Photo: Simón Pais-Thomas
By Tina Su
We had a blissfully fun time in Hawaii, filled with sun, laughter, and relaxation. It was truly an occasion of celebration for love and life. But in life, the opposite extreme also exists within the same time and space continuum.
Shortly after returning from our honeymoon, while still wearing our ear-to-ear smiles, we got news that my grandpa Lozier passed away on the day of our flight home, at the age of 95.
I was deeply saddened by this news and spent the next three weeks in silent mourning. Suddenly, all the problems created by my imagination seemed insignificant and petty, and I began to ponder my own mortality.
I reviewed the previous week, and regretted fighting with my mom in Hawaii. I regretted making her sad and angry with my immature and occasionally lingering teenage ways. I regretted not spending more time with grandma and grandpa Lozier. I regretted not spending more quality time with my parents while in Hawaii. I regretted all the time I spent thinking hateful thoughts about things I had no control over. I wished I could take it all back. I felt sorrow at the realization of lost time, and that I could never get it back again.
This is a record of what I’ve learned over the past few weeks in my pondering of life, death and regret.
Coincidentally, Jeremy had gone overseas for work during this time, and I spent these weeks in my own solitary retreat, reflecting on these emotions.
I had turned off the internet and the phone, and spent my time wandering between coffee shops and restaurants and parks, always with a book in my hand – usually fiction, so I could allow my mind to escape into someone else’s fantasy. I allowed myself to become absorbed with reading, people-watching, and thinking.
But when we are alone with our thoughts, our “pain-body” always finds a way to rear its ugly head and push the bad thoughts to the front. Despite things looking incredibly happy and positive for me, my mind wandered through thoughts of injustice, of guilt, of pain, and of the past which I could not change. What’s worst, my mind painted scenarios and stories that justified those heated thoughts that caused me the pain.
I struggled. I struggled with battling my own mind, my ego, and the reoccurring vision of injustice and regret.
And then it happened… I read a passage in “The Time Traveler’s Wife” that shook me out of the negative state I was in. It said:
“Everything happens the way it happens. Once and only once.”
“Ah!! It’s so simple!” I said to no one and everyone at the same time.
I closed my eyes and savored the words. I thought of each of the immediate problems that were bothering me, and repeated the sentence, as an application over the problem statement. And miraculously, it was the answer to all my “problems”.
A sense of peace washed over my Being. I smiled.
What I Learned
We love problems. Our ego thrives on problems. Even when everything is going as planned, we find a way to create conflicts, issues, and unhappiness in our own lives.
We allow our fears of the future and regrets from the past to consume much of our conscious attention.
We feel that we are unable to let go of grievances, of unfairness that we endured, of regrets. We feel unable to forgive someone who has hurt us, or seemingly took advantage of us, or who treated us unfairly.
We grasp onto these thoughts and hang onto them for “dear life”, yet simultaneously, they are causing us the pain from which we want to be freed of. It’s a vicious cycle, that takes us no where we actually want to be.
So what do we do?
The antidote that worked well for me was to ponder this sentence whenever my mind drifted towards a memory from the past that is causing me pain, “Everything happens the way it happens. Once and only once. And there is nothing I can do to change it. It is what it is. Life is short, I don’t want to dwell on this anymore. Let’s move on!“
This moment is all that we have. This moment is the only thing that is real, and in this moment, life happens. Let’s not pollute this moment with our past, which is no longer here.
“But wait, I do want to be happy”, you may say. Great! Then let’s stop dwelling on the past!
I am learning that there is no such thing as a mistake, rather everything that’s ever happened is part of our experience in this life, and it contributes towards our growth and development. Everything is the way it is, and it’s beautiful. Accept and allow the past to be.
What Can We Do?
“Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds
on the heel that has crushed it.“
~ Mark Twain
Forgiveness isn’t to “let them off easy” for the people you hold grudges against, but a gift to yourself, to allow the healing process to start. Nobody will benefit this more than you. And by you being well, you will spread the fragrance of wellness, compassion and joy to others who come in contact with you.
Being unable to forgive is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. It pollutes our inner space and disturbs our inner stillness.
It’s easy to say, but much tougher to act upon. It’s true, but it doesn’t mean that we should give up trying, and continuously working on our ability to forgive others, and ourselves.
Forgive our family members, forgive our ex-lovers, forgive our ex-friends, forgive those scenarios that didn’t go our way, forgive those strangers who may have unknowingly hurt us. Know that by forgiving them, we are liberating ourselves to enjoy a happier future. We have nothing to prove. It’s not worth it.
Deepak Chopra has a guided meditation CD that includes the forgiveness process. If you are having a hard time doing so on your own, I recommend it.
2. Death Bed Exercise
A better way to spend our energy, I believe, is to focus on something that we do want. If you found out that you were going to die tomorrow, or within the next month. Would you still be holding on to your regrets, resentments and problems? Won’t they seem petty in comparison?
Grab some paper and sit down somewhere you won’t be disturbed or disrupted. Close your eyes and imagine that you are on your death bed, you can’t move, you can’t speak. Knowing that you only have a day or two left, and then you’re gone forever. Make the images as real as possible, and feel the feelings of being in that position.
Now, imagine all the things you might regret not doing in your life time. Write them down, as fast as possible, without editing. Alternatively, imagine all the things you are grateful for from your life (things that your older self has experienced), things that are most important to your older self, during the last stages of your life. Write them down.
In your current state of consciousness, these are the things most important to you. Make these your priorities, and focus on these things, instead of things from your past that haunt you and hurt you.
3. Follow Your Heart
Create time for yourself, every week (everyday if you are brave) to spend on something you are passionate about. Do something that expresses your creatively, or something that you enjoy quietly. Listen to your heart and follow its whispers of desire.
Take up drawing, acting, dancing, cooking, singing, jogging, music, photography, or writing. Learn a new language you’ve always been curious of. Get lost in a wonderful book. Work on a project that aligns with what you want to see exist in this world.
And if you don’t know what your passions are, don’t worry, create the time anyways, and with enough exploration, you will be sure to fill that space with something that expresses yourself. Trust me, in time, you will find your passion. In the meantime, to do something that feeds your soul.
4. Visual Cues
Momentarily, I find myself slipping and giving into the allures of my mind and pain-body. Please be patient with yourself when this happens. It’s okay to fall backward sometimes, as long as you are moving forward as a whole.
I found it helpful to post visual cues around the house to remind me of the power I have in shifting my emotional state. I have printed and posted the following on my wall near my desk:
“Everything happens the way it happens. Once and only once.
And there isn’t anything we can do to change it. Accept the past as the past, and accept that everything happened which serves us for a happier future.
Let it go.“
Find a quote or a saying that you connect with, and helps to ground you to the power of the present moment. Either post it on a wall where you can see it, or put it on a small card and carry it with you in a journal or wallet.
Life is a journey of experiences, of learning, of growth, of loving, and ultimately, of contribution. But among the hectic demands of daily life, we forget why we are here and what matters to us most. Our judgment becomes clouded, and we forget to connect authentically and intimately with others. We forget to find meaning, we drift away from our passion and we forget to live in Joy.
Sometimes, life takes a traumatic turn before we are shaken awake, and become reminded that we won’t live forever, that our time in this physical body is limited, and to reflect on questions like; What can I do to contribute to this world? What do I want to leave behind? How do I want to spend my time? Can I forgive this person in order to end the suffering for myself? How can I make every minute count?
** What is most important to you? What thoughts are running through your head that are causing you to suffer? Share your stories and thoughts with us in the comment section. See you there!
In loving memory of Augustin Lozier, 1914-2009.
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