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Mindfulness and Guilt – Raising Awareness about Wrongdoing

During times where acts of deception and corruption seem to be the “new normal.”

The recent college admissions scam leaves us shocked and appalled. But, in the aftermath of its disclosure, my hope is that the atrocious decisions these people made for their children, and the unimaginable shame and guilt it placed on them, will shine a spotlight on the harm caused from lying and cheating. It can serve as a warning, especially during these times we’re living in where acts of deception and corruption seem to be the “new normal.”

Mindfulness, which is being in the present moment with total awareness, helps us to be more cognizant of when we’re doing something that’s wrong. It’s like having our conscience with us at all times. And if or when we’re about to slip into wrongful thinking, it immediately brings us back to reality, as if to say: “What are you thinking?!” or even, “Are you crazy?!” 

That’s right, Mindfulness doesn’t let us get away with immoral or unethical behavior. While we all have a tendency to do what’s self-serving or convenient, Mindfulness guides us to become more aware of our actions. I like to consider Mindfulness as our built-in guilt barometer — which we need now more than ever.

With all of the pressures we’re facing today to be more successful and to get out ahead of everyone else, we need an internal system in place that guides us and doesn’t allow us to forget our moral compass. Mindfulness does that. 

You would think that we’d all have the ability to judge what’s right and wrong and act accordingly, but it seems more and more people are behaving as if they don’t. If we begin to live our lives unguided by a sense of morality, then lying, cheating and criminal behavior become the norm. Much of our society is already inching its way toward fitting that profile.

In these me-centric times when we consider only what’s most expedient for our own purposes, we “confess our sins” only when it’s convenient, such as during religious holidays that dictate when we can absolve ourselves of guilt or shame. Confessionals seem archaic today. What comes to mind is the confessional scene in The Godfather III when Michael Corleone confesses to killing Fredo. He asks the Cardinal, “What is the point of confessing if I do not repent?” The Cardinal says that Michael’s life is redeemable, “but you don’t believe that, so you’ll never change.” He proceeds to give him absolution anyway, and the movie goes on. 

Similarly, the lives of the people who tried to scam the colleges would continue along their course if they hadn’t been caught. But at what price? Life isn’t a movie, and even though a few of those people caught in the scam were actors, their actions off the screen matter and they have to live with their conscience.

Mindfulness is much needed today. It’s a quality inherent in each of us, but many don’t know that it’s there and so don’t use it. The same can be said of our conscience. There’s a great awakening that needs to happen or else we run the danger of not only living without a moral compass, but getting used to its absence. Isn’t that what led to the fall of the Roman Empire — a decline in morality? 

I believe that Mindfulness is the new consciousness-raising tool. If it’s practiced daily, we will keep ourselves on the path of righteous living. This isn’t something your children will learn in elite colleges, and it’s not something you can scam your way into learning. Mindfulness lets you realize this on your own, and if for a single moment you’re considering slipping into wrongful thinking, it brings you right back into present moment awareness. It makes clear what’s best for you, and what’s best for your children. And lying, cheating and deception clearly are not. 

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