“Guilt and forgiveness” (taken from the new book: “How to Live in Love”)

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MUSIC: “Sea of Life.mp3” by Alexander Bell

A very important question I would like you to ask yourself is this: Do you need to think to really enjoy your life?

Because often thoughts only serve to distract us. What they ultimately distract us from – which is to our great detriment – is the very deep beauty of life on earth, and the feelings of joy and happiness that spring from a healthy body and open heart. To experience the beauty and joy of the natural world, for example. we don’t need to think about it – we just need to be in it. In fact, the quieter your mind when you are nature, the more you will feel its magic, it vibrant joyful energy. It has to be experienced. 

The same is true with dancing, or singing out loud for example. You do not need to think about it. If you do, you will feel restricted and not really enjoy the freedom of expressing yourself. Often our thoughts interfere with our enjoyment of self expression. We worry what people might think, whether they will judge us or make fun of us. These fears come from the mind, and the only solution if you want to enjoy yourself is to ignore them.

But we also need to learn how to apply this attitude to the whole of our life. Life is to be experienced, rather than filtered through our mind and lived half-heartedly. As we begin to experience things more – which means feeling the experience, rather than thinking about it – we will start to feel like we are really living at last. Yes, we will experience emotions –  sadness, anger, guilt – but at least we are now feeling, and not trapped in endless thought processes, that lead us no-where. That is like being forever lost in the clouds. We need to come back down to earth, and feel more. Once emotions are felt they pass, and we always feel better.

Emotions have a very liberating effect on us when we allow them to come, be fully experienced, and then go, as they always do – usually quicker than we expect. But we only experience this sense of liberation and freedom if we don’t feel guilty or ‘bad’ about expressing our emotions, even if we inadvertently vent or release our emotion onto a friend or loved one. Sometimes this does happen, but feeling bad about a situation doesn’t actually improve the situation. Feeling guilty about your words or actions will not improve anything. It will only make you feel terrible. It is literally a waste of time, and just creates more unhappiness in you and your environment, and nobody wants this. 

So why do we feel guilty? Subconsciously, we believe that if we have done something that is deemed as ‘bad’ – like shouting at a friend for example – if we feel guilty about it afterwards, it somehow atones for our ‘bad’ behaviour. We continue to feel ‘bad’ and it is like a self-imposed punishment. With guilt we are literally only punishing ourselves for something which we thought was ‘bad’. What an insane way for adults to behave, to perpetuate unhappiness in themselves this way.

So what should we do instead, to break the cycle of negative thinking and feeling that guilt creates? The answer is easy – forgive yourself. But what does it mean to forgive yourself, and how do you do it?

Well, what is the opposite of punishing yourself? Forgiving yourself – but not just by saying “I forgive you”, but in a very practical way. How? You Stop Punishing Yourself

You see forgiveness isn’t something you “do” – forgiveness ‘occurs’ when you decide to stop punishing yourself or another person. For example, when we are angry with someone, we may treat them badly, ignore them or perhaps think lots of angry thoughts about them, and these are all forms of punishment we believe they deserve for upsetting us. And maybe if they come and apologise to us, we will stop treating them that way.

Yet until they do – which sometimes they don’t – we are punishing them, hoping they feel bad about what they did to us. Hoping they feel bad. Allow those words to sink in… We actually want another person to feel bad. That is punishment, and it is one of the biggest problems with the structure of our society. 

Many, many people in this world believe with all their heart that people who do ‘bad’ things should be punished, that they deserve to suffer. Isn’t that inhuman, to want another person to suffer? How can we harbour such a cruel, cold, heartless attitude toward another human? We believe they deserve it. Perhaps they did something cruel, cold and heartless, so they deserve only bad things, bad treatment, a bad life. People call this “an eye for an eye.” However, this is not an intelligent way of operating, because nothing is actually improved, nothing is made better from the situation – there are just more people suffering, in prisons mostly, whether they ‘deserve’ to or not. Often when they are freed from prison, they harbour more bitterness and resentment than when they entered, because of what they experienced in there. 

I believe this is changing, with some prisons now offering meditation and yoga for the prisoners. This is very good, because it allows the prisoner the opportunity to access a part of themselves where they are free of aggression, or hostility – something they may not have been able to do before. If this process is encouraged, then there is a possibility of deep transformation for the prisoner, so that he or she may leave the prisoner with a desire to good in society, to be creative, to help others in the world. However there are many, many prisons worldwide that do not offer such opportunities for healing. They are full of mis-treatment and unkindness.

Mis-treatment of others is deemed acceptable in these conditions, and we accept it as part of life, part of a punishment-based society. I believe the acceptable ill treatment of other humans is part of the darker side of society, which we try and keep out of our mind (although not very well, as people seem to devour more and more stories of crime and punishment in the newspapers and on the news).

Is there another way? – perhaps an alternative to a punishment-based society? Yes of course there is, but it requires a change of heart individually and collectively. It also requires looking at things from a different angle. If people are willing to do that, things will change, and we will have a very different and very beautiful new way of living together here on Earth. 

www.AlexanderBell.org

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About Alexander Bell

Awakened spiritual teacher, writer, composer and nutritionist. www.AlexanderBell.org
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