Lately, my mind has been meandering through the roads, paths and alleyways of my past, and I’ve found myself regretting some of my choices, regretting parts of the life that I once lived, and sometimes wondering how things would have turned out if I had been a different person. Regret brings suffering, and a few days ago in my suffering, I heard the stern voice of Byron Katie reminding me, ‘you aren’t suffering because of your choices, or the life you’ve lived, or the person you’ve become. All those things were and are as they should be.You’re suffering because of the thoughts you are now having about those things, and those thoughts need investigation.’
Those familiar words stopped me in my tracks, made me pause for a moment, then do a rewind back to the past.
I remembered a conversation that I’d had with a group of people, in which we were discussing our school days. One of them remembered my desperately unmemorable school-life, turned to me, and laughingly asked ‘So Yaz, what was it that YOU achieved at school?’ Most of the people around the table were successful in their current lives and in their school days had much to brag about; they had been swimming champions, football stars, A-students, school drama celebrities or had just been the popular kids that everybody sought to emulate. A social person, I’d participated in every communal activity that school had to offer, but had been quite unremarkable when it came to the talent that was required to stand out from the crowd. The person making this jibe wasn’t being spiteful in any way; he was looking to tease me, to get a rise, and I surprised myself with my response.
I turned to everyone at the table and said words to this effect:
‘All of you have achieved what a lot of people would feel are remarkable things, whether it was at school, or as you got older and embarked on your life. But if we analyze what you’ve done, you haven’t exactly wandered from the norm. You’ve got great qualifications and have got good jobs, nice houses, and super cars to drive. Maybe you’re even great at your jobs, and sometimes receive accolades for that. And you can trace all this back to your achievements at school. BUT! As far as I am concerned, if you haven’t wandered from the norm, you’ve achieved nothing at all in terms of your inner growth. All you’ve done is do the same as the last generation did. And the one before that. And the one before that. You’ve done nothing new. You’ve taken outer pathways forged by other people. I didn’t achieve anything at school. I wished I was ‘clever’, good at sports; I wished I could be like everyone else, but I didn’t know better. I didn’t realise then that to be like everyone else would end in the most unsatisfying life one could lead. But I figured it slowly out as I grew up, and I went on to do things that no-one at this table has done.’
The table was silent, and a few of them shot me looks that said jeez, what’s got into you?!! But I wasn’t finished. Knowing the people at the table, I asked them this:
‘At a young age, would you have had the guts to pack up your bags, hoist your new-born baby onto your back, leave your home town with your husband and go to live in a completely foreign country, with no extended family support, where no-one speaks English? And all this for a pittance of a salary, a home with crumbling walls, a hole-in-the-floor toilet, water that only hit the pipes every two weeks, because to get to the top you have to do a lot of ‘apprenticeship years’ first? Would you have had the courage to change the profession for which you’d trained for four years (BECAUSE no-one spoke English) and train to become an English teacher instead? Once you’d reached a high point in your career, would any of you have left the comfort of your highly paid jobs, fabulous all-expenses-paid villas and private schools for the kids, to leave for a new country and open your own business (with no experience of doing such a thing?) Have any of you followed the strange callings of your heart, callings that have nothing to do with established ways of thinking? Or would you have ignored them, because they couldn’t be validated by science? Have any of you spoken to people from other planetary systems? Or do you believe that such entities don’t exist because you’ve been told this by ‘educated’ people with closed minds and large egos? Would you have had what it took to wander from the beaten path of humdrum human life and found your own road to travel? Or were you too afraid of being alone, away from the madding crowd of human sheep? Have any of you heard a plant speak its mind? Or would you have been too closed-minded and afraid to hear it? To heal a mentally ill family member, have any of you travelled through the different dimensional frequencies of this world to find out what is wrong? Or do you cling to your mundane, limited way of being in the world and tell yourself the way to go is to put sick people in a mental institution and drug them up? Has anyone here travelled out of their body and seen things that have no words to describe them? Do any of you have the guts to answer your own questions, by delving deep inside yourself for the truth, or do you still need to look to religious institutions to answer your most pressing spiritual questions?’
That evening, I managed to silence a large group of quietly arrogant people with my wine-fuelled rather dramatic speech and questions. A few people scratched their heads in confusion, and others doubled their drinks orders, but I had realized the value of the roads that I had travelled. And I remembered this episode as I reached back into my past and foolishly regretted some of the adventures I had taken. Once again, Byron Katie’s voice rang out and she asked, ‘Who are you when you’re not thinking those negative thoughts about your life?’
The answer to that came easily. When I drop those negative ideas, I am happy having travelled the open highways of my mind. I realize that my heart has always determined the actions that I’ve taken. I’ve never had a choice in anything I’ve done, even though it has felt like I have, because when something is meant to be, I am urged by my spirit. Logic is a human lie that tells us how things ‘should’ be, and it is the reason why people stay unhappily stuck in their humdrum lives, ignoring the call of their hearts. I’ve climbed some weird and wonderful mountains and encountered unspeakable extraordinariness. And all of it has led me deeper into the space of my heart, and further from the heaviness of the mundane world. Regret is a temporary madness, a lapse into human thinking. Thank God for people like Byron Katie, who remind us that our journeys are important, that everything is meant to be just as it is, and we are just who we are.