written there with sh**… past mistake = sh**
- Put it in the toilet bowl and flush…let it go!
Feeling guilty and regret is like putting a used toilet paper in your pocket! If you think putting a used toilet paper in your pocket is a very stupid idea, then keeping feelings of guilt and regret in your mind is just as stupid, so let it go!
Learning from past experience
There is a story about a chicken farmer. As a chicken farmer, every day you deal with eggs and poo. You collect the egg, not the poo. [In Indonesia, they collect the poo for organic fertilizer Hahahaha]
Do you want to remember the poo or the eggs? Of course the eggs! That’s why remember what went right, remember from the success in the past, you will feel good, happy and have motivation to do it right again. You learn more from what’s right than what’s wrong.
We need to change how we look at the past. You can’t re-create the past, so it does not help at all to look back all the time. It is a waste of time to look at the past, just let it go. If you keep looking at the past, then you stop attending to the present! Too many people linger too long in the past and they are not paying attention to the present moment.
If someone call you a pig, you simply let it go, just do not remember it. If you keep repeating it in your mind, then you are letting them to do it to you again and again.
Sometimes people have a belief that if we don’t have regret, we don’t have punishment, and then we will not be deterred from making the same mistake. Well, it does not work that way! What we need is inspiration, to be more compassionate, generous and loving. Those good things work!
Why do we feel guilty? We feel guilty because we do not have enough metta, compassion. We need to treat ourselves with compassion. If I can forgive other people, I can forgive myself.
You can only feel one thing at a time, if you feel guilty, then you are not doing anything useful. If you dwell on guilt or regret, you cannot make progress. If you want progress in life, you have to let the past go.
Sometimes we feel guilty because we felt that we’ve done a bad thing, but then again who know whether it was good or bad? So basically, if you feel guilty, remember good or bad, who knows? Perhaps it was not wrong after all.
Remember that we always do what we think is the right thing to do at that time. We make a decision based on what’s the right thing to do at that time. We do not purposely make a wrong decision or do a wrong thing.
Sometimes we make a bad decision because we use too much rational rather than too much feeling. Remember to follow your heart and not just follow your head. If you are in doubt, do a coin toss. To find out what you really want to do, watch your feelings when the coin goes up in the air. Which side do you wish to come up, the head or the tail? If you wish the head to come up, then you know that what you really want is what the head represents.
End of notes.
As we approach the end of year 2011 and new year 2012, let us apply what we have learned from Ajahn Brahm.
Let’s remember the good times, successes and what we have done right this year. Let go our feelings of guilt, regret, anger and hurt. Learn from our experience but let go the emotional baggage, so what we are ready to fly and soar in the coming year!
May your life be full of love, peace and happiness in year 2012!
May all beings be happy!
Inge Santoso, B. Com