The past was not the way we remember it. The Authors Collection
April 5, 2015
THE JAR THAT HELD COTTON BALLS in our bathroom was empty, so I reached into the cupboard to get the cotton ball bag to refill the jar. As I unzipped the first plastic bag to reach the second plastic bag I asked myself, “Why? Why do I have cotton balls in two plastic bags?”
And the answer was — years ago, we lived in a house that harbored a chipmunk. Mr. Chips was quite friendly and would often stop and watch Del as he worked at his desk. Mr. Chips had a habit of storing sunflower seeds (left out for the birds) in shoes and laundry baskets for future use.
He also had a habit of grabbing my cotton balls, to make nests. Hence, the two bagged cotton balls. Made sense at the time, but that was years ago. No resident chipmunks since then!
In a coaching session, a client mentioned in passing that she hated dancing. That prompted an assignment for her to go back and discover why she hated it. What was the original cause of that feeling? After a few weeks of stalling, she finally took the time to relive the event and discovered an astonishing fact.
Here’s the result in her words.
“My session of reliving my early dance experiences was very enlightening. Having spent all these years thinking that I have never enjoyed dancing, I have obviously been mistaken. The feelings that I had remembering the dance recital, that vividly stuck out in my mind as being a huge embarrassment were incorrect! I remember loving doing a dance with my teddy bear and wearing a little outfit that my mother had tirelessly sewn with little knickerbockers and a cute little top. In fact, I couldn’t wait for the recital to be over so I could wear them to bed, and I did until I grew out of them.
“Over the years I have looked at a photo of me taken during a class at UCLA way back in the 70’s. I would focus on the fact that I am going down into a plie when everyone else was rising. I would berate myself for not knowing the right thing to do, or being stubborn about doing the wrong thing. It came to me one day that maybe I was the one doing it right. My point being, I had built up a huge story around being wrong, or stubborn, which carried over into other parts of my life.”
We base many of our life choices on past events that either didn’t happen the way we remember, or that event no longer applies.
It’s as if we drive up to moments in our lives with a dump truck filled with bad memories. Then we dump portions of that garbage into our brand new moment.
The past was never what it seems to us now. It is only a present construct of an incomplete and inaccurate memory.
Albert Einstein said, “Space and time are not conditions in which we live, they are simply modes in which we think.” Which means, when we choose to perceive differently, the conditions in which we live our lives will change.
Sometimes we design our present life in ways that will keep ourselves from returning to the past. Perhaps the past was one of poverty, of love, money, or health.
Afraid of the past is the same thing as living in the past. When they asked why he wasn’t angry with the Chinese for taking over his country the Dalai Lama said, “ Why should I give them my mind as well?”
Learning from the past is different than living in it or fleeing it. Shining a light on the past that is hidden in the closet of our lives, or living under the bed, or hiding in the basement, will reveal the underlying framework of the life we live.
Wouldn’t it be easier to throw the water of Truth onto those memories of the past and let them dissolve into something that will serve us now?
It’s much easier to unzip only one bag to get to the cotton balls. When my client realized her past memory was a false one, it opened up a world of possibilities.
When I answered the phone, my client asked me if I had a cold. “No,” I said, “Must be the connection since I can barely hear you.”
When he realized that he had placed the mouthpiece of his headset up above his head, and that is why, to him, I sounded as if I had a cold, and why I couldn’t hear him, we spent the next few minutes unable to stop laughing.
Letting go of the past and letting in the abundance of the present can be just that easy and joyous. We just need to move the focus of our thought, the mouthpiece of our headset, into our life and be present with what exists now for us.
As our days unfold, let’s live with a fresh look and a new awareness. Let’s be willing to not let an imperfect memory of the past spoil the perfect moment of the present.
Please click the book cover image to read more about Beca Lewis and her books.