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Letting Go of the Past

No Experience Necesssary

"I realize there’s something incredibly honest about trees in winter, how they’re experts at letting things go." -Jeffrey McDaniel

How do we let go of the past?

It seems to intrude upon our present almost constantly. In fact, every event of the present seems to either have been caused by something in the past or is being interpreted by events of the past.

In psychoanalysis and many forms of self-help the past is dredged up and examined, often in detail. With all due respect, there is no need for any of that. It is true that our experience in the present moment is colored and often created by the past. So how do we let go of that?

Fortunately we only have to deal with this present moment. We don't have to analyze or reframe or dredge up anything unpleasant. Everything we need to work with to experience emotional and spiritual freedom is right here, right now, in this very circumstance, in this very moment.

Let’s say you have a little ball in your hand and your hand is closed tightly around it. That little ball is going to go everywhere with you. Not only that but, as long as that hand is closed, it will not be able to be used for anything else. You are, for all intents and purposes, a one armed being at that point. Now what happens if you hold your hand out, turn you palm down and simply open your fingers? The ball drops, the hand is free and you have just doubled your capacity.

But wait! Holding that ball has become a habit. It's familiar, comfortable even. We’re used to it. In fact, it feels uncomfortable, even weird to have it so open and exposed. So, when that ball bounces back up towards your hand (which is what balls do) we once again catch it and close our fingers around it. Ooooo that feels... more... normal. And you are once again reduced to half capacity.

What if instead, you simply let yourself feel the discomfort of the unfamiliar? What if you keep your hand open and, no matter how many times the ball bounces back up, you let your fingers remain relaxed and extended. Even if it was a super ball and bounced back up 1,000 times,

if you didn't close your hand around it, it would eventually lose its energy, the bounce would become lower and lower. The energy would eventually diminish into a roll and it would soon be out of sight.

Now notice, in order to let it go and be free we don't have to go to any great lengths. We don’t need to know how the ball got there in the first place. We don’t need to know why we have been holding on to it. We don’t need to know the composition or brand name of that ball or even what type of ball it is. We don't need to know the mechanics of how a hand grasps something or study anatomy or gravity or do meditation or self-inquiry. We just need to let the damn ball go and not grab it again.

We really only need to understand two things:

  1. Holding on to the ball is limiting our capacity to do and receive and

  2. It is going to feel uncomfortable to let it go

If we know in advance that there will be discomfort (and perhaps have a teacher or some spiritual friends around to help remind you) we will be able to endure the period of transformation that allows us to adapt to the new environment, move past the discomfort and start enjoying an increased energy that will touch every part of our lives.

Yes, the past is influencing the present and even shaping our potential for the future. But it can only do so when we hold on to it. Sometimes the letting go can take some time. Some old wounds, resentments and unprocessed trauma may have to take place. But, if we recognize that processing that deep stuff is the process of letting go we will eventually arrive at the place of equanimity. Then the effect of the past is not just ignored or forgotten. It is actually gone.

Then we can turn that palm upward open and receptive to the now liberated blessings of this moment and the next... and the next... and the next.


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