Our memories help us relive life’s most delightful moments, such as a trip to the Grand Canyon or a child’s high school graduation.
But not every memory is a happy one, and often people become so tied to the past – dwelling on mistakes they made or offenses committed against them – that they fail to enjoy and take advantage of the present.
“If we permit our past to hold us hostage from the change we deeply desire, we are stuck,” says Tom Corner, a motivational speaker and author of Borrowed Eyes and Feet: Finding Enlightenment After Rage (www.tomcorner.net).
“It’s important to be able to release your past and to see existence in the present moment. There is no future and there is no past, only the gift of now.”
He knows from experience. For Corner, freeing himself from the past involved overcoming anger and rage that plagued him since his parents divorced when he was a young boy.
He was in his 40s, he says, before he learned to live in the moment – or perhaps, re-learn how to live in the moment.
Most people, as children, aren’t so hung up on the past and the future, preferring to immerse themselves in the activity at hand, whether that involves a game of tag, a hike in the woods, a favorite TV show or a captivating book.
“Unfortunately, children eventually grow up to become adults who live in a state of constant worry about what they did yesterday and what they will do tomorrow,” Corner says. “We nudge the present moment to the side, making it something of an anomaly, until we return full circle later in life to try to recapture the gift of those moments.”
But how do you recapture the ability to take pleasure in the present moment, and avoid letting the past and the future dominate your thoughts and cause you heartache and anguish? Corner has a few suggestions:
- Practice forgiveness. It’s been said that the act of forgiveness isn’t so much for the person we are forgiving, but for ourselves. Either way you look at it, it’s not always an easy thing to do. “ Are we courageous enough to see the world through the eyes of forgiveness, allowing us to release the many false expectations we unintentionally impose on ourselves and on others?” Corner asks.
- Strive for self-acceptance. If we are honest and brave enough to look deep within ourselves, Corner says, we will realize that, more often than we’d like to admit, we sabotage ourselves with negative self-talk. “The next time you feel doubt or a sense of failure, pay attention to how you feel about yourself,” he says. “If you are not being nice to yourself, be aware of these feelings and try to replace this doubt with positive thoughts or affirmations.”
- Recapture childlike wonder. “When we were children, all things were possible because we did not know much about resistance or fear,” Corner says. “As children we did not allow our past to hold us hostage from the gift of joy in the present moment.” Think about your past, he says, release whatever is holding you back from your dreams, your desires, and your ability to accomplish anything.
“Too often, we wait for tomorrow to celebrate our yesterdays,” Corner says. “Why not today? Why not celebrate what we have right now, right this minute?”