• May 21, 2016

    I am haunted by the past, by some of the things I have done. Is there anything I can do about this?

    This is very common. What is valuable is to understand the past and make use of it in your work.

    First, you need to know that what you remember of the past is probably mostly wrong. Memory is very selective and over time we unconsciously change it to reflect our stories about ourselves.

    Consider this as a task. Choose an emotional family event many years in the past. Ask other members of the family who were there what they remember. Be prepared for monumental disagreement. Now, consider that you may have constructed large parts of your past to support your self-imagery and related identities.

    A second step is to review how much of your recollection of the past is fixated on “should, could and would”. You “should” have done things differently. If you “could” have, things “would” have gone differently. Consider that probably all of this is made-up.

    Of course we make mistakes and it is appropriate to regret them. But in looking back at yourself in the mechanical throws of the sleep state, you have no idea if you could have done things differently and you especially have no clue if things would have worked out differently. You are leaving out all kinds of unremembered factors—sensations, impressions, bodily states—had you eaten, were you in a hurry?—that may have played a vital role in what happened.

    Perhaps you will also notice that the “shoulds” change over time, as you learn more about yourself and experience more of life on this planet. We change our past by growing up and changing our perspective on it. Some of our mistakes begin to look like divine interventions.

    Third, what happened in the past likely involved other people. Do you know what their roles were and what impact past events had on them? Really? We place far too much importance on our role and what the implications were for us, what the events meant to us. We put too much emphasis on what we think the results were when we actually know almost nothing. What happened may have been the consequence of factors that had nothing to do with you.

    From a work point of view, the value of the past is that it reveals oneself. Looking impartially, not obsessing about what should have happened and leaving aside what may or may not have been the result, can you see what your inner condition was? You sense remorse. For what do you sense remorse? Was there dishonesty, cowardice, arrogance, greed?

    Looking back at some event which is accompanied by remorse, entering into the sensations of remembering, what do you see in yourself NOW, in the present? Looking without judgment, not concerned with what you cannot know, can you impartially observe the sensations proceeding in you?

    Our greatest offence against our own conscience is that we sleep. Ultimately, this is the source of remorse. Observed impartially, the sensations of remorse provide the raw fuel for awakening. Remorse is a doorway, if not indulged, if not explained or judged. It is our sleep that wakes us.

    Until you no longer need remorse to awaken, be glad that you have it.

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