A meditation practice of self reflection, taking control of the mental cause and effect that’s normally unconscious: the habits and activities conditioned by evolution, our upbringing, society and the media. This is a practice you can do at the end of each day: reviewing your day, rejoicing in the positive, and finding ways to sincerely forgive yourself for anything that you regret, so you can sleep better and be your best self the next day.
Today, we’re going to guide you through a practice that you can do at the end of a day; reviewing your day, rejoicing in the positive and finding ways to sincerely forgive yourself for anything that you regret. It’s a process of self reflection, taking control of the mental cause and effect that’s normally unconscious: the habits and activities conditioned by evolution, our upbringing, society and the media.
We can take control of our minds and steer them toward virtue so that our unconscious, habitual actions—the ones we do without thinking—are beneficial. And also so that more and more we become self aware and mindful, so that we can consciously choose how we react and respond in the world.
This practice is usually done at the end of the day, and if it’s the end of the day for you, that’s great. But you can also do it in the morning when most people meditate.
Wherever you are, move yourself into your meditation posture. Cross-legged on a cushion on the floor, seated in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Or, at the end of the day, it can also be nice to do this in your bed: cross legged in meditation posture, or even cozy under your sheets.
Refuge in your own best qualities
Begin by reflecting on our own best qualities; that our fundamental nature is good, kind, generous, patient, the way that we love to be treated by others is actually the way that we are naturally inside. But our natural kindness, generosity and patience and wisdom sometimes get obscured by disturbing thoughts and emotions, bad habits. We can train our mind to let these disturbing thoughts and emotions subside, and let our natural goodness come out.
So feel that sense of confidence now, confidence in your natural goodness.
Wishing others good
And also in the goodness of others, even those that annoy us the most. They mean well. They’re acting out of a wish to be happy. But they have a misguided view of the causes of happiness and instead cause themselves to suffer.
Without any discrimination, for a moment just wish others the same control; wish everyone good, wish everyone to have whatever they need, wish everyone health and safety and security. And also to gain control over their minds, wish them the ability to be mindfully present and to choose responses in the world that bring us closer together, that foster kindness and warmth and generosity.
And if anyone hurt you today, if you felt harmed by family, friends, co-workers, or strangers; If you feel resentment and anger toward anyone, now’s a good time to reflect on cause and effect in other peoples’ minds. Realizing that their actions are subject to cause and effect: their conditioning, their upbringing, their social influences, their strong emotions.
Of course, if you’ve been seriously harmed, it makes sense to stay away from this person, and even to seek various forms of action against them if necessary, through the workplace or the law. But most of the harms we experience day to day are smaller, and become exaggerated by our own sense of self-importance.
So, realize that their actions likely have little to do with you. Try and forgive them and see that they may have little control over their own behavior.
But I have more tools, I can control how I react. I can forgive. I can maintain my peace of mind, and I can understand that others’ behavior is subject to causes and conditions, that what they do and say aren’t in fact much related to me at all.
And that other person also has a right to happiness. If they are often irritable, angry, wishing them happiness, mental stability, means that not only they would be happy, but that they’d also stop annoying you, harming you and others; that the world would be a better place through wishing everyone kindness, even your enemies.
Stabilizing on the breath
And now bring your mind to your breath. Focus on the nostrils or the abdomen. And for one minute, focus on the breath coming in and out of your body to stabilize your mind.
If thoughts appear—feelings in your body, memories, or plans—just let them naturally pass by without pulling them close and without pushing them away.
And bring your mind back to your breath for one minute, silently.
Now we go into this practice that you can do at the end of the day. Or you can do it in the morning, if that’s the main time, you meditate. But at night it’s particularly useful because it settles your day. It helps you to make peace with any regrets, to rejoice in your virtues, and to go to sleep with a calm, clear conscience.
It plants the seeds in your mind of the actions that you want to cultivate more deeply the next day. And it reminds you of the ones you want to let go of, with sleep as a process that bakes these habits into your neurons.
So, start by rejoicing, which is the term for reflecting on your good actions of the day. Think back on your day from the moment you woke up to the moment you sat down to meditate. And try to catalog all the good that you did. Just smiling at someone is incredibly beneficial; helping people around you, even if it’s your job to help people, rejoice in having done your job. Having done it well.
Sometimes there are special kindnesses. Sometimes life gives us the gift of being able to help someone a little more. In the checkout line, if someone’s forgotten their wallet, many of us have had this experience and the extraordinary gratefulness of a person when you just give them a few dollars. Or giving money to a homeless person that allowed them to eat that day. Or caring for your children.
So for a minute, reflect on your own. Catalogue all the goodness that you did today. Feel good about yourself for it.
Next, we move on to regret. Regret is not guilt or shame. Guilt and shame are when we feel bad about ourselves, when we judge ourselves, when we think we’re a bad person for what we’ve done. Regret is just sincerely acknowledging that something we did was harmful to ourselves or to others. And that I’d sincerely prefer not to have done it, and would prefer not to do it again.
So, bring to mind one specific action from the day that you regret. This action can serve as a proxy for everything else you regret that happened during the day. Try to see it clearly. What happened, how you felt. Think, how much I would have preferred not to have done that. Imagine what you could have done instead: said something different, did something different, or simply not said or done anything at all. Quiet restraint is often the best course of action.
And then have the feeling of forgiving yourself, of understanding that your actions are part of conscious and unconscious conditioning, the result of the human mind’s reactive evolution of the imprints made by your parents, your school, your workplace, the media. Not all of these good, many that teach that revenge is good, that self righteous anger is helpful; messages that aren’t in your psychological self interest.
And now we go beyond the rational. Imagine that your body becomes energized, that it becomes like a hollow shell in the shape of your body, a glowing shell empty inside. And that a bright point of light comes out of nowhere, appears and grows above the crown of your head.
That light, like a little sun, is in the essence of everything good and kind, loving, generous, patient forgiving. Some of us have teachers who embody these qualities, and you could imagine your teacher’s mind mixed in with that light. But otherwise, just imagine those qualities infusing that light.
The light has a sense of knowing you, knowing everything about you: all your secrets, everything you regret, and still loving you, still accepting you, understanding your true goodness.
And then imagine from that sphere of light, light begins to beam down into your body, like liquid light. It feels warm and cleansing. And it pushes down all of your regrets, all your negativities. The things that you’ve said and done that you regret are like a kind of darkness that pushes down, that takes on an actual liquidity like crude oil, a dark, viscous substance.
The liquid light pushes it down, filling your body from top to bottom, clear light and the darkness pushing out the bottom of your body, exiting your body. Physically feel that you’re letting go of those disturbing actions, that you’re being forgiven. That they won’t bother you anymore.
The light fills your entire body from head to toe and those last bits of negativity, dark oil, pushes out the bottom of your body until you’re completely free of those actions, completely forgiven. You’ve forgiven yourself.
And rest in that feeling of being filled with light, goodness, renewed.
You’re forgiven. You forgive yourself. Your goodness is far stronger than any of these things you regret. Your goodness is your true nature.
Imagine again what you would have rather done, what you would have rather said or not said, done or not done. And resolve to try and do this the next time.
Try to picture yourself acting this way, responding in the way you wish you had. Imagining like this will make it possible for you to act like this the next time, to become aware before you act and do something different.
And then make a small resolution not to react in the way that we regret, not to act the way we did for as reasonable amount of time as possible: for a day, or an hour, or a minute, or a second. If you’re going to bed right now, it’s easy to resolve not to do so until you wake up the next morning.
And then we dedicate that all the merit from this meditation practice, dedicate toward steering your mind toward its better nature, through reprogramming our automatic actions. So that gradually our natural response is forgiveness, kindness, giving each other the benefit of the doubt, seeing the benefit of keeping a calm mind in the face of conflict.
And dedicate also to becoming more self aware, becoming mindful so that as we go about our day, we’re fully conscious to the working of our mind; we don’t respond automatically and instead act rationally, compassionately, choosing the best course of action, or no action at all, instead of being compelled to action by our inner loops and our mental habits.
And now, if it’s the evening you can get into bed and relax and feel that you’ve made peace with yourself. You might read, or watch a little show, or just go straight to bed with a clear conscience and a realistic sense of the good that you do in the world, the chain of cause and effect that leads us to do things we regret, and your sincere wish to steer yourself more and more in the direction of kindness and compassion.
Hosted by Scott Snibbe
Produced by Stephen Butler
Theme music by Bradley Parsons of Train Sound Studio
Photo illustration by Kanchi Rastogi