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If you’re feeling guilty about a past event, here’s how to ease your mind of that heaviness.

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Guilt is a, I think it's a very interesting obstacle. In some ways it's not, not maybe so dissimilar from regret. Something has happened in the past. We wish it was different in some way. Perhaps the way we handled it, something we said, something we did. And, if we could, we would go back and we'd change it. But, of course, we can't. And, so the mind likes to entertain itself with the idea that if it can't externally, then at least internally we can go back to that point and replay the situation over and over again. Now, on the one hand, again, a bit like regret, there is a, there's a really important purpose to it. It's good that we don't sort of retrospectively feel okay about something that we've done which wasn't very nice. You know, it's really important in terms of our future behavior and and how we kind of sort of relate to those around us in the world, and of course, relate to ourselves. But there is no real benefit to remaining caught up in that and playing it over, and over, and over again, and almost setting out with the intention to make ourselves feel bad about something that we've done. So, by all means, take a short period of time, you know, 30 seconds, a minute, to be clear in your mind about whatever it was that happened. Make that 30 seconds or minute also a time to be clear in your mind, to put down the intention to not repeat that in the future. And then, it's about letting go of both the past and the future and simply being present with what's unfolding right now. And, it's only by doing that, that we can impact our future. If we're living in the future in our mind, that's not the future. That's just an idea of the future. It's only by being present with this moment, now, and then the next, and the next, that we can genuinely impact our behavior and our experience in the future. Of course, guilt can encompass so many things though. And, for some people, you know, and for some things, the guilt might not be very significant. It might come and go quite quickly. For some more serious things, then guilt can really become quite sort of chronic you know. Again, it's really important that we're not negating what's happened. We're not not taking responsibility for that, or sort of owning that, but we are saying, "Look, there is no benefit to either ourselves or to people around us, by maintaining that conversation in the mind, and by continually judging, criticizing, and berating kind of any thoughts and feelings that we have. So, over time, if we can approach, even if it's a very kind of chronic sort of feeling of guilt about something very serious, if we can come to a place where we can approach that situation in our mind with a...


Duration4 min

About your teachers

  • A former Buddhist monk, Andy has guided people in meditation and mindfulness for 20 years. In his mission to make these practices accessible to all, he co-created the Headspace app in 2010.

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