It starts with me going back to a particular moment in time. The moment I said something, did something, acted on something that caused emotional pain for someone I knew. I recall each word I said, each action that led me to lash out in anger or resentment. I wonder at the causes and conditions that led me to say something rude or mean. Through my thoughts, I recall my state of mind and look, curiously, at the person who I was, in that moment, that caused such pain and anguish to one I knew and/or loved. As I examine, like an observer, my own negative thoughts and actions, I reach out in compassion and both that old self and the person aggrieved. I pray for forgiveness and fervently make the following statement: I will not use negative thoughts and actions to hurt another single human being.
To truly regret what happened in the past and to bring my mind to a place in which I will no longer cause pain to any human being, I have to regret those past thoughts and actions. I have to let go of my attachment to guilt, and to end the constant play of thoughts in my mind, perseverating over and over on the pain I caused. I have to have compassion for BOTH my thoughts and actions and the impact they had. Further, I have to offer my love and compassion to that person with no expectation of outcome. Simply put, I have to accept that I cannot fix some past wrong; what I can do is resolve, moving from this point on, to never cause such harm again.
These thoughts are in my mind today as I go back through my own past and wonder at what brought me here, to this point in time. The interdependence of our lives with others, our impact on all the beings we encounter, whether human or not, is deeply connected to our thoughts and actions. As I examine interdependence in my own life, I see the steps that led me to physical pain…the bad food choices, the decision to eat something I knew was bad for me, and, lacking the resolve to change, continuing the pattern until the choices made resulted in physical problems: being overweight, having other health problems, and the resulting self-recrimination and blame.
To break the cycle in my life, I had to do what folks have been telling me for years: to own your thoughts and actions. Without recrimination and guilt, accept what happened and resolve to change. The key, the one thing that unlocks the door to change, is regret and resolution. To clearly accept what I have done and then leave it. I come back, over and over again, to the words of Sogyal Rinpoche: to simple drop those thoughts and actions. To let them go. To not dig deeply in the shit of our lives, and recognize the problem and resolve to change it.
This past year, I have changed so many aspects of my life. It was the sense of resolution; the realization that I can change. The change, though, was not actions (Although actions are part of it). The change was in my own thoughts. I had to change my mind and not be held back by my own thoughts.
I guess what I’m saying is that we can change our thoughts; the very nature of who we think we are. We are, as Sogyal Rinpoche has said, not who we think we are. I am NOT who I think I am. I am a collection of impressions, emotions, thoughts, family, culture, race, class, sexuality, and a multitude of other things all smashed together and organized into some kind of coherent thoughts in my mind. My ego, that driving force behind it all, creates a voice that directs my actions BASED on all of that stuff in my mind. However, once I realize that all those thoughts are, in fact, not my own, I am set free.
My example of this crazy idea is something pretty simple: in terms of diet, I had heard for years that we must eat massive amounts of protein, specifically animal protein, to be healthy. My thoughts were collected around that idea and I ate food based on that principle. Those actions led me to a physical disability. I recognized, because of a physical ailment, that the message I had heard and incorporated into my thoughts and made into action actually was a masterful lie. Once revealed as an illusion, I was free to change my thoughts and actions, no longer bound by the voice in my head, the one that actually led me to experience physical suffering.
Once i realized that I was being lied to or that I had created a kind of delusion, I let it all go. As I released these thoughts, I found that I questioned just about everything else I had been taught, told, and held onto. I was, literally, free to take a completely new path.
So, my hope for everyone is two-fold: first that you come to recognize that your own thoughts are a problem in what happens to us in our lives. Second, that we all have the ability to fundamentally change our thoughts and break free from social conditioning. Once we can recognize those lies we hold dear in our own lives, once we realize that our thoughts are not our own, only then can we be free from suffering and help others find that same freedom.
May you be happy, fellow humans, may you be well.