MAKING PEACE WITH THE PAST
This month, we have been building on last month's theme of "Let Us Help You Do Life" with the theme of:
"Engaging, Embracing and Empowering Life."
What do I mean by that? Well,
1. Fully ENGAGING life, this lower case "l" life, meaning this human experience, means being present, being conscious, being involved, active in our own lives, and not sleep walking through life on automatic pilot;
2. Deeply EMBRACING Life, this upper case "L" Life, meaning the Greater Life; the Life of God, means realizing there is a power for good in this universe and we can use it, making conscious connection with that power; and
3. EMPOWERING our life/Life means standing strong in who and whose we are!
Knowing that all of this leads to an EXTRAORDINARY experience of human life and Christ Life.
I want to remind you of something I've said the past two weeks: Who you are and the power you are, are extraordinary! Who you are and the power you are, are both phenomenal!
That's the Truth, the Spiritual Truth of you!! But, we don't always feel it and/or express it, do we? One of those reasons could be that we let shadows from the past - the hurts and wounds from others or our own missteps and errors - haunt us in the present, preventing us from Engaging, Embracing and Empowering our lives. Today, we gather to reconcile the past, thereby making peace with it and putting it where it belongs once and for all.
MAKING PEACE WITH THE PAST
Unity co-founder Charles Fillmore in Talks on Truth, wrote: "If you are obedient to Spirit you will not suffer these burdens to be loaded upon you; you will live in the present, do your highest duty every day, forget the past, and let the future take care of itself."a
And . . .
Religious Science founder Ernest Holmes in The Science of Mind textbook, wrote: "If we take our images of thought only from our previous experiences, then we continue in the bondage which those previous experiences create. If we talk about discord, we shall become more discordant. . . . If we spend all our time talking about our unhappiness, we become more unhappy. Jesus understood the great law of cause and effect in the Universe, which works sometimes with apparent slowness but always with sureness."b
What did he mean by the "the great law of cause and effect"? Whatever we have in our consciousness (thoughts, feelings, beliefs, values, attitudes, words, actions and reactions), we experience in our lives.
So, the question of the morning is: Are there painful or unhealed aspects of your past hanging around your consciousness, thereby affecting your present and your future?
If left unhealed, your past can absolutely destroy your present and it can wreak havoc with your future. It can bury your gifts, your creativity, your talents, your love and your power.
Have you ever seen a mime try to get out of a box.
That's what an unhealed past can be for us. It can be like a box that we were put in a long time ago and although the walls haven't been there for years, we still struggle against them.
In fact, our unhealed past can cause us to act like the elephant that has been trained to be a beast of burden. Do you know how they are trained and then how they behave?
The trainer captures the elephant when it is young and tethers one of its legs to a giant tree with a chain. The elephant struggles and struggles to get free from the tree. It pulls and pulls against the chain, but finally, after months of struggling, the elephant gives up. Then the trainer ties the elephant to the tree with a rope and repeats the process.
Later the trainer ties the elephant with something even lighter until finally he can take the elephant into the jungle, where it labors uncomplainingly, tethered with the reed of the lotus flower.
That elephant will not even think of making a break for freedom, because it has been trained to believe that the slightest tug on its leg means it is captured. A lotus reed cannot restrain the elephant, except in one way, and that is by the animal's own conviction. The elephant's belief, not the reed, binds him.
Yes, dragging our past around can feel like that! So I would like to make TWO suggestions this morning that can assist you in MAKING PEACE WITH YOUR PAST - reconciling it so that it no longer is a creative energy in your life.
1. CHANGE YOUR PERCEPTION OF YOUR PAST
The first one begins with a realization that you must come to. If you don't come to this realization, no peace can be made. Are you ready? You might not like what I am about to say. Ready anyway?? OK, here goes.
You cannot change your past! You cannot change your past! You cannot change your past! One more time just in case you didn't hear me - you cannot change your past!
And all your wishing, hoping, hand wringing, arguing, righteous indignation, foot stomping, and angry tantrums - no matter how justified they may be -- will do nothing to change the past, but will do everything to keep you tethered to it.
So say with me please: I cannot change my past."
Good! Now that we have that out of the way - what can you do? You can, in fact, do something very, very powerful. You can change your perception of it!
Because, it is only your perception of the past that has power over you now anyway. We really do interpret EVERYTHING in Life - and the situations or experiences that happen really have NO MEANING other than the meaning we give them.
We have the ability to choose interpretations that empower our lives and move them forward or interpretations that leave us feeling alone and helpless.
There was a young man who had become a paraplegic and then through a freak accident became a quadriplegic. Someone asked him one day, "Doesn't your physical condition color the way you look at life? His response was, "Yes, I suppose it does, but I get to choose the color."
You too get to choose the color of your past! So this first suggestion is: Why not make up a new story, a new interpretation about it?
Inventing a new interpretation is the simplest way to make peace with the past. By giving up the idea that our story is the truth, by letting go of our interpretation of what happened, we can reconcile it!
The late Debbie Ford in her book "The Dark Side of the Light Chasers" talks about this idea in the 8th chapter, entitled Reinterpreting Yourself. And in it she gives an example from her own life. I want to share that with you.
On p. 123 she shares that the word "ugly" had a huge emotional charge for her, so she decided to create a new interpretation for it. When she went back into her memory she realized that her father used to tease her by calling her "pignose" and "bucky" when she was a little girl.
Her interpretation of these comments was that her father didn't love her because she was ugly. So she decided it was time to face the incident and experience the feelings of pain, humiliation and shame she still attached to that moment and to that word. Then she began to create a new interpretation of the event in order to embrace the word.c
* My father hated me and was trying to damage me for life.
* My father thought I truly was remarkably ugly and the only way he could deal with it was by teasing me.
* I am beautiful so my father became nervous around me. The only way he knew how to deal with his nervousness was by calling me names he thought were cute.
* My father thought these names were cute and used them with affection.
* My father loved me so much that he wanted to prepare me for the real world. He thought he could protect me by downplaying my beauty.
Debbie writes: "Now, I can look at all the interpretations and see which ones make me feel good and which ones make me feel bad. And I can choose to replace my old negative interpretation with a new positive one. The new interpretation I chose in that instance was that 'my father loved me so much he wanted to prepare me for the real world. He thought by downplaying my beauty he could protect me.' I picked it because it made me laugh. It seemed a little ridiculous when I wrote it down, but when I closed my eyes and asked myself which interpretation nurtured my soul, it was this one. Once I chose to replace the old interpretation, my internal reference point shifted. Now my father's old habit seems almost light and sweet. Regardless of his true motives, I'm now at peace with that experience."
You can use this exercise with any incident you are having a problem with, however intense or trivial. Sit down and write out alternative interpretations. If you can't think of any, enlist the help of a friend or of one of our prayer chaplains.
And here are the important questions: Does this interpretation of my past empower me or disempower me? Does this interpretation make me feel weak or strong?
If you have an inner dialog that disempowers you, that makes you feel weak, it won't change until you yourself replace it with a positive, powerful, internal conversation.
Holmes in The Science of Mind, wrote: ". . . any incident which has transpired in the past is an active thing in the present, unless the vibration is neutralized. . . ."d
Choosing a new interpretation neutralizes the negative vibration!
So that's the first suggestion for making peace with the past. The second one is to . . .
2. LOOK FOR THE GOOD
All seemingly negative events are a blessing in disguise. Some of us choose to live under the illusion that bad things happen for no good reason. But pain has a purpose. It teaches us and guides us to higher levels of awareness.
Our past is a blessing that guides and teaches, so look for the good in it. Say with me, will you: "My past is a blessing that guides and teaches me."
Say: "I bless my past and my pain."
Someone once said: "Everything that is past is either a learning experience to grow on, a beautiful memory to reflect on or a motivating factor to act upon."
It is important to understand that everything happening in the world is as it should be at every moment. There are no mistakes. There are no accidents.
My friends, this is how we make peace with the past so that we can empower our lives today. We give it a new interpretation, and we look for the good!
I want to end with some simple, but powerful counsel from Charles Fillmore in Atom Smashing Power of Mind: "Do not look at what has been. Lot's wife tried that, and she never got beyond the past."e
And from Ernest Holmes in The Science of Mind: "We should erase the thoughts of yesterday that would rob us of today's happiness."f
Then Holmes suggests an affirmation, which I would like us to do together as our closing prayer this morning. So, here we go . . .
"There is nothing arising out of the past that can disturb me.
The past, the present and the future are one unbroken stream of Good.
I loose all thoughts that in the past have caused anxiety.
The Spirit knows no past and is not affected by the belief in it.
The past is swallowed up in the victory of a perfect present,
which is filled with love and protection."
And so it is and so we let it be! AMEN!
aCharles Fillmore Talks on Truth, p. 96
bErnest Holmes The Science of Mind textbook, p. 110
cDebbie Ford The Dark Side of the Light Chasers 8th chapter, Reinterpreting Yourself
dErnest Holmes The Science of Mind, p. 353
eCharles Fillmore Atom Smashing Power of Mind, p. 72
fErnest Holmes The Science of Mind, p. 245