Are you ready to emerge from the cocoon of your past? The
key to inner freedom is self-reflection--uncovering the habits
that have held you back and identifying your strong points.
With self-knowledge comes the ability to frame new responses and
to relate authentically to the world.
Lately, whenever I try to start something new, whether it's a
project or a friendship, things don't seem to come together as I'd
hoped or planned. I make all the right moves, but success
remains elusive. Somebody suggested that the problem is
something I'm not looking at--a hidden assumption I'll fail, for
example. Maybe so, but I don't see how digging around in my
psyche will help. I simply want to get on with my
life. Any suggestions?
Unfortunately, we can't just set aside what we don't want to think
about and assume that it will go away. Whoever suggested you
try a little self-evaluation makes a good point. When we've
exhausted all the excuses for why life isn't working--other
people, bad luck, misalignment of the stars--we're left with the
possibility that the answer lies within. Nine times out of
ten, it's our fears or doubts or attitudes--carryovers from the
past--that are getting in the way of our accomplishing what we
Can't I just let bygones be bygones and start afresh?
Unfortunately, "the eternal sunshine of the spotless
mind" exists only in movies. Even if you could ignore
the past, I doubt that would make you happy. The past is the
repository of all your experiences--the joys and triumphs,
as well as the disappointments. Without your past, you
wouldn't be you. When you say you want to put it behind you,
don't you mean you want to be free of unpleasant memories?
I guess so. Whenever I think about the past, I have a
thousand regrets. Every "Why did I. . . ?" or
"Why didn't I. . .?" feels like karmic punishment for my
Everyone has regrets. We've all said or done things we're
not proud of, or that failed to get us the results we want.
But torturing yourself by rehashing those moments isn't going to
put the past to rest any more than ignoring them would.
Karma isn't a cosmic evaluation slip that says, "Too bad, you
failed the test." It's merely a clue to where you need
to do some self-reflection. Karma says, "Mine your
experience for what it can teach you about your habitual responses
to the world." You need to find out what's keeping you
from expressing fully who you are.
If I look, I'll only feel inadequate. Maybe whatever is
happening now is just my karma, and the best I can do is accept
There's a common misperception that karma locks us into what was
true in the past. Fortunately, that's not the case.
Character and personality are malleable. We can and do
change. In fact, our inner experience of the world changes
constantly. That's why it matters so much what thoughts we
entertain. If we cling to our old ways of thinking, we'll
simply respond as we always have and the same things will keep
happening to us. The first step toward awakening is
admitting you want something different.
Some things aren't going my way right now. I suppose my
whole life could use an overhaul.
It isn't a matter of overhauling your life--though aspects of your
life are bound to change as you develop self-awareness. This
is about understanding who you are at the core. We all have
within us a wealth of resources--everything, in fact, we need for
growth. Evolution has seen to that. The way to tap
that inner wisdom is through self-examination. . . .
self-reflection is very practical. What are the hopes and
dreams you cherish, the abilities you aren't yet
actualizing? What are the secrets and nasty little habits
you're hiding? Only if you bring all this to light will you
be able to lead the full, rich life you crave. . . .
I see how mindfulness could enhance my experience of the present,
but how will it help me put the past to rest?
The only place you can change the past is in the present. By
not focusing on the "story" of your life--the events
themselves--but rather on how you interpret and shape those
events, you will start to see patterns emerging. Insight
into the assumptions that have been running your life will tell
you why things turn out in certain ways. The patterns and
habits you've developed are karmic opportunities. Unlike age
or eye color or family of origin, they're aspects of yourself you
have the power to change, which could, in turn, change your
life. Karma arises out of our choices. When we choose
not to respond as in the past, we create the possibility of a
us how to take responsibility for our words and deeds, to
listen to what our conscience is telling us, to behave in
a way that won’t undermine our prospects for happiness,
and to examine specific actions closely and untangle the
right from the wrong. The karmic view on
decision-making discussed so intriguingly here is one of
the trickiest, most essential forms of self-analysis that
we can undertake—and one of the most rewarding.