An ingenious spiritual teacher, Lester Levenson, shifts people out of old, crippling emotional patterns with the simple suggestion: "That was Then. This is Now."
This statement of truth reminds us that our pain and suffering occurred in the past-and brings us into the present to see if the experience is actually still occurring. And, in fact, that old experience of life is never occurring in the present-unless we drag it into the Now. That is, unless we unconsciously re-generate the expected, habitual past experience into the present moment. As another sage, Harry Palmer, expresses it, "The past only exists to the degree we re-create it in the present."
We often set ourselves up for this unconscious carry-over by saying things like, "Oh, Jake's always negative!" But does Jake "always" have to be pessimistic? What if we approached Jake today with the willingness to be open to the possibility that he may be different, new, fresh? What might happen?
The Prison of the Past
In study after study, researchers have found that when one schoolteacher is told a new group of students is "intellectually challenged," those students will test very low on objective exams. When a different schoolteacher is told the same students are "geniuses," those same students will test very high on objective exams in her class.
What's Up with That?
We experience our expectations. We cruise the road of life projecting our beliefs ahead of us, only to arrive exclaiming, "Oh, wow. It's just as I anticipated!"
Who Are We?
The same unconscious dynamic occurs with our own self-image! If we've come to believe that we're not artistic, then we continually prove it by seeing our creations as crude, uninspired or amateurish. If we've decided we're not "athletic," we're not surprised when we don't catch the ball. If we're not a "dancer," we trip on our own feet.
As long as I can recall, I've never been a "morning person," so, "God, I'm tired this morning. I just can't wake up. You know what I mean?"
The Filter of the Past
Our unconscious beliefs about ourselves act as a filter, only letting in those perceptions of ourselves that "fit" our set image of ourselves. If we should accidentally happen to do anything "out of character," we either won't even perceive it-or we'll rationalize it away as an aberration, a fluke, a one-time chance occurrence.
And we'll even solidify the past by exclaiming, "That's not me! I don't know how that happened. I'm not usually like this. Please excuse my behavior." We even apologize for being spontaneous and inventive!
Disguised as "facts" these unconscious old beliefs filter our perception of every event, distorting reality to fit into our rigid, preconceived framework. Lord, save us!
The Truth Will Set Us Free
The liberating truth about these self-convictions is that they are totally arbitrary. Our limiting beliefs about ourselves are only past experiences that over time have become so-called fact. These "facts" are only old personal perceptions that we have come to believe are "the way I am."
The Maintenance Project
I refer to this unconscious perpetuation of past experience into the present as the "Maintenance Project."
And, boy, does it take a lot of energy to sustain our "Official Self-Image."
One day I watched young kids running repeatedly up and down a steep mountain trail. It takes me all the energy I can muster to scale that climb once a day! I asked myself, "Where did the vitality go that I had as a kid?"
Whamee! The realization hits me like a Mack truck. I see that I still have all that vigor! But now that energy all goes into preserving my belief system about myself and my world-my own "Maintenance Project."
I've bought into the notion that I'm older and can't do the things I used to do as a kid. Unconsciously, I'm invested in being right about my beliefs about aging, and having less and less energy as I grow older. Hello?! Why would I want to do that?
The Poison of Our Positions
Do you really care that much about your beliefs in your limitations? Is your dogged defense of your old, restricted "self-image" making you any happier-or the world any better?
What is the personal cost of your "Maintenance Project?" Greater than the 2006 U.S. Defense Budget? Probably!
Are your justifications for your old ideas of yourself really just rationalizations? Or worst, simply old habits that you are unconsciously keeping alive? Are you arguing for limitation ... or possibility?
Unmask the Bandit!
Unmask the bandit that has stolen your personal power and joy. Expose these "facts of life" for what they really are-fantasies of an adult who has forgotten who wrote the script of life. A grown-up who can no longer live life unrehearsed. A "mature" big person who has lost the ability to play and create fresh in the moment.
Be the Master of Your Fate
Being the master of your own self is having a real choice about what beliefs-and therefore what realities-you choose to empower. By becoming aware of the unconscious beliefs that are creating your reality, you then give yourself the conscious choice of which beliefs you want funding your reality. You can withdraw your creating energy from the unconscious limited self-images that no longer nurture your happiness.
When you take back your power from old, restricted ideas of who you are, you can create and evolve in any way at any rate you choose. You free yourself to invent anew and unfettered. You become the Conscious Creator of your own destiny.
Re-tell Your Story
Start a fresh dialogue with the Universe about what it means to be you. Energize new personal stories-and realities. Envision-and then experience-fresh, different ways of expressing your unique spirit. Create a new vision of yourself that is more alive, resourceful and self-compassionate.
Opt out of beliefs-and realities-that don't serve you. Opt into beliefs-and realities-that do serve your deepest aspirations.
Create a future from present passion, not from past perceptions. You don't have to let your past experience get in the way of your present happiness. Awaken to fresh choices, options and solutions you never saw before. Re-seed a renewed sense of peace, well-being and wholeness.
Master the Present-and Your Future!
Victor Hugo wrote, "There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come." What ideas have come just in time to break you free of your self-imposed prison? What ideas will you allow today to lift your spirit into a new world, a fresh start?
By Keith Varnum author, seminar leader
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