Regret - The contemplative practice of recognizing personal growth to the extent that past words or deeds are recognized as misaligned with one's current state of being.
This is my attempt at defining, or redefining regret. I do this in recognition that wisdom is here for the taking, for all of us. I do this as an exercise of introspection, matched with a willingness to be real about whatever occurs to me, even when it's uncomfortable. I believe that the very discomfort which comes from recognizing the senseless nature of old school regret is the truest indication I'm onto something worthwhile.
As the evolved species, it seems funny that regret is one of the biggest things that connects us to one another. #Funnynotfunny. It's like mindful consideration gone awry. Experiencing regret is something we all have in common. It's something that, in one way or another, informs us. However, many times, we come into faulty thinking as a way to try to come to terms with the negative feelings associated more so with craving and aversion than regret itself, and as a result, we miss the actual message.
The message is quite simple. Recognize growth and expansion, for and within yourself. Recognize growth in awareness, openness and willingness as they relate to situations, behaviors and decisions, and then come back to the NOW.
Here's my idea. Regret is simply the uprising of wisdom. This wisdom usually points to one of two things: 1) personal growth or 2) fear.
Any version of regret, that isn't simply a recognition of personal growth, is at its foundation, fear. In the case of a so-called bad choice, the fear is that I would somehow otherwise find myself better off, perhaps more whole than I am now. Feeding into this fear is like reading and believing in what I know is actually fiction. I am improving with this. However, I sometimes fall into the trap, pretending that I know the unknown and unknowable. This is how I tend to stand on the side of fear. Choices I make are best for me when I can start with a sense of where I'm at right now, not as much where I'll end up as a result. Truth is, I don't really even know what "a better place" looks like.
To routinely participate in the magical thinking of "I wish I could go back and change that", or "If only I had done this..." I run the risk of forming a habit that perpetually denies what is right now and all that had to come together for right now to exist as it is. This is the fast track to the creation of personal suffering. To fully accept this moment as it is NOW would mean that I must also fully accept all the events and occurrences of the past, as they are what led me to this version of NOW.
Regret, in the way I've defined it, is simply a recognition of personal growth. It comes in basically two ways.
1) I consider the decisions I've made in the past and realize that I've grown enough in my personal power and awareness since then that I would make a different choice now. I'm not wishing or wanting. I see the opportunities, situations, and the playing out of the choices made as having been teachers, something to grow against. It feels grown up to look back on past decisions and recognize that the person I am today would not make the same decisions that a younger, less wise version of me made.
2) I consider the decisions I've made in the past and realize that I have not grown in my personal power and awareness since then to make a different choice now. I'm not wishing or wanting, just humbly accepting.
There is an opportunity to see how awareness has actually grown here. For anytime I bring mindful attention to a past question, decision or situation, I am asking for wisdom to present itself from within. Even if I recognize I would make the same poor decision over again, there is likely enough personal growth that I at least seek to avoid situations that would force that decision.
This one feels a little tougher, like there are more opportunities to get hooked into stories of failure. It is important that I remember compassion, recalling again that wisdom is here for the taking, and that perhaps the wisest, kindest thing I can do for myself is to simply acknowledge where I am now.
I move through my days with a longish list of ways I see myself differently, now as opposed to anytime in the past. I have found a measure of peace in that.
There is something else to consider. Chew on this, and let me know what you think. Is the determination of a good choice or bad choice strictly contingent upon outcome? Is it then impossible to know what a good decision is until after experiencing the outcome? Is there a situation in your life that In theory you would never choose (again), but at the same time realize that it has completely enriched your life? And what then do we come to realize about control? Or karma for that matter?