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Mining the Past

June 20, 2011

The past holds many treasures that can serve us well as seek to discover what we are supposed to be doing now that we’re almost old. Not only does it contain the wisdom born of hardship and pain, but it also holds the key to the joy and meaning that has enriched our lives. When we mine these multifaceted jewels, they will lead us on a path of self-discovery that promises to provide us with an instructive map to age abundantly.

I don’t know about you, but I have spent most of my life running from my past mistakes and running toward the future where I believed a better path could be charted. It was an effective method in that it kept me moving, trying new things, and gathering experience, because boy, did I make a lot of mistakes! When I recognized a wrong turn, I chalked it up to experience, buried it as best I could and vowed never to do it again, and kept moving.

Now, however, looking toward the future has lost its appeal as the end of life becomes more palpable.   But there is more to the past than the debris of failure and now is the perfect time to mine it for all the gems it can provide our todays. Setting aside the running to and running from way of living, allows us the opportunity to take a deep breath and begin our search for the joy and richness that only living can bring.

Our past holds treasures personally crafted just for us. They are personal, rich and substantial. They hold the key to hope, gratitude and as yet undiscovered benefits. As we sift through our memory banks in search of these golden nuggets we will find our own personal map to meaning and purpose.

Begin by picking a period of time — a decade, a year or a day — during which you felt particularly in tune with yourself and life. Close your eyes and sink into the memory. Feel it, absorb it, and allow it to fill your mind and senses with all the good things it has to offer. Then ask yourself what was it about that moment that was so special? What were you feeling, doing, experiencing? Can you repeat it in some way today? Can you use it to live happier today?

I spent so many years looking at the negatives of the past and not enough time holding on to its treasures. Today when I closed my eyes and did this little exercise I thought of a time when I was in college. It was summer. Two of my best friends from high school (twin guys*) and my roommate joined up for a series of adventures. We went to watch the Thunderbirds fly over the Long Island Sound, took in a number of rock concerts and had a blast. We just enjoyed each other and had fun ~ no strings attached kind of fun. We laughed. We lived. We soaked up the excitement of the moment.

What I felt during those days was the excitement of doing something new, the warmth of being with people I enjoyed, a sense of freedom, and time in the great outdoors. I had no expectations of myself or my companions other than to enjoy the moment, taking it in, absorbing life and love.

By living for a few moments in that recollection I am able to absorb its teachings for my life today. The experience helped me to realize four things. First, I have forgotten how to live in the moment and to absorb all the pleasure and knowledge it has to offer.  Second, it revealed to me that I place entirely too many unnecessary expectations on myself. Third, I haven’t done anything new and exciting in a very long time and lastly, I realize I don’t spend near enough time laughing with people I enjoy. Just that brief moment of reflection provided me with all the information I need today to make my life more comfortable. Here’s what I can do now:

  1. Learn something new.
  2.  Focus on doing those things I enjoy doing and aside the uncomfortable and unnecessary expectations I have placed on myself.
  3. Call a friend and get together for coffee or a phone conversation.
  4. Share laughter with someone I love.

Your past will undoubtedly reveal something different, something that is uniquely yours, a personal message from your heart. As we begin to use our past as a teacher, rather than a litany of what not to do, we will allow it to blow the breath of life into our todays.  Tomorrow will take care of itself.

* I married the other twin ten years later.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. June 21, 2011 12:49 pm

    OMG! I learned something here, something that hadn’t yet registered even after being in therapy for nearly 3 years. I’m not typically given to exercises, but I felt compelled to follow your instructions about picking a period of time: I actually noted 7 significant periods. I wrote down the [author’s] initial questions of examination and evaluation. And, finally, I wrote down her 4 insights and probable goals for what she can do now and henceforth. Interestingly enough, her 4 are my 4, at first glance anyhow. I’m sure I’ll arrive at others more pertinent to my self upon further contemplation. The point here is this was a worthwhile exercise, and it came as I nonchalantly read this blog without any unnecessary, uncomfortable expectations, so it came upon me as a pleasant surprise. Thank you for the gift.

    • June 21, 2011 1:47 pm

      You are welcome! So glad the exercise was helpful to you. I’ve spent plenty of time in therapy as well and the older I get the more I am coming to believe that we have all the answers already. We just need to listen to ourselves! Too often therapy only gains access to a certain part of our brains and psyches and while this can be helpful it is not the complete answer.

  2. June 21, 2011 4:00 pm

    Really enjoyed that post. It is a good reminder not to miss the moments, live fully, and enjoy each day. All of a sudden the past is behind us and we realize we have been moving way to fast to really get the joy. Thanks for writing that.

  3. June 21, 2011 5:53 pm

    It is amazing how some parts of our lives are more enjoyable than others. There are always hills and valleys but I think it is events and people we are surrounded by that make certain periods of time more interesting and fun than others. I agree, as I get older I spend more time doing the things I want rather than feeling guilty about not going to things that don’t interest me and working so hard for various organizations. Many good points in this post as usual.

  4. June 27, 2011 5:16 am

    I love it – you married the other twin! What a terrific last line in your post…..I laughed so hard. I agree completely about living in the present. It’s easier now, isn’t it, at our age. I have two grandchildren, and I’m loving every minute of looking at the world again, through a child’s eyes. We are looking at the last age set of our lives, but it can be a wonderful thing. Age is venerated in almost every other culture, so we just need to exercise our potential – get out there – share that wisdom!

    • June 27, 2011 3:42 pm

      Let’s not hide it under a bushel! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. 🙂 DS

  5. July 4, 2011 12:27 pm

    After years of not being anywhere near a horse, I found a therapeutic riding facility near my home; I have been invited to once again volunteer to help children with mental, physical and emotional disabilites encounter the magic of a horse and all the freedom, power and connection they have to offer. I’ve been hesitating to accept, for reasons normal and silly. Following your suggestions here to go back to a time of joy, I knew instantly that the BEST time in my life was when I did TR full time; I was at my most centered, happy, fulfilled state of being Enough. Why would I hesitate to go there again? Duh…..thank you, for this and for sharing all the paths you’ve taken. Blessed Be…….

    • July 4, 2011 1:41 pm

      How exciting for you! What a wonderful gift you are giving to those children! Thanks so much for taking the time to write and tell me a bit about your journey. I would love to hear an update from time to time. DS

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