Happy New Past

The new year is here bringing with it a flood of resolutions all designed to improve our lives. Whether it be to lose weight, exercise more, watch less television or a host of others, the goal is to make ourselves happier. Along with all your other resolutions I would like to suggest one more. This year, resolve to change your past. “Oh no,” you are probably thinking, “he has finally lost his mind. No one can change the past!”

The only time that is real is now. The past doesn’t exist. It is simply our memory of previous events. The future has no single form. It only consists of our hopes, dreams and expectations. As these change, so too does the future. Buddhism speaks of karma, the idea that what exists now is the result of all that has come before. Some people think this means our fate is predetermined, that we have no control over our lives. Actually, the opposite is true. What we do, think and say right now affects our future happiness. If we change our past, we shape our future.

Of course, we cannot change the events of the past. However, we can change how we view these events. The most common example is the parent/child relationship. When we were children, and even more so as teenagers, our parents stopped us from doing certain things. At the time, we were convinced they were wrong for stopping us and we resented their actions. We were angry, vowing we would never be like them. Yet, years later, we realized the wisdom of their actions. The events had not changed, only our perception of the events.

Throughout our ego driven lives we often find ourselves in conflict with others. As a result, many times we suffer or cause others to suffer. This suffering may linger for years, gnawing at us, destroying friendships, tearing apart families. The stories of friends, or family members, who have not spoken in years because of some long ago insult are all too common. The only way to overcome the suffering these conflicts cause is to change our view of them.

The Buddha taught that we should live a life of no regret. Our lives should be dynamic, forward looking and determined. Whenever we reflect upon the past our goal should be to gain wisdom. To feel pity for ourselves is self defeating. To constantly relive perceived injustice only prolongs our suffering. The Dhammapada, a collection of the Buddha’s teachings, has the following in its first passage: “He abused me, he cheated me, he robbed me. Live with such thoughts and you live in hate.” How can we ever overcome our suffering if we continue to live in hate?

As we look forward to a brighter future, we should also look back with new eyes. Eyes that truly see, free from our self centered, tunnel vision. Change the past to enhance the future.

For information about Zen meditation in Kenosha contact me at BASEWI@aol.com.