Mindset Training Week 17: Regret
***Contains content that may be upsetting for some readers.
“Walk like you have nowhere to go.”
What? But I’m always going somewhere.
Cross-legged in a small room, I opened my eyes a slit to peek at the other meditators, each with eyes closed in deep concentration. One man sat perfectly still in the lotus position, head tilted towards the sky with a slight grin. He knew what he was doing. Others were in more obvious anguish. Their brow folds creased, their spines rounded, and their body sway emitted a painful energy.
In the jungle of Costa Rica for my two weeks of silence, I liked to watch people meditating. The intensity of their expressions arose in me the desire to know their stories. Feeling an instantaneous familiarity for people, my extroverted personality found it difficult to be around interesting, new people and not be able to speak to them. Mentally, I would ask them questions. When they weren’t there I’d talk to whatever was around. I spoke to the butterflies who hung out near the door of my casita and to the iguana rustling under my hut. The butterflies seemed interested. The iguana decidedly wasn’t.
The teacher’s voice brought me back. “Walk like you have nowhere to go.” We stood to practice this moving meditation technique. I picked up my right foot. Set the heel down and began to roll my foot into the earth like an adhesive strip. Again with my left foot. The slow-motion movement arose an annoyance. I didn’t like to go slow. Glancing around the room, I saw bodies moving like stiff, decrepit zombies in 1970s horror flicks. I fancied myself a fast-moving zombie like the kind in action movies. One with constantly varied high intensity functional movement. A zombie, but one who excels at CrossFit.
My favorite way to move is with speed and efficiency, exhausting myself with nonstop movement and force. The burning in my lungs, the sting in my feet that lingers after. It may sound a bit masochistic, but it makes me feel alive. Walking like I have nowhere to go, now that’s a challenge. Give me 100 burpees any day over that.
Still, I tried. After class, on my silent 1970s-zombie walk back to my casita, I noticed my pace increasing to what was my usual “city speedwalk” speed. I slowed. Walk like you have nowhere to go. I realized, Well, you don’t have anywhere to go.
In CrossFit, my mental practice is to focus on each movement and notice when my mind strays to wishing for the workout to be over. Come back. Return to the breath. Move through each moment with fluidity. Each moment of discomfort fades into the next.
Each step I took became mindful. My heel touched the earth, followed by the arch, then the pad of my foot, lifting off with my toes.
The air was hot and heavy and smelled like earth.
The calls of howler monkeys echoed in my ears shouting, “Listen!”
My eyes paused on each piece of vegetation, every leaf, every shivering branch. Before me, an intricate spiderweb hung suspended between two trees, glistening. At the center perched the most brilliantly colored spider I had ever seen, its legs splayed out from the red and blue orb of its body.
I came into being.
Life is the perpetual forward motion of an intense WOD. It burns. This going and doing is productive and can lead to an accomplished life. However, the need to do more, be more, and accomplish more can also mask the grief of the past and create impossible demands of perfection.
Every annoying emotion springs from the accumulated, unhealed grief of the past. It hinders forward progress like carrying a barbell laden with weights on a three-mile run. You may get to the desired finish line, but you ultimately made it much harder and more dangerous for yourself. Slowing down and walking like you have nowhere to go, through meditation, lightens the processing of healing and releases unnecessary weight.
My emotional rock bottom after my breakup with Adam put me into motion. I didn’t want to fall prey to my harmful addictions, so I created healthier ones. I aimed my life in a direction of growth. I put myself in a perpetual motion to forget and move on. I hit many speed bumps overdoing it but that didn’t slow me. I just transferred my efforts to something else and kept pushing forward. Once outward activities had maxed out their effectiveness, I shifted my “doing” inward. It took a global pandemic for me to come to a full stop and look at my past. I’ve reflected on all I’ve accomplished, and it’s more than I ever conceived I was capable of.
Now I’m facing my regrets.
Regret sometimes surfaces after you’ve reached the heights of accomplishment, from an elevated plane where you can look back and see where you came from. It’s a process that can only happen when you stop all the doing—even if it’s good doing!—and feel what was lost. Regret is a mental punisher.
Terminating my pregnancy is the biggest regret of my life. Up until this moment, I had dissociated myself with any emotions around this decision. I put it in the past and moved on. Waiting for me, it is a shadow I could not outrun.
The desire to punish myself for my past actions birthed the harshest critic, inner hatred. It caused me to attach to things and people who did not serve me and build an impenetrable wall between myself and the world. I didn’t believe I deserved better. I didn’t believe I deserved the life of my highest self. In this impenetrable prison, I was unable to access my highest potential and unable to fulfill my purpose in life. Even after all my work on forgiving and improving myself, this thought still clung: I surely don’t deserve to be forgiven.
Here, I’ll share with you how I processed this deepest regret. This experience is my own, and I don’t claim to speak for anyone else or make any judgment about others; I can only speak of what occurred within me and hope that you my readers will find meaning. I humbly ask for your compassion as I share this incredibly emotional process, forgiving myself for actions there seems no resolution for.
In my evening meditation one night, I called up the memory I’ve spent years pretending didn’t happen. I sat with the feeling of regret.
My unborn baby.
The ultrasound machine sat to my left, and the doctor asked if I wanted to look. I said yes. I wanted to see him. I knew it was a boy. I stared at the blurry image, grief wracking my body, wishing circumstances were different. Wishing I had the courage to make a different choice. Before they gave me the pill that would end my pregnancy, the doctor asked me if this is what I wanted. It wasn’t and they knew it. They asked me all the right questions. I lied and said that no one else was influencing my choice. I was grateful to them for sensing my fear, but I could not tell them the truth. I thought of Adam in the other room, and nodded yes. My fear kept me despondent.
In my meditation, I spoke the words aloud.
“My regret for terminating my pregnancy.”
“I ended my pregnancy.”
“I had an abortion.”
A nauseating feeling of anxiety washed over my body. I saw myself in the clinic room, in a weakened state. I breathed with the intensity of the emotions, uncovering the grief. The loss of my baby. This untouched, perfect soul in my care. I sat with the grief, unable to let it go and not sure what else to do. Unresolved, I eventually went to sleep.
A strange dream woke me early the next morning. I rose and knelt in prayer. “Forgive me. Forgive me. Forgive me,” I pleaded to God. With my soul calling for reprieve, I wished with every fiber of my being I could change the past.
I rose to sit in meditation. My eyes closed, what appeared to me next was like a dream. I saw a light at my heart and third eye connecting to the light of the universe and to the Divine Mother, an image that represents God for me.
“May I be forgiven?” I asked.
In my intuitive eye, I saw myself holding my baby.
My baby. I repeated the words over and over as my body shook and I wept. I looked at my child and asked him for forgiveness. I cradled pure light in my arms.
I came here for your growth, I heard.
As it was made known to me I knew it was true. My baby ended my relationship with Adam and deepened my resolve to heal and become strong. To teach the world to heal.
I looked down at this spirit being in my arms and told him I loved him. Wanting to hold him longer but sensing the end nearing, I gently placed my baby in the arms of the Divine Mother. Everything was surrounded in light. My consciousness shifted, and I again became aware the blacks of my closed eyelids.
After this powerful vision, my thoughts were roiling. I still wanted forgiveness. But I still did not feel deserving. How do I accept forgiveness? Here was God holding out this gift and I was refusing it.
God, I realized, is not the punisher. I am my own punisher. I was punishing myself and continuing my suffering.
Accept the gift, I heard. Accept the gift. Receive forgiveness like a gift from your beloved. Treasure this gift and hold it close.
“I receive the gift of forgiveness,” I said with humility, my faith in the words became stronger as I said them. “I accept God’s love for me. I am a child of God, and even in my imperfection I can be forgiven.”
And yet—and yet.
Even after this process, I still felt unresolved. I felt another message was out there for me, hovering in the ether just outside of reach. The dream that had woken me that morning came to mind.
In the strange dream, I was waxing the back of a well-known CrossFit athlete and talking about the benefits of saunas. (My dream consciousness has more absurd humor than emotional timeliness.) This athlete and his wife had been on my brain since I’d watched a documentary about their emotional adoption story.
The message came to me: You will adopt a child.
I have never even considered adopting a child. I’ve never felt deserving to be a mother. But here was my answer of how to be forgiven and how to forgive myself.
I will adopt a child.
Through this painful process, I discovered my ultimate why for living a life of growth. So I can be a mother to all. I seek a life of growth for my children and the lives I’ll affect. All of this came from being willing to sit with my regret, and my grief. To seek forgiveness and receive it, even though I feel undeserving.
By accepting forgiveness, I was opening to the greatest gift I could receive, God’s unconditional love. God wants me to fulfill my purpose. God wants you to fulfill your purpose. God wants us to be forgiven.
WALK LIKE YOU HAVE NOWHERE TO GO
When learning to process grief, don’t start with the most intensely held regret. Start small. Start by walking like you have nowhere to go. Place every increment of your step as slowly and mindfully as possible. Notice what arises. Notice anticipation for the next step. Notice annoyance. Repeat to yourself, “Forgive.” “There is nowhere to go. There is nowhere to be.” “Be here. Be in this moment.” Breathe. You’re learning how to process the grief of each passing moment, forgiving yourself of impatience and gratefully accepting the present. Afterward, sit for your on-cushion meditation practice. Practice receiving the unconditional love of the universe. This is how you cultivate self-love and evict the punisher in your mind. This is how you learn to receive love and be present in your life.
PRINCIPLES OF FORGIVENESS
Forgiveness strengthens discernment and willpower.
Rather than a “forget it ever happened” approach, with the process of forgiveness, analyze the decision-making path that led to the wrong action. The humility needed to look at yourself and see errors in judgment sets a deep resolve to heal. And healing takes the triggering effect of your illogical emotions away. The logical mind can employ its reason for higher discerning actions—and making amends to anyone you may have harmed.
Forgiveness frees the mind and body.
The mind can be brutal with guilt, doubt, and self-hatred, creating resistance in the body. Practice forgiveness to turn down the volume on the punishing inner critic. Feeling a little bad after a miscalculation is normal and can be a useful tool in your mental and emotional investigations. Take this feeling through the deconstruction process to identify what was lost by the action you took. Follow with the four mind training steps to redirect your behavior.
Forgiveness is showing compassion for yourself.
Forgiveness is not a form of self-punishment. Rather it’s an act of loving kindness to yourself, necessary throughout the process of finding resolution. If you’re having difficulty being kind to yourself, continue to work through your emotions, identifying old stories on why you don’t feel deserving of love.
Forgiveness illuminates your purpose.
When you refuse forgiveness and don’t find resolution for past action, the punishing mind traps us in the story of “badness.” Believing this story will keep you on the same erroneous loop that caused the wrong action. That’s not who you are. You were fooled by the sensory pleasure, or the illogical limiting emotions of the moment. Don’t become a victim of your punishing mind. Resolve to not be fooled again by investigating the experience, finding what you can do, asking for forgiveness, and forgiving yourself with humility and sincerity. Use experience as a teacher and work through your desire systems to evolve your soul.
In meditation, you shift from constantly doing to be-ing. In this state, the mind can bring up and clear out any past regrets, limiting emotions, and fears. All you need to do is dissolve into any discomfort and allow for healing. After your meditation today, stand up and walk around your space as if you have nowhere to go. Circle your room three times. Step mindfully, noticing each centimeter of your foot being placed on the ground. Notice your body moving through space. Focus on your breath and the word “forgive.” Be in each moment with acute present-moment awareness.
ON-CUSHION: 17-MINUTE MEDITATION
Meditate first thing in the morning and just before bed. Begin your meditation practice by repeating a statement of intention and liberation. Filter the truth of the words through your heart and mind. I am courageous and driven to improve. I love and forgive myself. The mistakes of my past do not define my future. I am freed through future right action.
10-MINUTE EMOM + SEVEN MINUTES OF STILLNESS
- Set timer for 17 minutes with 10 one-minute increment bells.
- Sit with your spine in neutral, shoulders over hips, ears over shoulders.
- Close the eyes and focus gently at the third eye point between the eyebrows.
- As you breathe in, imagine a golden light entering your chest and exiting through the back of your heart.
- As you breathe out, imagine the light entering the back of your head at the point where the skull meets the spine, then exiting through the third eye point.
Minute 0:00 to 10:00 (five rounds)
- Circulate energy from the heart to the mind as you inhale and exhale.
- Inhale: Silently repeat “Heart.”
- Exhale: Silently repeat “Mind.”
- Keep count of the ten bells by extending your thumb for minute 1, then placing your thumb to each finger pad for minutes 2-5. Repeat for minutes 6-10.
- Retain breath.
- Concentrate at the third eye point between the eyebrows.
- Silently repeat “Love.”
Minute 10:00 to 17:00
- Sit in silence for seven minutes.
- Concentrate at the third eye point of intuition.
- Circulate the breath.
- Silently repeat “Om.”
Notice the feeling of self-love awakened from meditation. Affirm I am worthy of love.
OFF-CUSHION: WALK LIKE THERE’S NOWHERE TO GO
When you’re moving during the day, slow down and walk like you have nowhere to go. Look for the opportunity to forgive. See the imperfection in others as your mirror. When you know the deep longing to be forgiven, you more readily forgive others. You can express love to others because you love yourself. Practice forgiveness as you go throughout your day. Look at every person you see and surround them in God’s love. Know the freedom of forgiveness and wish that for everyone you see.
Complete introspection questions and Chapter 17 exercise from your TMHH Workbook.