Greetings! Happy New Year! May 2017 be your best year yet! May yoga be your guiding light.
One of the gifts of yoga is the recognition that your true nature is joy. That underneath it all – the worry, stress, loss, sadness, unfilled desires, and regret – is joy. As the Tantra teaches, joy is already within you. You can’t add anything more to it and it can never be diminished.
Your true nature shines like 10,000 suns. But it’s concealed. Yoga is the process of unpeeling the layers of the soul, like the skin of an onion, to get to the core in the middle. In yoga, you peel away what no longer serves you; peel back what’s blocking the light and allow your heart to shine. From the Katha Upanishad, “Yoga is unravelling the knots of the heart so that the mortal can experience the immortal.”
Through paying attention, you eventually come to see how your mind works and which habits of thought cover up your joy. Two of mine are self-doubt and procrastination. If you’re not sure what your limiting habits of thought are, just try writing a book. Every trick of the mind will be revealed to you. Or at least it has for me! Ugh!
But one habit of thought I’ve recently gained some leverage on is the habit of regret. Regret is a natural human emotion that everyone experiences from time to time. It’s not about eliminating regret. It’s about managing it. If you’re not careful, regret can steal your joy and take you in a downward spiral of emotional “stuckness”. Regret is a combination of guilt and shame bound together. Guilt is the feeling that you did something wrong. Shame is the feeling that you ARE wrong. The voice of shame tells you that you are inherently flawed in some way and therefore unworthy.
In my experience, regret is the #1 killer of power and joy. It smacks of the idealistic wish to change the past. Like a rat in a wheel, we keep spinning the same thoughts of regret over and over as if that will help. Regret is the futile attempt to change the unchangeable. The past is unchangeable. You can either accept it, reject it, or ignore it. Rejecting it is like fighting with it, forcing it to change. Ignoring it is denial, “I’ll just look the other way.” This is another form of rejecting it. Yogic wisdom is to be able to accept the past. Acceptance opens the door to learning and growth and allows the past to reveal its wisdom such that you don’t repeat the same mistake twice.
The universe is made of refined spiritual energy. It’s like a web that holds an imprint of everything that has happened since the big bang – whether that’s an action, word, thought, or intention. In Sanskrit, this is called Akasha (space, vastness, field of vibration). The Akasha is like the universal Facebook account. You can’t delete it. Scary, isn’t it?
Regret is the failed attempt at shaming yourself for saying something or doing something that is below your standard. You wish you didn’t say or do that. You wish it never happened. But it did. Regret is a natural expression of grief or sadness. But regret, like shame, is usually used to beat yourself up. It is the sign of non-acceptance of the past. Non-acceptance takes a tremendous amount of energy to maintain. This brings an unnecessary struggle and fight within yourself which takes its toll on your health. Regret also scrambles the healthy vibrations of your brain. It causes interference and distraction in the process of thinking clear, organized thoughts.
In addition, regret is the breeding ground for more serious states of psychosis and depression. It is a smokescreen for depression. Obsessive regret is a way to hide from yourself and is a sign that you are not living up to your potential. This can be based on a deep fear of failure or a fear of success.
To succeed, you must be willing to fail. In Positive Psychology, they have a slogan, “Learn to fail or fail to learn.” I like this a lot because it cuts through regret. Regret statements are often followed with a second statement of condemnation, self-pity, or fear. One of the remedies to uncontrollable spins of regret is to replace the word “regret” with the word “accept”.
I regret that I gave up playing jazz piano. I was given a gift and I just threw it away.
I accept that I gave up playing jazz piano.
I regret that I didn’t have kids when I was younger. There’s no one to take care of me as I age.
I accept that I didn’t have kids when I was younger.
I regret that I have osteoarthritis in my hip. I should have been more careful in my movements growing up.
I accept that I have osteoarthritis in my hip.
If you want to take the burden of a lifetime off your shoulders, let go of regret and stop trying to change the unchangeable. Accept that whatever happened, for better or for worse, has already happened. Let it go. Forgive yourself.
Learn from it and move on. Your contribution to this world lies in your ability to bring forth your dreams and intentions. If you can’t bring these forth, then at least choose to smile and share kindness, compassion, and love. That’s more than enough for a brighter year!
May this be the year to release regrets about your past and step fully into the possibility of the future. Thanks for shining your light. I look forward to seeing you in 2017.