Friday, April 27, 2012

Living a Life Without Regrets

Bonnie Ware, a palliative nurse in the UK made the headlines earlier this year with her book, The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying. I have to thank Was Once, one of my Dharma blogger friends for forwarding me the link to Bonnie's website, and inspiring me to contemplate those 5 top regrets: 

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I didn't work so hard.
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

I went down the list and checked, am I living my life wisely? 

Yes,  I do live a live that is true to myself. This was not always the case. It's took me thirty some years before I even knew what my true self was, and a few more thereafter to live a life in accord with that knowledge.

No, I am not very good when it comes to having balance in my work. I still haven't quite figured out the difference between passion, work, and driven-ness. And I know I would do well to work less, and spend more time to just sit and practice being present.

Feelings used to scare me, but that was a long long time ago. 

I probably could carve out more time for my friends. And at the same time, I am very aware of the preciousness of making time for loved ones. And I try . . . 

Number five is not so clear cut. Letting oneself be happier is not that simple. I have found there is a big difference between intending to be happy, and actually being happy. It is not that easy letting go of the mind habits! With mindfulness practice however, the clinging gets to be lesser and lesser, and fear, and anger are no longer so compelling. I feel so grateful for my practice.

How does your life measure up to Bonnie's list? What do you need to change to make sure you will not end with big regret(s)?


  1. i also receive an email about this 5 things in vietnamese sent from a buddhist, and that s quiet suprising fact ( to me the fourth is quite meaningful )

  2. The first 4 are very circumstantial, and maybe cannot be avoided. We do what we have to do to get through our lives, ya know. But that last one: #5. "I wish that I had let myself be happier." That is a big one because it implies that we could go through the first 4 and still be happy, regardless of how the first 4 played-out.

    I think that's the key. Can I get through "the stuff of my life" with acceptance and inner peace? My truthful answer is, so far, apparently not. Not yet. Not doing so good with that one yet. Sure, better than I was a decade ago, but not by much, and certainly no where near where I'd like to be. I still get SO bothered by the inevitable little (and big) irritations. I still let way too many things get inside me (under my skin). Perpetually irritated... haha. And maybe that makes good material for a funny sitcom (think George Castanza on Seinfeld), but it's not a good script for a real life and lifetime. I don't want to mumble on my deathbed that "I spent my whole life irritated..." So, yes, "I wish that I had let myself be happier." That's a good/tough one.

    Good post. Thank you for the reminder.


  3. Agree that the last one is probably the most challenging, and also most worthwhile one, as it is really an antecedent to the other four.

  4. Man, that list hits hard. I think I may print it out and put it someplace where I can see it daily.

  5. hmm, much to ponder here Marguerite. I agree the last one is tricky isn't it...sometimes I think I attempt to protect myself and pull back from my fullness...and then I end up causing suffering instead of being as contented as I could be if I just let go. I suppose this ties in to the first statement as well, kind of circular.

  6. T.AKA, so glad you get to see this list now! Better than never . . . May you live wisely, may you be happy, and without regrets.

  7. Laura, yep, not getting caught up in a web of should's and shouldn'ts and living others' ideas of what our life should be, goes a long way towards leading a happier, fuller life. But it is not enough, at least not for me! I can live an authentic life and still be subject to the universal suffering from clinging to the wrong things. Hence the value of mindfulness practice!

  8. To what extent can we CHOOSE the way we want to live? For most people choice hardly exists.Kamma restricts choice more than even devout buddhists like to admit.Choice is mainly an illusion.Desire and attachment to all kinds of good and bad mental formations are what drive us. This is for reflection only of course.

  9. We can choose to the extent that we are aware, and also within the confines of causes, some of which the result of prior actions (kamma). We can always choose the attitude we bring, and the more we practice with skills, the greater the likelihood of freedom. This is for me the great news about Dharma practice.