Meditation Helps Us Avoid Regrets and Live Life Fully

Rather than making resolutions at the start of this new year, my clients and I are focusing our intentions on making it a year of no regrets. We’re inspired by Mindful magazine’s recent review of Bronnie Ware’s book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing. Nurse Ware describes the feelings she consistently heard while giving palliative care to the terminally ill:

  1. “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
  2. “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”
  3. “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.”
  4. “I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends.”
  5. “I wish I’d let myself be happier.”[1]

It does take courage to live a life true to one’s self, but as author Bronnie Ware explains, “… nothing could be as painful as lying on your deathbed with that regret.”[2] How do we find that courage? Nurse Ware attributes her meditation practice as her source of strength when caring for the dying:

[Meditation] taught me not to judge. I had compassion and respect for whatever that life had been like. I think regret is a very harsh judgment on yourself. The dying people who were expressing regrets to me already had their own judgment. They certainly didn’t need mine. Through meditation I also learned mindfulness and being very present with the people. That’s probably a large part of why our relationships became so personal. When you have a listener that’s obviously present and truly listening, it does give the person permission to open up. And it wasn’t just the dying people I was looking after, it was the family dynamic. All the stuff that comes up for the family being left behind, there’s some truly irrational behavior, a lot of fear and drama. I think meditation really helped me stay calm. I was often the unofficial mediator in the family, and I think meditation is the key to my success in that role.[3]

Ware believes in the power of meditation for all of us to avoid regrets at life’s end:

I think if you can develop compassion for yourself, you’re not going to have regrets. Rather than judging yourself for something you did or didn’t do and having regrets about it, you can actually look back on it later with compassion for who you once were. I think in our busy lives, without meditation, it’s very easy to be ruled by your busy mind, by fear and others’ expectations. I think once you do connect with that part of yourself with a regular practice, there comes a time when your heart speaks too loudly for you to ignore.[4]

Regarding the regrets expressed by her patients, Ware predicts that some of these sentiments may change over time, based on evolving gender roles, generational attitudes toward counseling and therapy, and the widespread use of the Internet and social media to stay connected with friends. I encourage you to read the complete interview on


Dr. Pamm



[1] “Nurse Reveals Top 5 Regrets of the Dying,”, Dec. 2014.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.