Why to Let Go Of The Past

Let Go Of The Past

The Samurai’s sword sat across his lap, his left hand clasping the saya lightly and his right palm resting on the tsuka. His eyes were closed, his breath measured, his mind clear. His legs were crossed in front, and his spine was straight. His meditation was coming to its natural close; he felt relaxed, calm and ready to continue on his journey. Slowly, his eyes opened, looking out toward the countryside. Silently, he gave thanks for the world he lived in, then stood up and brushed the dust from his rear.

He looked around to ensure that he was leaving the space as he had found it, then attached his katana to his hip, along with his wakizashi. He walked on.

Lately I’ve been preoccupied with the idea of letting go. In only a few days, I’ll be leaving the life I know in Canada behind, to travel, find a new space in the world and let go of the past. It’s not that the past was particularly painful (at least for me), but our attachments to the past, its people, its places and its activities can often blind us from seeing what’s possible for the future.

As I sort through my possessions, deciding just which of them I’m going to hold onto and which I’m going to let go, I realize that I’m very attached to the history that they represent. They remind me of friends, of relationships, of moments in time, of lessons learned, of lessons ignored and my past hopes for the future, for what is now the present. All those thoughts take up space, and if you don’t make room, they’ll keep your brain full. The only way we can evolve is by letting go of the unnecessary, to give ourselves space to grow, and to fill that space with new thoughts, new experiences, new lessons. Whether we like it or not, the past has changed us already. We are all the people we are today because of our past decisions, good or bad. So the more time one spends living in the past, thinking about attachment, thinking about what could have been, or what was, the less energy we have for what is happening right now.

And right now, I don’t have those things anymore. They’re in the past. Some of them were beautiful, some of them were ugly, some were life changing, some innocuous. The one thing they have in common is that they are now gone. Right now, I have a whole different set of things to focus my energies on, again, some beautiful, some ugly, some life changing, some innocuous. I realize that any energy spent on the past is energy I cannot spend on the present, and on building for future presents.

So I am trying to let go of those attachments. It’s difficult. There is a lot of resistance. You end up spending a lot of time just sitting, thinking about what was. Perhaps it’s that we as humans try to justify our actions, that we so greatly desire meaning for our lives. Maybe it’s just me. I think that the reluctance to let go of those things is useful, as it ensures we keep what has worked for us in the past within reach. Those attachments are comforting, they’re familiar, they’re understood. But, ultimately, they’re only useful for the version of you that’s already come and gone. As I said, you’re already who you are.

A fantastic yoga instructor told me yesterday, “where your attention goes, your energy flows.” The question becomes where you want your energy to flow. Toward the past? Toward the things that are now gone, that cannot change, that cannot be affected in any way, or toward the future? Toward any one of an infinite set of possibilities, toward dreams becoming reality, toward your next challenge, your next chapter, and perhaps what could make you happier than you ever thought possible.

Red pill, or blue?

 ”Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”

~ Andre Gist

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