In Buddhist texts, Mara was the (“demon”) temptation of Buddha. Sometimes Mara is described as the embodiment of death; sometimes he represents unskillful emotions or conditioned existence or temptation.
During meditation this morning, I saw Mara as the temptation of distraction and cause to lose mindfulness.
Focusing on the breath, the sound of thunder from a storm distracted me. Returning to the breath, the dog making whining noises from fear of the storm distracted me. Again, I was finally settled and focused back on my breath. Nothing else was distracting me.
Then, a pain in my neck instantly took my attention to the body. Then an itch on my nose.
Over and over, I returned to the breath.
But now I see that the mind has become my distraction.
I felt regret for being so unskillful, so easily distracted. This led me to the memory of past situations where I failed another human being.
As I became aware of my body physically reacting to these emotions, I could clearly see that Mara was at work.
And regret can be such a powerful temptation to pull one away from mindfulness and acceptance.
But regret is completely useless, unless you are a time traveler. We can never go back and undo the wrongs we have written. We can only develop guilt and remorse which are equally as useless, and even corrosive to our peace.
If we instead develop wisdom from past experiences, and forgive ourselves with complete unconditional love, then Mara becomes helpless. We can each develop these qualities with the Four Right Exertions.
I now see that I cannot go back and do anything differently, but I have the great blessing of knowing how to do better now.
Being fully present, mindful and loving, each of us has the chance to be of benefit to so many others.
Stay with your breath, be fully present in this moment, and say goodbye to regret.
May you be well, happy and peaceful.