Transforming Guilt: A Simple Practice

Mountain blessings

Mountain blessings

I returned from a week with my family at a mountain-top resort. We swam, hiked flower-filled mountain meadows, golfed, played tennis, tasted wild raspberries, drank fresh spring water, made s’mores over a campfire, and slept in comfy beds on clouds of pillows with mountain breezes and trickling creeks singing us to sleep. I felt gratitude for every moment and soaked it all up, not to waste any of it.

Under the gratitude rested a subtle layer of guilt. Others in the world suffered and struggled while I delighted and relaxed into nature, convenience, and beauty. Would I wish a worse life for myself and my family? Would that appease the guilt? Of course not. On the contrary. I wish a life of beauty for all. I wish for everyone to have access to pure spring water, abundant fresh food, and clouds of pillows on which to safely rest their heads.

Doing what we can to help others, to always contribute to the welfare of others, is vital. And we do this in many ways: acts of kindness, donations, volunteering, supporting education and commerce, restoring and protecting resources, and standing up for those who cannot stand for themselves. Despite our actions, however, moments of sweetness can often be soured by the knowing that others suffer. When guilt seeps into our moments of joy it serves as an opportunity to practice a more subtle contribution to the welfare of others.

Upon returning home from our brilliant holiday, I came across this quote from Jets√ľn Khandro Rinpoche as she referred to generating an “attitude of vastness”:

“…Seeing a beautiful flower while walking along, for example, one could immediately say, ‘May the beauty of this flower be experienced by all sentient beings; at this moment, may all beings open up to nature and be able to see this.’ If one stops to take a rest, one could say, ‘Through my resting today, may all sentient beings have the chance to rest awhile.’”

Guilt does not serve anyone, yet it can be a constant companion to many. Gratitude helps, yes, but including all of humanity in the beauty proves a stronger antidote to guilt.

Use guilt as an invitation to practice this subtle contribution and connection to others, this “attitude of vastness”. Don’t wait for guilt to show you the way. Practicing this sharing of beauty, rest, vitality, and joy extends not only to others but also gives us permission to deeply enjoy that which nurtures us, allowing us, in turn, to nurture those around us. An endless circle of nurturing.

May all beings be happy, may all beings be free.

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