Don’t Let Your Past Imprison You

By Anthony Gold

When I was in high school, I wasn’t part of the “cool” crowd.

There were four groups of people in my school. At the top of the social (popularity) pyramid were the cool kids. Star athletes, cheerleaders, and the beautiful people.

Then there were the “freaks”. To this day I don’t know why they were called freaks – that’s just what they were called at my school. These were the kids who smoked cigarettes and seemed to not care much about the world. (Yes, kids were actually allowed to smoke in my high school in those days).

The “nerds” were anyone interested in scholastics.

And then the masses of “everyone else” filled out the 2000+ student body at my four-year school.

As a nerd, I become public enemy number one amongst the cool crowd by asking one of their popular girls to my junior prom. When she agreed to be my date, I was told to watch my back.

And sure enough, one of the cool boys – unfortunately a large one – cornered me at my locker and assaulted me. It wasn’t anything major – just a body slam against my locker and a relatively weak punch to my chest. He told me not to mix with “his kind”.

From that moment and for a long time after, I lived in constant terror when I walked the hallways. And shame.

Why hadn’t I stood up to him and explained the foolish logic in his discriminatory thoughts? Why had I just cowered and not said or done anything?

Most likely because I sensed there was some truth to his assertion. I was part of the nerd group after all. I enjoyed learning, grades came easy, and I loved intellectual conversations.

A clear social (caste?) system existed, and rules were rules. I brought the assault upon myself. I deserved it. It was my fault.

With this line of thinking, my happiness, then, depended on my becoming one of the cool kids.

Continued remembrance of the past was my hell, and if I could transform myself into someone else then I could find peace.

The future held the promise of escaping my negative past.

How often do we look to the future for our happiness? Once I get this promotion, then things will be great. Once I meet this kind of person, then I’ll be happy. Once my partner does this one thing, then our relationship will be better. One this elected official does this, then things will improve. Once I’m cool, then people will like me.

That’s the challenge with anticipating fulfillment in the future – it keeps us imprisoned in the past.

The past gives us our identity. Everything we think about ourselves, every label we give ourselves, every emotion we feel all comes from the past. And when we think that we’ll find that elusive happiness in the future, we’re basically saying who I am (identity forged from the past) isn’t perfect and that I need something in the future to make it better.

We look to the future to fix our past – thus ensuring we are forever trapped by the past.

All the while totally missing the only place where happiness resides – the only place where happiness never subsides and can never be threatened – the present moment.

By carrying the baggage of the past wherever we go, and looking to the future for release – we will never be happy. Happiness will always be “out there” lumped into the “once this happens …” lamentation.

But when we truly recognize that the past is gone – and cannot touch us – then we open to door to true perception. This is the present moment where our entire life unfolds in pure joy.

Join me in Monday’s class where we’ll explore the nature of being imprisoned by the past and learn how to be released. I look forward to seeing you then.

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