Why the past can’t hold you back

by | Sep 30, 2013

no_history_10-13A few days back I had a stunning insight while coaching a participant in the Authentic Wealth virtual retreat: I have no history.

In a flash I understood that what we believe to be our histories is simply our current thinking about our previous thoughts about people, circumstances, and events that may or may not have occurred at all.

In “Requiem for a Nun” William Faulkner wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” That sure sounds right, at least it did to me for a very long time. I have a black belt in dealing with the past ranging from processing family of origin issues to unpacking cultural legacies. I expect you might know what I’m talking about. 

Explaining our current experiences and limitations in terms of the past comes from an innocent misunderstanding of the nature of human experience. According to that misunderstanding, we can be affected by people, circumstances, and events outside of us.

In reality, it happens like this. We think something, then we think something about that, and we think some more. Our thoughts pile up, creating our day to day reality. That reality comes from our thinking; it really doesn’t have anything to do with people, circumstances, and events.

We explain one set of thoughts with another set of thoughts, all the while believing that our experience is being created from the outside in by people, circumstances, and events. We think, and the gift of consciousness makes our thinking appear real.

There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s the nature of the human experience. That’s how it works, and it’s rather wonderful to see the limitless creative potential of Mind as expressed through thought and consciousness.

It’s just nice to understand what’s happening when we momentarily get hornswoggled by the belief that something in the past is holding us back in the present. When we find ourselves stuck, it can be really useful to see that the only thing keeping the past alive is our thinking about it. Apart from that, it’s not possible for the past to hold us up.

So what’s to be done when you find yourself preoccupied with thoughts of the past?

Nothing. Really.

Thought is a continuous flow. If you leave thoughts of the past alone, they will soon be replaced by new thoughts. You don’t have to do anything to make it happen, because every moment holds the infinite potential for new thought.

As Mark Twain observed, “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

Isn’t it nice to know that we don’t have to wait seven years for our own wisdom to kick in? That is is only ever a thought away?

Free Three Principles Event this Friday

WHAT: Free Google Hangout on Air

TOPIC: Creating Sustainable Change in Communities, Exploring the Three Principles in Communities

WITH: Ami Chen Mills-Naim, co-founder and Education Director of the Center for Sustainable Change

WHEN: Friday, October 4, 2013, 9:00am Pacific Daylight Time (USA)

HOW: Watch and chat live online


The Three Principles of Mind, Thought, and Consciousness generate all human experience. They represent the spiritual nature of our human functioning. Through an understanding of the principles, we connect with our innate health and wisdom and discover the resilience and creativity that are our birthright.

Ami Chen Mills-Naim has been a pioneer in creating sustainable change in communities through the application of The Three Principles. Her current focus is on spreading an understanding of the Principles, the profound potential of our true nature, and the power of love, to help end needless suffering.

Ami writes: At the Center for Sustainable Change we believe that raising the global level of consciousness is within the reach of this generation. The only thing needed for such a miraculous change in the world is a widespread understanding of these simple, yet powerful Principles that transcend the barriers of age, politics, culture and religion.

More About Ami

AmiChenMillsNaimAmi is co-founder and current Education Director of the Center for Sustainable Change and is the author of The Spark Inside: A Special Book for Youth. She has been an international trainer of the Three Principles for over 15 years, as well as a trainer of trainers.

Through her writing, teaching and project leadership, she has made a tremendous impact on spiritual consciousness globally, and has been instrumental in producing literature and video programs on applications of the Principles with youth, families, and in communities across the USA.

She is a former Director of the National Community Resiliency Project, funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. In addition, Ami is an award-winning writer and journalist, who hosts her own bi-weekly radio show, “On the Front Porch with Ami Chen: Spiritual Dialogues for the 21st Century.”

Article photo credit: Lara Zankoul via Flickr.