Sacred Tools for Modern Times #2 — How to Free Yourself from Regret and Expectation
This series of stories explores all aspects of the spiritual journey. A journey that transcends rites, rituals, ceremonies, trinkets for sale, and all of the other elements of formal religious dogma.
Q. Lewis, I am tormented by regrets about the past, and expectations for the future. All I can think about is “I should have done this”, or “I should have done that”. Then I begin to worry, “what if I do this or that instead of this other thing? What will happen?” I know this pattern is dysfunctional and unhealthy both emotionally and spiritually. How can I overcome these thought patterns and learn to be in the moment?
A. There are ways to solve your dilemma. In order to be happy we need to transcend expectation and regret, guilt and shame, what might have been, or what we might have done differently, as we observe the past in hindsight.
With greater awareness, you will naturally apply newfound skills including mastery of what is commonly called in the human potential community “active seeing and listening.” You will understand how to experience a moment fully and without judgment. In this state of mind, you will restructure your way of being and how you respond to other people and events. You will finally “Be.” In this natural state, you will begin to observe meaning, understand signs, and have the ability to interpret and evaluate what you have seen, tasted, touched, and smelled. You will be able to transcend the viewer’s sense of self and experience what is actually happening in the “Now.” Here, you will understand the distinction between “You” the being, and “You” who “is being” — a human being, being a human being.
In this unfolding, you will come to experience actively on all levels. This is what it means to truly live in what Zen masters call a beginner’s mind. . Beginner’s Mind is the mindset of the visionary and extraordinary person. In time one becomes progressively detached from the ordinary aspects of life and embraces the extraordinary and enlivening elements.
Now Be Here, Be Here Now, Now Be Here, Be…..
To observe a person who is truly present in a group dynamic can be an amazing experience. In a group dynamic, one is dealing with so many factors. There are hierarchical issues, competition, and group patterns of behavior that one must understand and respond to effectively in order to remain in the group. A person who is fully present in the “Now” is able to create a wonderful sense of community even in a simple, casual conversation. Such an individual will build understanding and use that as a tool for reaching consensus with others with a common vision.
The ability to be fully present when interacting in one’s daily life can help build mutual understanding; create an environment of harmony within your family or in the Monastery of the Social Network. In social networking, being present can improve cross-cultural communication, solve problems that have defied logic, help, and support others to express their thoughts and inner feelings, and expand trust.
There is no intellectual or logical way to enter this state. You simply say, “I will have no regrets about the past or expectations for the future.” You must simply nurture this intention without attachment and remain consistent with your Wisdom practice.
On the most fundamental level, your practice is really nothing more than a combination of mindful and mindless meditation. In this state, in your daily life you continue moment by moment to do what needs to be done (i.e. chopping wood and carrying water). It is a never-ending process and it is deeply fulfilling on every level. As one does life itself becomes a peak experience. Clarity, focus, contentment, and happiness become the norm on every level of life.
The Basics of Meditation
Meditation is a process that exists on many levels. According to Shunryu Suzuki, the author of Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind, “The best way and the highest stage of meditation is just to do it without having any joy in it, not even spiritual joy.” Just sit on a pad or stool with your back straight and focus on the breath and mindfulness. If sitting is not your thing, stand or walk slowly while observing your breath or contemplating on kōans. The greatest level of awareness is to forget physical feelings, mental opinions, or even yourself and meditate without goals, expectations, or intentions — Just sit!
In the level that lies just below this, you are likely to seek physical pleasure and emotional fulfillment from your meditation. The mind is often motivated by the avoidance of discomfort or the experience of pleasure so if the meditation experience is pleasurable then you are more likely to meditate. If emotional stress and inner conflict are reduced by meditation, then you will again be more likely to meditate.
The next level down is to focus on meditation as a source of physical pleasure. In this space, the mind is exclusively motivated by avoidance of discomfort and the experience of pleasure. Even if one does not experience mental calmness or emotional peace, if the experience one has from meditation is physically pleasurable, then one will be more likely to meditate.
The least desirable form of meditation is motivated by fear, regret, guilt, shame, expectation, or envy. Here, you will want to be a better meditator than another person or meditate better this time than last time. There is an expectation here that meditating will make you more spiritual. Of course, any meditation, even selfish meditation is desirable because in time you will gain wisdom of the Path.
Meditation is an inch by inch step by step process that can be started with just one second of practice a day. Whatever form your meditation may take you will soon be dealing with what we call Monkey Mind.
Monkey Mind is the term used to describe the seemingly endless, obsessive process of thinking about one thing after another for a short time without any specific intention or desire to have these thoughts.
The term Monkey Mind is based on the common observation in Asia of monkeys jumping quickly, and without any seeming purpose, from one place to another. With Monkey Mind, there is a chaotic process of concept formation, where thoughts come and go constantly chattering within an unfocused internal conversation. With Monkey Mind there is a momentum where one endlessly jumps from thought to thought, constantly daydreaming, analyzing and worrying.
With mindfulness, this pattern ends and a sense of focus and clarity becomes the norm.
Author: My name is Lewis Harrison. I am a practical philosopher and independent scholar in the area of Essential Taoism, practical philosophy, Eastern thought, personal improvement, and problem-solving
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