The Power to Change Your Past
by Guy Finley
Author, Founder and Director of Life of Learning Foundation
It may sound strange and improbable, but this short article explains how it’s possible to actually change your past, and let go of any painful experience that wants to haunt you. The secret lies in awakening a little-known skill that every person is given at birth, but that few ever realize they have: the ability to start life over any time we choose. It’s true: today is the first day of our life; but this truth is only of use to us if we know how to turn its power into something practical that can free us from the painful regrets and disappointments carried over from our past.
It may seem at first like starting life over every moment is a daunting and impossible task, but there is a simple method of bringing this power within our ready grasp. Here’s how we get started winning our new life: we must learn to allow every movement in our life – every unwanted memory, every emotion, every thought, and every relationship we have with whatever moves through us – to have its own life.
If we look around, it’s evident that everything under the sun – from thoughts and feelings to trees and thunder – has its own birth, life, and death. This simple idea has extraordinary implications. It holds the key to the beautiful healing realization that the only reason any pain from our past persists is because there is something in us that won’t let it die out naturally. Any lingering sadness, regret, guilt, or resentment is an unnatural life-form kept alive by our conditioned mind’s reluctance to let it go.
Physicists have just recently started to understand what religious scholars, wise men, and mystics have known for thousands of years: every present moment is always new, and new is always right now. Another way to say this is that everything is being re-born all the time. Now is constantly shedding the old in an endless celebration of life. Don’t mistake this for philosophy or a sentimental wish for a kinder, gentler universe. All of life unfolds through this process. We need only observe any living system to see the beauty and significance of starting over – and over and over and over. If anything in life fails to shed the old, it quickly stagnates. A spring that stops replenishing its new waters soon turns dank and sour. This powerful principle is never so true as when it pertains to human life. It is a scientific fact that the “you” who is reading this sentence right now will not be the same “you” who finishes it!
This means that there is no real reason why any moment should ever seem stale or boring because real life, which we are part of, is always new right now. Our task then is to unleash the power of this fact in our own lives. You may be thinking, “That all sounds fine in theory, but how do I do it? How can I learn to really start over all the time?” Just as a weary rock climber must at times reach above himself to gain a difficult resting ledge, you too must dare to go beyond yourself to find the ever-present safety of the present moment. And, unlike rock climbing, there is no danger in the ascent to true self- understanding! The only real danger lies in stagnation – in failing to go beyond who you have been.
Consider the happy implications: If you could discover that true relationship with the moment where there is an entirely new you every moment, it would mean that with every single heartbeat you would be free from any possible heartache that might have preceded it. In this new life, every relationship begins for the first time over and over again. Every discouragement is over right now. Every challenge and every difficulty is shouldered only in its time and is never carried forward or looked back upon with regret. Isn't that what all of us really want ... the freedom to be who we are, without the fear or limitation resulting from who we have been? Yes!
Here’s a simple three-step exercise to help you turn this new knowledge into the power that sets you free. The next time you find yourself stressing over something from your past – or even upset over what seems like a present problem, such as being angry about something someone just said to you – follow these simple steps:
1. Wake up! See how the stress that now punishes you has the power it does because you mistakenly picked up some self-compromising thought or feeling from the past.
2. Let go! Instead of wrestling with that troubling thought or feeling, deliberately set it down with the aim of watching it go through its life cycle. Only now you aren’t going with it; and when it passes on - as we’ve learned all things must - you are free!
3. Start over! Take this bold new action over and over again each time you feel some familiar ache come calling for you to give it your life. You will soon know, for yourself, that nothing in the universe can stop you from leaving the painful past behind and realizing a whole new you.
Adapted from Guy Finley’s The Secret of Letting Go, Llewellyn Publications Guy Finley is the best-selling author of more than 40 books and audio albums on self- realization. He is the founder and director of Life of Learning Foundation, a nonprofit center for self-study located in Southern Oregon where he gives talks open to the public four times each week. For more information visit guyfinley.org.