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Past, Present, and Future

Don Wyeth

Past, Present, and Future

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3 mins
November 2, 2021

I was asked the other day by a reader why I chose This Present Moment for the title of my column. Actually, the title reflects my basic philosophy on right living. I try to live my life by a simple principle…live in the present moment. When I don't follow my own rule, the results lead to personal pitfalls. I have found that clinging to the past and attempting to relive it doesn't get you anywhere. Likewise, fearing the future only causes stress and blocks any kind of personal progress. The ‘right now’ is the only time and place where things can get done. It's the only time and place where real person-to-person communication can happen. Author Maddy Malhotra, in her book, How to Build Self-Esteem and Be Confident: Overcome Fears, Break Habits, Be Successful and Happy, states that “…[r]ehashing thoughts of painful events from the past or imagining negative events of the future is self-abuse and can be more destructive than physical harm.”

A great number of us choose to focus on our past accomplishments, our past relationships because it is familiar and comfortable to do so. On the other hand, we might decide to take up residence in the past because of regret or loss of people and things we have loved. “ Many times, the hallmark of living in the past is a pattern of self-sabotaging behavior that reinforces reliving past traumatic events.”  psychcentral.com. This kind of behavior negatively impacts a person long after the event has passed. Likewise, constantly worrying about your future can have crippling results and impede any personal positive progress you might make if you were not worrying about the result. This condition is referred to as anticipatory anxiety. “It’s excessive worry about potential future events. People with anticipatory anxiety often experience panic attacks.” wellsanfrancisco.com. So, why is living in the present a better place to be? I would like to share with you a strategy for anchoring yourself in the present moment. 

The first step is to establish personal boundaries. This means that you take your own time to heal, not on someone else's advice or timetable. “For many, establishing boundaries may include being more selective on who we welcome into our lives and who we dismiss. With boundaries, consistency is key in helping let go of the past and living in the present.” psychcentral.com.

The second step that you need to take is to accept the fact that what is done is done. It is what it is. The past is literally unalterable. It is by “… accepting that the past is over, [that] allows us to grieve and to release the pain that we may have been carrying with us.” By surrendering to this idea a great deal of pain can be alleviated so that true grieving may occur.

The third action in the process is to practice mindfulness. “The practice of mindfulness is about teaching ourselves how to stay in the present and to calm our mind when experiencing emotional triggers.” Many researchers have found that having a mindfulness practice is useful in recovering from depression, PTSD, and trauma, both physical and emotional. The practice of watching your breath is a good example of being mindful.

Another measure to take is to allow yourself to have a reset button. Admitting that we are not perfect allows us to be kinder to ourselves during the process of learning to release the past. So, instead of giving up and falling back into old behavior patterns, allow yourself to start over right where you are. “Use the reset button to help you gauge where you are in your personal development.”

And last but not least, disconnect. Being able to temporary disengage from social media or from family and friends while you are healing is crucial. The solitude from these stimuli can give us pause to reflect on ourselves, and to “… give ourselves the attention and love we need to stop living in the past.” The spiritual teacher Ram Dass tells us to Be Here Now. Peace


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Don Wyeth

Passionate and intelligent columnist from Madison, WI.

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