An old Zen story about two monks is a great example on how to let go of the past, and it goes something like this:
Two monks were walking back to their monastery. They had to cross a river. At the banks of the river, they saw a young woman weeping. She had been crying as she was afraid to cross the river and didn’t know how to swim. She requested the monks to help her. The younger monk refused and carried on. He stuck to his principles from the monastery that forbade them to touch a woman. But the older one picked up the woman, carried her and helped her cross the river. Once they had crossed the river, he put her down and continued walking. The younger monk went up to him and began chiding him for his actions as they were not allowed to touch a woman. He went on berating him for breaking his vows. After listening to the younger monk for a while, the older monk turned to him and said, “I only carried her across the river. You have been carrying her all day.”
Carrying a burden of the past can be extremely hard. One gets so engrossed and entwined in the past that they end up ruining their present and spoiling their future. But it’s easier said than done, to let go of a bitter past. Those memories can haunt you for a long time, and it simply hinders you from moving forward.
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How to let go of the past?
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Although there aren’t set rules or guidelines to do this, there are a few things you can do that will help in the process of letting go. While something works for one person, the same may not be possible for another. Hence, you have to adapt different strategies for different situations. Getting your mind off is one of the oldest and easiest tricks in the books. Simply distracting yourself is a great way to let go. But, again, that would totally depend on the kind of person you are. Therefore, before you decide that you have to let go of the past and move on, you need to understand the kind of person you are. If you are someone who gets easily distracted, you can simply drown yourself with things that amuse you. If you are someone who takes time to grieve, then you could probably try healing yourself by other methods.
Stages of emotions
Before you jump to getting over something and letting it go, you need to understand the different stages of emotions you will go through after a bitter experience of the past
I. Denial: One of the first reactions a person faces in an unexpected situation is denial. Whether it’s a kind of loss, a breakup, a fight, or any other undesirable experience, the first emotion that comes to a person is denial. You’d notice how hard it is sometimes for people to digest particular news and they simply are in shock.
II. Pain:The next phase is the immense pain, the sorrow, and the feeling that doesn’t let you be happy.
III. Grief: Mourning or grief comes after pain; it’s a constant reminder of the pain you endure.
IV. Acceptance: After a significant amount of grieving and pain comes the stage where you begin to accept the truth.
V. Moving on: The last phase, and the slightly better aspect of this whole experience, is the final part, the part where one gets on with their life.
A 10-step guide on how to let go of the past
1. Forgive them
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It may seem very tough but sometimes our minds feel better when we forgive the people who hurt us. It’s all about you being the bigger person and letting it go. So, a nice way to begin is by forgiving the ones who hurt you. A big part of that pain just vanishes once you have forgiven the person who wronged you, wholeheartedly.
2. Forgive yourself
If you have forgiven the person who hurt you but have been beating yourself up for it, it may be pointless. There’s no need to blame anyone, not even yourself. So, forgive yourself and move on. Be patient and kind with yourself. If you don’t, who will?
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3. One day at a time
You can’t expect to be happy instantly or recover in two days. That’ not practical, so take each day as it comes. Live a little each day and see the difference of how you felt from day one of being hurt. It gets better with time.
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When people ask how to let go of the past, there seems to be just one simple answer to that: Accept your present situation. Accept that something so bitter has happened to you, and learn to live with that. You won’t like it, but you do eventually figure out how to live with it. Things go wrong all the time, but when we aren’t able to accept them, we live in oblivion and it becomes that much harder to move on.
Understanding yourself and your current state of mind is important. It makes you think about your choices and will serve as a learning for next time. You can’t simply blame luck or fate for what happened, but you need to understand the real reasons why something could go wrong and ensure you don’t fall into such a trap again.
6. Take time to grieve
There is nothing wrong in letting all those emotions out and taking time to mourn the loss, the deceit, or simply letting a broken heart heal. When you grieve, a big chunk of emotion is off your chest, and you can then make place for newer, happier things. So, let it all out and cry it out if needed.
7. Talk about it
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Sometimes, people want to shut themselves away from the world. They minimize socializing, and don’t want to talk about what happened at all. But the problem is that when you don’t talk about it, a part of it remains inside you, suppressed, and it could all come out on a day you don’t want it to, when you least expect it. So, talk about your feelings to people who understand.
8. Plan your future
Planning your future will make it easier for you to forget the past and move on. This way, your energies are focused on constructive things and you would be looking forward to life. So, start thinking about what’s next and what you’d like to do.
9. Use different techniques each day
If, someday, you want to simply go on an impulsive vacation or shopping spree, do it. If one day, you simply want to lock yourself in your room and read a book, do it. Do whatever it takes to make you feel better. You needn’t always do what “supposedly” puts “people” in a better mood. Maybe emotional eating isn’t for you, or maybe you love to work out, or simply love to sleep. So, do whatever you feel like doing to get your spirits up.
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10. Learn to stay happy
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The problem with most people these days is that they confuse possessing/collecting materialistic things with happiness. Although most materialistic things do bring temporary happiness to one’s life, in the long run, you can’t survive by simply buying shoes by the dozen, or indulging in an expensive spa treatment every time you hit a rough patch in your life. Everyone wants to be happy, but they just don’t know how they can be happy. So learn to be grateful and find happiness in the little things in your life.
Sometimes we simply get stuck in the past and refuse to move on. We blame ourselves or others for it, and end up being unhappy. Sometimes the past affects our future, and we ruin it for ourselves by dwelling in the past for too long. If you’re still wondering on how to let go of the past, think no more. The things mentioned above will help you move on and get your life back. Life is too short to be spent in constant grief, regret, and sorrow. So, breathe, enjoy, and live life to the fullest. It’s not worth it to be stuck in the past and think about what you could’ve done; it’s about what you can do now to make things better. So, do it, now.
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