What is the past exactly? Is it real? Does it exist?
The inspiring and wonderful spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle said jokingly: “if the past exists some explorer would have found it!”, as much as I love Eckhart and listen religiously to his teachings and believe in his wisdom, and as much as I love his sense of humor I can’t agree with him. I understand of course the spiritual concept which tells us that there is nothing but now, don’t live in the past, don’t worry about the future, there is nothing but now, this moment, live in the now, stay in the now. And I think it’s beautiful, I really do, I try to live in the moment, sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail, but I keep trying. What I don’t accept is the dismissal of the past and the huge effect and influence our past has on us. The past happened, it happened for a reason, the reason was for us to learn, to grow, to change, just because the past has passed, this does not mean that it no longer exists, it does exist, in our memory, and without my memory, I will have to wake up every morning and learn how to walk, and talk and tie my shoelaces all over again. I cannot be selective with my memory, I can’t order my memory to keep the stuff I need like how to walk, talk and tie my shoelaces and order it to delete the painful, haunting experiences which I know no longer serve me; although the fantasy is appealing, unfortunately it’s not the reality. The reality is that our brain will keep everything; good stuff and bad stuff, except of course the things we spend days studying to pass an exam, those will magically disappear in a mysterious black hole in our brain only to be retrieved again when no longer needed!
The past remains with us, not to cause us pain (although it does that too sometimes) but to guide us. When we take a certain road in life and end up falling inside a hole dug in that road, it will hurt, we will feel pain, but we weren’t to blame! there was no way for us to know that there was a hole, but if we go down that road again, our past pain will remind us, it will remind us that there is a hole, it will point out where the hole is, then it will suggest that we avoid the hole by walking around it or taking an entirely different road, therefore, helping us make better wiser choices, without the memory of the past, without the past and its pain, we would simply keep falling, over and over again in the same hole.