“If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking.” ~Proverb
It’s been a year since I stumbled upon Tiny Buddha. At the time I was in a difficult place, emotionally, mentally, and physically.
I felt as if life was pointless and that there was nothing for me in the world: no room, no hope, no opportunity, no relief from the chronic tiredness and pain, and no love. I’d given up.
I spent my days staring at the walls and at my computer, trying to find something to make me feel better, to feel anything at all, but nothing showed up.
That was my ongoing experience, after all: nothing and nobody showed up to save me.
After seeing a quote on Twitter, I stumbled upon some of the posts about happiness. They showed me that I was allowed to have fun and experience joy.
They taught me that I didn’t have to relive a childhood that was painful and traumatic. Instead, I could live the life I’d always dreamed of since I was that lost, hurt, and lonely child; I could live it now as an adult.
The more I read, the more I started to let go of my victim mentality. I suffered a lot of mental and emotional abuse when I was young, much of it secret and still not revealed even to my family. But as I lost myself in other people’s wisdom, I opened myself up to that past and came to terms with it.
It’s taken a long time to do that, and it’s something I still do. Every day, I let go of something and move on from it.
It wasn’t long before I saw that I could write for Tiny Buddha. It took me days to hit send on that email because it felt like a major risk. But I felt determined to put myself out there, hoping that someone would recognize the good that I felt certain was in me somewhere.
This one little step was the beginning of change.
In the past year, I’ve completey transformed my attitude. I’ve worked hard to become a better person—to open myself up to joy, compassion, and forgiveness and to rebuild my confidence so that I can go after the things I want.
Things in my life are still uncertain and a bit scary at times. But the difference between me now and me then is that a year ago, I wasn’t moving forward. I was stuck in one place, looking back at the mess that was my life.
I think we’ve all been there. We get so preoccupied with the things that have happened that we forget the things that are going on now.
On the simplest level, we do this naturally all the time when we re-tell the story of our days to our family and friends, especially if we’ve had a difficult time at work or we got stuck in traffic.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this sort of venting. The problem is when we not only forget the good things that happened that day but also fail to recognize the beautiful things that are happening right now.
I hardly ever noticed those things. I was too busy reliving moments when I felt humiliated, threatened, and terrified, wondering why they had to happen to me.
Realizing how much I missed because I was dwelling on the past, I decided to do some mental, spiritual, and physical cleansing. I confronted my painful memories and decided I’d no longer spend all my time agonizing over them.
But first I needed to feel it—the fear, the anger, the pain—and let myself stew in it for a while.
Then I needed to remember the lesson of forgiveness. When I accepted that all people are vulnerable and all people deserve compassion, I finally forgave the people who hurt me. And I forgave myself for believing I deserved it.
For me, this involved developing a type of spiritual ethics:
I try to extend my compassion to all living beings, from the teachers who bullied me to the spiders that creep me out.
I try to recognize when I need to listen instead of talk.
When I wake up, I think of all the things I’m grateful for and plan three simple things to do during the day to make life better for me and those around me.
I try to control and release my temper in safe, artistic ways instead of exploding and giving myself chest-pains.
Finally, I try my best not to judge, and if I do, I open myself up to what that person must be feeling at that moment.
These things have helped me become more compassionate, calm, and open, and they’re helping me remain that way through patience and mindfulness.
I think we all need a plan for staying present and seizing the day.
Think about it: how often do you forget about everything else and look at what’s going on now? I think—in fact I know—that paying attention now can make you happier and solve problems that seemed unfixable. How? It takes the focus away from things that you can’t do anything about—the moments that are over.
My future is by no means certain, but I’m not frightened by any of this—more excited. When I think about it, I’m amazed that I stayed stuck for so long, reliving moments that were useless to me instead of letting it all go and learning new and exciting things.
So, my promise to myself this year is to stop looking back and start looking forward. My goals and dreams aren’t in my past, they’re in me—right now—and all I have to do is pick them up and walk with them to reach the future I visualize.
That’s all any of us have to do—open up to big, positive changes by first making them within ourselves.
I’m ready for challenges. I’m ready to stop rehashing all the bad things that happened to me in the past so I can create good things for the future. I won’t speculate on what they may look like. My path is here in this moment, and what matters is that I’m finally facing the right way.
Man walking image via Shutterstock