Whatever has happened in our past, no matter how painful, humiliating or frustrating the experience may have been, know that the only way that we can move forward and work towards creating our best life is to make peace with the past.
With that, below are some of the most powerful ways that I personally found helped to become more mindful of the present by releasing past hurt and disappointments. Give them a go and may they also help you to make room for more joy and happiness:
1. Acknowledge & Accept the Past
One of the main reasons why the past seems to haunt us is because whether it is done consciously or not, we are in denial of our past. We secretly hoped that if we do not acknowledge our past, then it never actually happened. This way, we don’t have to deal with the pain, the hurt, and the disappointment of past experiences. Ironically, by denying the existence of our past, we ended up creating more pain rather than the peace and relief we so desperately crave.
As Pema Chödrön, a renowned spiritual teacher, said: “Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what need to know“. When we constantly try to distance ourselves from our past, we deprive ourselves of learning the valuable lessons that our past experience came to teach us. No matter how hard we try to escape our past until we come to acknowledge it and learn from it, we are likely to encounter similar experiences in our present and future.
Choose to own your story and shed a much-needed light on your past. No matter how painful and dark you believe your past has been, choose to appreciate it. Afterall, without it, you would not have become the strong individual you are today.
2. Stop Playing the Blame Game
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Admittedly, I’ve been guilty of playing the blame game when things don’t exactly go as I had anticipated. There were moments where I would quickly point the fingers to others and/or external factors as soon as things go wrong. As far as I’m concerned, I was the victim and it was always everyone else’s (or anything else’s) fault but mine.
In order to create our best life, we must learn to let go of stories where we cast ourselves in the role of “poor me”. While I am in no way dismissing our past pains and sorrows, we can not expect to grow and progress towards our best selves by dwelling on the past and blaming others for treating us badly.
As an adult, all the blame we have put on our parents, teachers etc. when we were in our youth are no longer valid. If you desire a better way of living and to create a better life for yourself, learn to cultivate mindfulness and stop blaming others or external circumstances for things that have gone awry.
However painful it may seem at first to accept that we are entirely responsible for our lives – both the good and the bad experiences. Know that it could be the very thing that will finally set us free.
3. Learn to Forgive
Carrie Fisher, the late renowned actress who came to fame starring as ‘Princess Leia’ in the Star Wars film series, had so wittily said: ”Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die“. By holding on to anger, resentment, and grudges we have for those who had wronged us, we are actually causing more harm to ourselves than the person we wish to seek revenge on.
The reason why it is so difficult for some of us to forgive others is that we mistakenly equate forgiveness to acknowledging that “what you did is OK” when in fact forgiveness actually means “I may not agree with what you’ve done, but I’m willing to let it go“. Forgiving others is not the same as creating justifications for the harmful actions others have done to you. Rather, it is a gift you give to yourself as it is a vital part of the healing process. In other words, you do not forgive someone so they can feel better. You forgive someone so YOU can feel better.
Last not but least, we must learn to wholeheartedly forgive ourselves. Understand that taking responsibility for our past does not mean that we should dwell on our mistakes and eternally beat ourselves up over it. There is nothing we can do now to change the past. No matter how catastrophic and shameful our past may seem, we can always make the conscious decision to find valuable life lessons to be learned from it and create ourselves a better and brighter future. As the great Maya Angelou eloquently advised“when we know better, we do better”.
4. Take Action and Embrace Change
“In any given moment, we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety” – Abraham Maslow
Sometimes we have a hard time letting go of the past because we refuse to make a decision and/or take action in order to move forward. We let our fear of stepping out of our comfort zones or making wrong decision – paralyzes us. So, we procrastinate and succumbing to inaction. Ironically, by doing so, we often end up causing ourselves, even more, pain and disappointments.
Realize that in order for us to create and live our best life, growth, progress, and change are essential. Hence the next time you are tempted to resist change and take action, remember that while change may initially be risky and painful, nothing is as painful than being stuck where you don’t belong.
5. Change your thought patterns
When we constantly rehashing past events in our minds, it becomes all too easy to believe that it will repeat itself in the future. What we may not realize is that by obsessing over how bad the circumstances were, we are actually actively making that fear turn into reality. As the old saying goes “energy flows where your attention goes”.
Whenever you find yourself dwelling in the unpleasantness of past situations, take a deep breath and remind yourself that feeling of being stuck is merely a state of mind. Make a conscious decision to shake off your negative thought patterns and replace them with positivity.
Decide right then and there that you are in charge of your future – that the past does not equal the future. Remember that you always have the power to remain positive and hopeful regardless of what has happened in the past!
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