Human beings are great story-tellers. The joy of reminiscing is beyond imagination. This is particularly true when people talk about funny, adventurous or pleasant incidents. Most of us love to think of our college or school days and share interesting stories that makes us feel nostalgic. It leaves us with a desire to not just relive those moments but also to stay in that space-time forever! We make efforts to linger over those visions with an unconscious hope of feeling the same level of pleasure even in the present. After a certain point in life, somehow something about the present makes us to want to go back and keep going back in time. This sort of memory replay is not uncommon in younger adults. Sometimes we do this to feel proud of our accomplishments and our journey on the whole. Sometimes, we do this to envy a simpler time in our lives when our problems were easier to solve. Sometimes it can happen that everything is just fine yet we feel the necessity to escape reality for a few minutes. Yet other times, it can reflect an inability to let go of a painful incident. It doesn’t matter why we chose to have these “meetings” with our younger selves, we all do it.
When you decide to travel on a time horse, you may notice that you can halt at two types of stops – the ones that hold painful and embarrassing memories and the ones that hold heart-warming beautiful memories. In my experience, recollection of happy memories are more intentional than an accident. When that happens, my heart swells up in pride and I let it soak my soul, trying to hold on to that memory. When I randomly get reminded of an embarrassing memory, I hate my mind for bringing it up on a perfectly happy afternoon. My mind tries to relive the moment and the painful emotions thereby making me feel agitated. It doesn’t matter if the memory is good or bad, reliving it almost always leaves me with a realisation that the present moment is not the same. The present moment is like an open-ended question. If you allow it, the present moment has the potential to change things for the better and definitely, not worse!
Even with meditation and self-awareness, an average individual struggles to tame this wild elephant that is one’s mind. It is not easy to train our mind to be present. It is possible with practice but not effortless for most of us. For some beginners, it can cause additional pressure to stay focussed all the time. Should we give up? I believe that we can help our mind suffer less with a range of approaches. Firstly, showing yourself some compassion and a lot of acceptance would go a long way! When your mind hops to a painful memory, accept it and realise that it doesn’t define you anymore. Be kind to yourself like you would be to your friend. When you think of an accomplishment of the past, don’t get cocky! The more wisdom you accumulate, the less entitled you feel for appreciation from yourself. That’s just how it is. That’s the true mark of growth. Loving your imperfect present and trusting your evolved self takes more maturity and less ego. Once you get a sense of this statement, it is easier than you think to embrace and let go.
Secondly, if you want to meet an older version of yourself, ask him/her for specific advice instead of mindlessly wandering in the memory land. Let me explain. All of us evolve as a person with time. At every phase of our lives, a certain aspect of our nature was at its prime and we had worked hard on the others to survive and conquer the challenges of that phase. For some of us, that quality might have been patience or perseverance. For some of us, it might have been courage. For many of us, it might have been an ability to care less about what others think. For a few others, it might be people-skills. So, I would say you take this opportunity to look back at an older version of yourself for specific insights when you are in trouble. It is a simple concept. The next time your mind reminds you of a time you turned red with embarrassment or anxiety, “pinch your conscience” like disciplining a child and direct it towards a positive learning exercise. Condition your mind to seek happiness in wandering to some memory where you can learn rather than relive the anger. I am 24. Whenever I feel discouraged or flustered on passing up an opportunity, I still look up to my 17 year-old self for advice on working hard and moving out of my comfort zone. Every time I do that, it only gives me more willpower to act and mould my present than a feeling of nostalgia.
Lastly, learn to be a proactive member of your team that is yourself! Be on board. Be on point! Don’t be that person that reiterates the obvious like a broken tape recorder! A general awareness that the time is fleeting and thousands of people like you across the globe are growing into better individuals can help you push your foot on the accelerator. Never let your mind fool you into feeling stuck in the past. Adopt subtle ways to out-smart and systematically interrupt your “auto-pilot” mode in order to anchor to what really matters 🙂
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