One of the most pervasive forms of anger is the kind we feel toward ourselves, often clothed as regret.
Regret is a close cousin of the oft-debilitating illness known as depression, which affects millions of people across the world. I would describe regret as the mind continuing to process “what could have been or might have been,” or “what should have been done” or “shouldn’t have been done,” as well as “what opportunities were missed.” Live a long life in terms of decades, and the ability to manufacture regrets will only continue to strengthen because of all the available “material.”
Like anger, regret also undermines “Emotional Peace,” the third segment in an ongoing blog series regarding mindful intentions. And similar to anger, it can be harnessed and gradually reduced through careful meditation upon specific mantras and the re-wiring of the brain that results.
Similar to the process of healing from anger, regrets can also lose their potency by one paying closer attention to the dynamics that trigger an excessive dwelling on them in the first place. When the present moment offers a reminder of things we wish we had or hadn’t done, a healthy next step is to contemplate the possibilities and choices that remain before us. What steps forward can we intend and take right now toward people, things, and opportunities that excite and inspire us? What beauty is right before our eyes, longing for our present engagement as I wrote about in an earlier blog?
As also discussed earlier in this series, embracing disappointment for what it is will help to soothe dwelling on regrets. When you fully accept the disappointment and own it for what it is, then the need to continue to regret the disappointment itself becomes less meddlesome.
Journaling is another practice that can help us process our regrets more effectively, by getting them out of our churning heads and onto paper (or screen). We can then more skillfully examine patterns in our thinking and behavior that might have led to a number of regrets across a period of time, and embrace new intentions that can arrest such patterns. And other mindfulness practices I’ve written about, such as chakra awareness and mindful eating, contribute to a more resilient mind and immune system that is less likely to be poisoned by the toxicity of regret.
And there’s no way you can genuinely wear the Buddha “half-smile” if you’re busily mulling over regrets. The heartfelt practice of the smile itself calms the mind and whatever clutter is bouncing around inside of it.
In his classic tune “My Way,” Frank Sinatra sang, “Regrets/I’ve had a few/But then again/Too few to mention.”
May each of us practice mindfulness until we find that our regrets have gradually dwindled and faded into the backdrop of a peaceful life, one characterized by finding pleasure and possibilities in the present moment. The only moment.