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How To Let Go of the Past

by Evelyn on March 5, 2012

“Let go. Why do you cling to pain? There is nothing you can do about the wrongs of yesterday. It is not yours to judge. Why hold on to the very thing which keeps you from hope and love?”
– Leo Buscaglia

let go of the past
(Photo: Singapore Botanic Gardens)

If you are not able to let go of the past, it is possible to be stuck for years, Pain keeps your stories alive. Attachment drives you into heartache. In fact, over time, you have also gotten used to the suffering. So much so that you may even feel lost at the thought of becoming free from pain. You fear the emptiness that letting go may bring. Invariably, you prefer to continue to hold on to anger, regret and sadness over something that is no longer present.

There was a time when I was stubbornly stuck in the past. Blame was my way of dealing with my discontent. I kept pointing fingers outwards. Although finger-pointing made my ego feel better for a while, blame did not let me experience happier outcomes. I felt more miserable. Eventually I had to learn to let go. I decided that I would rather be happy compared to putting myself in further pain.

Without awareness, it is possible to live according to the doomed conclusions you have made as a result of past experiences. Because you have made a mistake or failed, you predict that you will never succeed. Or just because someone has wronged you, you find it hard to forgive. Your mind becomes stuck in the same mental movie it has been repeatedly playing. On and on, your tape would run.

The function of your conscious mind is to think logically to arrive at conclusions. However, over negative experiences of the past, this can create a fallacy in thinking: “If I have failed previously in the past, then I will fail again in the future” or “If he has failed me in the past, he is bound to do the same again”. Writing this makes me recall the famous disclaimer that we usually see in financial product brochures: “Past trends are no indication of future performance”. If these were anything to go by, it means that no one can accurately and completely predict what is going to happen in the future.

It is similar to being in a car. Failing to look in front, you become entranced by what has happened in the rearview mirror. Thus, instead of just glancing at it every now and then, you forget to look in front. A better way is to keep yourself focused on what lies ahead, but yet glance at the rearview mirror every now and then for feedback on how far you have come.

Ways to Let Go of the Past – Once and For All

So what are the ways that can help you with releasing the past:

“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.”
– Author Unknown

1. Come to terms about the past. You may have made a mistake in the past but this does not make you “bad”, “wrong” or “evil”. You destroy your self-confidence through a constant mental replay of your past and inflicting punishment by applying harsh judgments.

Everyone makes mistakes. And you are no exception. You need to also understand that you are not your mistakes. Hence, come to terms with what has happened to you in the past.

2. Address through emotional release work. So what is holding you back from letting go? Your negative emotions? If you know that you are feeling blame, anger, resentment, regret or sadness, then you will need to address these.

You can do a release through writing a journal. From my experience, the best form of release is doing some emotional healing work. Consider using Emotional Freedom Technique, for instance.

3. Be willing to forgive. When you are stuck in blame, it is difficult to practice forgiveness. Maybe it is not you who has committed a mistake. It could be someone else. In certain cases, you may even want justice done.

It is possible to carry on with your life, even though you do not forgive. However, you are only hurting yourself by holding on to the past. Your suffering arises from carrying the burden. Your unwillingness to forgive causes a part of your heart to be closed. You are robbed of inner peace.

4. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Ask yourself if what has happened in the past is truly such a big deal. Likely not, in the grand scheme of things. Hence, learn to see the big picture. If it is small stuff, don’t sweat it.

Altering your perception raises your consciousness. You are invited to consider an alternative point of view that allows you to shift into an expanded paradigm. Instead of feeling stuck, you start perceiving more options.

5. Look at the bigger picture. Your soul has incarnated to learn about loving fully and unconditionally. Holding on to your hurt means that there continues to be an unresolved issue and incomplete life lessons.

Releasing does not mean allowing the guilty party to go off the hook, it is allowing you to enter the present. Surely, you do not want to continue to hold on to the past even on your deathbed. The willingness to forgive invites grace from your heart. Through grace, you let your past go.

6. Decide on what you do want. When you align with the picture of what you do want, you will undertake more positive and empowering actions. By default, your mind thinks about what it does not want. And so in order to shift yourself from being stuck, you will need to align with a more ideal picture.

Stop worrying about what others will think. Instead, decide on what your ideal dream looks like. List or write the qualities down. Better yet, create a vision board for it.

7. Direct your energy to the present. Remind yourself that the past is over. What is past is past. You cannot undo the past but you can take steps for today. As Oogway, the wise turtle in the animated Kung Fu Panda movie, admonishes, “There is a saying: yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the ‘present.’”

It helps to do exercises like breath meditation. Breath meditation keeps your focus in the here and now. You are centered in the present. When you are centered in the present, you will increase your ability to make empowering decisions in the present that affect your future. Coincidentally in a meditation session I attended on Saturday evening, the teacher also shared that every in- and out-breath is a new one. No two breaths are ever alike. What is important is to live every moment as a new experience.

8. View past failure as feedback. By playing the same past traumatic scene in your mind over and over again, you can find it hard to move forward. You deem yourself a failure. On the contrary, you would have encountered failure if you have just given up. What is more important is the road ahead. So long as you keep trying, there is no such thing as failure.

Of course, the past offers valuable information. But let’s use the past as a way of providing feedback and not for applying harsh judgments or apportioning blame. You choose to undertake wise actions thereafter. Most certainly, wise actions are not ones that will make you close to life.

9. Perform a Ritual For Your Intent. As I have found out, making the intent to let go is important. Once you have decided to let go for good, perform a ritual. Rituals can be helpful for expressing your intent physically. It is a symbolic gesture of the generosity of your heart space.

So here are some ideas. Write down a letter of your past hurt and then burn it. Or you can throw rocks into the pond, with each rock to represent the individual hurt that you have been holding on to.

10. Use Creative Visualization. Mostly, your mind thinks in pictures. This being the case, consider applying creative visualization to help you let go of the past. Thus, close your eyes to mentally think of a process to signify the release.

Computer analogy can be useful for creative visualization. Hence, imagine yourself deleting an old program in your hard drive. Visualize yourself hitting the “delete” key. Once you have deleted, tell yourself firmly that it is no longer there.

Let Go For the New to Enter

“There are things that we never want to let go of, people we never want to leave behind. But keep in mind that letting go isn’t the end of the world, it’s the beginning of a new life.”
– Author Unknown

Encumbered by the past, your energy becomes weighed down. You age before your time. You are not able to make yourself available to the present. The thing is that you would be shortchanging yourself until the day you awaken.

Do not procrastinate any longer. It all boils down to making a conscious choice. Make the choice to release yourself from your old stories. You are the author of your life script. Choose to write a fresh story from now.

With the release, you can feel an indescribable but delightful lightness of being. It is a breakthrough moment. No longer clouded by pre-conceived judgments of days gone by, you are now free to experience life anew. Your paradigm shifts to one of abundance. You become open to enjoying life fully. You now meet each moment in time with curiosity, spontaneity and possibility. You finally realize that it is not emptiness but an aliveness that you feel!

Love and Abundance Always,

evelyn lim signature

Author. Adventurer. Life Coach. More About Me.

Share Your Stories on Letting Go of a Painful Past

What happened? What did you do to let it go? Share in the comments below.

P.S. One final note. I will be back on my site with another post in another one week’s time. In the meantime, I will be mostly offline due to preparing for my Vision Board Mastery Workshop (to be held on March 10, 2012). The class is full, with very limited seats left. I am so looking forward to meeting the participants! Till then, take care everyone!

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