Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A "No Regrets" Thanksgiving and New Year

I Have No Regrets, and the World Too Has No Regrets

As we give thanks and approach the New Year, consider this as a contemplative meditation: “I have no regrets and the world has no regrets.”

These words indicate the essence of the way we should practice and view the world.

As we go through in life we notice very very very little is as we might wish it to be, and this applies equally to individuals, to any particular social groups or organizations, to society and even to the world as a whole. Moreover, throughout history, human beings have always been embroiled in the profound dilemmas of impermanence: birth, old age, sickness and death; and of desires that lead us to ceaselessly harm others!

Although many heroes and saints and prophets have arisen to alleviate human suffering, still, in comparison to the vastness of human sorrow their efforts really amount to no more than a cupful of water poured on a burning building. Strictly speaking, our heroes and saints end up "dying before their ambition is fulfilled."

Rather than filling ourselves with ambitions and resolutions, consider instead committing to a year of contemplating: I have no regrets, and the world too has no regrets.

How so? Set a timer for 10 minutes. Sit down in a comfortable chair and quiet your mind with a few long deep but gentle breaths. Make the inhalation shorter than the exhalation. Allow your body to settle down and your back and bottom to become one with the chair. Then address yourself to the meaning of the contemplation: I have no regrets, and the world too has no regret.

Find a pattern in which you can think analytically about the contemplation. You might, for example, consider the meaning of the two clauses separately [“I have no regrets” and “the world has no regrets], then together. Or you might choose to parse the words: what are regrets, what does it mean to have no regrets; no regrets for me, for the world, what are the synonyms and antonyms for “no regrets,” etc.? Alternatively, you can parse by contemplating the meanings of the subjects of the clauses [ “I” and “world”] relative to the no-regret-statement.

Another perspective for the contemplation is through impermanence. Since we know that everything, even us ourselves, is impermanence and ever changing; since we know that nothing is autonomous or permanent or existing independently from its own side; since we know that, at the very least, stuff is simply not as it appears to us. Therefore, while there are conditions to which we need to respond, with wisdom and right action, there really are no problems! Since there are no problems, how can we have any regrets?

Familiarizing yourself with the five aggregates (skandhas) is another way of contemplating this: familiarize yourself with what each of the five is and does, how they sequence, and which are pre-cognitive and which are cognitive. This practice that can open up your heart with gratitude and welcome in the New Year with a roadmap for a better and more peaceful life, for you and for the world.

As the New Year approaches, consider committing to a practice, to a thoughtful and studied life, in which you can say, moment after moment, day after day, “I have no regrets!” and simultaneously and intuitively feel that the world is in the same boat as you: it too has no regrets.

Email if you have any questions or want more information on this practice.

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy New Year.