Throughout January, we’re going to talk about releasing. To make room for abundance, joy, balance, and peace, it’s important to let go of the old stuff that no longer serves your highest good. January is a great time to take a personal inventory and set a solid foundation for the year ahead. What elements of your life make you feel good? What elements deplete you? To the latter, I say, “Thank you, but I don’t need you any more. Bye now.”
#3. The Past
Oh boy, is this a hard one.
We cannot escape from our pasts, no matter how much we might sometimes wish it. The past is part and parcel of what makes us who we are. It can be our best - or worst - teacher, depending on how much power we give it. Its job is to inform and instruct us as we move forward in life.
But the past does not define us. We have the power to choose both who we are now and who we will be.
"I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become." ~ Carl Jung
Unfortunately, choosing to release the past can be difficult and overwhelming. For too many of us, the weight of the past (especially the painful, sad or traumatic aspects of it) sits so heavily upon us, we find ourselves stuck, believing that we do not deserve any better and accepting that we are incapable to living differently.
I know this struggle personally; I've lived it. So I can say with some authority, it really is bullshit.
[I've been outspoken about my experiences with rape and its subsequent PTSD. If you are interested, you can read more about this here.]
Allowing the past to dominate our perception holds us back from enjoying the present moment and prevents us from creating the free, authentic and joyful lives we desire. It is not easy, but releasing the past is one of the best things that you can do for yourself.
Here are some strategies to help you let go of the past.
- Breathe. Dealing with the past can be a daunting prospect. Deep, calming breaths help to prepare you mentally and physically.
- Understanding. Reflect on your personal history as an observer, looking without judging. Understand that the situations, events and people in your life created your experiences, but they didn't create you. You are not your past.
- Acceptance. Accept your history and the people in it. Accept your circumstances and remember that you are not defined by these things. Accept and release those negative emotions - carrying bitterness, anger and animosity hurts no one but yourself.
- Contribution. When you find yourself obsessing or lamenting your past, focus on making someone else's day better. Simple acts of kindness have a lasting impact, and they help you put your own situation into perspective. Contributing to the wellbeing of others is a wonderful way to align with your true self.
- Forgiveness. I believe forgiveness is the key to stop living in the past. When we forgive those who have hurt us or we forgive ourselves, we are finally free. To be clear, forgiveness does not mean condoning bad behavior or forgetting about accountability. Forgiveness does mean erasing the anger or guilt that has been holding us back and moving forward to begin anew.
So, here's to kicking the past to the curb! Beginning to live more mindfully and to focus on fully living life in the present moment is a joyful thing. If this is something you aspire to, I'd love to help.