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“We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it – and stop there, lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid again... and that is well.... but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore.” -Mark Twain
Don’t Let The Past Define You
On the path of personal transformation, we are always presented with a major challenge: How do we honor the past, prepare for the future, while living in the present?
Just like the cat who burned it’s butt on the hot–stove lid, difficult experiences and trauma can bring us back into the past. They remind us of the pain we once felt so we do whatever we can to avoid experiencing that pain again. What’s important to understand is that we can actually use knowledge of our physiology and biology to transcend this primitive cat–like response.
Every experience we have creates biophysical responses in our experience. Those hormones and endorphins then create neural pathways in our brains that remember those responses. Then in the future, when we have similar situations, our brain says, “Oh yes, I remember this! Okay, well here’s some ’love’ endorphins like oxytocin and dopamine so that you know it’s safe to cuddle with this situation.” Or on the other side, “Here’s a dose of FEAR hormones like adrenaline and norepinephrine so you can save yourself and don’t make the same mistake again.”
In other words, what’s happening is that our brain and body literally try to re–live the past as a way to prevent us from re–living the same experience in the future. If we felt love and the current situation reminds us of love, we feel love again. If we felt fear, we feel fear again. This is true even when our current situation is not threatening to our life.
Fundamentally, this is what the cat feels. This is true of all creatures that lack the ability to reflect upon their thoughts and experience. They can be conditioned by their environment to respond the same way to all future similar situations. This is also why an elephant that is chained as a baby will never attempt to escape as an adult, regardless of how strong it may be. All of the elephant’s past experiences, as a baby, showed it that it could not escape the chains. The elephant’s brain and body then remember this, and each time they take notice of the chain, they re–live their ineffective futile past attempts at breaking the chain.
We are not like cats though.
Humans were given the ability to think for ourselves. This also gives us the unique capacity to think about our thoughts. We literally can observe our consciousness. Most of the time we don’t do this. Most of our lives we live unconsciously. However, when we fully land in the present moment, we are empowered in two very important ways:
(1) First, we are immersed in our immediate experience. We’re not stuck with old biophysical response patterns controlling our behavior unconsciously. We’re here and now. We create actual opportunities to experience new biophysical response patterns. And if you’re choosing to think positively and view the world from a perspective of faith, learning, and opportunity, then these biophysical response patterns will actually start to reinforce the ideal life you want to live and the responses you want to have.
(2) Secondly, as we have biophysical response patterns, we’re able to discern whether or not they really are accurate representations of reality. Sure, we might feel fear. We might want to run away. Yet by being present and aware, we can actually discern if this is a present–moment biophysical response that’s trying to protect us in the present moment, or if it is one of our past biophysical responses that is trying to re–live the past and protect us from a fearful future.
In the present moment is the only time, ever, that we have the capacity to choose a new path. We can literally forge our ideal future by totally owning and being immersed in the present moment. So if fear arises, feel it fully. Allow it to be present. And at the same time, consciously choose not to identify with it. Let the fear inform you without losing yourself to the fear. This is especially helpful in realms like public speaking where there is a fear of rejection based on howe we will be perceived.
To come back full–circle: It is never the past that we’re truly worried about. It’s our fear that the future will be like the past. That’s what pulls us of the present moment and causes us to repeat old past limiting behaviors over and over.. When you can fully land in the present moment, you’ll know whether the cat’s metaphorical pot lid is hot or cold. You’ll be able to sense it before putting your hand on it. You can feel the hot and cold from a distance.
The same is true of your hopes, dreams, aspirations, and especially your fears. Present moment awareness will allow you some distance, some observation, to see it for what it is and allow it to be what it is –– without attaching more baggage to it unnecessarily. You will quite literally be able to choose how you perceive your immediate experience without the biased lenses of your past jading your perspective.
The majority of your thoughts and actions are driven by your subconscious mind. It keeps you out of the present moment and stuck in the past.
If you suspect that your subconscious mind may be holding you back, then try my some of Chris’ subconscious surgery techniques. Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt a bit. Start Your Subconscious Surgery Now –– It’s Free!
This article is generously contributed by Chris Cade from chriscade.com
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