Tovana, a Dharma network in Israel, invited me to offer teachings on Yom Kippur, two major holy-days in the Jewish calendar. Tal of Tovana hosted the sessions. I gave six 60-minute sessions, three sessions on Day of Repentance and three sessions on Day of Atonement.
Day One. A Day of Repentance
This is a transcription/edit and adaption of one of three Zoom session on Yom Kippur on 3-4 October 2022. Day 1 on Repentance. Day 2. Day of Atonement (see link to a transcription of guided meditation/talk of one of three zoom sessions.
A Guided Meditation on Suffering from the Past
Guided Meditation/Reflection consists of a sentence or two followed by 30-60 seconds of silence followed by another sentence over 30 minutes.
- We ground and centre ourselves through application of real presence here and now
- We abide in the silence
- Abide calm and still
- When ready, quietly direct the focus of your attention to what was, what did arise
- When ready, quietly direct the focus of your attention to what didn’t take place, did not arise due to neglect, denial or withdrawal.
- in either case what you did or what you failed to do can trigger images, stories, grief sorrow, self-blame, anguish or guilt.
- Painful memories may not arise in this meditation but may get released later today or in the days ahead.
- Address three key areas of human existence.
- 1. Physical (action, the deed) or inaction. What was the deed the action triggered regret?
- 2. Communication. What did you say? What was the content of your text, email or letter which you now deeply regret?
- 3. State of Mind. What were the feelings, thoughts, story in your mind that brought about a reaction which inflicted suffering on another?
- You may not recall anything specific.
- A guided mediation will naturally develop greater awareness of what we do and don’t do, say/write or avoid saying/writing and the attitude in the mind.
- Do you have views which support violence?
- Do you have views about being hurt, wounded, traumatised?
- Do you identify with views in your mind to inflict suffering on another(s)?
- Do you hold onto a negative image of certain individual (s) which obstructs understanding and clarity?
- Do you experience any regret, repentance for any reactivity or inactivity?
- Do you project your own unresolved stuff onto another or a group of others?
- What is more important to you being clear or justifying reactivity?
- Do you need the support of the wise?
- Do you stay motivated to make change instead of dwelling in regret and self-other blame?
May all beings explore significant movements of body speech and mind from the past
May all beings know a clear response to the living present
May all beings know the freedom to act with wisdom.
Talk on Addressing Regret, Remorse and Repentance
Teachings include the exploration of the interconnection of 1. Body 2. Speech/written word and 3. Thoughts/feelings. Body, communication and mind influence each other. Inaction also has consequences. All three are key features for reflection.
Some engage in wilful indulgence in the past, a tendency to go around and around an issue (called samsara in the spirituality of the East). Circular thinking cannot lead anywhere. Give yourself a break. Allot a given time for reflection on past unresolved issue. Then give more interest to the living present. In the space found in the living present, then make an appropriate return to the unresolved.
Recognise the power of note taking. Write down something important that you have learnt from the suffering due to errors of judgement.
State aloud what you have written. Do not forget the power of the spoken word. It can help you realise what you want to change abut your behaviour or change the way you relate to others or yourself and change the way you speak or think about things.
The vibration of the voice contributes to clarity and reduce any suffering over the situation. You learn lessons. You develop a sense of moving on with a resolve not to repeat history.
Develop love, dedication and commitment to confirm an authentic repentance. You are willing to make a fresh start in relationship to yourself, your job, family, organisation or country. Remember, humility and honest with oneself supports the learning process.
Remember the often-used metaphor of two steps forward, two steps back, two steps forward, one step back, or two steps forward, three steps back. This is life. The initiative to start afresh matters. See the change you need to make and apply them. Unresolved stuff might trigger volcanic eruptions, more than you realise.
Then start taking steps in the right direction. A lot of issues might come up. It’s not easy to feel appreciation for the past, to handle the volcanics of the inner life. This is an ongoing process. If you’re patient with the process, over days, weeks, months or whatever, you will feel the past has less influence over you.
To take a simple example. You smoke cigarettes. You keep wanting to go back to smoking. The addiction keeps coming into consciousness, but you stay steady with your dedication to end smoking. Smoking ends and it may well save you from cancer in the future. You appreciate the absence of the addiction.
We hear a lot of mindfulness of what is present. We do not hear enough about appreciation for and recognition of mindfulness of what is not present, such as an absence of unhealthy habits and forms of behaviour that used to make life difficult.
Be careful of generalisations “I never.” “I always.” “I can’t.” These generalisations form a painful mythology in the mind, a corruption of perception and view. Yes, the presence of issues makes immense demands upon us. At times, the demands are not present. There is the absence of such patterns for minutes, hours or much longer. Appreciation of the absence protects us from sweeping and crude generalities about ourselves or if we target another or others. Generalisations reveals to use we are not living in reality but in the spell of impressions.
The tendency to abide in a sweeping statement will not liberate us from the anguish of the unresolved regarding past, present or future. Recognise calm, appreciation and friendship when it features in the mind. These experiences, even short, can help reduce influence of the old, unresolved and problematic, such as life-threatening ills and or a heavy-duty crisis.
Even in those situations, you have the potential to get a perspective Suffering is not always in the forefront of consciousness. You read a book, have a conversation with a friend or look out of your window as the day unfolds. the day. These experiences remind you that painful information or an unresolved trauma often comes in waves. You refuse to indulge in generalities about yourself.
The theme today places emphasis on the activities of body, speech and mind in the past which triggers regret, remorse, repentance. Be respectful to your language of description. What words of description do you use – disappointment, regret, trauma, failure to do, self blame, negativity, fault-finding, guilt, self-harm and more? Can you neither deflate or inflate the experience? Take care with your descriptions of your past. If you wish to resolve your painful memories, then do not perpetuate them through self-indulgence.
Observe what changes you can develop. Cultivate a sense of moving on. Others might tell you time will cure. Do not buy into this. This is street rhetoric, a nonsensical idea of human beings. There is no assurance time heals. The issue might go quiet. It might seep into the background, but it hasn’t gone away. The suffering from the past can influence your capacity to resolve other issues arising in the present.
We also do not have to try and work everything out to take the suffering out of the situation. We transform enough in the perception so we can look to the past without soaking it in fear or blame. Reflections on the past can provide enough clarity not to suffer over it. That’s all we need so we can get on with our life.
This means you do not have to keep digging and digging into your history. We can harass our mind with endless questions.
Where did this come from? Why did this happen? You can dig and dig into a hole and then end up in the hole.
Dissolve the suffering. That’s a precious freedom from the problematic past.
FOOTNOTE: The experience of guilt weighs the mind down. Guilt often includes memory, emotions, images, self-blame, negativity and unhappiness. There is little or no space to address the issue. Regret does not weigh the mind down. This gives space to reflect and enable changes in attitude/behaviour. We can take responsibility in skilful and healthy ways.