I thank the anonymous artist on the internet for this lovely sketch.
Two Zen monks walked back wearily, after a tiring day at the local village, to their monastery up on the hill. The younger of the two monks plied the elder monk non-stop with questions about life in general and a monk’s life in
It had rained heavily that day. On the way the placid rivulet they had crossed that morning had swollen into a raging stream. A young women stood by the bank nervously, not daring to cross. As the monks neared she looked at them expectantly.
Without a word, the elder monk picked the woman up in his arms and walked across the stream. The younger monk started to say something, thought better of it, scowled and followed. Once across the stream safe, the elder monk deposited the woman gently on the bank and walked on. He acknowledged her gratitude with a mere nod of the head as he continued.
The younger monk hurried to catch up with him without saying a word. They walked miles in silence. Just as they reached the gates of the monastery, the younger monk burst out in irritation, ‘Why did you pick up that girl. You have told me not to look at women. You broke a monk’s discipline.’
The elder one turned around as he opened the gates and said calmly, ‘ I put her down hours ago. Why are you carrying her still!’
We carry our guilt with us all our lives and look at others through the prisms of our guilt.
At any point in time,w e act based on what we know at that time. We may think that we act rationally. Sometimes we accept we have acted impulsively. Either way, our belief systems drive our actions. We do not control our actions as we think. Our beliefs do.
Over time, we see the consequences of our actions. Often, they create trouble. Sometime we re-examine our beliefs. Often, we don’t. Yet, the negative effects of our actions, especially on others if we are sensitive, create guilt in us. Guilt results when we examine past actions in the light of current wisdom.
Guilt has no use. Guilt, and its fellow emotion regret, can do nothing except to make us feel bad. Yes, if the review based on current intelligence reveals that what we did earlier could have been done differently, we should learn and move on. We should not repeat what we did before.
Atoning for one’s guilt and confessing can help if our feelings are genuine and we resolve to learn. In most cases, in most societies , cultures and religions, guilt becomes a tool of control. These institutions lay down Commandments, by whatever name they call hem, and want us to follow them for only one reason, control. Those who preach us the commandments rarely practice them. They see themselves as above these rules and regulations.
Guilt is cancer. It is a cancer of the mind and spirit. It has no redeeming value. Yet, we carry them all the time. Let us be like the zen monk, lay down guilt and walk on.
I see elimination of guilt in a client as one of the greatest services a coach can offer. Guilt becomes such an embedded emotion that the client cannot often see it as a negative emotion.
Once in Taiwan, i was coaching a group of people on self-development using meditation as an aid. I used a translator since many of the older people did not understand English. I found one participant, an elderly woman, very silent and looking sad. I deliberately asked her about her life. She explained through the translator that she had recently lost her husband of many decades. She had suggested a trip to the Buddhist pilgrimage sites in India and during this trip he fell ill and died.
By asking her a few questions, it became clear that she felt responsible for her husband’s death. She had suggested the trip and he had died. She felt guilty. This happened two years ago and she still mourned the guilt more than she mourned for her husband.
Since she was a Buddhist as many of the participants were, i talked about rebirth and how death is a mere milestone in one’s life. Death is a gateway not an end. I then spoke on guilt and explained how we often carry the guilt of having caused a loved one’s death. I spoke on the need to drop this guilt. This woman as well as others asked a few questions that i answered.
The next day,w hen we started the session in the morning, i did not find this woman in the group. After some minutes i asked the translator if she knew why the woman had not come. With a smile, she said that the elderly woman was present and pointed her out. I could not recognize her. She looked so radiant and so different.
Seeing my surprise, this woman said that for the first time in two years she slept well. She seemed rid of her guilt and was ready to move on with her life.
Yes, a coach can transform someone’s life!