I just came back from a jogging session in the snowy forest.
I was so happy to have done that.
Even more so since i nearly listened to the voice that tried to persuade me not to go running because i just woke up from my afternoon nap, and because it was getting dark, and because it was cold outside, and because it’s sunday and i can rest and don’t have to do anything, and because i could read a book instead and because there’s snow so it will be slippery and i probably wouldn’t be able to run.
But i didn’t listen to that voice, and followed my intuition and my urge to go running.
I now realize that i never have any guilt and remorse over going for a jog or a walk in the forest, even when I spend more time than i had planned. However i do often feel remorse over NOT having gone to run and walk in the forest.
I often feel guilt when and after I eat meat and processed foods, but not when I eat vegetarian food, and even less when i eat vegan food.
I feel guilt when i don’t practice meditation and yoga for a few days, but never when i do practice. I often end up practicing longer than what I had planned.
I feel guilt when i ejaculate, but never when I don’t ejaculate, even when i chose not to ejaculate for 7 years.
I feel guilt when I haven’t written anything or haven’t even tried to write for a few days. I don’t feel guilt when I sit for hours in front of my book draft, even if I don’t actually write anything.
I feel guilt when an opportunity comes up and i don’t seize it.
I don’t feel guilt when i have seized an opportunity, even if nothing came out of it.
So maybe guilt, shame and remorse are there to remind us of what’s good for us and what isn’t.
Baba Dez Nicholas, one of my teachers, described it as “healthy shame”, for example what you feel when you made a promise and didn’t keep it.
Obviously one can feel guilt because he was programmed by society or religion, for example guilt over not buying that product or guilt over having sex or masturbating.
But even in those cases, I believe it’s possible to differentiate between programmed guilt and healthy guilt.
When a woman masturbates and experiences guilt, she can be aware that there is the joy of connecting to her body, femininity and sexuality; and she might be aware that the guilt she’s feeling was imposed by her religion or social circle.
On the other hand, when an overweight person eats 5 pieces of cake when he knew he shouldn’t eat a cake at all, although there is the momentary joy of the sensory pleasure (the sight, smell and taste of the cake), it is usually followed by guilt and remorse.
Doing things that give us momentary pleasure isn’t inherently wrong, but sometimes it can hurt us in the long run.
Notice that sometimes you might be experiencing FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) when faced with that cake or a time-limited super-special only-for-you offer to buy something you probably don’t need. What you might feel when you don’t eat or buy isn’t guilt, is more like a fear that you missed something.
Maybe healthy guilt and shame is perceived as coming from within, from an intuitive knowing that we were not true to ourselves, whereas chronic guilt and shame comes from the outside, and might be even represented in our minds by our parents or priest or high school teacher.
There’s a balance between guilt and self-forgiveness.
It’s important not to go on a guilt trip and beat yourself up, but rather to forgive yourself.
On the other hand, don’t disarm the possible benefits of the guilt, and its power to help you make better decisions. Feel the guilt, inquire into what you did and why you did it, and make a firm commitment not to do it again.
Use guilt, shame and remorse as reminders of what serves you and what doesn’t.
Try delaying whatever action or decision and see if you still want to do it an hour, a day or a week later.
Try to imagine if you would feel guilt and shame over an action and ask yourself if it’s really worth it.
Sometimes you can still choose to do it, just so you could experience the guilt and know better for the next time.
The next time my mind tells me not to go running, i might remember that i often have guilt when i skip a day of running.
The next time my mind tells me to ejaculate, i might remember that after the 20 seconds of pleasure, I’m usually sorry i did it.
The next time my mind tells me to check facebook rather than to face my book draft, i might remember that i usually have guilt over time spent on facebook and youtube, and literally never have guilt over spending time writing or even trying to write my book and blogposts, for example this one, which I wrote in an hour after coming back from jogging in a dark snowy forest.
How does your guilt and shame direct you in doing more of what really serves you, and less of what doesn’t?