Most people are living in the past. They ruminate and waste their precious energy churning their memories deposited in their mind (chit). In Indian philosophy, chit is the reservoir of memories. The other day a close relative of mine talked about how he was not given a just portion of ancestral property. Unfortunately this is a story often heard in Kerala, India. In one way or another, this is not any different in other parts of the world. I have heard his story umpteen times in the past. I have responded to his grievance. His situation was taken into account and was amply compensated by a relative who decided not to take any ancestral property. It just does not matter. His story is not in the past. His demeanor the way he narrates the story show his story is very alive in the present. And there is at least one culprit involved, and he does not have a good relationship with him. It consumes some of his energy. Everything that he says is coloured by his past experiences. A close American friend of mine told me how her sister went through her mother’s belongings soon after her mother’s death, and took all the jewelries and knick-knacks, and deprived her siblings of even some memorabilia that are only valuable to them. She was still emotionally chocked while narrating her story. A part of her energy was also tied down with her past which is still her present. We see things and persons through the glasses that we wear. If we wear yellow glasses we may see everyone jaundiced. If our glasses are dirty or clouded, we will not see anything clearly, and we may conclude that our object of perception is not clear. This is an instance of projection. We are familiar with situations when a person is angry with us but as far as that person is concerned we are angry with them. This is a clear instance of projection. The person projects one’s feelings onto us. We filter all realities and experiences through our personality. Our unique personality contains all our experiences, both pleasant and painful, that serve as filters for perceiving present experiences.
Once Mullah Nazruddin’s wife went to the local judge and complained about some unpleasant incident involving her husband. When the Mulla was asked to appear before the judge, he said: “Respected Judge, there are three versions or truths. One is hers, the other is mine, and the third, what actually happened.” There are as many different perceptions as there are experiences and realities. This is not to say that we do not agree on our perceptions or experiences. But we need to be ever vigilant so that our unresolved painful experiences of the past do not serve as filters for the present experiences and thus influence or change our perceptions. If the bad past unduly influences our present we are living in the past. We go through motions, and function but we are not truly living in the here and now. We need to extricate ourselves from the chains of the past. In the West many go to a psychologist and work through problems resulting from the painful past through psychotherapy. In the East one is likely go to a guru or wise person for answers. Varieties of meditations and helping relationships can be of assistance.
Are we living in the past? Our emotional energy is what motivates us to perform various actions. If our personality is a captive of our toxic past, our actions or lack of certain altruistic behaviours partake of that malignant past. We are also laden with many burdens of the past that eat into our effectiveness and full and joyous living. To the extent our emotional energy for living in the now – the present is all that we really have – is tied down with the past painful or unpleasant experiences, we are not free to enjoy and celebrate, we are at least partially, if not fully, living in the past.