“We are not animals. We are not a product of what has happened to us in our past. We have the power of choice.” ~Stephen Covey
Recently, I’ve been reflecting on what a shame it is when people can’t bring themselves to let go of unpleasantness in their past. Often, those memories from yesterday prevent them from enjoying a more productive and healthy present. I know people who are living daily with the negative reverberations of actions that happened decades ago. When I think about the brief time we have on this planet, I can’t fathom why anyone would willingly choose to waste a second of life stuck on past slights. Perhaps these people fail to grasp the downward, miserable spiral that is perpetuated when you let your past seep into your present? When you spend today reliving the pain of your past, you’re merely making today into a continuation of the very thing that is vexing you, which then means that your future will reflect more of the same misery, disappointment, and pain. Why would anyone make that choice?
Then it occurred to me…these people don’t realize they have a choice. They are so cut off and unaware of their response to their world, so convinced that all that is wrong in their life is the direct result of other people’s actions and not their own thoughts and behavior, that they are unable to comprehend the power they have to change their lives. Of all the human conditions, the lack of awareness regarding personal power is the saddest one I can imagine. Some people spend dozens of years convinced that their entire unhappy life is the result of what has happened to them. There is no acknowledgment that the only power we have in this life is over our reactions to the situations we encounter. The easiest way to perpetuate personal misery is to believe you are a victim, to live from that paradigm, and to refuse steadfastly to move beyond it. Indeed, some unfortunate things will befall you, but you choose whether those heartbreaks will break you or whether you will move forward unabated.
A while back I read A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. It was a life-changing book for me because it pointed out truths I long knew in my heart but was refusing to acknowledge in my mind. One of the most powerful messages I got from the book came from a quote by J. Krishnamurti, and Indian philosopher and spiritual teacher, who offered up his secret for contentment. He stated simply this: “I don’t mind what happens.” How powerful that statement is. When you don’t mind what happens, when you let it wash over you and accept it for what it is, when you remove your emotion from it, there is stillness and peace and the room to let it go. It certainly is not easy achieve, but it’s worth the effort to keep it in mind.
I wish I could impart to those people in my life who can’t let go of the past the beauty of not minding what happens. Of acknowledging it, accepting it, and not owning it as anything more than another event in a hopefully long life. When I was a child, my mother and father owned The Beatles’ Let It Be album. I played that record (yes…record) until I thought I would wear it out. The lyrics from the title track have stuck with me. And when my children were infants and I would rock them in the middle of the night when they could not sleep and needed comfort, those are the words I would sing because they brought me peace in that moment when I was exhausted and too was seeking rest. So, as you go through the remainder of this week, my hope is that at least once you will stop reacting when something unexpected and unwelcome is happening and let it wash over you and see what peace comes from letting it be and not minding what happens. I promise to try it if you will too.