Life. Chaotic, unpredictable life. Have you ever considered that the precise beauty and horror of life is its inability to be planned or controlled?
Just imagine if you could predict every single thing you would do, for every single day of the rest of your life. Life would be a pretty boring, meaningless affair if we could control it. Sure, it would be a lot safer and comforting for fearful, neurotic dispositions (like myself, actually), but there would be no mystery, no thrill, no challenge.
Well, this article is a product of the unpredictability of life. I never knew that I would sit here and write these words until this very morning when the inspiration came over me. A few days prior I gleaned these thoughts from a very unexpected conversation with Sol, a couple of days after arriving back to Australia from Spain. The thoughts go like this:
If you don’t have a story in your head of who you are … you wouldn’t exist.
Please, try this exercise for a moment. Right here, right now, forget everything that occurred in your past. Wipe it from your brain entirely, leave a clean, empty slate. Now, once you have emptied your mind of your past ask this question “who am I now?”
Stop and think.
If, at this very moment in time you have no history, no story of yourself, you will find that you are simply the entity existing in the present moment.
Do you find this beautiful? It may be a bit daunting for you to experience nothing but the Now, as most people rarely immerse themselves within the present moment reality.
After experiencing this small exercise myself, I realized that Mateo’s words were true: no history, no person. When you relinquish your history and your own personal story, it’s as though you’re born again – all that you are is Now.
When you relinquish your past, placing little importance in it, you are born again each second, and each second is an opportunity for you to taste the fullness of life without being burdened with the mind that loves to melancholically dwell on past things.
To drive the point to home that you’re all that’s inside of your head, think of the past year. Think briefly of all that happened to you, all that you saw, breathed, and experienced.
Now, let that all go.
Forget it. Relinquish it. Wipe it from your mind. Nothing in the past exists Now. Wipe the mirror of your consciousness clean.
Now, who are you?
Yes, you are all that exists Now.
This of course is not a new idea, but one that can revolutionize the way you live life and cause a spiritual awakening. Please read on.
Why Do We Cling to Our Histories?
When practicing inner work, we begin to de-construct our inner worlds, our desires, out motivations, our belief systems, our perceptions towards ourselves and the world.
Often we realize that a lot of who we are is simply a story that we’ve constructed from the past events that have occurred in our lives. For instance, I could construct my personality or identity by saying that I’m the eldest of five children, giving me my maturity, sense of responsibility and thirst for independence. My family are also fundamentalist Christians who took me to church every week of my life, giving me my interest in faith and belief, but I also became a socially isolated person since I left the church, and my family and blah, blah, blah.
We have thousands of histories in our heads that we tend to hoard, weave together into an intricate story, and mull over. But why? Why do we cling to our histories?
When a friend narrates to you her past experience with so-and-so or such-and-such, she is sharing with you a sliver of her history. When your grandfather or mother lapses into a monologue about their troubled childhood, they are simply reliving their histories and reasserting who they think they are to you (as we know; our memories are very fragile in nature, eroding and changing through time. This is why two people can have two completely different stories about the same event or conversation).
One of the most essential practices of inner transformation is to question who you are, and also, why you believe you are the way you are. Here are a few explanations for why you continue to live the present reality through the lens of the past:
1# Everyone else does.
People love talking about their histories, why they believe what they believe, why they make the decisions they make, why they do what they do. This makes for very bland conversation, but is also a hallmark of human behaviour: to cement who they are, to create a presence and personality in the midst of other people. This differentiates themselves from others, making them unique and special in their own eyes. The more people do it, the more likely we are to do it as well.
2# We lack a center.
Gurus, spirit guides, psychics, spiritual teachers, motivational speakers … all of these people exist because the majority of us are lost, needing some kind of guidance and direction in our lives. We need guidance because we lack a firm rooted center within ourselves. Instead, we drift here and there like confused children – which is precisely what we are deep down; lost, scared and confused in the middle of this giant pandemonium we call life.
It’s only when we are mindful of our thoughts and emotions, and become rooted in the present moment reality that we gain a center. In other words, our minds and feelings don’t control us, tossing us here and there, instead, awareness dominates us. We are masters over ourselves.
Because most of us lack a center, we seek something else to root us: our histories, our pasts, our stories. All of these assist us in creating an identity, an identity that explains to us how we got here, where we are going and why we are the way we are.
3# It gives us an excuse and the “right” to blame other people.
Very few people have the guts to accept that they’re wrong in the present moment. Instead, the majority of us love to pin the blame on past events or circumstances that we experienced, shaping the way we respond to present events.
“It’s not my fault, I was raised to …” “I didn’t mean to, it’s just that when I was younger I …” “I hate Asian people because my family has always suffered under their …”
The stories we create about ourselves from the patchwork of situations that occurred in our pasts are terrific scapegoats. We often use them to divert the blame from ourselves, because let’s face it, we’re often too cowardly to accept that we’ve made a mistake right here, right now.
4# It gives us the “right” to escape.
“I got hooked on cocaine because my father …” “I suffer from depression because my girlfriend and her sister …” “I was abused as a child, so that’s the reason why I …”
Drugs, alcohol, gambling, stealing, sex, food – there are countless things in life that are used as ways to escape the guilt, hatred and suffering we experience inside. Our personal histories play a great role in escapism – and without a story we cling to about our past selves, what would be the point of running from present reality? One of the most dangerous behaviors in life is to escape, and to also believe that we have the “right” to escape because of what happened to us in the past.
When we relinquish our histories, we relinquish our present identities, complex and burdened as they are. We become born again into the present moment when we wipe our minds clean of the past. Now I realize that Sol was trying to say this: that in the end, we are the reader of the story, rather than the story itself. Our identities are composed of two parts: our personalities, which are our stories, and our essence, which is the reader of the story.
What’s the point of clinging to a reality that no longer exists? In reality, the past is extinct, the past is dead, the past is gone. But the more we focus on our ancient-history, the more we’re likely to be weighed down with guilt, blame and bitterness, and the less likely we are to enjoy the beauty and mystery of our present reality: life.