Despite what most of us claim, we each still live in the past. We cling to the safety of old memories, ideas and moments whether we once determined them to be positive or negative. We know that Zen teaches us to let go of attachments, yet by clinging tightly to everything I have stuffed in my good box; theoretically, I get to vicariously re-live them again and again. True, they are never as powerful as the first time but they are infinitely more palatable than the hurtful stuff. If I dumped my past into the “not so good” container to carry with me, I remind myself of the badge of honor that is mine because I survived some challenge, fear or pain. The tighter I hold this one, the more I remind myself to avoid those unpleasant situations should the circumstances reappear in my life. The main belief at work here is that I can control everything and be powerful enough to never allow it to happen to me again. Certainly, this is far from the truth, because we don’t control pain – pain controls us. This isn’t the Zen calm I need in my life
Unfortunately, the way the mind works to compartmentalize our past is an inefficient system at best. Most times it fails to pay any attention to the heart and the emotions that are unexpressed or stuck as they relate to a particular moment in time. Every second of joy and pain exists uniquely as an energy script that can be read and rewritten only by allowing the baby, child, teenager or adult who must, in a sense, relive the experience emotionally to truly “feel” what happened and shake that energy free. Until you clear something energetically as the “person” you were at that moment in the past, you can’t move onto a new future.
My latest example is almost too simplistically real but it’s Christmas time and who amongst us doesn’t have Christmas memories? Would you believe me if I told you I was afraid of those beautifully wrapped Christmas presents that bear my name? This one is so strange I know you’re asking for an explanation. I’ll do my best to offer just that.
I can’t even remember that childhood Christmas when my Mother gave me a nicely wrapped but empty box for a present but I know in my heart it happened. And, of course, I was the only one of the three children to be designated as worth nothing. Here it is years later, and every time I see a Christmas present for “me” the hurt child inside cringes with anticipation of a nothingness that created untold feelings of unworthiness. Now, as an adult, I can tell you that holding on to this pain is just silly, but try telling that to the child who felt the pain of being the only one to receive an empty box. If I could remember, I’m sure I could move the energy much faster, but many things in our past are perceived, on a conscious and unconscious level, as just too painful and dangerous to play with.
Zen calm | Release the past
If you’re like me – you don’t want to live in the past. If that is true, you must summon the courage to open your secret history box as a personal gift to you. Opening your past to the light allows you to rewrite who you are today even if some of the presents that life brings you are not gifts of love and delight. The pain and emptiness I held inside me for a lifetime was infinitely more disabling than that empty Christmas. Only I can shift the balance of power in my personal history book, but that takes endless courage and repetition. It is my responsibility to eventually shift the emptiness into completeness by opening the past and exposing it repeatedly to the light of day.
Just remember, if you hand me a beautiful present, and I look like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car; the child in me is caught in that moment of fear about what will be discovered when the wrappings are removed and someone’s estimation of my self-worth reveals itself once again. Be patient with me – I am a work of art in progress and masterpieces take time to complete. I am committed to healing my past because I truly don’t want to live there anymore.