Sometimes we do something wrong and feel guilty. Sometimes we think somebody thinks we did something wrong and we know we didn’t, but we feel guilty anyway. Sometimes somebody we love is angry or sad and, even if their feeling has nothing to do with us, we feel guilty. Sometimes we think we should be doing something we are not doing and we feel guilty for that. Sometimes we just feel guilty. Feeling guilty is one of those habitual feelings that sometimes has a rational cause and sometimes does not. Feeling guilty, like any feeling, is a good opportunity to practice mindfulness.
When you notice yourself feeling guilty, feel the feeling and pay attention to your thoughts. See why you are feeling guilty. If you have done something wrong and hurt somebody, then guilt is the correct feeling and you can correct your mistake by apologizing to the person you hurt. That will help the guilt pass.
If you have done nothing wrong, then you should not feel guilty. You can let the guilty feeling pass by paying attention to your thoughts. If your thoughts are telling you why you should feel guilty, you dismiss the thoughts and provide counter arguments. You can remind yourself that you are not responsible for other people’s feelings. You can remind yourself that you make good choices with how you spend your time. You can remind yourself that you are entitled to be.
Guilt should only bother you when you have done something wrong. Other forms of guilt can be recognized and released with mindfulness.
I hope you can find a way to feel good about yourself. Then it will be easier to forget about yourself and get on with life.
If you feel bad about yourself, your self is getting in the way. Everything you do gets seen through this self that has all these problems and inadequacies. Every new problem you encounter confirms all the bad ideas you have about yourself and gives you a new reason to feel bad. You may even feel bad for having bad thoughts about yourself. It is not you that is bad, it is the thoughts.
If you notice yourself feeling bad, check to see if you are feeling bad about yourself. Notice if you are imagining problems with yourself. See if you think there is something wrong with you. If you think there is something wrong with you, then you have identified a wrong thought. Get rid of that thought. Remind the thought that you are good. Then get rid of the next thought that tries to diminish you. Bad thought, good you.
When you can see the stream of thoughts that have been undermining your sense of who you are, then you will see that you are not your thoughts. As you pay attention to the thoughts, you can slow the stream, reverse the tide and start to feel good. You will feel good about yourself. As soon as you feel good about yourself, you’ll notice your thoughts are no longer about you. Your thoughts are about thoughts, activities, behaviors, events, adventures, others. With yourself out of the way, you are free to live your life.
Breathing deeply is the first thing you need to do to change your outlook. A deep breath can reaffirm that despite how everything feels, everything is going to be okay. A deep breath confirms that you are still alive and able to handle the situation in front of you. A deep breath can remind you that you are taking care of your most basic needs and that you deserve peace. That deep breath is a sign of hope.
Sometimes one breath is enough. Sometimes you need several. If you need several, take several. Sit and breathe deeply for five minutes or an hour. Your breath is always there for you. When you notice yourself getting carried away by a mood, take a deep breath or two and let the air out of it.
A deep breath releases the tension you have been holding. Whether you have been holding the tension for an hour, a week, or a year, a single deep breath can be the first step in the transformation of that tension. Any time you notice tension building, that breath is there for you. Irritation, anger, fear, loneliness, can all be addressed with a focused breath. If you remain alert for the onset of these feelings, you can always be ready with a fresh new breath. Whew!!
It is amazing to think that we were all babies. Just before that, we didn’t exist at all. As babies, we spent our days in perpetual wonder, experiencing whatever was happening. If we felt discomfort, we cried. If we felt joy, we laughed. Food went into us and poop came out of us. We soaked up love like sponges.
At some point in our lives, we got the idea that we were something different from everything around us. We began to get ideas about what we were and what we were not. We learned who we could and could not trust. We learned that the world was safe or scary. We learned how to negotiate our emotions. We learned that when we do certain things, the world responds in a certain way. Those ideas, formed in our earliest years, remain with us.
These ideas about ourselves and others, life and death, good and bad, formed by child versions of ourselves, with little to no consideration at all, became solid. Now, as older versions of ourselves, we spend our lives defending those ideas with our thoughts and actions. Even though these ideas can cause us considerable pain, we defend them, sometimes to the death.
These solid ideas are not really solid at all, they are just ideas. They are habitual, unexamined ways of thinking. If we practice looking at these ideas about what we we think we are and we remind ourselves that we really don’t know anything for certain, we can start chipping away at those ideas that cause our pain. If we chip away enough, we may just find our baby mind again, delighting and despairing without any fear of the future or regret of the past. If we chip away even more, we may discover our mind before we were born. Then we could radiate love like the Sun.
We believe that there is always room for self improvement. That is not true. That belief is a natural response to our basic state of discontent. When we live our lives through our egos and feel the essential suffering of life, we cannot help but imagine that we could be better people. We could be stronger, smarter, faster, better looking, happier, nicer, or more enlightened. Changes in our circumstances do not improve us, they just change how we imagine ourselves.
We live in a world that is centered around us. We see out of our eyes and we walk on our feet. We develop an idea about who we are that is constantly measured against some ideal that we are not. We see beautiful, admirable characteristics in people all around us and we want to possess those characteristics. We imagine that if we possessed those characteristics, our discontent would go away. We imagine that, because we do not possess those characteristics, we are not as good as we could be. We either feel despair that we cannot experience the ease of life that others seem to enjoy, or we constantly feed the desire to improve ourselves.
If we stop feeding the desire for self improvement and take a good look at what and who we are, we can appreciate our circumstances as they are. When we understand that we are not our circumstances, that understanding will not improve us or diminish us, it will just mark another step in our journey.
If we don’t worry about becoming smarter, happier, and nicer, we give our intelligence, joy and kindness the opportunity assert themselves. When our joy and kindness express themselves in all that we do, the universe will not improve, it will just continue to flow, changing and changing.
When all there is is now, it puts a lot of pressure on now to be something special. Now is clearly something special, but if we demand specialness from now, now may not live up to our expectations. When now doesn’t live up to our demands, we start to imagine other times in the past, future or different present, that were better, will be better, or could be better than now.
Those imagined and remembered times may seem better than now, but the remembered times were always leading up to now and the imagined times can only grow out of now. If we think that there is something wrong with now, then our expectations of now are unrealistic. We are making impossible demands of now.
Now doesn’t try to impress, but if we pay close attention to all that now is, we can’t help but to be impressed.
If you imagine all the activities that are taking place in the world, in the universe and in the cells of your own body right now, you get a sense of all that now contains. Just now, as you think of nothing but now, now seems special. It’s nothing special. It is just now.
If you find yourself feeling lonely, it is the perfect time to find yourself. Loneliness is the basic suffering of life. It is the fundamental discomfort of being alone with yourself. It is confronting your core discontent. Friends and lovers can’t rescue you from loneliness. They can only distract you. Loneliness will continue to seek you out until you make friends with it.
To make friends with loneliness, you have to welcome the feeling. Although it is an uncomfortable feeling, it is there to show you something wonderful about yourself. When you notice loneliness, you can neither give in to it, nor run away from it. You have to confront it. If you give in to it, you will feel miserable and imagine a long sad life ahead of you. You will imagine that you have personal deficits that make loneliness inevitable for you.
If you run away from it, you will do all kinds of frivolous things to keep yourself busy and distracted. You can develop all kinds of habits to keep loneliness at bay, but the feeling will wait for you. It will be there for you until you face it and find out that wonderful thing about yourself.
To find that wonderful thing, you have to ask your loneliness what is so wonderful about you. Then make a list. If the loneliness remains, add to your list. Keep adding to your list until you find that specific wonderful thing that the loneliness is trying to tell you about. Don’t doubt for a second that you will find it, but be patient. Every time you feel lonely, look again. Soon you will find yourself and you will have your loneliness to thank. Your loneliness will be gone, but you will have parted as friends.
Mindfulness can cure social awkwardness if applied consistently. If you find yourself in an awkward social situation, the mindful thing to do is not to pretend you are not awkward. If you are feeling awkward, the only mindful thing you can do is notice that you are feeling awkward. Once you notice that you are feeling awkward, you can start to unravel the awkwardness. If you are feeling awkward because you think you may have a bowl of spaghetti on your head, then you are probably worried about how you are being perceived.
When you notice that you are worried about how you are being perceived with the spaghetti on your head, then you are being mindful of your feeling (the awkwardness), your insecurity (the bowl of spaghetti), and your projection (the worry about what the other person thinks of you). As you consistently apply mindfulness, you may notice a hint of ridiculousness in your insecurities. When you develop awareness of the fallacy in your insecurities, you can transform them into confidence and watch the awkwardness subside.
When you practice being mindful through your awkward interactions, you will notice a strong sense of reward and triumph as you successfully negotiate each difficult social situation. When you are mindful of the bowl of spaghetti on your head, you will begin notice that other people are wearing meatballs.
Depriving yourself of things that you like can teach you about how desire causes suffering. The funny thing about desire is that it seems like something that just occurs naturally in us rather than something we manufacture. When we want to take control of our desires, we have to recognize that they are things that we can construct and deconstruct. We deconstruct desires through self deprivation and acceptance.
If you want to start depriving yourself of something, begin a meditation practice. Meditation is the ultimate practice of self deprivation. You do it for a set period of time, for as long as you can stand. Set a timer and sit. You sit in silence. You deprive yourself of movement, talking, listening to music, watching television, texting, eating and whistling, while you pay attention to your thinking. In meditation, you learn to see how your thoughts work as you deprive yourself of these everyday habits. As you get more used to those moments of meditation, you find you a basic feeling of peace in the middle of all that deprivation.
Once you can meditate for fifteen minutes a day, or twice a day, then you find you can do anything. You can quit any habit you want. As you quit an unwanted habit, notice yourself wanting to quit your quitting and restart your habit and notice your discomfort. When you feel the discomfort, you remind yourself that the discomfort is caused by wanting, not by not getting. Soon your cravings will go away. Although you may rid yourself of a bad habit, you may be stuck with a nasty meditation habit and an overwhelming desire to help others. Such is life, accept it.
The world is full of love. If you are looking for love, don’t bother imagining that special someone who will knock your socks off. Look for love. Love is abundant, you can see it anywhere you look.
If you go to a mall or a grocery store, you will see all kinds of people shopping in love. You will see parents with children, couples, friends and single people. They may not even notice that they are expressing love, but they are. They may not all be happy, they may be bickering, but they are also expressing love.
If you watch people anywhere, you will see people demonstrating love. We love each other. Children are most skilled at expressing love, so if you’re having a hard time noticing people expressing love, just look at the children. Children feed on love like plants feed on sunlight, so they wear smiles like leaves.
If you watch people and look for love, you will see it everywhere. If you make a habit of seeing love everywhere, you will be filled with love. When you are in tune with the world’s abundant love, everybody seems special and it’s not that easy to keep your socks on.