DOES LIFE HAPPEN TO YOU, THROUGH YOU OR FOR YOU?
Another week has passed. It now belongs to the past. (And this is not a grammar lesson!)
“Isn’t the past kind? It’s always over” said Byron Katie, author, speaker and best known for her self-enquiry process called The Work.
Would you agree?
Or do you feel that your personal lot in life sits at the cruellest and most painful end of the fairness yardstick? Are you still reeling from it, or railing against what happened to you?
Kind? What can be kind about loss? The loss of a loved one, divorce, loss of health, financial loss, loss of a job, opportunity and so on – surely the impact of the loss is still felt now whether the cause or event happened last week or month or long before?
And what about when we have experienced the wrath of others or been the victim of an attack, either physically or to our identity? Do the embers of hurt or hatred not simmer in the bowels of our emotions?
When life really sucks, it can be extremely difficult to access the state of acceptance and then to continue with a yes to life. But, for the most part, our actual misery comes from our thinking, from clinging on to the thoughts attached to past events.
I’ve written before about my morning pages where I do my best at emptying my mind of troubling as well as querying thoughts on to the page before me. Often, I punctuate my writing with the words, LET GO. And yes in capitals, for that extra bit of in your face emphasis. I find this reminder habit particularly helpful, especially when I’m stuck in a wrestling match with a stressful thought or find myself spiralling down into a pit of anger or drowning in a sea of tears.
I do this to avoid long-term fixation because the continuation of that sort of worrying or obsessing essentially is of no benefit. What it does do is erode my inner equilibrium, physically, mentally and emotionally, all the while ensuring the longevity of my painful thinking i.e. suffering, around that event.
There’s another side to this and that is the conditioning in which we are submerged from the very time that we are aware of being human!
It becomes second nature to behave and react in a certain way because we are fed those scripts by our culture, religion, family, peers, education, the media outlets and society. This prescribed way of interpreting events tends to replace the natural evolvement of our individual feelings with the collective, automated ones.
Feelings come from thinking but when we automatically behave according to conditioning, we are not giving original thinking and questioning a chance.
This further perpetuates our attachment to the pain of the bad and/or sad past. And unfortunately it is the bad/sad events of the past that gain prominence over the good ones.
As Edith Eger, a holocaust survivor, says in her book The Choice,
“It is too easy to make a prison out of our pain, out of the past.”
Inevitably the conditioned reaction goes hand-in-hand with drama, and as we re-act it out, an addictive pattern can develop. Rather fertilise the thought seed that the same old repetitive drama is boring, and allow yourself to give it up without the intrusion of guilt over not behaving according to expectations.
There are many ways in which we can ease our release from the ‘prison of the past’ but perhaps our focus should begin with resistance.
Resistance to what was, to reality, keeps us in the prison – you know you are in resistance to what was, when you say things such as: Why me?, It should not have been…., If only…, Why didn’t…., and so on.
And the way to melt that resistance is to surrender and become comfortable with the acceptance of what was. (This doesn’t mean that you condone it or that you are a doormat.) Only then are you free to focus on the present, to gradually open your awareness to opportunities that you have now, and move forward. The past will not change, but reframing your thoughts about it can change how you feel about it.
Spend some quiet time with painful memories and ask what that past experience came to share with you. What insight have you gained into the pain of the perpetrators of ‘bad’, or into yourself, and how have you changed, how have you grown.
Do this as often as you feel the need to do it, until you sense a gradual shift in your thinking to new thought formations – those which possibly make you feel just that little bit freer from the treadmill of suffering.
Of course the process of grieving is important and beneficial, or talking to someone when bitterness over the past is choking the life out of you. There is no one size fits all when dealing with painful memories, but there is an inner wisdom in each of us that holds the answers aligned with our truth.
We can be kind to the past by allowing it to rest in peace so that we can live in peace. Then, we are no longer victims of it.
As Edith Eger (who also lost both of her parents in the holocaust when she was a mere 16 years old) says in her exquisite book The Choice,
“Our painful experiences aren’t a liability – they’re a gift. They give us perspective and meaning, an opportunity to find our unique purpose and our strength.”
And from Byron Katie:
“The world is here to grow me. Thank you for doing your job.”
“Life happens for you.”