“If you try to examine your life analytically, asking yourself who you are, finally you will realize that there is something you cannot reach. You don’t know what it is, but you feel the presence of something you want to connect with. This is sometimes called the absolute. Buddha and Dogen Zenji say true self. Christians say God.” ― Dainin Katagiri, Each Moment Is the Universe: Zen and the Way of Being Time
We mostly live in the past.
It’s hard not to, but in doing so we recreate pain, anguish and suffering.
Rarely, if ever, do we let go.
It wasn’t always this way. Think back to your earliest memories of childhood; in that space, as fanciful (now) as it might sound there was just this.
“Wherever you go, there you are”
― Jon Kabat-Zinn
I’m certainly not the first person to invite you to open your heart, but even when we touch true self, it’s not long before we’re blown off track and we’re right back in the thick of our dark, historic past.
Why do we find it so hard to let go?
Because we’ll lose our identity?
I’m sure that’s part of it but perhaps our ego knows that without something to chew on, it would wither away to nothing. It needs the drama!
In an organisational setting, I’ve raised this a few times. It manifests with any change agenda where some well-meaning, thought-leader type behoves group change.
And then I ask the question:
“I get what you’re saying, but when was the last time you made a fundamental course correction in your life, let alone let go of your past (and often corrosive) thinking?”
The answer is rarely clear nor succinct.
In my case, I try really hard not to live in the past. Not only is it painful but it’s also very unhelpful. Without trying to put myself on a pedestal, I’m acutely aware that when I depart from this moment, I can become a bundle of nervous/angry energy which then infects my immediate vicinity and changes the mood of the house, the office or wherever I’m at. That’s why sometimes, in case you don’t know me, I’m prone to bouts of prolonged silence. Sometimes this is confused with being sullen or moody, but it’s me trying to get in touch with true self. Better still, if time and money permits, I know a short break from the vicissitudes of family life does wonders for me and everyone else.
In the end, how you choose to deal with this inner struggle is a matter for you but perhaps I can ask you to consider the R.A.I.N. methodology:
It’s a practice of mindful awareness, looking at emotion and thought from a place of non-judgment and curiosity.
I know it’s hard when you’re caught in the mire of past thinking to prick your conscious into submitting to a word but then again, even recognising where you’re at is often enough for you to remember that the longer you stay fixated to the past — which is, after all, just a thought — the more you’ll suffer.
One other thing you might find helpful is to start a journal to record what’s arising in the moment. I wrote about this other day and the methodology is equally apposite to eviscerating some of the repetitive thinking that’s a hallmark of historical living.
However, if none of this works, and I know it sounds a bit churlish, try going for a long, fairly brisk walk. It’s amazing how much your mind clears when you’re outdoors.