Be not the slave of your own past—plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep, and swim far, so you shall come back with new self-respect, with new power, and with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Contemplate your answers to the following questions: What is your relationship with your past? Is it strained because you still carry the baggage from the past? Do you feel agitated, angry or in a bad mood for no reason sometimes? Whilst I realise these questions require you to sit and reflect on them, it is worth taking the time to think about whether you are recycling the past into the present moment. As the title suggests, whether we think we’re done with our past, our past is never done with us. Why? Events that occurred at an earlier time become embedded in our subconscious Mind Body and may manifest as pain or illness if they’re not resolved. If we don’t process the pain or wounds of the past, they creep up on us when we least expect it. The thing is, we don’t expect it to happen to us because what took place is dead and buried and should remain there. Right? But this isn’t always the case regarding our emotional wounds and scars. The past isn’t something to be afraid of, since it can lead us to a better understanding of ourselves.
The past can seep its way into the present moment and stain it with unpleasant memories to seize our attention. There is nothing harmful about the past other than we haven’t fully integrated the experiences that took place. I am drawn to this honest message by the spiritual teacher and author Michael A. Rodriguez who writes in Boundless Awareness: A Loving Path to Spiritual Awakening and Freedom from Suffering: “Dwelling on the past and future, forever pursuing things that you think will (but secretly know will not) bring you lasting peace, creates an endlessly frustrating, futile, self-perpetuating loop. Waking up from this mode of misery requires that you clearly see the inherently painful nature of the habitual pursuit of things that you think or feel will make you happy and at peace.” If an experience is not resolved or integrated into our awareness, it will linger and seize our attention in innumerable ways. This might be through flashbacks, mood swings, pain in the body or through our dreams. Is this something you’ve experienced? If so, how have you responded? Do you get caught up in the bad mood or dismiss it as a bad day?
You Are Never Done With Your Past
If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present. ~ Lao Tzu
Whatever the case, the past is never done with us until we have learned the lessons it wants to convey. It permeates our lives to gain our attention in order to better understand ourselves. The past is a friend not a foe. I liken it to a nagging child we ignore who wants to play outside. Eventually, the child will have enough and throw a tantrum because it doesn’t understand the concept of later. It wants our attention right now. I’m certain if you’re a parent with young children, you recognise this pattern. I have young nephews and it doesn’t matter what I’m doing and how important it is, I must stop and give them my undivided attention. And that is what our past invites us to do: give it our attention and integrate the experiences or emotions so we transform them. Otherwise they grow in intensity because we haven’t taken the time to listen to them. Unhealed emotions are similar to nagging injuries we dismiss, yet later need specialist treatment because we have put it off for so long.
Is this making sense so far, in that neglecting the past may not be in your best interest? I can understand why people want to leave the past behind them, particularly negative experiences. Yet if we don’t take the time to make peace with them, like the child who wants to play, they will nag at us until they seize our attention and by then we may be powerless over them. Considering this, I’d like you to reflect on one or two issues from your past that are causing you pain. Write your experiences and the emotions attached to them. What could the experience be calling you to understand? If nothing comes to mind, do some free association and write what first comes to mind. If you follow the trail, you will find a string of clues leading to an answer. Second, how can you make peace with these emotions and/or experiences? How can you transform and heal them? Does it require forgiveness of another person or perhaps yourself? Does it require you to see the truth of the situation because you may be holding on to an inaccurate view of what took place? Ultimately, what we don’t feel and integrate into awareness will find its way into the present moment and future. We are never done with our past and our past is never done with us until we can recall it with openness, love and compassion.