Another excerpt from my book: “Body Over Mind: a mindful reality check”
If all we ever did was place one foot in front of another, moving us in one spatial direction only, it would be apparent that our whole life was a straight line path of physical movement. Everybody’s life completes some pattern like this, a more complicated version of the linear walk. Let us imagine our body making an abstract design in space as a result of our moment to moment activity. If we could leave behind a visual mark on the canvas of earth and air that would never fade, like permanent skywriting, we would be able to see clear proof of where we had been every second of our life, like footsteps in the snow.
Similarly, if we each had a videotape portraying our whole life, we could selectively pause the tape to review what we had done in specific moments. We only have our memory for this, and though some part of us knows that we really did do certain things at certain times, sometimes, in retrospect, our mind distorts this knowledge, which can leave us questioning and regretting our past behavior. A videotape would show us a play by play development of events, which would remind us why we participated in the ways we did, and why things are the way they are now.
Though we are not fortunate enough to have such a visual account, I recommend playing with this awareness, as we frequently find ourself in situations that we judge to be imperfect, wondering how we got there. We literally do not know why, for example, we are in a particular state of affairs with someone. Looking back we say: “I shouldn’t have done that,” or, “I could have handled that differently,” or, “I wish I hadn’t said that,” even if our actions made perfect sense to us at the time.
The discrepancy that can exist between the lucidity we feel when something is happening and the ambivalence we experience when our mind translates an event back to us is especially dangerous if another person reacts negatively to our behavior, as in these instances we really tend to mistrust our own wisdom. On the other hand, if everyone were pleased with everything we ever did we might never suffer from self-doubt or regret. In general, we are inclined to blame ourself when things do not go the way we think they should, and we forget that everything in our life progresses step by step, which is what brings us to the places we end up.