As I look back at my past self, here is what I see. I see a sad three year old who just lost his father. I see a child with deep insecurities and hurt. I see a teenager who was self loathing, and one who would do anything for acceptance. This child and teenager followed and troubled me for most of my life. So what happened?
I have always had a desire to help others deal with life’s problems. This desire comes from empathy, because I know what it feels like to hurt. I know what it means to want to find value within myself, and find only lack. I started what I thought would be an educational journey, but it ended up being a process of picking my own life apart.
Early in this journey, the seed of an idea was planted in me. “You are not your thoughts, your past, or how you feel”. I began to devour as much information as I could about how the human mind works, or at least as much as we know about it. I did this to see if it was possibly true, that I am not my thoughts, past, and feelings.
At the psychological and neurological level there is irrefutable evidence that we don’t naturally have as much free will as we think we do. When something would happen in my external world, I didn’t immediately choose what to think about it. My first thought always just came up. Oftentimes it would cause a response in me, that further confirmed the existence of that self loathing, people pleasing teenager. Based on this I often didn’t choose to rethink or contradict these thoughts. Even if I did it was usually an uphill battle to overcome the impact of the initial thought. All this study of Psychology and Neurology was becoming more troubling.
One day Youtube videos were playing in the background while I worked. A video with a Psychologist talking about the benefits of Mindfulness came on. I took notice. Later that same day I heard a monk say in another video, “you can’t pay attention because no one ever taught you how.” Not long after that I started a Mindfulness practice. I would sit for as much as an hour or two at a time, just observing all the thoughts that entered my mind without reacting to them. It was during this process that I started to notice another part of me who wasn’t the one having those thoughts, but was the one who noticed and experienced them. Someone who could choose his response. I eventually read a book called “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle. Much of what he wrote in this book confirmed what I was learning, and agreed with Psychology and science. This was the beginning of an ongoing transformation that I am deeply grateful for.
Before I started on this journey I loathed what I saw when I looked back. Now I can look back with love and acceptance for myself. I can treat myself like someone I am responsible for helping. I know that the hurt of that child, and the self loathing in that teenager was not mine but belonged to a world that I can live beyond. More than that I can function more effectively in my daily life here and now. It is like someone lifted a hundred pounds from each shoulder, and I can now move through life with much more ease.
Almost every post I write mentions that we are not our thoughts, our past, or how we feel. The reason for this is simple. Understanding what that means for you will change your life for the better. You are so much more than what you see when you look back.