Overcoming a difficult past.
Life is in continual progression. We hope it is towards a brighter and better future. No matter how good the present circumstances are, the mind keeps hoping for more. There are different levels of ambitions about the future that stream through the mind at the same time. Some relate to our home life, others to work life, social life, and so on. Our awareness travels in each of these lanes. The past, however, hangs like a cloud over dreams of the future. Everybody has a past, which may contain memories of difficult times. Some can move away from the past more quickly than others.
Everybody has a past, which may contain memories of difficult times.
One of the most challenging tasks to accomplish is to be completely rid of the baggage of the past. We need not erase all memories of the past. They can continue to exist. They will not trouble us as long as we don’t invest our awareness in them. Memories trap the mind’s energies, which makes the mind weak. The more we dwell on the past, the less we engage with the present. The past will then return as the future. The bruises and wounds we carry from the past will project pain on future experiences, thereby contaminating the future.
One of the most challenging tasks to accomplish is to be completely rid of the baggage of the past.
Memories of the past can be heavy or light, depending on our emotional investment into them. For example, we make an investment today, which promises a fixed rate of return. Assuming we don’t touch the principal, in due course, what is due to us will be significantly more than our initial investment.
Likewise, when we invest our emotional energy into any experience, that investment will grow in the subconscious mind. This happens regardless of whether an experience is what we would consider as pleasant or unpleasant. We gladly accept returns on our emotional investment when the experiences are good. However, we try to refuse when the experiences are unpleasant.
Whatever we identify as ‘my experience,’ whether pleasant or unpleasant, cannot be taken away from the mind by anyone. It is hard for us to disown those experiences easily. We may make many affirmations to push unpleasant experiences aside, but it is nearly impossible to keep affirming that day and night. The moment we lose our grip on the mind, it comes back via thoughts in the waking state and dreams when we sleep. The more we try to push away or suppress a memory, the stronger is the mind’s recoil.
When we fully engage with the present, we free up the mind’s energies. The past will gradually thin out, and what will remain is only its essence. Our present state of consciousness is the distillate of all experiences that we have consciously or unconsciously been through in our lives.
When we fully engage with the present, we free up the mind’s energies. The past will gradually thin out, and what will remain is only its essence.
Our present carries the essence of our past. In this sense, casting the memory of the past aside will not be a loss. Furthermore, there is a record of it somewhere in the mind, and we can return to it if there is an absolute need for a recollection.
With time, what we experience as the present will recede into the past. As this happens, the future begins to sprout. We may forget much of our past, but those experiences lie somewhere in the mind just like a giant tree with a vast network of roots below the ground. Just as it is difficult to remove the extensive network of roots intertwined underground once a tree dies, it is hard to remove the past, which forms the ‘root system’ of the mind.
The roots of a tree have no intrinsic beauty, unlike its lush green leaves and fragrant flowers. Likewise, the past can never be as beautiful as the present. The present is alive, and life only operates here and now. The body continually reminds us of that, as we breathe in and out. There is so much to do and explore in the present compared to a fixed past.
No one can go back into their past and change the sequence of events. It is a fantasy that only plays out in movies and our imagination. Each time we return to the past and try to relive it in a different context, perhaps a more pleasant one compared to the original experience, we add to our initial emotional investment.
When we accept the past as it is and grow in understanding that there is nothing we can do about events that have already occurred, it can be liberating. Unless such understanding is deep and acceptance total, the past will keep coming back at us, trying to crowd the present in one way or another.
One way to overcome the past through acceptance and understanding is to think of the past as ‘dead roots.’
We don’t water the dead roots of a plant, and even if it continually rains, those dead roots will not be able to use that rainwater. But, a seed will quickly sprout and thrive. The present is like a seed, within which is immense potential. It also contains the future. Every time we think of the past, we are watering dead roots and taking that water from the seed of the present, which holds tremendous potential.
The present is like a seed, within which is immense potential. It also contains the future.
Emotional energy is best invested in the present. However, we must take care not to let thoughts interrupt and trap that flow of emotional energy. There is always the danger of that energy turning into stagnant pools like those that remain with memories.
Emotions run like a river. It is a continual flow. At times it is robust and rapid on the surface. At other times, it may be a deep undercurrent not visible on the surface. We cannot completely stop the flow of that energy. It is the basis of the mind itself.
The past is a dead end. The road to the future is not yet ready. What we have is only the present. When the present is awash with the mind’s energies, something magical happens. Thoughts that come and go cannot hold onto that strong current, and they get washed away. What we are left with is clarity. As clarity deepens, peace and happiness will ascend from the depths.
The past is a dead end. The road to the future is not yet ready. What we have is only the present.
The mind’s energies, when it circulates in the present, takes the form of love, compassion, forgiveness, etc. These are ‘light emotions,’ which readily flow with the present. They are like leaves floating on the surface of a river. Love is not a thing of the past; it is here now. Its power manifests in the present. The same goes for compassion and forgiveness.
In contrast, sadness, anger, resentment, revenge, etc. are ‘heavy thoughts,’ and these are like pebbles. When we throw a stone into a lake, it sinks to the bottom close to where it enters the water. Similarly, these ‘heavy thoughts,’ do not float in the mind; they sink to the bottom.
Anger, for example, is a sudden burst of energy when it first manifests. Unlike love, we cannot carry anger on the mind’s surface all the time. The friction it creates in the mind can be very unpleasant. We begin to repress some of that energy. Once the anger subsides, the lingering effects are long-lasting, and they percolate into the past and settle into old thoughts. The mind loses its freedom, and its energies begin to swirl around such thoughts. Although we may forget the angry outburst, traces of anger begin to grow roots in the mind, and it becomes challenging to eradicate anger from our being.
A difficult past usually contains repressed emotions that are trying to come to the surface. Just as a pebble that settles on the bottom of a lake cannot come up on its own, these repressed emotions cannot come up by themselves. When we think of the past, we begin to dredge some of these suppressed emotions. We cannot say what exactly may come up, but when we approach the past with a negative perspective, we are likely to bring up repressed emotions that are negative and mirror that outlook.
A difficult past usually contains repressed emotions that are trying to come to the surface.
Rocks on the bottom of a river bed have little or no chance of going downstream. But leaves are easily carried by the current of flowing water. Life is like a flowing river. We get left behind when we dwell in the past.
The choice is ours. Flow with life or stay with the past; we cannot do both. The destination of a river isn’t the river bed, but somewhere downstream. Life’s destination does not lie in the past; it is where the present goes.
The choice is ours. Flow with life or stay with the past; we cannot do both.
When we invest our mind’s energies in the present, we cannot get ahead of ourselves and run towards the future or fall behind, stuck to the past. A flowing river meets less resistance as it gets bigger and holds more water. Likewise, the more we flow with the present, the more mental energy we have at our disposal.
Events that come along the journey of life cannot become significant obstacles once we have a sufficient reservoir of mental energy. That energy comes not from the past or the future, but the present.