Living in the Past isn’t Really Living
Science tells us that 65-75% of our thoughts on any given day are negative. This is based on the way we have been trained to think. So, the majority of our thoughts are about what’s wrong with us and the world rather than what’s right with it. Another way to say that is we think more about what isn’t there rather than what is there. It is not natural and it’s not normal .¨ it’s just common practice. But even more than that, the majority of our thoughts are focused on the past. We tend to think a lot about what has already happened which means we’re spending our precious lives on what’s over and done with. And that isn’t really living. Well, it’s living in the past. And we’re missing what’s actually going on in the present moment, which is the only moment where reality exists.
The present moment is the place where life happens, where we can truly experience the gifts of life and where we can affect change. What is the present moment? It’s right now. It’s this very second. But, we miss it when we spend our time thinking about what was said last week at the office that hurt our feelings or regretting something we never did in life. Whatever it is, the past steals our life from us. We don’t have to let it, though. We can change that. It’s time for us to let it go of the past and live fully in the present for more joy, more peace, better health and more love.
The Pain of the Past
The past is just a memory. It’s not real. Our bodies don’t know that, though. Every thought we have starts chemical reactions in the brain that race through our body. We feel both the emotional and the physical effects of those thoughts.
When we spend our time in the present moment thinking about the past, we experience the past as if is it happening right now. But, it’s not.
The past has two parts to it; pleasant memories and painful memories. Because of the negative-based thinking program that relentlessly runs in our head, we tend to focus on the painful ones more than the pleasant ones. When we dwell on past events, the chemical reactions that accompany those painful thoughts are released into our bloodstream and we physically experience the pain and suffering all over again. The rush of adrenaline, increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, shallow breathing, tightness in our chest and the complete discomfort from our painful thoughts happen once more. We do this to ourselves over and over. But, does it make any sense to do that? No. And the good news is we don’t have to if we don’t want to. But, the choice not to relive the painful past is up to us. Each one of us has the power to choose something different for the past. We can’t change what happened, but we can change our view of it. We can let go.
What We Hold Onto Holds Onto Us
It has been said that “what you resists persists”.
We must realize that whatever we hold on to about the past .¨ feeling hate or regret, feeling guilty or wishing it was different – continues to hold on to us. In fact, it holds us back. That means we often feel stuck, unhappy, unfulfilled, frustrated, anxious, worried, disconnected from loved ones and exhausted. We deserve better.
The keys to letting go of the past reside in acceptance and forgiveness. Most of us have a hard time accepting the past. But, it did happen that way it happened and it’s not going to change. It is as it is. We stay stuck in the past when we think, “if only I had said this or that to her, I would feel better. I would’ve have shown her!” But, you didn’t. You said what you said and you did what you did. Now, it’s over. Accept it as it happened, learn from it and let it go. Don’t forget to forgive yourself and anyone else that was a partner with you in that experience. That’s part of acceptance. Realize that all parts in the event were played just as they were meant to be played for the maximum benefit of experience and learning for all involved.
That’s the real point to life anyway .¨ to live and to love. Holding on to the negative past doesn’t allow the natural experience of life to occur. Maybe we could start thanking each other for helping us with life’s lessons rather than thinking negative things about other people in our life. It’s just a thought.
10 Ways to Let Go
We aren’t told this, but we can think anything we want to think. That means we can put any spin on anything that happened in our lives. It’s not a requirement for us to feel bad about anything. That point of view is just part of old patterns of thinking that keep us locked up in the prison of our mind. We can be free from this though. We can change how we view the past and make it nicer for us. Below are ten ways to start living again in the present moment by letting go of the past.
1. Focus on Gratitude– The antidote to living in the past is gratitude. When we focus on being grateful, we don’t have time to focus on what we think is bad or wrong with the past (or the present for that matter). Focusing your day on gratitude keeps you plugged into reality and the gifts of life .¨ which are truly endless.
2. Meditation Connects Us to Reality – Meditation is a powerful way to connect to what’s real and calm that overly busy mind so your thoughts can’t take you for a ride to hell and back. You can also work with breath consciousness to practice focusing on the present moment. You will feel a great sense of relief and peace with this.
3. Connect with Nature for Lessons and Love– When was the last time you took a good, long hard look at a leaf? For that matter, when is the last time you touched a leaf, held it gently between your fingers or even shook hands with it? Nature is alive in the moment. It is truly living. Nature does not dwell on the past, not does it think what is coming in the future. It is simply here, in the present moment; in th right now. Nature accepts what happens with grace. Everywhere in nature, there is a lesson of love, kindness, peace and simple living.
4. Practice Getting Present– There is only one moment on the planet where you can do anything about anything. That is in the present moment. When your minds starts to wander off into the past or the future, be aware of its movement without your consent and gently guide it back to what is going on right now in your life. It takes practice, but you can do it! It’s time to regain control of your mind.
5. Focus on Your Food– Focusing on your food is a great way to get out of the past and into the present moment. Most of us miss the entire meal. We eat it, but we rarely stop to think about the food itself, where it came from, who planted it, who picked it and how we were able to afford it. Look at your food, thank it and realize it is there to help keep you alive. Be one with it. It certainly becomes part of you once you swallow!
6. Join Your Body in the Present Moment– The physical body is always in the present moment. This is a stark contrast to our thoughts that jump from the past to the future and back to the past all day long (see Meditation above to help with this). How many times have you driven somewhere and you can’t remember actually driving there? Your body is present .¨ be where your body is and you won’t be focused on the past.
7. Listen- When someone else is talking with you, are you actively listening or are you waiting to speak? So many times we talk with someone and barely hear what they have to say. Instead, we are thinking of what we want to say or thinking of other things we have on our mind. Practice listening when someone else is talking to you. This is a skill that can help you focus on the present moment which keeps you out of the past.
8. Play More Often – Paint, play music, write your autobiography, cycle in nature – do what you love to do more often.
Spending time focused on things you enjoy makes you happy and brings you relief from focusing on negative thoughts, especially those associated with the past.
9. Awareness – Being aware of the thoughts you have about the past can help you break the pattern of thinking about it the majority of the time and can help you change them. Be kind and gentle to yourself during this process. It takes time to unlearn some of the old thinking patterns that don’t work in our favor.
10. Lead with Love– When we lead with love this becomes our filter for how life looks to us. Love allows us to be kind, compassionate, understanding, forgiving, peaceful and joyful. When we look at other people and focus on these attributes, we are leading with love. They are always there. The only reason we don’t see them is because we aren’t focused on them. Practice looking for this in people.
Do the same for situations, whether you are directly involved in them or see them as an observer.
You have been a prisoner of the past long enough. It’s time to start living and to experience all of life’s gifts. You deserve better health, more joy and more love. Start today with one past thought that has been haunting you for some time. Change the focus of it from stressful to peaceful .¨ from hate to love. See that it has added to your life experience in some way. Honor it. Then let it go. It’s time to be free now.