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Thinking of The Past: Helpful or Not?
By Art Ramsay, Ph.D.

 Twenty-five years ago when I first began my study of metaphysics, my conversations with some of my co-workers involved the past. I told that being in the past was harmful. The response I got from one person was that he viewed it as a way to relive enjoyable events, since he heard “old-timers” talking about and laughing over past encounters in their lives. What I neglected to state, since I was new to the language of metaphysical terms is that LIVING in the past is what is damaging.

 I am writing this in April of 2013 and have had a rough time with my body’s physical health since the year’s beginning. Many times during the past four months I have thought about friends that are no longer in my life and things I enjoyed that I no longer do. Of course, this was part of feeling sorry for myself, because my life no longer felt the same anymore. Fortunately, these thoughts have grown fewer over time.

 Mentioning this subject to some of my friends and family over the years has often brought the response that “we learn from the past” and that “we are destined to repeat the past if we don’t learn from it”. Both of those statements are true to a point. Yes, we learn from our mistakes, but drawing from the past beyond this is not helpful to our personal lives. What most people do is live their daily lives in the past; that is, letting past events dictate what they do in the present.

 In order to live our lives in the best possible way we can is to live in the present moment. That is, what is happening right now is all that really matters, because in reality there is no past; it is all in your mind. Since the past is in your mind and not physically present, then the present moment is all you have to live your life in. I know many of you are probably wondering what I had to drink before sitting down and starting this article. We have lived our lives believing the past was valuable and is needed in the present. Other than learning from our mistakes, this is not true; only a belief and habit.

 I agree that reliving enjoyable events in our minds is often helpful both emotionally and mentally. If you want a way to feel happy in the moment, then thinking about a happy event can be enjoyable. The danger is to become attached to using this method as the only way to be happy. Then it becomes a “living in the past” habit.

 Have you ever said, in a moment of despair, “If I had my life to live over I would change ….”? Of course you have. We all have at one time or another. But the key question here is what would you change? If you had gone to college, if you had married sooner/later, if you had not married, if you had/didn’t have kids; and on and on. Could it be that no matter what you changed you would still be where you are now emotionally psychically?

 I have read that your Soul plans your life before you are born; not every detail, but the major “lessons” you need to learn and use in your life. So it might not matter what you changed, the learning still has to be completed, before your body leaves the earth. It appears that it does not matter what you change; what you came here to do will still need to be completed.

 The greatest danger of living in the past is the unconscious aspect of doing it. We mostly live from our unconscious beliefs, which came from our past. In this way it goes unnoticed by our conscious mind and our awareness. So even if you had done something different, the same or similar beliefs would still have been stored in your unconscious mind.

 Back to one of the first things I mentioned – living in the present moment. When you look at your life in any single day, the time you spend depends on the sun; nothing more. Actually, it is the earth moving around the sun, but that is a different subject. There is really so such thing as “time”. It was made up by humans. There are “cycles”, one of which has just been completed.

 Why the ancients needed a way of keeping track of the cyclic process is a mystery to me, but even they felt it important. The Romans invented the Gregorian calendar that most of the world now uses. Calendars aside, we still only have a single day based on single moments. You can see how we actually only live in the moment, that is, we are only conscious of the present moment. We cannot be present in the past moment, it is already gone.

 In the same way, we cannot be present in a future moment; it is not here yet. The present moment cannot be equated to time; that is, it may last a second on an hour. While you are reading this, you are in the present moment, unless this moment is disturbed by something, then you are in that present moment. This is one way of viewing it. Some may equate it to each instant of time. I prefer not using time since it is made up anyway.

 The point of this article is to stop living in your past, both consciously and unconsciously. Since the past is only in our minds, we can begin to move beyond this way of thinking with practice. For example, you can do something different each day. This will help pull you out of your habits and into a new way of living each day.

 By eliminating habits that do not serve us, we can replace them with a new way of thinking and doing. For me, since thinking does not serve me anyway, and in fact is a stepping stone to judging, a practice I have been using is to eliminate thinking altogether. Easy? No. Profound in its use? Yes.

 The above mentioned practices can help you create steps to a new way of life, even if it is subtle. Each little adjustment we make to release past programming, carries us forward into new ways of living and closer to being who we truly are and do what we came here to do.

 

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