11/18/2014 04:23 pm ET Updated Jan 18, 2015

When Confession Is Not Enough

I have a shady past, I do. I have done many things traditional society frowns upon. I have been one of the bad people, the degenerates, the lost souls and the type of person to avoid. Only you would not have known this to look at me because I had the perfect cover: typical suburban, middle class, attractive, single mother. But the truth is -- I have lied, to everyone. My sister once told me she could tell when I was lying because I was talking. I stole from everyone. If you knew me then and you had a medicine cabinet, I stole from you. I committed fraud, lied to numerous doctors and even used my 2-year-old daughter as a scape goat for my dastardly deeds. I have puked up thousands of dollars' worth of food and obsessed fanatically and hatefully about my body. I drank, a lot, and lied about it. If you saw me have a beer there were probably four beers you did not see me have. I was so sneaky! I lied as easily as I breathed.

My dastardly deeds are a thing of the past, a distant memory, but their echo remains in the form of guilt. One day I decide to rid myself of this guilt. I began to meditate daily and found the willingness to do what I had never done before: be honest. I confessed to all the lies I had ever told, I contacted all the people I had stolen from, lied to or treated poorly, and with a shaking voice told them the truth and apologized. If I could not reach the person I had harmed I would tell my mother. I told her everything. I made phone calls, I sent emails, I confessed until I was certain I had done everything within my power to make peace. Every time I told my mother a deceitful detail she thanked me and told me she loved me. All the people I contacted were gentle and kind. Each time I came to my husband with a confession he kissed me on the forehead and held me. My honesty was met with unconditional love and forgiveness.

After all this hard work I discovered (with horror) that the guilt remained. I have tried to pray it away, scream it away, run it away, forgive it away, mediate and confess it away -- but guilt remains. A quiet ghost that follows two feet behind, hovering unseen yet always present. When I'm sitting in silence guilt dances around my awareness and whispers: "There is no peace for you -- you are undeserving." Intellectually I understand the absurdity of this and in meditation I have even seen past this confusion and felt an ever present love and peace, and yet guilt remains.

When guilt shows up my mind starts plotting and planning; "Alright, I just need to pray more, I need to confess more, I need to do something because guilt is here and that means I have done something wrong!" These thoughts lead to one thing: anxiety -- pacing, grasping, restless and writhing, heart pumping and relentless fear inducing anxiety.

But perhaps my mind is wrong, perhaps my thoughts are misled. Maybe I can lean on the quiet wisdom that guides me and says: "More confession is not needed -- but wiliness to be with guilt and anxiety is." Perhaps what is needed is courage to invite guilt and anxiety in, make them welcome here, snuggle up with them on the couch, turn off all distractions and say yes to my ever present ghosts. With willingness to feel the full weight of guilt and anxiety, perhaps I can see there is a small point of peace in the midst of the heaviness. Perhaps I can see that this peace, this quiet presence simply observes the turbulence and judges not. And could it be that this steady awareness, which is untouched by the insanity raging within, is who I truly am? And is it possible; is it conceivable, that I am OK? --I am OK. I AM OK.