Some of you that are my Facebook friends may have seen my status Monday. It read:
“The more you remember and regret things you have done in the past, the more troubled you will be when making decisions that you believe will affect your future. In this context, memory is a curse! I think this is why babies and the elderly, with no ability to make new memories from this moment, normally live in bliss. For those with fully functioning memories, we can practice forgiveness to come to peace with the past and meditation to cleanse our karma, freeing us to live fully in this moment with faith in a joyful future.”
I’d like to pick this apart a bit, because lots of us are in the process of making decisions about where we will go in January, and that day is just around the corner. In the meantime, you members will have plenty of decisions to make in the process of finding new interns and discerning how to continue your lives here at Koinonia. So I’m hoping you will find these ideas helpful as well.
Of all the illusions we live with and through every day, time is perhaps the most challenging one. Physicists tell us that time was created, along with the matter that makes up the universe, by the big bang. In other words, before the universe was born, there was no time either. Regardless of your understanding of time at that level, it seems that just about all our fears stem from our relationship with time.
When we regret or feel shameful about things we have done in the past, or when we worry about how the future will unfold, we take ourselves out of the current moment and project our fearful selves through time. I actually can’t think of a fear that is not related to time, so it follows that if we heal our relationship with time, we would free ourselves of all fear!
The monastic answer is to live in the current moment only, but I’m not going to talk about that today. Most of us have not mastered the art of releasing unhelpful thoughts about the past and future, so I’d like to talk about how to heal our relationships with time, through forgiveness and faith.
When we are plagued by our choices and actions because we are unhappy with the consequences, we naturally want to avoid the same kinds of “mistakes” in our current and future choices, so our lives will be more fulfilling. All regret is an error, because to truely love ourselves and those around us, forgiveness must always follow judgment. As Jesus taught us, we will be forgiven to the degree that we forgive others.
When looking at our relationship to time, if we forgive our past selves, our current and future selves are automatically forgiven as well. Every decision and action we have ever taken in the past was the best we could muster at that time. When we consistently accept that, even when we hate the consequences, we can trust that choices we make today and in the future will also be acceptable to us too.
So once you have forgiven yourself for the messes you have made the past, what is the best way to make new choices? Some of us like to analyze all the options and weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each using reason and logic. Others like to dive in based on gut instinct, with little regard for the facts. I prefer the middle road of learning about each choice and then following the advice of Depok Chopra, from his book “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success.” He writes about heart based decisions in his chapter on the law of Karma:
(I read from the last paragraph on page 42 through the first paragraph on page 44, which I don’t include here but is in the audio recording.)
So to review, all our fears are anchored in our relationship and sense of time. Our fearful judgments of mistakes in our past are projected into our futures, leaving little comfort in the present moment. If we consistently forgive ourselves for ALL the so called mistakes we have made, we project unconditional self Love into the future, which allows us to make joyful choices in the present moment.
The most reliable way to make choices that are best for us and all the people that will be affected by them, is to pay attention to the feelings in our hearts. There are actually more neuron cells in your heart than muscle cells! The heart is just as much a thinking organ as your brain and they work beautifully in concert.
There is one more belief that is very helpful when healing your relationship with time, which comes from the sermon on the mount. God always provides everything we need. We don’t have to worry about the future, just keep your attention on today and leave the future to God. Even if we don’t like some things about our lives, with faith we can see that we are learning from our troubles, so they are actually just as much a divine gift as those moments of joy and pleasure. If you fully believe what Jesus said about the lilies of the field and so on, you will be able to accept this moment as being exactly the way it needs to be in order to meet our needs, even when the reasons are a total mystery!
So I encourage you to forgive your past and joyfully follow your heart into the future, with faith that it is impossible to make a bad decision!