Transcending Guilt and Reestablishing Virtue


I’m a 19 year old girl. My father passed away in Oct 2020. Ever since then, life has been pretty bad for me. I’ve realised I’m impulsive, and have pretty bad judgement. I’ve made many mistakes and not behaved nicely with some people. I also feel really sad and miss my father a lot. And I’ve also neglected my health and meditation. I feel very very guilty for my mistakes. Any advice on how to improve myself? And how to handle the guilt?

—N S, India


Dear NS,

Everyone goes through slumps in life — and most certainly at age 19 when the body is still undergoing many changes and the mind is busy trying to find “who am I?” Guilt, like physical bodily pain, is simply there to say: “Pay attention to what you’ve done. Some changes are needed.” So treat guilt just as you would the pain from a cut or bruise: take care of it! You can’t of course change what you’ve done — no more than you can undo having cut yourself, or broken a leg, or having overeaten something that makes you feel queasy. But you can resolve to work on yourself: to be calmer and more mindful in things you say and do.

Mistakes are normal; totally normal. This is how we learn. Think of a toddler learning to walk and how many times a toddler falls down. Sometimes the child will get bruised and hurt, even badly! But that’s how the child learns. There is no other way!

And we as adults are no different. If you’ve hurt someone’s feelings, well, if there’s something you can do (such as apologize or make it up somehow), great! Otherwise, consider the experience to be a “learning experience.” At your age, also, there may be friendships or relationships that don’t go well and end up badly! This too is part of the learning and growing and maturing.

The best advice I can think of — and have seen work in my life and that of many, many people — is to examine whom you spend your free time and your thoughts with. And I’m not talking only about friends or even people in an ordinary way. When you meditate, pray, or chant you are spending time with your soul, with Divine Mother, with your Beloved, friend! But as to friends, and what movies or videos you watch; the music you listen to…..all of these things are psychic and vibrational influences upon your brain, nervous system, and your heart’s feelings. Listen to uplifting music or chants.

Whom among those you know do you respect for being mature, kind, and wise? Who are people you admire for their good habits and attitudes? Seek out such friends, and see if you can spend time with them. Serve them. Do things together.

Do you have weekly opportunities for spiritual satsang, yoga classes, group meditations? With all of these things readily online, there is, in fact, no shortage of high-minded companions. Read spiritual books, or biographies of courageous and noble men and women — and yes, even movies of such people or saints.

Paramhansa Yogananda made the statement that “Environment is stronger than will power!” While the inner environment of your thoughts and emotions is supreme, it is still true that outside influences are powerfully important. It’s difficult, for example, for most people to get back to vigorous sports, exercise, yoga, a healthy diet or meditation without a friend to share it with. Taking classes in such subjects will help motivate you.

You didn’t mention whether you are a student, in a career, or with family. But no matter there is always time and mental space for aligning your heart and mind with higher influences. So, please, let whatever guilt you feel simply be a prod to the strength of your resolve to improve, to use the power of your God-given will, and to have the courage of heart to take the first steps and carry on.

Each day take a few minutes to sit and calm your mind. When calm, ask for guidance from your soul, from Divine Mother. Express silently your own sincerity and goodwill to love all, even those who might not love you. Silently ask forgiveness of anyone who you may have hurt. Send your heart’s comfort and love to the soul of your father. He’s simply on a journey, and you will no doubt see him again.

Your life lays before you, and as day follows night, you will have your victories and sorrows. That is life. Face life with joy in your heart and embrace the adventure of Self-awakening for which all souls have been created. Walk the path of life with God in your heart, divine power in your arms, the light of wisdom guiding your steps, and the sublime grace of protection surrounding you.

Joy and blessings to you!
Nayaswami Hriman