“Forget regret, or life is yours to miss”—Jonathan Larson
There’s a Buddhist parable called The Second Arrow. The story explains that in life, pain is inevitable. You will experience the pain of loss, betrayal, diagnosis, or grief. The pain is likened to being shot by an arrow and is outside of your personal control. However, when you get stuck pulling on the arrow and complaining about the arrow to show people that you have been shot, the subsequent pain, anger, and suffering is entirely your fault. This is the second arrow.
Living a fully present life keeps you from rehashing your mistakes, your breakups, and the job you should have taken. It allows peace of mind. You may know this already and yet pain from the past intrudes on your present- day happiness. Here are a few tips to help you avoid the second arrow.
1. Practice Gratitude
Being truly grateful keeps you in the moment. When you focus your attention on something or someone, your feelings of reverence will keep you in the moment. Gratitude (http://www.chopra.com/articles/how-to- develop-a-gratitude-mindset) happens in the now, no matter when the experience that you are grateful for actually happened.
That I “get to” wake up every morning, rather than “come to” after a night of substance abuse, and wake up excited to greet the day, is something for which I shall be eternally grateful. Coming out of decades of an exhausting substance abuse nightmare has taught me how grateful I am to be right here, right now, in recovery. Recovery is my priority as is turning my life and will over to a Power Greater Than Myself. Life has got fuller, more meaningful, and easier. I have a purpose today to share my experience, strength and hope with others who don’t have it yet.
2. Make a No “What Ifs” Rule
Spinning on what might have been keeps you from moving forward. Your thoughts may seem to circle back again and again to the things you think you could or should have done differently. When you catch yourself thinking a “what if,” just recognize that you didn’t and move forward.
I really feel today that everything happens for a reason. The good, the bad, the ugly have all brought me to where I am in the present moment. I am always in transition; I shall be a different person 5 minutes from now. And I continue to learn and grow from everything that occurs within and around me. I shall live with the “glass half full” mentality and positively move forward to be the best I can be.
3. Reframe Your Past to Make You the Hero in Your Life Story
You may tell your story in a way that doesn’t paint a flattering picture. Try to rethink your scenario in a way that has you in a position of power. For example, if you regret not going to college, instead of continuing to tell a story of regret, decide to either make a plan to get to college or to tell a story that supports the path you chose instead.
I no longer regret that I am an alcoholic. I no longer live in shame. Recovery from alcoholism has created a new me. I’m a person comfortable in my own skin, who understands what makes me tick. I no longer have to react. I no longer have to understand everything. I can let go and let God, live in the moment, be humble and grateful. Again, I feel this life journey has happened just the way it was supposed to, to make me this content and light-hearted being that I am today. I can simplify my life and prioritize the handful of people, places and things that are meaningful.
4. Get Physical
Take a dance class or a yoga class, or give surfing or rollerblading a go. When you choose an activity that requires your focus to balance or to learn a sequence of motions, your brain will be busy doing something other than ruminating on your past.
I have recently joined a gym that offers yoga and a wealth of other classes. The hour or so I spend there is just for me. I leave my head and my thoughts at the door. And I take the time to chisel the fascia off my bones from years of neglect. The pile of life that was and will always be on my plate is still there but nibbling away at it, one morsel at a time, seems actually kind of fun with my new mindset after a good workout.
5. Make a to-Do List
Having a plan for today keeps you from feeling ungrounded. If you fill your day with meaningful tasks (http://www.chopra.com/articles/5-reasons-to-never-ditch-your-to-do-list), you will have something to keep you from falling back into the pattern of regret.
I have good days and I have bad days. So my goal is to just cross three things a day off my To-Do List that goes on into eternity. It feels so good to cross off three accomplishments. Then it feels great to cross off one or two more if that is where I’m being called by my heart to do. Three things is easy; three-hundred is overwhelming.
6. Go Outside
Nature is like a natural reset button on your brain. The chemicals it releases when you get fresh air and sunshine help to overcome the ones released when you are sad, angry, or anxious. Use nature to sweep away the negative.
I am so blessed to work in my back patio. Feeling the breeze as if God were wrapping His arms around me gets me grounded. Being in tune with the birds helps to quiet the din in my crazy mind. Most of my day is spent out here and my creative juices get nourished. But even when I’m away from home I get outside daily. It’s like a meditation or new scenery or a new outlook on life.
7. Remember, Happiness is a Choice
In every moment, you have the choice to be happy. Victor Frankl, Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist who survived the Holocaust and founded the "Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy," is quoted as saying, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” If you are choosing regret as a pattern, consciously make the decision to replace regret with a different emotion. Happiness (http://www.chopra.com/articles/where-do-you-stack-up-on-the-happiness-scale), hope, excitement, or curiosity are a few good ones.
Living with a positive mindset sure beats the other option. It changes EVERYTHING! Even when tragedy occurs keeping a positive outlook rather than sitting on that pity-pot allows forward movement. And who wants to go back? I wouldn’t go back one day!
8. Start with a Mantra or Affirmation
If your day begins with a thought like, “Today is the first day of the rest of my life” or “I’m excited for what today will bring,” it keeps your focus on the present and future. Choose a positive affirmation (http://www.chopra.com/articles/daily-affirmations-your-hour-by-hour-positivity-plan) to start each day.
I still go back to 1998. I was in a 21-day alcohol treatment program in Reno, Nevada. Our days were rigorously scheduled from sunup to sundown and beyond. In a group community session we started each day stating an affirmation. I made up “I am a good person; I am a whole person.” At that time after decades of an exhausting journey of substance abuse, I felt anything but good or whole. I was a horrible mother, horrible wife, horrible person. I was a waste of space on the planet. I didn’t know why I was even here. I hated myself and looked in the mirror with my hand shaped like an “L” on my forehead and called myself a loser.
Today “I am a good person; I am a whole person” is still my mantra, my affirmation. And today I feel good in my skin; I love myself for who and what I am at this very moment. I embrace my journey and my past and my future. This didn’t come overnight. One day at a time, just like in Alcoholics Anonymous. Everything in baby steps. Be kind to yourself.
9. End with a Highlight Reel
Getting to sleep can be difficult if your thoughts keep circling to what could have been. Try counting your blessings instead of counting sheep. It makes for a nice transition from waking to sleeping state and sets your mind up to begin positively the next morning.
Again, baby steps. It takes practice and patience to get to the place of living positively, gratefully, humbly. But it’s sure worth the time and effort to get to the place where “there are no big deals”. Everything is perfect at this moment. Be joyful.
10. Avoid Comparing
Social media like Facebook or LinkedIn has a way of showing you the highlight reel of your friends’ lives. Make sure you don’t compare their highlights (http://www.chopra.com/articles/comparing-yourself-again-4-tips-to- survive-social-media-envy) to your unedited version.
Life isn’t a contest. Wherever you are at this time is exactly perfect for you; otherwise, you wouldn’t be there. Discover Deepak Chopra’s daily habits to find peace and happiness—no matter what is going on in your life—at our Weekend Within retreat. Learn More. (https://www.chopra.com/live-events/weekend-within/).
Unlike the new focusing on the bad happening in the world, social media mainly focuses on the good. We rarely see the good the mankind is accomplishing in the world. It doesn’t sell news. We rarely experience the tragedies, depression, heart-ache our friends are going through on social media. There’s a time and place for sharing those feelings and social media is not the place. That’s why in AA we have a fellowship and we have sponsors who know us, love us, understand us and don’t judge us. So don’t compare yourself with those on social media. You haven’t walked in their shoes now know the whole story… Just love yourself for who you are today, share the gifts that God gave you with the world, and know that everything is perfect at this very moment…especially YOU!!!
For those interested in inspiring Art with a Message of Hope and Inspiration, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com. Mahalo and have a “be kind to yourself” day!
About the Author
Tamara Lechner (/bios/tamara-lechner) Certified Instructor: Meditation
Tamara Lechner is a happiness expert and Chopra-Certified Primordial Sound Meditation (/articles/what-is- primordial-sound-meditation) Instructor. Her mission is to be so happy that those around her cannot help but step into her light. She enjoys writing, speaking, and teaching about how a positive mindset affects business, relationships, health, and life satisfaction. Tamara is often found throwing epic parties or walking barefoot in the sand. Join her on The Happiness Trajectory (http://www.ahamoments4u.com/free-online--the-happiness- trajectory.html), a free online mindset reboot, or find out more about her at... Read more (/bios/tamara-lechner)
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