Letting Go of the Past

From one of my favorite blogs…https://zenhabits.net/

4 Step Guide to Letting Go of the Past

BY LEO BABAUTA

We’re constantly struggling with the past, in so many ways:

  • Mistakes we’ve made that we regret or that make us feel bad about ourselves
  • Anger about something someone did to us
  • Frustration about how things have progressed up until now
  • A wish that things turned out differently
  • Stories about what happened that make us sad, depressed, angry, hurt
  • An argument that we had that keeps spinning around in our heads
  • Something someone just did (a minute ago) that we’re still stuck on

What if we could just let go of things have happened, and be present with the unfolding moment instead?

What if we could let the past remain in the past, and unburden ourselves?

What is we could see that our holding onto the past is actually hurting us right now … and look at letting go as a loving act of not hurting ourselves anymore?

It can be done, though it isn’t always easy. Here’s the practice I recommend, in four steps.

Step 1: See the Story That’s Hurting You

In the present moment, you have some kind of pain or difficulty: anger, frustration, disappointment, regret, sadness, hurt.

Notice this difficulty, and see that it’s all caused by whatever story you have in your head about what happened (either recently or in the more distant past). You might insist that the difficulty or pain is caused by what happened (not by the story in your head), but what happened isn’t happening right now. It’s gone. The pain is still happening right now, and it’s caused by whatever story you have about the situation.

Note that “story” doesn’t mean “false story.” It also doesn’t mean “true story.” The word “story” in this context doesn’t imply good or bad, false or true, or any other kind of judgment. It’s simply a process that’s happening inside your head:

  • You’re remembering what happened.
  • You have a perspective about what happened, a judgment, a way of seeing it that has you as the injured party.
  • This causes an emotion in you.

So just notice what story you have, without judgment of the story or of yourself. It’s natural to have a story, but just see that it’s there. And see that it’s causing you difficulty, frustration or pain.

Step 2: Stay with the Physical Feeling

Next, you want to turn from the story in your head … to the feeling that’s in your body. This is the physical feeling: it could be tightness in your chest, a hollowness, a shooting pain, an energy that radiates in all directions from your solar plexus, an ache in your heart, or many more variations.

The practice is to turn and face this physical feeling, dropping your attention out of the story your head and into your body.

Stay and face this feeling with courage — we usually try to avoid the feeling.

Stay and explore it with curiosity: what does it feel like? Where is it located? Does it change?

If this becomes unbearable, do it in small doses, in a way that feels manageable for you. It can get intense if the feelings have been intense.

But for most feelings, we see that it is not the end of the world, that we can bear it. In fact, it’s just a bit of unpleasantness, not all-consuming or anything to panic about.

Stay with it and be gentle, friendly, welcoming. Embrace the feeling like you would a good friend. You’re becoming comfortable with discomfort, and it is the path of bravery.

Step 3: Breathe Out, Letting Go

Breathe in your difficulty, and breathe out compassion.

It’s a Tibetan Buddhist practice called Tonglen: breathe in whatever difficult feeling you’re feeling, and breathe out the feeling of relief from that difficulty.

You breathe in not only your own pain, but the pain of others.

For example:

  • If you’re feeling frustration, breathe in all the frustration of the world … then breathe out peace.
  • If you’re feeling sadness, breathe in all the sadness of the world … then breathe out happiness.
  • If you’re feeling regret, breathe in all the regret of the world … then breathe out joy and gratitude.

Do this for a minute or so, imagining all the frustration of those around you coming in with each breath, and then a feeling of peace radiating out to all of those who are frustrated as you breathe out.

You can practice this every day, and it is amazing. Instead of running from your difficult feeling, you’re embracing it, letting yourself absorb it. And you’re doing it for others as well, which gets us out of a self-centered mode and into an other-focused mode.

As you do this, you’re starting to let go of your pain or difficulty.

Step 4: Turn with Gratitude Toward the Present

As you feel that you’ve let go, instead of getting caught up in your story again, turn and see what’s right here, right now.

What do you see?

Can you appreciate all or some of it? Can you be grateful for something in front of you right now?

Why is this step important? Because when we’re stuck on something that happened in the past, we’re not paying attention to right now. We’re not appreciating the moment in front of us. We can’t — our minds are filled up with the past.

So when we start to let go of the past, we have emptied our cups and allowed them to be filled up with the present.

We should then turn to the present and find gratitude for what’s here, instead of worrying about what isn’t.

As we do that, we’ve transformed our struggle into a moment of joy.

My Upcoming Course: Dealing with Struggles

I wanted to let you guys know about an upcoming video course that I’m launching next week — it’s called Dealing with Struggles, and I’m very excited about it!

This course is aimed at anyone who has struggles:

  • Anxiety about life or social situations
  • Frustrations with themselves or other people
  • Difficulty with procrastination
  • Trouble forming new habits or quitting old habits
  • A feeling of unhappiness with ourselves
  • Struggles with finances, clutter, productivity, health issues
  • Stress about work, life, relationships

As it turns out, we all have struggles.

This video course will aim to get to the root of our struggles, and learn how to apply mindfulness practices to work with them.

It’s a four-week course, with two video lessons and two mindfulness practices a week … and it will start in April. More next week!

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Hadimba Temple Manali

Kyle Quandel Hadimba Temple Manali

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Hidimbi Devi Temple, also known variously as the Hadimba Temple, is located in Manāli, a hill station in the State of Himāchal Pradesh in north India. It is an ancient cave temple dedicated to Hidimbi Devi, wife of Bhima, a figure in the Indian epic Mahābhārata. The temple is surrounded by a cedar forest at the foot of the Himālayas. The sanctuary is built over a huge rock jutting out of the ground which was worshiped as an image of the deity. The structure was built in 1553.

The Bhavacakra Brief

The Bhavacakra or “Wheel of Life”  is a visual tool used by Tibetan Buddhists to represent the concept of Samsara.  Buddhists are firm believers of cause and karma, as well as birth, death and re-birth or reincarnation. Perhaps the meaning of this symbolic wheel can help others lead a more meaningful life.

In the center of the wheel lie the images represent the three poisons of life – ignorance, jealousy and aversion. These are the three sufferings which, Buddhists believe, keep humanity trapped in Samsara.   Samsara is the Buddhism concept of endless misery.  A person experiences Samsara when they fail to understand cause and effect.   In other words, the individual does not fully understand the consequences of his own deeds.  As a result, they are unable to free themselves from the “wheel of suffering.”  One analogy is to imagine an insect trapped in a jar; one is trapped in their own reality, regardless of their actions if they cannot fully understand what keeps them contained.Wheel of Life

The second layer of the wheel is a representation of Karma. Karma refers to the actions that spring from intentions. Intentions translate into thoughts, and thoughts lead to actions. Eventually, all actions lead to eventual consequences.  Whether the consequence is desirable or undesirable depends on the action. Buddhists firmly believe that one is responsible for one’s own destiny. That is to say, we are all responsible for the consequences of our own actions.

The third layer of the wheel is a representation of the six realms of samsara.  Namely, they are the God realm, the demi-God, the human, the animal, the hungry ghost, and hell. It is both purposeful and interesting to examine each realm as it related to one’s own self.

For example, the God realm is a place where beings are in a state of bliss or nirvana.  They are here, in this state, due to the positive karma that they have built up from their actions. Unfortunately, they neglect to work towards enlightenment. Soon their positive karma runs out and then they are born into lower realms. The jealous Gods are those who envy the higher Gods. They live a more pleasurable life when compared to humans, but they suffer from jealousy of the Gods.

Next, is the human realm, which we are all, obviously, familiar with.   In this realm, there is the possibility of enlightenment.   From this particular perspective, it is actually advantageous to be reborn as a human.  Unfortunately, most human beings spend their life time in the pursuit of materialistic rewards. The chances of most beings being reborn in a lower realm are very high.   Once entered into a lower realm, it takes many life-times to accumulate enough merit to be born as a human again.

The forth layer of the wheel represents the twelve Nidanas, known as ‘chain of causation’. There is an aggressive demon-like figure holding this wheel, and here it represents impermanence.

Finally, there is a moon at the top of the Bhavacakra, and it represents liberation.   In other words, it is possible to be liberated from samsara – the wheel of suffering.   Buddha points to the moon to indicate the possibility of freeing oneself.

This is just a very brief explanation of the Wheel of Life, as Buddhists see it.  I very much suggest that if you’re interested, you do more research and explore this for yourself through the links within.  I’ve taken care to make sure these are credible & helpful links.  One of my personal favorites is an interactive version of wheel, which can be found here.

Insight Meditation Center

No Mud, No Lotus

Considering the difficult few months that life has presented, I found this particular teaching incredibly relevant. I’ve been a fan of Tara’s for a few months but this one really hit home.

I’m often traveling, so it’s convenient for me to download the audio versions to my iPhone. With this specific episode, there was a full emotional breakthrough – on a Greyhound bus headed to DC.

I related, cried – sobbed even, understood & evolved. Surely the other passengers on the bus were wondering what psychological trauma I was experiencing.   Nonetheless, Tara’s prior teachings, together with this specific dharma talk brought about real truth, understanding & awareness.  No one else mattered.

The lotus needs mud – and through this … well listen to Tara explain it.  You can check out here other teachings here.

– Kyle Quandel

Buddhist Wish of Noble Sympathy

In trying to find the words to express my deep sympathy for a friend’s loss, I came across this piece. There no more nobler truth or wish & a mantra to live by.

May I be happy, may I maintain my happiness & live without any enmity.
May all beings be successful and happy: May they be of joyful mind, all beings that breathe & have life.

Let all beings enjoy safety, contentment, ease & bliss.
Let no one deceive another, let no one be harsh in speech.
Let no one by anger or hatred wish ill to his neighbor.

Even as a mother, at the risk of her own life, guards and protects her only child, so with a boundless heart of compassion, I venerate all living beings by permeating the entire universe with sympathy, above, beneath & all around without limit— compassion for the sorrows of others, immeasurable joy in their joys.

Thus I cultivate an infinite Goodwill toward this whole world.

During all my waking hours I treasure this thought that this very way of caring is indeed the truly noblest behavior in this whole wide world.

Thus shall I, by stilling pointless discussions & controversies, by acting blamelessly, be gifted with tranquility & true insight.

Thus shall I subdue sense-pleasure urge & never again know involuntary rebirth.

May this inspire all beings to fulfill the conditions leading to Nirvana.
May all beings be thus utterly liberated & released from suffering.
May all beings thus escape the dangers of ageing, disease and death.

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Growing Spiritually During Difficult Times

Spiritual growth in a world dominated by money, power and influence is a monumental undertaking. Our physical wants and needs attract the lion’s share of our attention due to conveniences such as electronic gizmos, television, and the Internet. Meaning and self worth are confused as a result. What is needed so that we may have a balance between spiritual and material things in our lives?

Look Within Yourself

Looking inward is more than thinking about the things that happened to you in the past. Closely inspect and then ponder your beliefs, feelings, motivations and thoughts. TO discover the positive and negative aspects of your self you must examine your relationships, decisions and experiences to gain insight into your goals. In addition, this will guide you in how to act and react in any given situation. Willingness and courage to confront yourself are all that is necessary to learn introspection. These are some hints when you decide to introspect: look for areas to improve in, forgive yourself and try to be objective.

Grow Your Capacity

The human spirit is viewed differently by science and religion. The religious view is that humans are spiritual beings with a temporary existence in Life, whereas scientific views are that the spirit is one aspect of a person. Self control and mastery is an aspect of both Eastern teaching such as Islam as well as Christian, Western teachings. The spirit’s needs are positioned higher than the body’s need, though they are not ignored. The road map to spiritual growth is defined by values, beliefs, morality, experiences, rules, and positive actions.

Self actualization is the psychological term for coming into your full potential. Maslow discovered many different human needs: security, esteem, aesthetic, self transcendence, physiological, belonging, cognitive and self actualization. Earlier James provided three categories of these: emotional, material and spiritual. Once your most basic physical and emotional needs are met, then your existential and spiritual needs will come into play. Overall growth is achieved by satisfying each need for the individual. Psychology views self development as an end unto itself, while religion views self development as a method for serving God, which is the biggest difference in the two.

Find the Deeper Meaning

Serving the Creator is the highest purpose for religions such as Judaism, Islam and Christianity. There are multiple psychological theories that suggest that we need meaning in our lives. No matter if we believe in destiny or free will, spiritual growth allows us to understand that life is more than existence. We are born without purpose or meaning and through our journey in life, our relationships and the situations we get though, we gain wisdom and knowledge. As meaning is discovered we confirm and reject some of our existing values and beliefs. We can find a purpose in our lives. This allows us to put our mental, emotional and physical potential to use, give us strength during difficult times and provides a light at the end of the tunnel to strive for. A life without purpose is like a ship set adrift in the ocean, without a sail or an oar.

Spot the Connections Between Everything

How we are connected to all living and non living things are the cornerstone of certain religions. Even without family relations, we can refer to others as our sisters and brothers. The relationship between humans and higher powers is discussed in monotheistic religions such as Islam and Christianity. Alternatively, evolutionary theory is a scientific link between all living things. This relationship is demonstrated by the ecological web, where all living and non living things interact. One of Maslow’s highest needs is self transcendence and connectedness is one part of that. Recognition of your place within the interconnected of all things will allow your humility and respect for all things to grow. It will help you to appreciate all the things that surround you. It behooves you to extend yourself outside your area of comfort and connect with others, and to become a guardian of the things that surround you.

Growth is not a one time event, therefore everyday is an opportunity for spiritual growth. Spiritual growth is accomplished whether we win, lose or draw, so long as we continue to learn.

The Point & Click Protest; Masses Rise

Perhaps you remember Sandra Bullock in a movie called The Net, back in 1995? No one believed that the technological age would make it possible to do everything from the comfort of your home, even then. But now, you don’t even have to leave your living room to write your congressman, boycott a company or sign a petition. Everyone with a computer and internet access can protest and even set off some serious fire storms just by posting on social media sites, like Facebook, Twitter, et al.

In the past year alone, we have seen civil unrest around the world, initiated and largely marketed in the social media. The movement, as it has become, is so powerful that today Time Magazine named “The Protestor” as their Person of the Year 2011. The truth is, without social media, and the interconnectedness it affords us, none of us might have ever have known what uprisings, along with atrocities, were occurring all over the world. The television media picked up on the movement only after it became apparent that it was a force in the social media; a serious shift from prior times.

You can ban a video on Youtube if you feel it is offensive or politically incorrect. That, in and of itself, is a form of protest. People are using their ability to connect with others via the internet to build momentum for causes and issues that they deem most important.

Occupy Wall Street (perhaps more commonly known as its hash tag #OWS) is rooted all over the United States largely due to point and click protesting. Even the major banks cannot deny the power of point and click protest having had to rescind plans to increase fees after many of their customers withdrew all of their money and transferred it to community banks and credit unions in protest. For weeks, Bank of America was inundated with emails, calls and petitions against their proposed monthly debit card fees. One woman, Molly Katchopole, began a petition on Change.org and within a short time, over 300,000 people had signed, emailed instantly sent their complaint to BOA top-brass, effectively having them withdraw the fee (with other banks quickly following suit).

There are several places on the world wide web that give step-by-step instructions on how to initiate and successfully mount a protest campaign. One such site www.theonlineactivist.org, will give you a look into what works, and what has not been so successful in other protests.

Let’s face it. We live in a time where almost everyone is dissatisfied about one thing or another. In 2011, we have the forum and the following to successful change whatever we will with the click of a mouse. It is about knowing what your rights are, knowing how to assert yourself legally and having the gumption to get up and do it. You don’t even have to work hard, just smart.

: Kyle Quandel

Vegetarian Buddhists; A Closer Look

Contrary to common perception, Buddhists are not absolute vegetarians. To set the facts straight, some Buddhists are practicing vegetarians while others are not. The stand on vegetarianism differs from sect to sect and from one Buddhist to another. When you are wondering if there is a necessity to observe vegetarianism when one wants to become a Buddhist, you will most likely get a conditional answer.

Records will show that historical Buddha was not a vegetarian. Based on some of his earliest teachings, he did not make any categorical prohibition of meat consumption to his disciples. The truth is that if meat is served to a Buddhist monk, he is supposed to partake it. The disciples of Buddha are supposed to receive and eat the graces served them, and these include meat.

Not All Buddhists are Vegetarians

The First Precept of Buddhism commands its disciples not to commit any killing. However, meat consumption has never been explicitly considered as a consequence of killing. In fact, there is no mention in the scriptures prohibiting meat eating. This is what can be gleaned from the Pali scriptures and it is clear that Buddha did not make any prohibition on meat consumption and this applies even to monks.

In fact, there was even a clear opposition by Buddha to the suggestion from Devadatta to abstain from meat eating. In the modern societies of Theravada, a bhikkhu who practices vegetarianism with the sole intention of obtaining positive impression of their ascendant spiritual superiority are deemed infringing on several monastic rules.

However, Buddha has clearly manifested his opposition to the consumption of the flesh of an animal that is deemed butchered mainly for the monks’ benefit. This particular rule specifically applies to monastics, although it can also be applied and followed by those who are considered devout Buddhists.

Buddhism and Vegetarianism

There are 2 schools of thought about vegetarianism in Buddhism – those who subscribe to it and those who do not.

Vegetarianism was considered a part of the early traditions of Buddhism. In fact, scholars and devout followers of Buddhism agree that Buddha was not a vegetarian. Buddha subsisted on the alms that he received or graces served to him after getting invited to the homes of his believers. In both instances, he consumed whatever is given or served to him. Prior to his enlightenment, Buddha actually experimented with different diets and these included dishes that are meat-free. However, Buddha eventually gave up the idea of meatless diet primarily because of his belief that it does not have any positive effect on his spiritual development.

This is what is being emphasized by Nipata Sutta, when it declared that impurity is caused by immorality and not by meat consumption. The Buddha was in fact mentioned in several instances to be consuming meat broth in order to treat various illnesses. In some cases, however, he even went to the point of advising monks to refrain from consuming meat for practical reasons. This could only mean that other types of diets are also acceptable.

Kyle Quandel is a student of Buddhism and spirituality, as well as lifelong vegetarian. Read more articles and publications of Kyle Noble Quandel.