Finding the balance between present and past is being present in the moment – nothing more…
Letting go is a practice yogis take very seriously. Whatever traditions and schools of yoga we may follow, we all agree that giving up the baggage we carry from our past is primary to the practice of living in the moment.
And yet in the Isa Upanishad, one of the earliest and most powerfully direct of the Upanishads, we are passionately exhorted to “Remember mind what has passed! Mind remember!
So what exactly is meant by ‘remembering’ and by ‘letting go’? And how can we bring them into balance in our lives when they seem so totally opposite and irreconcilable?
The question goes to the heart of yoga practice, because at its heart yoga is the practice bringing opposing energies, psychic and physical, into balance. And it goes to the heart of our emotional well being, which is so determined by memories and the emotions they carry with them.
Not so long ago I went on a kind of private pilgrimage to the house where my parents had lived in their retirement. I hadn’t been there since my mother died; the whole area was too fraught with emotions and memories I didn’t want to face.
The house, shaded, quiet and cool in the summer heat, looked just exactly as it always had. It was hard to believe my mother wasn’t going to open the front door to greet me, and my father wave hello from side of the house, and my kids run down the front walk crying ‘gramma’ and granddad.’ In fact, the memory was so strong, it was as if my mother was actually opening the door and my father coming up from the dock, and my kids running to greet them. And the intensity of the memory triggered a roll of emotion: the unresolved issues that would never be resolved; the longing to turn back time – and the loss: never again would I walk through that front door into that house and smell that smell that was their home. It was so unbearably sad, I could barely breathe.
That was in one moment.
The next moment, magically – certainly I had nothing to do with it – all the sadness, the regrets, all the sense of loss, dissolved – gone! I felt suspended in a vast bowl of time in which past and present are one and same thing. A place where the emotions which had so totally overwhelmed me had no significance whatever – a place in which nothing could ever be lost.
So perhaps what the ancient yogis are telling us is that remembering and letting go are crucial to each other. That we can’t let go of what we can’t remember. That we can’t accept and integrate what we remember if we don’t let go of the emotions hold them forever in the past. That in reality, and there is no separation between past and present, that we live in their center, floating on our past into the future, in the continual moment we call now.