The past is already gone, the future is not yet here. There’s only one moment for you to live, and that is the present moment. – The Buddha
We all tend to live in the past. It’s understandable. Everything we know exists in the past. Everything we’ve ever learned and experienced is now in the past. But it’s also behind us. The only thing we can work with is the present moment. That doesn’t mean ignoring what’s come before. The purpose of learning is to use the past to inform our present.
The past is gone and is no more solid than the imaginary future. It is the path that led us to where we are and though it necessarily must be acknowledged it can’t be retrod. The only thing we have is the bit of path directly under our feet. Looking back can tell us where we’ve been and show us wrong turns we’ve made but we have no choice but to move forward. Living in the past is like walking backwards. You’re still moving forward, you just can’t see where you are going and are likely to trip and fall.
Things like guilt and regret are inevitable feelings. They serve a purpose, to nudge our path in a better direction. But to hold on to those feelings is like never taking the cast off of a broken leg. The cast serves its purpose. Then when the bone is healed it’s no longer necessary. Casts quickly begin to smell and get dirty. They are not meant to be permanent fixtures. So too with guilt, regret, and memories of past pain. Let them serve their purpose and move forward leaving them behind. If we allow ourselves to hold on to the past then there is no allowance for change. And the things around us will continue to change whether we decide to adapt to them or not. So if we are stuck in a moment long past we are not living in what is.
Likewise is the future. We can look ahead and try to survey our path, but until we reach a certain point we don’t know what we will find when we get there. Again it’s the bit of path directly under our feet that should concern us. Looking up at the mountain miles ahead makes it impossible to see the ravine right in front of us that we are about to plunge into.
We are temporal beings. Perpetually locked in an ever changing present moment. Realizing and accepting that is one of the hard lessons I have to keep trying at. It’s a loosening of the grip of control I feel I have, but which is really just an illusion. Like so many other things I’ve come to realize are important it’s a constant effort of attempt, failure, reattempt. I can’t control what’s coming. I definitely can’t change what has happened. Remember, learn, take the next step, and the next, and the next. All we can do is recognize what’s right now and make it the best moment possible.