The Swamis once gave me an assignment:
Make a list of all of the times you wish you made a different choice.
Sounds easy, right?
At first it was. I just started making a (very long) list of all of the times I screwed up and wished I had done things differently.
Then I started getting pretty sad about all of my screw ups.
I had to keep reminding myself of this bit from The Way of the Bodhisattva:
If something can be done about itShantideva
what need is there for dejection?
And if nothing can be done about it,
what use is there for being dejected?
And it helped because the longer I sat with this assignment, the harder it was to leave all of those things on the list.
For every “bad” choice, I would think about all of the things that happened as a result of that choice.
It was like I kept having my own “Sliding Doors” moments.
Do you remember this late 90’s movie with Gwyneth Paltrow before she was the eye roll-inducing “health” advisor that she is today?
In the film, she gets fired from her job and we watch the what-ifs play out for the rest of the movie. In one scenario, she catches the train and in the other she doesn’t .
A bit unlike Paltrow’s character in the film, for every single one of my choices on my list, something really good had come out of the bad decision.
In fact, for all of those things on the list, I realized I had to make the “wrong” choice – the choice that led me to fail – in order to be clear about something else.
I never actually complete the assignment for my teachers.
Or maybe I did?
Perhaps what they wanted me to realize is that failures, bad decisions, and disappointments are the only way to find our true path.