Should We Leave the Past in the Past?
Updated: Aug 19, 2020
One of the biggest shifts in my understanding of myself was the understanding that my past still affects me today.
I was in a class in which we were preparing to do a breathing exercise called rebirthing. To make it simple, we would breathe heavily for 7 minutes straight, and afterward we were told that there may be some emotions that would come to the surface.
As Nissim, my Trilotherapy teacher, spoke about the practice, he explained that there are many people who hold on to the emotions of their past and don't express them. He shared examples of different situations and the reasons why one would not cry. He also said that there may be people who don't hold on to anything since they are able to cry and express their emotions as they go through the difficult times of their life.
At that moment in my life I was just turning 25 years old. I had considered myself a happy person and I didn't feel that I carried much of my past on my back. Life seemed pretty easy to me, and when I compared myself to anyone I knew, it was clear that their life was harder, more stressful and they had experienced more pain in their lifetime than I.
In that moment, as I looked back at my past, I could remember that there were some difficult times. I thought back to the last time I had deeply cried, and it was 10 years earlier when my best friend moved away to another country.
As I prepared to start breathing, my thoughts said, "There's probably nothing there I need to release" and "If the last time I cried was when I was 15, then maybe nothing sad has happened to me since that I needed to cry about" and also "I might be one of those people who doesn't hold on to anything since life is pretty easy for me."
And with those thoughts in mind, I started to breath. I breathed as deeply and heavily as I could. As a former army man, I was happy to push myself to the limits of my body. I breathed until my mouth and hands contracted, until I felt tingling all over my body. I breathed and breathed some more. I breathed for 7 minutes and then turned to lie on my side. In that moment I was hit by overwhelming emotion. I started to cry the way children do, sobbing uncontrollably. The words repeating in my head were "I'm so alone, I felt so alone, I don't have anybody". The memory that surfaced that connected to those emotions was the pain I felt when I was 15. I was reliving the loneliness I had experienced at that time and was shocked to discover the amount of emotion that still existed.
I was deeply moved by these emotions. There was a release of a great burden I had carried for many years, but even more than that it made me question my belief of who I was. It made me question the statements I made about not carrying anything from my past. It made me question the belief that my life was less painful than the lives of others, and that nothing bad happened to me. It made me question the pretty picture of an easy-going life with a happy childhood that I painted in my mind every time I looked into the past. It made me question the need to look into the past, and it made me want to find out what other pain has not been expressed.
Carrying all these questions, I set out to heal my past. I touched different traumas from my childhood and cried them out. I did this time and time again doing Energy Washouts with my therapist at the time until I wasn't crying anymore, but only laughing every time I went down that road of release. I thought I had cleaned out all the mess of my past and that I was done. I reached a place in which there was nothing more to cry about. Nothing more to release. I was proud that I did such good work, happy that I was finally finished.
And then I found another healing school called Holoenergetic Healing. For me there was not much more to work on, but now I was more prepared to help others. And in order to do so, I had to experience this new healing practice on myself.
At my first training, I was asked to work with my teacher, Dr. Laskow, in front of the class. There was not much breathing, no touching. Just me with my eyes closed being guided into my body and my sensations. Through my body I reached into my emotions and then into my past. The emotion this time was anger (which of course I thought I didn't hold), and it hit me again so unexpectedly. The tears came, my body shook and I let it release. It was another powerful experience. Another powerful reminder that there's more work to be done.
Something changed on that day. It was the understanding that we're never really finished, that there's always more work to do. It was the openness to look at myself honestly and say "You're broken; you're imperfect; you've been hurt; you've hurt yourself and others." I knew that this would always be true and didn't need to be fixed. I knew that this was the point, to recognize and welcome it as much as I could. I knew that I would walk this path for the rest of my life discovering more and more as I walk.
I meet some people sometimes who ask me "What is the point of looking into the past so much? In meditation we learn that only the present exists and that by carrying the past with us, we distance ourselves from the present moment, which is the only true reality." The best answer I have to that question is that what we miss by neglecting the past is a key that the past holds to help us understand the present. If, in the present, we would be in a constant state of meditation and bliss then perhaps there would be no need for recalling the past. But since our present is full of conflicts and challenges, it becomes evident that the past is crucial in order to get through the challenges of today.
What would be the reasons not to look into the past? I've heard many times from people that they feel there's no point and it's a waste of time to keep looking into things that we can't change. In other cases (like my own) there is not so much resistance but a feeling that there is no need, since there's probably nothing unresolved in the past.
On the other hand there are some people who have done so much work on themselves through therapy and other healing practices that they feel that they've done all the possible digging into all the important issues of the past, and there's no need to dig anymore.
There are also the people who know there is something very painful that still lives in the past, and they wish to avoid reliving that pain in any way possible. They have a feeling that maybe they should visit the past to resolve something deep and painful but they experience a lot of fear of what they may encounter.
In these different cases there is a hesitation to go into the past. But for all of us, there is something important to discover. Whether we are at the beginning of our healing path or we have done many years of therapy and healing, there is always more to discover. It is not just the looking into the past that is important but it's how we do it. It seems that talking about it is not enough. There needs to be more. Living the past through the body. Through the emotions. Through the subtle sensations that remind us of our past. We must make sense of our life today through the lens of our past. We must understand that every challenge that comes our way today has happened before, and our body and brain remember and record everything that happens to us, even if we have consciously forgotten. We must connect the dots between our present and our past, between the different memories of our past, and between our own life and the life of our parents. When we begin to connect the dots, we can create a new relationship with the challenges of today, so that we can create a new future filled with a deeper acceptance and understanding of the challenges to come. When we connect the dots between our present and our past, the future can be transformed, and we can create the life we wish for ourselves.
This may take many years to do, but we must remember that it's not about the finish line. The truth is, It's all about the journey.