Time, it is said, is money. Unlike money, however, lost time cannot be recovered, and in this respect, it is more valuable than money. However, a lot of people forget this and waste their time dwelling on the past or dreaming of the future.
While they are doing this, they are disconnected from the present, unaware of the passage of time and even of the things that are happening around them. This experience can leave us tired, depressed or angry if we have been thinking about something that caused a lot of hurt or was otherwise emotionally intense.
We suffer the same loss of time and energy when we worry or dream about the future. It is one thing to make plans, whereby we think of the steps we need to take to accomplish a task or cope with likely developments. But worrying, which usually involves thinking about how things might go wrong, does not help. Fear and doubt cause worry, and the result is anxiety and a feeling of helplessness, both created by imaginary situations we have dreamed up.
At the other end of the spectrum, we might fly high, riding dreams of imagined successes, until sobering reality brings us back to the present.
In all these cases precious time is lost in the present.
The past cannot be changed, and we cannot undo our misfortunes by repeatedly thinking about them. The best we can do is to identify any mistakes that were made and learn from them so that they are not repeated.
Similarly, planning is worthwhile only if the plans are acted upon. If I plan to have enough savings to buy a house, and work out all the details about how it will be painted, furnished and decorated, but never start saving money, then owning a house will remain a dream for me.
The present is the vantage point from where I can see the past and visualise the future. But my life will not move forward if I just stand there watching. I need to start acting while keeping in mind both, lessons from the past and my future goals.
There are several ways in which we can loosen the hold of the past on the mind. Whatever past event we focus on, we may need to express the feelings associated with the event, whether good or bad, before we can move on. Releasing pent up emotions can help us let go of the past and focus on the present. For this we can talk to a friend, family member or counsellor. Alternatively, we can try writing down our feelings about the past.
Even if we are dwelling on good memories, it can cause us to lose connection with the present. We may be romanticizing the past or longing for things to be the way they were, instead of focusing on how to improve our present life.
If expressing our feelings about the past does not help, we can focus on happy things. Since we cannot change the past, and it is pointless to worry about the future, it is better not to dwell on them. Instead, we can think about happy things happening in the present.
Another useful approach is to forgive and forget. Blaming others for past hurts can spoil the present. Instead of dwelling on who has caused us pain, we need to forgive them, focus on present events and leave behind any blame or hurt we feel. Festering in the pain does not change the person who hurt us and it will cause us to stay in the past.
One of the most powerful tools for remaining focused on the positive and the present is meditation. Spending time in quiet reflection and silence, away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, enables us to come back to a centred place of being. With the pace of modern life growing ever faster, we are losing touch with our true inner peace and power. When we no longer feel grounded, we can experience ourselves pushed and pulled in different directions.
Meditation is a state of being in that place just beyond everyday consciousness, which is where spiritual empowerment begins. Spiritual awareness gives us the power to choose good and positive thoughts over those that are negative and wasteful. We start to recognise harmful patterns of thinking and behaviour and begin to avoid them, and develop the ability to steer our mind and focus it where we want. All of this gradually frees us from bondage to the past and fear of what lies ahead, enabling us to make the best use of the present to create a happy future.
B.K. Usha is a Rajyoga teacher at the Brahma Kumaris headquarters in Abu Road, Rajasthan.