December 4, 2013

How to Create Greater Happiness by Transforming Your View of the Past. ~ Jennifer Twardowski

This weekend I found myself taking a trip through memory lane.

It wasn’t influenced by meeting up with or chatting with an old friend; rather, it was actually influenced by a new friend who I met at a workshop a few weeks ago. One of the things we had in common to lead us into hanging out later was that we both taught ESL in East Asia. The only difference between our experiences was that I was living in Korea and she was living in Japan.

Yet, despite the fact that we were both living in two separate countries, many of our experiences were the same: the teaching environment, the way our students and co-teachers acted, our love for karaoke rooms and saunas, and just the general sense of life as an expat that those who have never been an expat can relate to.

In the midst of telling stories, memories began pouring back in to my awareness. Many of which I had either completely forgotten or I had buried deep within myself since moving back to the United States.

For hours, maybe even a day, after our meeting, the memories continued to pour in. One at a time memories that I had completely forgotten about, though I once held very dear to my heart emerged—memories of joy, excitement, frustration and sadness.

There is a quote by Rita Mae Brown that goes, “One of the keys to happiness is a bad memory.”

In moments like this past weekend when I’ve had old memories pour in, I understand how she, and others, would have concluded this to be true. But when I reflected deeper, I realized it’s actually not.

As I began going through these memories, I realized how much of these past experiences were holding me back in the present. Though my memory of the events was greatly diminished, my feelings associated with that time in my life were still unhealed.

It wasn’t the memory that was holding me back (or lack thereof), but my own perception of that past experience.

I was still looking at those past experiences with hurt feelings and bitter resentments for what I had gone through. As a result, I was, unconsciously, continuing to recreate more disconnection from others by not looking at those memories in a better light.

We continue to allow ourselves to suffer in the present when we have not fully chosen to see our past experiences in a compassionate and loving light.

This shift may be perceived as forgiveness; however, it is a step beyond what we typically perceive as forgiveness because it involves shifting your perception. It involves a drastic mindset shift that causes you to look at and approach the world differently by seeing your past differently.

So how can we do this?

For starters, we must look inward. I would recommend either sitting in a comfortable and quiet location so that you have room to reflect with your thoughts without any interruption. You may want to be out in nature or simply in a quiet location within your home. You may also want to find some relaxing, nature themed, or meditation music to play.

Get a journal and pen to write down whatever thoughts, memories, or feelings come to you. You may want to write after taking some time to stop, quiet the mind and meditate. If you feel that you are able to simply write and words gradually paint the answers themselves then you can simply do that. Do whichever feels most comfortable to you at the time.

Now, think of a memory. A memory that was not so pleasant. Maybe it was a very difficult situation or a painful relationship. Imagine it in your mind and write down any feelings, thoughts, and sensations that come to you about this situation. Paint the picture.

Once you sense that you can feel and see this past situation fairly clearly, ask yourself the following questions: how did the other person(s) involved feel during this situation? It may have been frustration, anger, fear, sadness, loneliness and so on. Be patient and allow whatever thoughts, feelings, and memories that come to you and write them down as they come.

Now, ask yourself: how did I contribute to this person’s pain? What blocks did I have that made things so difficult for them? Try to completely put yourself in the other person’s shoes. You may need to meditate deeply in order for this answer to come. Write down or simply mentally take note of the things that come to you.

Once you have fully seen and felt the pain of the other person and how you contributed to this, close your eyes and send that person healing light in any color that feels appropriate to you. Allow this light to fully encompass the other person. Mentally say, “I forgive you.”

Once you feel the light has fully encompassed the other person, send that healing light back to yourself. Breath in the light and on an exhale say to yourself, “I forgive myself for the mistakes I’ve made.”

When you feel this is complete, reflect on your experience of this meditation. Write down any thoughts or feelings that emerged. Then ask yourself how you contributed to this painful situation. What was your dynamic? Have you seen yourself continuing this dynamic in your present relationships? Write down whatever thoughts come to you.

This may be a little difficult at first, but the more you relax the easier it is. Try this over the course of a few days or a week if you need to. Then revisit the activity on an as needed basis. Be patient with yourself—it’s not uncommon to put forth the effort to completely forgive over and over again.

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 Assistant Ed: Miciah Bennett/ Ed: Bryonie Wise



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