When thinking about the past, most people tend to dwell on the negative, instead of focusing on the positive things in their past. For example, when I used to look back on my undergraduate days, instead of thinking about how I met my wife, achieved in school, had many pleasurable experiences, etc. In the past I tended to think about the rigors of balancing my education with having to work night shifts at a 7-Eleven to pay for my school and expenses. Until recently, when I thought about law school, instead of focusing on the achievement of a goal, having a child, and the good friends that I made, I tended to think about the long hours of studying and how much I hated the Socratic method when I was the one being called out for questioning in front of 100 people in a class room. I recently had a close friendship dissolve, and instead of focusing on the positive aspects, and what I learned from him, I catch myself focusing on the bad circumstances surrounding the dissolution of the friendship.
Focusing on the negative aspects of our past is detrimental to our spiritual progression, as well as our enjoyment of the now. By focusing on negative experiences in the past we are wasting our time and energy on things that cannot be changed, they are merely ghosts in the ether of time. While exploring our past, and coming to terms with it is an essential part of spiritual development, you should take care to only use your past in a constructive way. If you are constantly filled with regret or anger because of past decisions or experiences, you should forgive yourself or whomever caused the pain, which will release the power the memory has over you. Use the past as a learning lesson on how you can be a better person today, and not repeat the mistakes which led to the painful memory to begin with.
By releasing the past, you can more fully live in the present, and love not only yourself at this moment, but the mystery of life which surrounds you. You are not the person that you were a few years ago, you are not the person that you were last week, you are who you are today, right now. The now which is present in front of you is extremely powerful, because your decisions and actions right now will form your immediate past, and what will happen in the future.
Practical Tip: Find a quiet place, turn off the electronic devices around you, and close your eyes. Simply focus on your breath as it enters and exits your nose or mouth. slowly allow your mind to drift back to your childhood, and slowly work your way to the present. When you encounter any negative memories, come to terms that those memories were in your past, release them, and move on, do not dwell on them. The more you do this, the more you will begin to focus on the positive aspects of your past, because you have released your negative aspects. This exercise will help put your past into perspective, and will help your confidence in the present.
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