Learning from the past, rather than living in it

In the close to four years I’ve been writing the Seishindo newsletter, I feel I’ve learned how to be a better writer. In the course of preparing my articles for publication I’m going back and rewriting a number of my earlier newsletters. What follows is a major rewrite of the very first newsletter Inessa and I published!

I want to take this opportunity to offer our special thanks to those of you who have been with us from the beginning. I’m guessing the growth I experience as a writer, somehow mirrors the growth that many of you continue to experience in your own lives. Thanks so much for supporting us along the way!

Learning from the past, rather than living in it

Do you sometimes feel like you’re an unwilling victim of your past?

In my own life, having had my fair share of traumatic events take place, I still sometimes think, “Life has taught me some harsh lessons, and my scars do not heal easily.” When I find myself thinking like this it usually means I’ve fallen into believing, “It’s ‘only natural’ that traumatic experiences will lead to suffering in the future.” You have to admit, such a quagmire of reasoning can be easy to get caught up in!

Luckily for me, I have the honor and pleasure of meeting and working with numerous courageous people who teach me a great deal. Let me share a story with you now about how I overcame my limiting beliefs regarding the reasons for my emotional suffering.

In working with a client who was struggling with alcoholism, we spent our first session with the client telling me in great detail how he had come to live such an unhealthy debilitating life. In short, my client said: “Both my parents were alcoholics, and both of them were physically abusive to me. I grew up never knowing what bad thing would happen next. I learned from my parents that the best way to flee the pain and uncertainty of life was to escape into an altered state of alcohol induced euphoria.” When listening to a client tell such a sad story, it’s easy to believe their current suffering is pretty much preordained by their past.

As fate would have it, a week after beginning to work with my alcoholic client, I went to a Chamber of Commerce luncheon. I listened to a motivational speaker describe how we can live our life more fully and succeed in times of hardship. I found myself really touched by what the man had to say, and I had a clear sense he had overcome various hardships in his life. When his talk and the luncheon were over I waited around to thank him and let him know I had received some wonderful inspiration.

After introducing myself and thanking him, I asked him how he had come to teach such an inspirational way of living. He looked around to make sure no one else was listening and in a low voice he said the following:

“Both my parents were alcoholics, and both of them were physically abusive to me. I grew up never knowing what bad thing would happen next. I learned from my parents that the worst possible way to deal with the pain and uncertainty of life was to escape into an altered state of alcohol induced euphoria. This is a very important lesson that I am thankful to have received. I also learned from my parents that staying present to my suffering is the only real chance I have for living a fulfilling life. They taught me that the quality of my life is not determined by the difficult circumstances I’ve encountered. The quality of my life is determined by the positive learning I extract from my experiences.”

What a truly wonderful example of transcendent learning this gentleman offers us!

I must say, when I shared my luncheon experience with my alcoholic client a few days later, he found himself at a loss for words. Not too long after that he traded in his absorbing story of hardship for a brand new story about the importance of learning from the past, rather than living in it.

Commentary
Please don’t misunderstand what I’ve written above. I’m not suggesting the pain that may have been forced upon you at some stage in your life is in any way trivial. What I am suggesting is, your suffering can be used as an ingredient to season your soul. Overcoming your suffering can become a source of inspiration that can add to the overall quality of your life, and all those you interact with.

In the course of exploring how to live your life with a greater sense of fulfillment and joy, you can consider pondering one question over and over again:

“What positive learning can I extract from the difficulties I’ve experienced?” You might at first find such a question difficult to entertain. But if you’re to transcend your pain and exit your suffering, you’ll need to uncover the wisdom that awaits you as you delve deeper into the meaning of your life.

You can derive a wide range of learning from any single circumstance, event, or relationship. The quality of your life depends on the positive learning you extract from the difficult circumstances you encounter. One person’s “reason” for being an alcoholic, can be another person’s “reason” for personal transcendence!

Let us know your thoughts...