The undisciplined mind is like an elephant so I have suggested that, if we are to be genuinely happy, inner restraint is indispensable. We cannot stop at restraint, however. Though it may prevent us from performing any grossly negative misdeeds, mere restraint is insufficient if we are to attain that happiness which is characterized by inner peace.” ~ Dalai Lama quotation from Ancient Wisdom, Modern World
I am not ashamed of my very human responses to the painful and difficult things of life. I get angry, hurt, and despondent just like anyone. I do things that greatly embarrass me at times. I have plenty of shadow stuff to work on, just like anyone. But I have learned that *whatever* arises in my thought, and heart, is something that needs my attention, something that I need to look into, with curiosity, compassion, and loving-kindness.
It doesn’t really help to think, “I shouldn’t be thinking such thoughts or having such feelings.” It’s too late. You already did! These feelings or thoughts, which arise due to causes and conditions, we identify as “I” or “me’ or “mine.” And it does not help to deny it or to suppress the arising. Yes, sure, it’s a red flag, maybe even a neon sign flashing for immediate attention! The arising thought or feeling may point to some serious stuff. Our moral sense of the wrongness of something is *essential* to a healthy being. Never try to suppress or ignore your moral nigglings and alarms! But the first step to freedom is being honest enough with ourselves to admit the “truth” of what has shown up for our attention. And the “truth,” in this sense, is simply *what is* — yes, I am feeling this, yes, I felt that, yes, I am thinking this, yes, I thought that, yes I am doing this, yes, I did that. Just the facts, ma’am!
I find that genuine regret and remorse only arise when I am unmindful of some painful arising of feeling as “I” or “me” or “mine” and don’t give it what Buddhism calls “appropriate attention.” Some thoughts and feelings can be looked into and quickly dismissed; others may require deep self-investigation and courageous path-finding. If you really listen to your heart, you will know what to do.
But don’t ever be ashamed of being human and for having your human feelings. You can’t control the thoughts and feeling that arise as “I” or “me” or mine.” They come unbidden, whether we want them or not. And they tell us all about ourselves, sometimes more than we want, or even sometimes can bear. That’s OK! The good news is that what we can always own, and should own, is our *response* to what arises as “I” or “me” or “mine.” Let that response be mindful, attentive, curious, wise, patient, and compassionate.
Sometimes, we may think we are our own worst enemy, and I suppose in a certain sense that’s true, in that we cannot escape the effects of our own unskillful, selfish, ignorant thoughts and actions. But we are also our own very best friend, for everything we think and do tells us something about us we need to understand and know. If we will only get to know ourselves and investigate ourselves, we will indeed find we are our own very best friend. As we learn this, we become, as the Buddha once said, lamps unto ourselves, and the light in our hearts will take us all the way home.