This week I’ve been reminded how easy it is to get caught up in self blame and wishing things were different.
The mind is so good at hindsight and then berating one with not making the ‘obvious’ decision way back in the past rather than now or when it seems too late. Mindfulness practice provides a safe harbour from this storm. For the only place we can be is now – not back then or projected into the future: a future which we now fear our past error may have jeopardised or which seems somehow to loom over us. So much of the time we look back regretting what we have or have not done and believe we know what the future results will be and lament the consequences of our actions. But in the end all we know is what is happening now – the past is gone, the future not yet come into being and as such is unknown. With mindfulness practice we can learn to stay present – even in the midst of hard and conflicting emotions. And trust that by acting from the moment we will be able to shape a future that grows out of patient awareness rather than fear and self blame.
As Ajahn Sumedho would always say “this is how it is”. There is no other way it could be given the choices we made and actions we took: so adding regret and self blame is simply like picking at a scab wishing we hadn’t grazed our knee. Accepting the moment as it is isn’t a case of complacency – but of looking to how we can take actions now to create the possibilities we want to live in to rather than looking back wishing we could change things that are now fixed. If we want to be happy and healthy and have made poor choices in the past, that’s the past. But what do we do now to live in to that possibility?
Mindfulness and Buddhism are about acting in the present, seeing that all things arise on conditions – and creating the supportive conditions for what we want in our life. Regret and self blame simply undermine the foundations of what we are seeking to build.
Here’s wishing you strength in remaining present and able to create your life now rather than looking back with regret or forward with foreboding.