Guilt. It’s basically just something to occupy our time so we don’t get bored or have to look at the world ever or do our homework. How much simpler it is to feel guilty over the things we are failing to do than to do them. Oh, but I have discovered an even better thing! Don’t do the thing and don’t feel guilty about it! It’s a very confusing mental state, almost like being on drugs. You can’t slip up and start feeling guilty about not feeling guilty either, that’s cheating. You will find that the things that you do, in place of the things you think you ought to do, and/or feel guilty about not doing/not wanting to do (oh my god, I’m so tired and I’m only halfway through this sentence and now I’ve just added to it with this parentheses and there’s no escape) will be different. Different things. Different sorts of flavours of thoughts. Especially if, like me, you are used to a constant, low grade, arbitrary hum of guilt running on autopilot in the basement of your brain. Like a chest freezer full of food no one will ever want to eat. If you unplug said chest freezer (metaphorically, you see) and its hum is silenced, all the weird little animals who live in the walls of the house of your mind will come creeping out. There is stillness and quiet, so that butterfly thoughts don’t get blown out or overwhelmed. There’s more room for variety, because your default isn’t pulling everything so strongly into itself and making other thoughts guilt-coloured. Please, if it is your preference, replace every instance of the word “guilt” in this with “worry” or “anxiety” or “frothing scummy hatred.” I’ve never had a positive emotion long enough for it to become a default state, so I don’t know if your inner landscape gets sticky in the same way if you feel pleasant all the time. If you have had this happen, you should tell me about that, because I am curious.
We get in thought habits, which are also feeling habits. Feelings can be harder to pinpoint than thoughts because there isn’t necessarily a verbal rope to climb down into the morass. Par example, if you hear yourself think, “I’m a right cunt, I am,” you might say, “Gosh! That wasn’t very nice, Insert Name Here. I wonder if perhaps I am stuck in a loop of profitless abusive thought? I shall ask a friend!” But if there are no words and you just feel like liquid shit stuffed into a skin bag with a name tag stapled to its leaky forehead, that can be harder to be aware of and thus prevent. It’s like colour. If everything is blue, nothing is blue. You can’t tell what your default state is because it’s default. This is where friends and relations come in handy, especially if they are the good bespoke kind, because they will yell at you and give you cake and make you feel bad for feeling bad about yourself, but in a good way. An eye watery, stuffed animal, listening to a boys’ choir kind of way. They will tell you you are lovely and list your good qualities for you. This is helpful up to a point, but can also become boring.
Once you are past the other-people-affirming-you part, you can gently investigate the ways in which you are not Jesus, the Buddha, or some other special, now deceased person. This is pulling the gross old frozen things out of your metaphor chest freezer. The corpse-white frozen peas of old trauma. The crystallised mystery meat chunks of that time you hit your brother too hard and made him bleed. The ancient gummy ice cream of failure. You don’t have to identify with these things. That’s the guilt part and we’re still not doing that, although you can go back to it at the end of the lesson if you really want to. Don’t identify with it, just admire it.
One way I am not like the Buddha is that I am very very lazy. My body naturally inclines to recline. I tend to laziness, both physically and mentally. I generally follow the laziness with guilt, but it corrupts the laziness and makes it not fun. Guilt clouds sensation. If you can really be there in your laziness, you need much less. Like a stronger strain of your preferred drug. Guilt is like water that dilutes the pleasant syrup of your foibles AND stops you looking at them properly. Dispense with it.
(Right now, for instance, I feel guilty about using the word “cunt” earlier in this broadcast. But you see, feeling guilty has caused me to use the word again, possibly upsetting the people I think it might upset even more. You see how profitless and indeed self defeating the whole business is.)
Remove guilt and you will feel fear slither down the drain with it, like the semi-animate clump of hair that goes out with the bathwater. And once fear and guilt have left a pleasant emptiness in the apartment of your soul, you will be able to tell what it is you really want to do. It will probably be a thing that looks boring but you won’t mind. Have fun.