Pain is a portrait into the past

“Our wounds are often the openings into the best and most beautiful part of us” – David Richo

The following fable from Anthony de Mello’s book One Minute Wisdom underscores the message that pain is apparent when we invite the past into the present moment.

“How shall I attain Eternal Life?”

Eternal Life is now. Come into the present.”

“But I am in the present now, am I not?”

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“Why not?”

“Because you haven’t dropped your past.”

“Why should I drop my past? Not all of it is bad.”

“The past is to be dropped not because it is bad but because it is dead.”

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The past is an illusion because it does not exist in the here and now. From your present moment experience, what remains is a faint memory owing to the passage of time.

Suffering is eased when we reconnect to this moment and honour it as a cherished gift. Through your present awareness, you minimise the intensity of painful memories and expand your appreciation of what exists.

As you cast your attention back to the present moment, earlier memories diminish through a change in awareness.

Memories have an emotional relationship to thoughts and with enough intensity grow stronger neural networks in the brain. To change those memories, rather than drop them, focus your attention on forming new ones instead.

“Processing an emotion entails perceiving it, acknowledging it, being with it, and then letting the wave move through the body (as it naturally will if we don’t grip it or feed it),” asserts Linda Graham in Bouncing Back.

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Whilst it may be obvious, the path to healing takes place when you cease to identify with the pain of the past. In doing so, you invite the healing power of love to preside over your life.

Freedom is attained when we write a new script. This new story does not extinguish our memories, it creates an empowering relationship connecting the past to the present, so peace, love and healing emerge.

To heal emotional wounds requires courage to confront the pain. Our felt sense of connection to our inner spirit is far more resilient than we imagine.

I recall my stern upbringing as a child, dominated by an uncompromising father who sought to shape me into someone I was not cut out to be. Years later throughout my adult life, I formed an incomplete story relating to the events of my childhood, steeped in anger and blame.

Ultimately, I created a new script by directing forgiveness and peace to the past.

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In that moment, I healed twenty years of pain because I decided I was no longer willing to stay captive to the emotional wounds.

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Viktor Frankl

In his book The Mind Body Code, author Dr. Mario Martinez states, “One of the most important lessons here is that forgiveness is a liberation from the personal enslavement you construct when a misdeed is perpetrated against you. Rather than forgiving the perpetrator, you recover the empowerment and self-worthiness you thought had been taken away from you”.

Is it conceivable that what took place five, ten or fifteen years ago may be subjective to your perception of it?

Perhaps you formed an unfair portrayal of events and have carried that story with you, much to your disappointment?

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What if it were true?

How does it feel to hold on to these thoughts all this time?

For those having endured mental, emotional or physical trauma the pain is undoubtedly real. However, if you wish to heal your pain-story something must give way, otherwise you become enslaved to the past.

Inner peace is fundamental to your happiness. Anger, blame, frustration and love cannot reside in the same place. One must recede to give way to the other.

“We always want to get rid of misery rather than see how it works with joy. The point isn’t to cultivate one thing as opposed to another, but to relate properly to where we are,” affirms Pema Chodron.

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At the most primitive level, pain is an invitation to examine the disharmony in our life. It is not intended to prolong suffering unless we allow ourselves to stay stuck.

So, pain invites you to heal emotional conflicts by directing your attention towards peace and love.

Choice is powerful because it invites you to rewrite the past with tenderness and compassion. You create a compelling future, instead of being dictated by untoward events of the past.

Moreover, the momentary pain of confronting the past far outweighs carrying the burden of grief now and into the future.

“I don’t let go of my thoughts – I meet them with understanding. Then they let go of me,” states the American spiritual teacher Byron Katie in her acclaimed book, Loving What Is.

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Pain allows you to be shaped by your experiences than be defined by them.

If I asked you to drop the pain who are you beneath that?

To hold on to pain distorts our known sense of self, we become caught up in a distorted impression of who we think we are. However well-meaning our intentions, the façade is a self-constructed image which serves to protect us.

You are not the sum of your life experiences.

Whilst they shape you, they do not define you anymore than suggesting a person’s past performance dictates their future achievements.

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I wish to leave you with something the Buddha knew centuries ago and is still relevant today: “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional”.

With that I invite you to drop the past because it is dead and ought to remain behind you.


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