Monday, May 23, 2011

Relating to the Past

For me, Alexander Technique is about relationships.  First, and foremost, it is about my relationship with myself.  "Know thyself."  All other relationships are relative to that one, and are directly affected by it.

(See end of this post for some ideas about how to practice relating to the past in a constructive way.)

Today, I am noticing how I relate to the past.  All too often, I react to my thoughts about the past.

I cling to pleasant memories, wanting to drag them into the present or push them into the future.
I fight with unpleasant memories, running away from them, resisting them, and fighting to make sure they don't ever happen again.
Or, I freeze in confusion, when I don't really understand what actually happened, because it is impossible to remember it all, and because our perspective is always limited and partial. 

In all of those cases, I am forgetting about the present moment, the only actual reality, the only time when I can really be at peace with myself.  Even if memories are pleasant, clinging to them can eventually pull me away from my center and off balance in a downward direction.

Clinging, fighting, pushing, fleeing, resisting, and freezing in response to memories are a total waste of psychophysical energy.  Those mind-body reactions to thoughts about the past are not helpful to my well-being.  The past is over.  It is an illusion.  It doesn't exist anymore.  

In essence, I am trying to have a relationship with something that doesn't exist!!!

Memories--thoughts about the past--are fine; my reactions to them are the problem.  Once the reactions come, the past needs to be recognized for the illusion that it is.  Only the present moment is real.

Letting go of the past releases energy which I can redirect into my relationship with the present moment, the only one that actually exists.  It is only in the present moment that I can come to know my true self as I am now.  

Before I can let go of the past, though, I need to accept it.  Accepting memories means simply letting the thoughts come whenever they do, without reacting to them.  It means being aware of them (because my thoughts about the past DO exist now, in the present), then releasing them from my attempts to control them, giving them up, and redirecting my awareness back to the present moment.  

It can be supremely difficult sometimes to aim myself back into the present moment.  To do so, again and again, from moment to moment, day after day, requires a kind of superhuman act of courage and trust, and it requires constant, vigilant practice.

But, I know at heart that this is essential if I want to live in peace.


Some ideas for putting this into practice:

  • Think of a memory you have.
  • How do you react to it?
  • Do you notice any tightening in your body, or constriction of your breath?
  • Do any emotions come up?  Feelings?  More thoughts?
  • Are you judging this memory, labeling it as positive, negative, good, bad, or neutral?
  • Are you getting sucked into thinking about it more?
  • Are you fighting it, fleeing from it, freezing, or clinging to it with attachment?
  • Does your response to the memory tend to pull you down or send you up?
  • Can you choose to let go of that memory and bring yourself back to the present moment?
  • Bring your awareness to your surroundings: sights, sounds, smells...
  • Become aware of the objects you are in contact with.
  • Choose to let go of the memory and put your energy into knowing yourself in relation to the present moment.
  • "I release myself from the past." "I give up the past." "I am saying NO to my reactions to these thoughts."
  • "I am here, now, being myself in the present moment."

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