Reading Stitches
Books, Poetry, Things I Wish I Knew For Sure, and not all that much about Knitting

Jan 6, 2011

I Deeply Regret

I received an email from a dear friend asking for my thoughts on this quote from Henry David Thoreau:

"Make the most of your regrets... To regret deeply is to live afresh."

I think going deep into the feelings we get from our mistaken behavior, actions and inactions, we can find out what matters most to us, what makes us feel successful and good, about ourselves and the world. So, if we regret deeply, we can seize that information as an opportunity to do much better.

I think we often confuse regret with guilt and obsession. They aren't the same things. We can regret our actions without blaming ourselves or others, so there is no need for guilt. And obsession is just another behavior we can regret. I think regrets teach us to live better and more honestly. To dwell only on guilt and obsession about our regrets keeps the deeper lessons hidden beneath a shallow veneer of concern.

The idea is to understand our behavior, to recognize when we have acted against our better judgement or personal moral code, and to learn from it. And learning from it, to move on to "live afresh". Not harboring obsessive thoughts and guilt trips about the regrets, but seeing them as milestones, or using them as stepping stones, in our learning about who we are and who we want to be.

You can start over and try again. (Every moment.) (I read recently, in Pema Chodron's book, When Things Fall Apart: "This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it's with us wherever we are".)

I always think of dogs, when I think of starting fresh, because Vinny has taught me so much. They don't waste time regretting. I forgive her for everything. And, because she knows this, knows that I love her and will protect her to the best of my ability, she trusts me completely. (She forgives me for everything.) She starts "afresh" every moment.

(Before Vinny taught me the reality of it, I first became aware of this natural gift that dogs have, from some very good books about dogs. The Dog's Mind by Bruce Fogle, Cesar's Way by Cesar Millan, and The Other End of the Leash by Patricia McConnell, are a few that come to mind, among others.)

You always have the opportunity to change the dynamics of your relationship with dogs (as long as they haven't been permanently damaged somehow). If you act as if we are "moving forward", "being present", not dwelling on what she has done that may have displeased you in the past (even the past few minutes), she will respond immediately. So, she reacts to what I do right now, not what I did, or what she did, but what I do, and what I will do next. She's always fascinated by what happens next. She really lives afresh in each new moment.

I can take my regrets and waste their lessons by dwelling in guilt or obsession, or I can learn from them and be grateful for them because they teach me things I need to learn right now.