We often find at some point in our lives the need to take stock, look back on our life and review who we are and what we have done with our lives. The effect can be quite strong, and for me it has led to an ongoing reflective process, through which I'm working on really being in the moment and seeing that I am at this point in time as a result of the conditions that arose in the past, and that where I go in the future is dependant on conditions yet to arise.
Through this process, I've found it's all too easy to get into the habit of beating myself up about all the bad decisions I made and the times when things didn't go so well. I've definitely been in this place many times (it's a recurring theme!), and I regularly get mini 'flash-backs' of memories where I did or said something really awful, which I often feel great regret (and often embarrasment!) about.
I do also sometimes slip toward the opposite end of the spectrum, patting myself on the back for all the great things I have done and the way I have lead my life - less so than the negative end but sometimes it can be more destructive.
The reality of integration
Living an integrated life is to bring everything to the game - the good, bad and ugly, and being 'fierce with reality' - it takes great courage to really look at your life, your conditions, your reactions. It takes courage to break through the stories we tell ourselves about what has happened, what could happen, what is happening, I'm a good person, I'm a bad person, he said this, she said that, and so forth - and simply reflect on the conditions that brought us to where we are, and what led us to act or behave in a particular way. It's quite powerful to think that yes, I did do those things, I have acted in those ways, but I also have the potential to change, I will not always be like that, I can be creative in my responses to those situations.
Winding back (or forward!) the clock
I found it really helpful when I heard a teaching someone had received, that it's often more helpful when reflecting on your past, to start from your earliest memories and move forward rather than starting where you are now and looking back. Working in reverse, so to speak, can help you to understand the conditions which led you to a particular situation and can often allow you to feel more compassion and kindness toward your past actions.
I have certainly found this helpful in unpicking times when perhaps I wasn't as mindful or compassionate in a particular situation, and on reflection could then start to see the conditions which led to that - for example being really busy at work, not having had any time off or relaxation, perhaps having a headache or having missed lunch ... sometimes something as simple as not having had enough sleep the night before. Realising this, I can start to understand that actually it wasn't necessarily me being a horrible person, but a person under a lot of different conditions, struggling to cope, and reacting to a situation because I did not have the capacity to respond creatively.
"When we stop and truly possess all we have been, and done, we are on the path to becoming who we are"