December Theme: Making Peace with the Past
In recent weeks as I look at the areas in my life that I’m trying to improve, I’ve been tracing back lines to past twists and turns in my journey and holding the energy of “blame” on past events. If I had only… If they, he, she had only…
I am wholeheartedly positive that this is a colossal waste of time. Everyone knows no good can come from blaming the past. It’s what you do with the present that counts. So why has my brain decided to go down that road lately and set up camp like an angry Golem at the side of the river, grumbling about how the Hobbit’s stole his precious? If I know it’s a waste of time, why is my current frustration now focused so hard on the past?
Sometimes the only way around an obstacle is through it.
I can’t change the past, nor should I want to. But I am trying to grow through this fitful night of struggle. I’m pushing at the edges of my cocoon in order to bust out and make major breakthroughs in a particular area that I’ve struggled with for over a decade now.
I’ve come to the present moment in a million ways. My practice has brought me peace and contentedness. But life is a myriad of moments, glowing different colors and qualities. Although every time we practice, we discover divine perfection and reset the dial to our true state of peace, I believe there is also an earthly shadowed strife that mixes into our experience. There is a darkness we all go through to get to the next level.
This is why my mind is dwelling on the past. This is why it is intently studying it. The last barrier in the way of the breakthrough IS the regret itself that I hold, and it IS the wisdom held in that container.
Through the witnessing state of meditation, I can see the characters of that time –myself and others—with complete compassion. I can re-witness their actions as if I were watching a play. We love watching movies and plays with characters that play out the flawed hand they’ve been dealt, both inside themselves and through circumstance. We love the compassion it evokes from our hearts to see them with understanding of all of their imperfections. When we study the play of our own lives, we have the opportunity to extract the nectar of old events to serve the present moment with wisdom, not pain. If we ignore them to simply arrive at peace now we divert the pain, but don’t welcome the opportunity for growth.
So, while putting the past to rest and seeing everything in perfect order is important, we want to make sure we’re not practicing any kind of “spiritual bypass:” skipping over dark or painful or inconvenient material in the psyche and landing in ungrounded sweetness.
When your mind seeks to magnify a particular old event, just as in meditation, it’s futile to resist this thought land you have wandered into. Instead, welcome this course of study. Know that ruminating in regret will not bring you resolve, but forgiving the regret in yourself and others will. And sometimes that forgiveness takes time to sit there and be in the dark ugly feelings of sorrow, as long as you sit there with an unwavering commitment to not strengthen them, but to give them their ultimate peace.
Don’t stop there. Next use those feelings as fuel to fire you up for the present. You’re not dead until you are dead, and people have made great strides and monumental life turn arounds at every stage of the game.
If your mind still hangs heavy on an old regret, whether you blame yourself or someone else, don’t try to erase those feelings. They are trying to teach you something. Know that blame has no merit, but recognition does.
Recognize yourself as a human who wasn’t born knowing everything, but has the potential to learn everything.
Recognize others as humans who weren’t born knowing what’s exactly right, but are doing the best they can.
Then, use feelings of old regret for fuel in the present. If you find your mind dwelling on the past, there is probably the greatest opportunity of your life right around the corner, and your mind is just preparing you to use your past to do it better this time. -Ella Luckett, Jai Yoga Arts