Release the Past, Forget About the Future

Our attachment to the past and to the future prevents us from living life right now. It prevents us from seeing reality as it presents, and it clouds our perception and judgement. We spend the majority of our day in the past and/or in the future instead of in the present.

When we look around us, we view the objects that surround us through the meaning of the past or the expectations of the future. Everything around us triggers little recollections of various experiences that occurred in the past, or that we hope/fear will occur in the future. When we see something vaguely familiar and wonder where we've seen it before. In the past. When we compare ourselves to someone and wish we have what they have. In the future. When we predict how a person will act or behave due to prior experience. Based on the past. When we play out a scenario in our head that has never occurred. Perhaps in the future.

But the past is not real, and neither is the future. Only what is occurring right now is real. Yet, one may argue, that the past was real; and, indeed, it once was, but it no longer is. And our ability to recollect the past with precision is tainted by distortion. One may argue that the future will be real; and, indeed, it will be when it occurs, but it is not real right now. The truth is  that only the present moment is real. The past and the future are merely the brains way of classifying time chronologically. It is how we have been taught; therefore, it is now second nature. It is something we rarely question, and something we seldom suspect to be a reason behind our perception errors. 

The past and the future are only 'real' in our minds, and only if we believe them to be so. A past that we insist is 'real' will constantly play out in our surroundings in real time - because we will make it so. This is why we unconsciously repeat patterns of behavior, or constantly find ourselves in similar situations - because we do not allow the past to recede from our minds, thus it is constantly influencing our choices. A future that we imagine to be 'real' will create a delusion that we cannot reconcile with reality. This is why we are often disappointed by how the present moment plays out - because we had an idea of how it should have happened and instead it happened differently. How delusional it is to become attached to an outcome we imagined in our minds and then allow it to steal our peace when reality presented differently. Yet, this is exactly what we do over and over again.

If we believe that so-and-so will let us down based on past experience (either with that person, or with people in general - i.e. 'everybody lets me down'), then we will view their efforts as a let down (and say we knew we were right all along) while missing the opportunity to view the person objectively and interpret their actions as they intended. Because, it is likely the person did not let us down but rather they did not act exactly how we expected. So, in essence, our disappointment is due to their actions not matching our narrow definition of how they should act. The majority of heartache and drama associated with interpersonal interactions stems from our inability to allow others to act differently from what we define to be our ideal. Unfortunately, this is human nature. BUT, we can redefine how human nature should be, and give ourselves peace in the process.

For example, if we ask a person for help on a project then we typically have a definition in mind (a future expectation) of what we view as 'help'. However, we generally do not express what we mean by 'help' but rather believe the person will instinctively know exactly how to fulfill our need for help by the inference of the word 'help'. If we have history with this person, we may already have predicted how this will play out. Perhaps we are thinking "so-in-so always lets me down - why am I even bothering to ask!" Or perhaps we are thinking "so-and-so did a phenomenal job of helping last time - I know I can rely on them!" Either way, we run the risk of disappointing ourselves by predicting the outcome based on past experience and then basing future expectations on it. The person could disappoint us, and we'll still be upset even though we "knew it would happen." Or, the person could disappoint us, and now we're upset because "it did not turn out this way last time." Either way, we are disappointed due to the influence of our past experience and future expectations. 

If, instead, we did not view so-and-so based on any predictions (past), and if we did not form any expectations (future), but rather we remained unattached to the outcome of the experience - then we could view this experience as it is happening in the present moment and without biased subjection. We are a lot less likely to be upset or disappointed by the experience, and a lot more likely to see the subtle ways that the person tries to help or exerts effort - ways that may not meet our definition or expectations of help/effort and thus we would have missed altogether had we viewed it through the tainted lens of the past/future. Additionally, this also takes responsibility for our feelings because instead of following the old script of "if you acted and/or were different, then I'd be happy." Through this improved way of interacting, we are realizing that how we feel has an internal source instead of an external one.

tl;dr: We give our own meaning to what is occurring right now, often based on past experiences or future expectations. We define everything (people, places, things, ideas) by the past, and then build future expectations from those past definitions. This over complicates things, and causes us to miss out on the subtle cues occurring now. If we release the past and forget about the future (regain our objectivity and view each day/occurrence as brand new), then our experiences will improve. We will also take responsibility for our feelings and realize that no one can make us feel a certain way - we assign those feelings to ourselves. 


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