As human beings, we crave having fun, being happy, and enjoying life. The present moment is the only time we have, and it is the only chance we have to make choices, and live our lives fully. For most of us, it is our past that keeps us from living in the now. We have regrets and unhappy memories, “If only I had done or said that.” Or we cling to the good old days, as if our lives could never be as wonderful again.
The truth is, the past exists only in our minds.
The past is simply a string of thoughts that we are attached to that interfere with our energy, causing us to feel weighed down, clouded, judgemental, fearful, anxious, sad and lonely. Since the past exists only in the mind, this is where we must begin to let it go. It is completely within our power to be here fully and live with courage and happiness.
But why is it so hard to let go of the past?
Well, to be honest, there are advantages and benefits to not letting go:
Feeling like you were in the right, and ‘they were’ in the wrong, and its instantly satisfying (maybe even pleasant) to keep remembering it, over and over.
the victim role to get attention, support and comfort from other people.
Staying where you are - not going out into the scary unknown. You can cling to what you know to feel familiar and safe.
However, our happiness lies in living each and every moment as the only moment we have.
When we can do this, we begin to see that we hold the key to our freedom. When we live without attachments - without returning to those older, angry memories - we have the power to live our ordinary moments fully present.
And when we live in the moment, we discover that those ordinary moments are truly extraordinary.
So the power of letting go is in the present moment. We have no control over the past. We cannot change anything that has happened, but we can heal the past and forgive others and ourselves for hurtful events. When we do this - when we let go - we are not forgetting what occurred. Instead, we are leaving it where it belongs and releasing any attachments it has over us.
Ask yourself, “What memories or beliefs am I holding on to that are keeping me from fully enjoying my life?”
Look at thesememories, identify what you learned or discovered through the experiences in a positive light, and really feel it in your body. How have you changed as a result of those experiences? What strengths or qualities did you gain as a consequence? This is not at all easy to do, but what a worthwhile journey it is for releasing the attachment of the past. It can be painful to look at certain memories, so be compassionate, gentle, and patient with yourself. Imagine that you are in training for the most important job of your life—living free and fully alive in each moment.
Here are four steps you can take to let go of the past
1. The Story
Really let yourself remember, feel and be in the story that’s hurting you. Write it down, or tell it to someone you trust and feel safe with. Give your story a voice to be expressed and acknowledged.
2. The Feelings
Next, you want to turn your focus away from the ‘words’ of the story, and onto the feelings in your body. These physical feelings could be the toughness in your chest, a hollowness, a shooting pain, an ache in your heart…
You need to feel the body - drop away from you head and move into your body - and stay with the feeling we often try to move away from. When we allow ourselves to feel the discomfort, to explore what we’re actually feeling with curiosity - Where in the body am I feeling this? Does it change as I focus on it? - we begin to shift the energy.
3. Breathe Out and Let go
Breathe in whatever difficult feeling you’re experiencing right now (remembering to stay with the body and not get caught up in the words of the mind) and as you breath out, feel yourself letting go. Letting go of expectations, of having to ‘fix it’, or even having to be ‘right.’
Let yourself be truly present to whatever you are feeling, and then let it go. Surrender it. And if you can, maybe even find some gratitude for the growth you’re having due to that experience. I personally find this practice powerful when done every day - the benefits of calmness and stillness are amazing!
4. Gratitude of the Present Moment
We’ve emptied out cup - we’ve acknowledged discomfort in the body, focused on it and breathed it out - and now it’s time to refill our cup with gratitude for all we have right now in the present.
Feel grateful for something that is in front of you right now, in the present moment - maybe it’s gratitude for the warm sun, clean and comfortable clothes, a car to get you around, coffee with a friend, or even that your breath is easy and your body still.
Breathe into that feeling of happiness, contentment, fulfillment. When we do this, we transform our struggles into a moments of joy.
Welcome to the power of letting go, and finding joy in the now.