April 2014

Leave the Past

It can be so hard to be in the present.  We continually look to the future to make our plans, decide our path, and to dream.  So much effort concentrated on moving forward can leave us tired.  As fatigue sets in, our minds can wander into the past and relive old decisions and old choices.  Those decisions and choices may not have turned out the way wanted them to, or we may wish that we had taken a different path.  Those thoughts can mount and become so overwhelming that we begin to lose sight of where we are and we lose sight of  our present.  We mourn what was and fret about what is to be.  Our past should be a small volume of lessons learned kept upon a shelf, not a boat-anchor drug behind you in a state of constant mourning.

Regardless of the role you’re trying to play -- spouse, parent, employee, team member, or leader -- you can’t let the past pull you down.  All we have is the opportunity of the here and now.  This now is the place of our beginnings.  We must quell the roar of the past in order to be still and to be present.  Understanding the here and now can give birth to new beginnings.  Here are three tips for getting into the now:

  • Think about where you are physically.  Our physical surroundings have great sway on the disposition of our minds.  Notice the room, the chair, the sounds.  Even the most loud and distracting sounds can remind us that we’re in the present.

  • Breathe.  It sounds so simple, yet for many of us as we go through our daily lives we forget to breath deeply.  Our breaths become shallow and consequently so does our awareness.  As you get a sense of where you are physically, begin to breathe deeply.  Allow that deep breathing to ground you in your physical space.

  • Let your mind wander through the present.  Don’t panic if a thought from your past pops into your head or a plan for your future.  Just quietly change your focus.  Ultimately, your mind will have fun meandering through bits and pieces of thoughts.
Once you’re in more of a state of present awareness you can begin to make decisions and choices about what comes next.  Those decisions and choices are born in that moment.  That moment of presence will allow you past to be left in the past.

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago.”
Friedrich Nietzsche