“Most people can look back over the years and identify a time and place at which their lives changed significantly. Whether by accident or design, these are the moments when, because of a readiness within us and a collaboration with events occurring around us, we are forced to seriously reappraise ourselves and the conditions under which we live and to make certain choices that will affect the rest of our lives.” ~ Frederick Flack
In critical moments of retrospection such as this—moments often wracked with pain, remorse, and self-condemnation—can we realize that we can always choose to do something better this time? Can we open ourselves to the compassionate thought that there are skillful ways to choose to love ourselves better than we ever have before?
The bad choices we regret about the past, would continue their karmic presence by perpetuating themselves in bad choices today. But this continuation is not predetermined or inevitable! If we choose not to continue that karma—and love and compassion help us see that we can—then today really can be the start of something new.
In a moment of self-love, of genuine self-determination, the karmic train is derailed. A new path opens up before our eyes. Sure, we still see the damage done by past actions, but instead of being hypnotized and caught up in the damage, our eyes are on a new path opening up before us. The focus is on the here and now—a first good step, and then another. One day at a time.
No, we can’t change the past, but we can change ourselves. The more we learn how to let go of hurtful, harmful elements in ourselves, the less some terrible past will have to do with the person we are now. From the Buddhist perspective, nothing in the past was really “I” or “me” or “mine,” anyway, but an illusory sense of ourselves, a false self-identification. But to claim this freedom, we have to learn how to let go of self-identification today with whatever is harmful in us or whatever hinders the freedom of our minds and hearts.
This can seem daunting, but it is doable. It’s a truly Noble Path and the very happiest way to live. We redeem our past right here, in the present. Choices matter, always. We are never past the point of choice. As Vicktor Frankl famously said:
“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Do you feel yourself in a “prison camp” created by your past? Then choose, this day, something new, something unexpected, something not arising out of past conditioning. The past is gone. You only have today. So choose. Choose life. Choose love. Choose to live.
Click this link (below)to hear a marvelous song by Carrie Newcomer, which beautifully goes to the heart of the matter as often music only can: