1. The past isn’t really about the past.
When you look with great clarity, you will see that there is no actual thing called the past. Everything that happens happens in the present – it can’t be any other way. Memories of events are thoughts occurring in the present. Anger or hurt about the past is happening now.
Your present moment experience in the now is what keeps the past alive.
What is amazing about this understanding is that it shows you that the way out of your suffering is always in the present. You can change your perspective – now, focus on something different – now, feel your feelings – as they are right now.
If you want to heal from the past, put your attention on your present moment experience.
2. Memories are not the problem.
A memory is a thought, and a thought has no power or meaning whatsoever, unless you give it power or meaning. You have many thoughts about things that happened long ago, and these thoughts cause no problems.
But some thoughts are sticky. You have an emotional reaction to them and you think them over and over. You may even have beliefs related to them, for example, “I am justified in thinking this” or “I need an apology so I can move on.” This keeps them very much alive, affecting your ongoing experience.
If you want to be free of the past, lose interest in those sticky thoughts. Know that it doesn’t serve you to repeat them and that thinking they are justified only delays your freedom. Be prepared to take a look at the pure experience of your feelings without the layer of thinking that solidifies them (see #6 below).
3. “Healing” means letting go so the thoughts and feelings don’t impact you.
Your goal is to neutralize the story from the past so it loses its power over you. It becomes transparent, with no meaning and no effect. You change your relationship to your thoughts so they don’t sit like a dark cloud over you.
Your goal is not to:
- Make yourself forget about the past (impossible)
- Stuff or ignore your feelings (creates other problems – addiction, anyone?)
- Wait for an apology or acknowledgment (postpones happiness)
- Wait for time to heal all wounds (you may need more than time)
- Wallow endlessly in your emotions (oh, so painful)
- Redo the past (you can’t change what happened but you absolutely can change your reaction to what happened)
Keep holding as possible: freedom…peace…sanity…freshness in the moment…fully alive now.
4. The path to healing opens up once you are fed up by how the stories about the past impact you.
As I’m happy to say as often as necessary, what you focus on is what will grow. If you cultivate sadness, regret, and revenge, then they will become your reality.
As an alternative, be very willing to see through these stories as much as is needed. Be open to energy moving through your body rather than staying stuck. Prepare yourself to feel differently.
Contemplate not defining yourself by thoughts about the past.
5. You get a jump-start on releasing the past when you take full responsibility.
Once you see that the ball is totally in your court, you have set the stage for deep letting go. Your happiness is your responsibility alone, not anyone else’s.
You might be very familiar with feeling like a victim. But this is a passive, unempowered position, leaving you waiting for words or actions from someone else, something you cannot control.
Taking responsibility means being open to recognizing how your own internal landscape is feeding your suffering. What thoughts make you unhappy? What feelings are stuck in your body and heart? How do you make yourself suffer by recycling negative memories through your mind?
Being stuck in the past means that a part of your heart is closed. Take responsibility for going right into those bruised and tender places. Read on to find out how.
6. Telling stories keeps the past lodged in your mind, heart, body, and spirit.
We tell ourselves all sorts of stories that bring trouble to our lives. Want to be trouble-free? Here is the medicine.
- Notice how entranced you can be by the stories of drama and victimhood that appear in your mind.
- Just for a moment, let yourself lose interest in these thought stories. (see #2 above)
- See that what is left is a pattern of physical sensations, maybe gripping, tension, or burning. You may never have noticed these sensations before, but they have probably been there for a long time.
- Now notice this: You are aware, and these sensations are appearing in your awareness. They come, go, and change, but here you are: aware.
- Take the perspective of awareness, and the sensations have the freedom to be. They aren’t ignored or suppressed. You aren’t so busy in the story that you don’t notice them.
- Now notice: Are you suffering? No, you are simply experiencing sensation as awareness.
This is freedom – no attention to the story, experience appearing and disappearing with ease. You: unchanging, clear, undisturbed.
7. Beliefs about healing can get in the way.
Besides getting stuck in the story, you might become aware of beliefs you hold about what needs to happen for you to let go. These are simply more thoughts that keep you distracted from the heart of the matter. Here are some possibilities:
- “I feel justified in staying stuck because I was wronged.”
- “It is someone else’s responsibility to make this better for me.”
- “If I let go, I’m somehow approving others’ bad behavior.”
- “I need an apology.”
- “Life is unfair.”
- “It was so bad that it’s not possible for me to heal.”
You life begins now, in this very moment…and now…and now. You can always start anew.
Don’t feed these limiting thoughts, and you won’t need them to disappear. Proceed to discover that you were never not whole, that a part of you has always been untouched by the world.
8. Relationship troubles relate to your past.
Unless you see through all of it, you are a product of your past and the ideas you have formed about how relationships work. This keeps the past alive in the present.
Do you fear rejection or commitment? Do you feel you need approval and attention? Do you isolate or push people away? Do you need to be on top and in control? Do you have difficulty trusting?
If these tendencies cause you problems in your relationships, here is your opportunity. Untangle your thoughts and feelings about the past, and live in freedom from them as you move forward.
9. The middle path is the intelligent path.
Dwelling on what happened and leaking your feelings all over the place will keep you suffering. Hiding, indulging, or stuffing your feelings doesn’t work in the long-term.
Instead, bring intelligence and clarity to your direct experience. Cultivate a fire for peace and ease that serves you well.
10. Finding out who you are is the ultimate freedom.
If you define yourself by your past, you will be living as a fraction of what is possible for you. Say you think of yourself as wronged or abused or victimized. Or you see yourself as having gotten the short end of the stick.
Defining yourself by what happened doesn’t help you now. It’s like wearing clothes that never fit. Is it time to take them off?
It’s easy to believe in a mistaken identity. It feels so true to think we are the result of what happened or the sum total of our thoughts and feelings.
But the truest thing about you is that you are aware. Life presents a passing array of experiences – thoughts, emotions, events, people. These all arise in you but are not you.
Live as the awareness that you are – fully alive, here, not in conflict with anything. Know who you are, and the pain of the past will barely be a ripple…on the surface…of the immeasurable vastness of you.