Dealing with guilt

Trial And Error, modified 7 Years ago.

Dealing with guilt

Posts: 116 Join Date: 2/27/13 Recent Posts
I have been dealing with some guilt for a while. A long while actually. It has gotten better over time, but now it seems like it might have reached a stable baseline level. I'm wondering how people approach and deal with guilt. How does it affect their practice? How does their practice affect it?

From a morality perspective, I feel that as long as I don't make this thing up to whoever it caused harm (and I can't, at least for the time being), I'm not being moral. That's nobody else's understanding of morality. That is my understanding. And I feel that not being able to live up to my standards of morality effects my practice. Has anyone had similar experiences? What did you do?
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Ian And, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Dealing with guilt

Posts: 785 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Trial And Error:
I feel that as long as I don't make this thing up to whoever it caused harm (and I can't, at least for the time being), I'm not being moral. That's nobody else's understanding of morality. That is my understanding. And I feel that not being able to live up to my standards of morality effects my practice.

There's a very simple solution to this. However, I'm not so certain that you will want to hear it. Much less to do anything about it. But given some time, you will eventually realize that there is no other course.

Very simply, you have to learn to forgive yourself. And move on.

If you are truly repentant – and only you will know whether or not you are – then there is not much else you can do (aside from accomplishing what you cannot do "for the time being"). Forgive yourself, and get past this.

This would make a good subject for contemplation. Use it.
Sakari A, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Dealing with guilt

Posts: 38 Join Date: 12/28/13 Recent Posts
Hi Trial and Error,

I used to have a morality very much like the one you describe. For me, I noticed that such a belief was intimately connected to my need to feel superior to others, i.e. "look at how disciplined I am, a samurai of sorts, doing his duty even when no one else does theirs". And why would someone need to feel superior, unless he already felt himself to be inferior?

So I'm agreeing with Ian And that forgiving yourself is hugely useful. Here's a question that I've frequently asked myself, whenever I've noticed that I'm being especially hard on myself: If it were some other person in that situation or who did that deed, would I think of them as harshly as I think of myself? To my relief, the answer which has emerged from that question has always been a clear and gentle "No". I don't know what kind of answer you would get, but I bet it would be useful to know.

Another thing I do, daily or several times a day, is the following tonglen-inspired practice: First I imagine whatever feeling seems most pressing at the moment as a dark cloud of pollution. Then I breathe in, slowly and deeply, imagining the pollution going into the center of my body. I breathe the lungs a bit more full than would be comfortable and hold my breath for a few seconds, to better feel my resistance to the feeling. As I hold my breath, I imagine the pollution being transformed into clear or white air. Breathing out, I imagine this clear air being given out as compassion and acceptance, bowing forward as I breathe. Usually just a few such breaths is enough to make me noticeably more at peace with the feeling. At which time another, perhaps an even more bothersome feeling may be revealed in its place. So I repeat the procedure at least until the bulk of the emotional pressure has dissolved. Even just two minutes of this per day has taken a noticeable load off my shoulders.
Trial And Error, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Dealing with guilt

Posts: 116 Join Date: 2/27/13 Recent Posts
Thanks for the reply. Your comment is insightful and there is truth in it. One realization I've come after reading it is that a big part of what's bothering me about this is the still remaining ill will that I have.