This will be long, so take your Ridalin or Aderol NOW! You have had your warning!!
During a recent life challenge, I faced the rather difficult task of understanding the relationship we share with our past, and was left clearly dominated by a need to become aware of how the path behind us can influence the path ahead of us. I would like to share some of the awareness discovered.
It caused me to ask the question: “does beating oneself up over the past continue the attachment to it?”. It was a rhetorical question at first, but seemed born of the recent struggle and the awareness that was created by it. I love struggle and suffering, it truly is the best teacher.
First, let me share with you my understanding of thought. Most of us cling to thought as the mechanism by which we grow, understand, live, make decisions, and basically function. I work to take thought in a much different way (yes, even struggle to reach this destination), and use my life experiences to basically formulate an awareness of thought…and understanding of it that shapes how I approach it, use it and, ultimately, discard it.
Thought, in my understanding, is the noise of the mind. It creates a perception of reality that can enhance the ego’s control of that reality. I clouds sound decision making, it magnifies ego, it stands in the way of progress. It simply keeps us from our selves, and from fully enjoying our existence. I certainly can get more into thought and ego if asked, but I have no need to challenge conventional thought in this post, but rather offer this as a basis for explaining the difference in thought and awareness as it relates to my understanding. A mouth full to say the least, some things of spirit just are not easily described with things of form. I guess one way to simply put it is that thought is the explanation of understanding, awareness is the creation of it without thought.
So, in the process of understanding attachment to past and how it controls our present, I needed to have an awareness of the circumstance at hand. This awareness requires an honesty for which thought cannot face. It takes seeing your self in a way that egoic thought will not allow, it takes tears, it takes sweat, and ultimately it takes a devotion to spirit that eliminates the presence of ego. It takes quiet, it takes stillness, it takes the complete absence of thought.
And now the painful part, an honesty for which there is no return. Things on here may be changed to protect others, but ultimately nothing will be changed to protect me, the person or the ego. So, here goes.
I have a propensity to not only have trust issues, but to cause them. I simply make bad decisions or do things that just aren’t worthy of trust. My ego takes over, thinks, and then acts in accordance with its perception of reality. Then it changes things to make that perception fit, regardless of how honest or truthful that perception is. My self, that part of me left when ego is stripped away, suffers at the hands of this. The ego jumps for joy while the self cries bitter tears. It is the paradox of a person that is the essence of “beating oneself up”, a continual battle between that which is all about form, pleasure and materialism and the self which wants no part of it.
In short, I am a liar…in ego that is simply what I am. This difficult awareness comes at a price but is worth the investment. The only way to end an ego is to shine light on it, and awareness is that light. Ego is a darkness that cannot survive even the slightest beam of light. You just need be willing to turn the light on, which is really the most difficult part.
Once I could see that I am a liar in ego, awareness began to delve into the aspects of this darkness. Now, keep in mind that awareness is not thinking, it is the absence of thought, so one does not pass judgment on what is happening at this moment. Awareness took me back to the pain of my youth, the need to be something so different in order to find the acceptance of others. Awareness shed light on seeing just how untrustworthy my parents were, how lies got them through life. I could see my ego creating the persona that would get me through the day. I could see that need to dominate my surroundings, whether cheating on a girlfriend to break any attachment to emotion, or having sex with a random woman in order to feel accepted, or hurting someone I loved very much because I just could not trust them, the things my ego did while in control simply sickened my self.
Worst of all, there were a handful of people who I honestly loved, people who I counted as those who I would die for if able. I realized that I was completely unable to share this because of my immature attachment to ego. In fact, I turned my back on these people rather than take them in. I feared this feeling, I feared its ownership of the “me” I knew. This “way” began when I was a young child and continued up to the day my wife tearfully told me that this “way” was killing her. At that moment, she turned a light on in me, made me become painfully aware of the “me” that needed to be exposed. At that moment, my self took over for a change, and I understood that my self needed to expose these things that were not only hurting her, but others I love, and yes, even me. The conflict had turned a corner.
That’s not to say it was over, man it is far from over even though this event took place years ago. My ego continues to lash out seeking its survival. This takes me to the recent life challenge. It simply was about the past, and how it effects the present. I began questioning whether I wanted to live in the past anymore, whether I wanted to have it control my life. I began to wonder if the “me” people got to know and expect was controlling the “me” I am at this moment. It is a conflict to say the least, it is a nasty battle between now and then, self and ego, light and darkness. But it is a necessary one.
And now to the understanding I have of the initial question. Let me first say that there is no right or wrong answer because ultimately the answer will depend upon where you are at this very moment. If am two blocks behind you in the journey of life, there is simply no way I can see the beauty you see, and you simply cannot see what I am seeing at that moment. But in this understanding is the understanding of the present, this very moment, and the fact that this moment is the purpose of being.
At this moment, I release the past the best I can. I must have no attachment to it, for it is an egoic perception of reality. Perception is a tricky thing, and I often liken it to the circumstance of the moment. To someone who is full and healthy, eating a Big Mac may seem grotesque…but give that same person a circumstance of starvation and they would eat that Big Mac off the dirty sidewalk. It’s the moment that is purpose, it is the moment that matters, and it is the moment for which we need to exist.
With this understanding, I become aware of reactions (ego) that are based on the past. They are harmful even if they appear to be good. In this moment there is no past, there is no need to relive it, there is no need to demand its attention or even offer it attention. The past ruins the present by its very existence, and the only way to firmly be in this moment is to relinquish the hold the past has on it.
No, there are no exceptions. And no, this is not to say that lessons learned in the past are not to be used this moment. They just must not own the moment. As a child learns that fire is painful, we now later due to this past experience not to stick our hand in the fire, but we do not use this painful experience to not enjoy a fire’s warmth. Yes, there is a difference, and it is up to you and where you are at this moment to figure out where that difference is.
I heard a story once that pretty much sums it up. If you have abused a dog as a puppy, and see it 10 years later it may bite you, but it certainly hasn’t thought about it for each of those 10 years. And it probably won’t think about it again once you leave the room to get your stitches. The dog has learned from the past, but it certainly does not live in it or for it. And I believe the dog will not be beating itself up for biting the abuser after the event is over.
We must learn from the dog…that this moment is not about the last one, it is about this one. It is the only one we are guaranteed, it is eternity. Enjoy it, allow it to be, and simply embrace all that it offers. Love those you love, open up, and just be. Such freedom is beautiful, and the stillness is deafening. No, it’s not easy, but if you love it is a must.