Living with No Regrets, Final Part of the Series
I have no regrets and the world has no regrets.
This is the third in an ongoing series
From part two of this series: First, we learn to understand that the information our mind is sending us is false and foolish, mostly pre-cognitive nonsense. Second, we learn to act in ways that make us mindful and aware instead of reflexive and reactive. And third, we commit ourselves to a regular meditation practice so that we can off-load four millions years of false stories (sankharas) that are driving us and the world to regret.
First, we learn to understand that the information our mind is sending us is false and foolish, mostly pre-cognitive impressions. Second, we learn to act in ways that make us mindful and aware instead of reflexive and reactive. And third, we commit ourselves to a regular meditation practice so that we can off-load four millions years of false stories (sankharas) that are driving us and the world to regret.
Our first step to a life without regrets is to not believe the story I tell myself that if I get more of those things that my amygdala likes and less of those it doesn’t like, I will be happy and all will be well in the world. Especially since we can readily see that (1) this doesn’t work–if it did, we’d already have succeeded, and (2) if it were true for me, then I would need to concede it as true for everyone else, which would leave us in such conceit and self-centered anarchy and chaos that we and the world would become nonfunctional nonfunctional.
We do this first step, the learning step, through study, contemplation, and meditation. Those three combine to send signals back to the parasympathetic nervous system to tell it to adjust and change. What do we study? We study sutras and commentaries, most especially on emptiness. There is a vast Buddhist literature on emptiness. If you have specific questions about how or where to access these, or where to find a teacher to guide you, please email me.
Second step, the interconnectedness step, we learn that there is a deep connection between what we do, between how we think about things and behave and whether or not we live in regret. The Noble Eightfold Path is the big picture. It provides the world view and understanding that leads to a life without regrets (right view and right intention); it provides the behavior guidelines, our main concern in this second step (right effort, right speech, right livelihood, right action); and then it enhances those with meditation (right mindfulness and right concentration) which leads to the wisdom that keeps our practice stable and alive.
One some levels, this is just learning the big picture, or the bigger picture, depending on our karma. On other levels, it is about developing the discipline to actuate these understandings and beliefs, which in my own practice usually is the more difficult task.
Step three, which is very closely related to step two, is developing a daily, lifelong mindfulness meditation practice. The single more effective tool for changing to a life without regrets is mindfulness meditation. Mindful alternate nostril breathing, which many students find to be the easier and most effective entry into mindfulness meditation, is also one of the most effective and fast-working tools we have for reversing the signal and telling the primitive brains centers that are controlling us to slow down and become aware of what’s really happening.
To be candid here, this needs to be more than a three-minute centering with a few deep breathe now and then when you’re feeling off kilter. It needs to be a daily practice; such as 10 or 15 minutes twice daily. It needs to be as part of the daily routine as brushing our teeth.
Just following one’s breath is the most common form of mindfulness meditation, but there are many others, and there are variations and modulations for each that can be explored so that your meditation leads you to a concentrated mind. Again, if you have specific questions about how to meditate or how to modulate your meditation to compensate for different levels or activity and stress in your life, or where to find a teacher to guide you, please email me.
Having lead a responsible and compassionate life with no regrets, when death approaches, as it does unfailingly in each moment and each life, we know how to respond–kindly and peacefully.