Do you ever feel weighed down by your past? Do you look back with sadness or regret at what you did or didn’t do, or with anger at people you’ve encountered?
The truth is, it is impossible to remember what really happened, or how we felt at the time. When we look back, we’re not reliving the same event, because we ourselves have changed. In this moment, now, we are different people.
For that matter, the other people involved have also changed. They are not the same now as they were then, are not feeling or doing those same things.
“What we are experiencing now is new. It is not what we have experienced before but what we are creating now in the present moment,” says Buddhist teacher Dzogchen Ponlop.
Our memories of the past are influenced by who we have become, so they are never an accurate reflection of what really happened
That doesn’t mean we need to erase our thoughts of the past, as if that were even possible. We can reflect on things that happened in the past, with the awareness that we have now, and gain some new insights that are helpful. We can receive benefit from the memories when we bring our present mindfulness and greater awareness to them.
At each moment we are at a fork in the road. We can choose to relate to the present moment–and the past–in a fresh new way, in each and every moment. Often we dwell on memories as a way to escape how we are feeling today. But the only way to deal with our emotions and ease our discomfort is to be with them—now.
Here is a meditation to work with our feelings and emotions.
*Sit comfortably yet stably, and try to keep a straight back.
*Become aware of your body and your breath. Feel the coolness of the breath under your nostrils or on the back of your throat as you inhale; or notice your stomach as it rises and falls.
*Let your breath take its own pace, its own rhythm.
*Feel the floor beneath you and know that you are grounded. Above you sense the spaciousness of the sky and heavens.
*If you notice any tension, try to relax it, to soften it. You may notice tension on your forehead or your shoulders. Or you may feel some constriction in your abdominal area. Just continue to breathe and soften any areas of tension.
*As you continue to be present with your body and your breath, notice what kind of mood is present for you. Are you peaceful now? Or are you irritated or bothered about something? Sad? Or happy? Excited or worried?
*Be open and present to whatever you are feeling, without judgment. Give it space. Whatever thoughts, feelings or body sensations you may be having, allow them to be there.
*You may then return to noticing the breath. Let the breath come and go by itself, without trying to control it. Allow yourself to simply be with your body and breath, giving your sensations and emotions space to be here.
*Thoughts will also come and go. If you notice that the mind has wandered off into fantasy, or memory, just notice that and return to the movement of the breath or the sensation of your body in the present moment.
*As you continue to be with the breath, again notice if any sensations arise in the body or any moods arise, such as feeling happy, sad, or fearful.
*Just notice that for as long as you desire. When you feel ready, return to noticing the breath with open attention.
“The past, the present and the future are really one: they are today.”– Harriet Beecher Stowe