This quote today from Tricycle Daily Dharma resonated with me fiercely today. I’ve been resuming my sitting practice:
One of the main things that happens when you meditate is that regret starts to surface and you start to think about your life. Meditation neutralizes denial after a while and opens up the circuits and things start to flow in, and then you begin to realize that regret is a distortion of what’s real. What’s real is that this is your life, and it happened, and there’s no going back. There’s only altering your attitude and perception about it so that you can go forward.
The author is Lewis Richmond in Aging as a Spiritual Practice.
Regret is about the past. There’s no going back. You can just be here now and move forward.
I would add that forgiving and accepting yourself are important for letting go of past regrets.
But if you talk candidly to older people, I think they have an intimation that there’s something precious and new about growing old.
But I don’t think anybody would trade their mind. I think that life is cumulative, and if I look at who I was at 35, it’s clear I know more now. I’m a deeper person. I have a deeper appreciation of other people. I’ve just lived a life—a full life.
There’s some point in your life, early or late, when it hits you that you and everybody else that you care about and love are not going to be here eventually, so now what? That’s the gate. And when you’re at that gate, life changes on you. It has a different coloration. It’s more precious. It’s more serious. You feel a loss of innocence.
A lot of us nowadays will live to be 90, so part of the gate is, “Yeah, I’m getting old and I’ve got a lot of time left, so what am I going to do?” Play golf?
It’s [meditation is] good for knowing what’s real and what isn’t, and that takes time to emerge. There’s a tremendous actual liberation in knowing what’s real, and increasingly you can discern that in situations, through your meditation, “Well, this is just my stuff.” Or, “This is solid. This is real.”
Regret is the ego trying to distort what is unchangeable, and we have various words for how that happens. One of them is denial, which is very powerful. Research shows that it is largely neurological. The neural circuits simply don’t fire. The brain arranges to protect you from the pain; it’s like you literally can’t get there, and you arrange not to get there in terms of remembering, but I think transforming regret into appreciation is one of the main values of meditation.