Does Your Past Define Your Present?

Jim:    Ah, welcome to our world.  Welcome to the world of Fishing Without Bait and Full-Impact Mindfulness.  Where we challenge you to participate in your life.  We challenge you to walk through your life without unreasonable expectations.  To have that beginner’s mind and be open and aware to everything around you and to be in the present moment – to pay attention on purpose to your life and understand that you’re important in this world.  Today, as always, I’m with my good friend, co-host and producer of this program, Mr. Mike.  Mr. Mike, quite often when we deal with people we deal with them and they’re dealing with ruminations.  They’re time traveling, and they’re living in the past.  Having feelings of guilt and shame.

Mike:    Absolutely.  Common themes here on Fishing Without Bait, things that a lot of us deal with in varying levels day-to-day.

Jim:    So, quite often when people are asked to do an inventory, or asked to do some introspection – review their life, quite often what is it about?  Is it about the good things?  Or, is it about their mistakes and the things that they need to correct and improve?

Mike:    It’s always that.  It’s always that dwelling on the negative.  

Jim:    Indeed.  And, what we do here is help people take another perspective.  Quite often if we want to review the podcast where we did one on which end of the horse are you looking at.  It’s your perspective.  Which end of the horse do you choose to look at?  And, it’s all about choice.  However, Mike, it seems that guilt and shame are infused and reinforced throughout our lives, even when we’re young.  And, I’m hoping that I’m not offending anybody when I bring up the Christian concept of original sin.

Mike:    To be fair, we’ve talked about many concepts from various religions and spiritualities.

Jim:    Keep in mind that we’re not here to weigh the pros and cons of any particular faith-based type of activity.  However, when we take the perspective that a child is born with something wrong with them – that they need to be absolved of something that they had no participation in.  And, there’s a whole ceremony built around that particular event, it just leads me to wonder where our perspective is – is a child born with bias?  Is a child born with discrimination?  Is a child born with hate, Mike?

Mike:    I would think not, because they haven’t had time to form those concepts.

Jim:    No.  There’s things that are taught.  However, when a child is born, and we take the perspective – well the first thing we have to do is absolve them.  The first thing we have to do is remove this stain from them.  I’m just beginning to wonder about that.  So, Mike, there’s – and, we’ve reviewed this in the past, that there’s two types of guilt.  There’s guilt when we have done something wrong.  When we’ve legitimately done something wrong by either participation in the act or omission – failing to do something.  And, then we certainly want to make amends and make those things right.  However, quite often that guilt is when we try to live up to the unreasonable expectations of others or the unreasonable expectations of ourselves.  How often do you deal with people who spend their life trying to please others or trying to live up to, let’s say their parents’ expectations, or their partner’s expectations.  

Mike:    Those are often the kinds of guidelines that shape people’s lives.  

Jim:    In our society, we’ve developed that the sense of “I” is wrong.  That it is self-centered, and it is selfish.  However, when we want to  do the “I” statements – and quite often we review the “I” statements on this program, do we not?

Mike:    Absolutely.

Jim:    The mantra is, and to tell the truth.  If you want to review the podcasts that we’ve done on honesty and telling the truth, where we want to make positive statements about ourselves that are true.  I am:  I am a good student.  I am a good daughter.  I am a good brother.  I am a good son.  I am a good partner.  I am a good employee.  I am a good friend.  The “I” statements.  So, quite often the inventories that people have done – to review the things that we need to improve.  Mike, how often do you hear people say to a child, “You’re bad,” or someone refer to someone else’s child as “bad.”

Mike:    It always bothers me when I see that in public, but I don’t feel comfortable talking to them about the situation.  Because, you’re shaping that child, and the child’s self-perspective.

Jim:    So, again, language means something.  Words do mean something. So, quite often, is it more purposeful to say to a child “You are bad.  You’re being bad,” or rather, “You’ve done something bad.”  Are we condemning the person or are we upset with the action?  Are we upset with the behavior?  It’s the behavior that we have the problem with – not the child.  So, the first is a rejection of them.  You are bad.  That’s a rejection of them as a person.  The second is more of a teaching moment, okay?  A reflection.  When you say “You have done something bad.  You have done something unacceptable.”  I prefer not to use the word bad.  You’ve done something that’s unacceptable.

Mike:    It’s such a blanket word.  The issue is that it’s up for interpretation.

Jim:    Bad is an interpretation.  And, quite often what we do in this program is we emphasize the importance of being able to label and describe thoughts and feelings.  Bad is an all-encompassing term, is it not?  For sure.  However, Mike, there is a positive side to guilt and shame.  And, Mike, that’s repentance.  Okay?  So, I’m going to recite a traditional repentance verse from the practices and vows of samantabhadra bodhisattva.  It’s a mantra.  And, quite often when we do the “I” statements and you would perhaps say at the end of the day for all the evil deeds I have done in the past, created by my body, speech and mind, from beginning to have less hatred and delusion I now know shame and repent them all.  And, again, referring back to the 12-step world, steps 4-9 are action steps.  And, a huge part of that is making amends.  Admitting your part in things that you’ve done in the past and having every intent to make them right. And, keep in mind that it’s your intention.  What’s your intention?  Is your intention to make things right?  And, it really is inconsequential whether that person, place, thing, or situation accepts the amends.  One of the concepts of Fishing Without Bait is a lifetime without definitive expectations and fully-impacting the moment.  And, being right here and being right now.  For some of the things that you’ve done in the past – Mike, I’m sure that you have many regrets.

Mike:    Oh, absolutely.

Jim:    As most people do.  However, keeping in mind our philosophy, and being in the moment and paying attention on purpose – being right here and right now, my question would be to that person are you that person now?  

Mike:    No.  Because, by living through that experience, and absorbing that, you’ve kind of reacted and you go about things differently.

Jim:    And, the thought is do you want to be that person that did those acts?

Mike:    No.

Jim:    Okay, so it all revolves around being in the moment and time traveling.  When you’re having those guilt and shame and rumination moments, to ask yourself – am I time-traveling?  Am I in the past?  Where am I at?  What time is it?  It’s right now.  Where am I at?  I am right here.  And, I am that person, or I am not.  And, this is about what we talked about in the past, Mike.  We talk about not finding ourselves.  Do you really want to find that person again, Mike?  Or do you want to create yourself?  You want to create yourself in the moment.  It’s radical acceptance.  It’s coming down to choice, and this is our primary focus in helping people understand that they have a choice.  The most powerful gift that you have is free will and the power of choice.  The most powerful gift you have.  You can choose to smother yourself in regret and guilt, or do you choose the present?  Can you choose to be in the present?

Mike:    It’s also a matter of internal decisiveness – just making that move and sticking to it.  In your head.  Which is hard.  Again, we talk about these choices well, it’s just a choice.  That is the hardest choice that you’re going to make.

Jim:    And, indeed.  You step back. You observe the situation.  You say am I that person?  However, Mike, if you can answer that question yes, I am still that person, you can choose to change.  You can choose to make that change.  Create yourself.  When we go back through the podcasts about values, about labels – who am I?  Those type of podcasts that we’ve had in the past – you have the opportunity to create yourself.  This is the excitement and the passion that I bring to my life – that I bring to people.  Helping them understand that they have the power to change and the power to change is right now.  It’s not in the past.  It’s not in the future.  It’s right now.  There’s a quote by Paul Boes: Forgiveness does not change the past.  However, it enlarges the future.  Forgiveness.  Can you forgive yourself?  Can you choose to forgive yourself?  And, remember, you’re forgiving that person – not the person you are now.  

Mike:    When you have forgiven and put that behind you, that takes away this frame you put on the future.

Jim:    And, indeed we talk often about turning that past into experience and wisdom.  When we take the inventories of ourselves today, my suggestion to you is to take the inventory of your strengths, your talents, your abilities, and remember – no one is bad.  They make poor choices.  Let’s remove that word “bad” from our vocabulary.  Can we do that?  And, as always, our mantra is do a kindness for yourself.  Do a kindness for another.  Namaste.