By Mary Boutieller
Remembering the lessons of past mistakes is invaluable; continually replaying them is not.
Recently, I walked along a path with a friend of mine, and she started talking about the long-ago mistakes she had made in her life. You know those mistakes? The ones that you have moved on from but have never really forgotten? The ones that, when you are feeling unworthy, remind you that you’ve screwed up in life and are not so perfect? I would imagine that if you have any years behind you, you might remember an experience that you wish had gone differently.
As she sighed and started to recount the error of her ways, I stopped her mid-sentence. I had heard her laments before and each time she has brought them up, I could see how much it pained her. This time, however, it dawned on me that, in her life, she had made so many more good decisions than bad, yet she could only focus on those few times when her judgment or understanding wasn’t at its best. If her whole life had been about making one bad mistake after another, it’s doubtful that she would have become the amazing woman she is today! So I asked her to recall all of the times when she made an affirming decision, when she moved toward her best self instead of away, and to remember all of the right turns she has made on her way to becoming.
Biologically, I get it. We are “programmed” to tune in to the negative, unpleasant and dangerous things in our lives so that we can 1. survive them; and 2. try to not do them or be near them again. These innate skills worked well for us as we practiced being the hunter instead of the prey—as we slept outside with only the night sky to warn of intruders. Our evolution owes part of its survival to those early instincts. And while we have evolved, sometimes our primordial brains seem stuck in the past.
I started to wonder what it is that causes us to brood over things from the past that we can no longer change? What makes us relive the times when we messed up or when someone really hurt us, instead of realizing that those experiences helped us grow?
The challenge, it seems, is in letting go of the stuck and stagnant stories of the past and forgiving ourselves and others for any trespasses. We don’t know until we know. Life’s lessons are sometimes easy and sometimes not. Yet, if we don’t learn to live and love and forgive and let go, we reduce our capacity for the very things we want in our lives, like joy, contentment and peace.
Brant Menswar wrote: “The secret to becoming unbreakable is realizing that you are already broken. We all are.”
We have all had those moments when we have fallen down, whether through our own actions or the actions of others. And chances are, they were awful. Yet, as awful as they were, they don’t define who we are today. Remembering the lessons that those mistakes is invaluable; continually replaying them is not.
Steve Maraboli said: “The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward.”
When you find yourself recollecting those memories, ask yourself if it is helpful. Check in and see if what you are thinking about is fostering your continued growth or keeping you stuck in the corners of your past.
I came across this poem written by Suzy Kazzem, and thought I’d share it with you:
Coming Forth Into the Light
I was born the day
I was transformed the day
My ego shattered,
And all the superficial, material
Things that mattered
To me before,
I really came into being
The day I no longer cared about
What the world thought of me,
Only on my thoughts for
Changing the world.”
Once and for all, let’s befriend ourselves. Let us hold our hearts and our experiences with the same tenderness as we would another loved human being. Let’s appreciate who we have become, one messy, necessary, step at a time.
Mary Boutieller is a Registered Yoga Teacher through Yoga Alliance. She has been teaching yoga since 2005. Her work experience includes 22 years as a firefighter/paramedic and 10 years as a Licensed Massage Therapist. Mary’s knowledge and experience give her a well-rounded understanding of anatomy, alignment, health and movement in the body. She is passionate about the benefits of yoga and the ability to heal at all levels through awareness, compassion, and a willingness to explore. She can be reached at: SimplyogaOm@gmail.com.