The Right Direction: Releasing the Past and Getting Unstuck

Man Walking Alone

“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.

Are you?

Man walking image via Shutterstock

About Sam Russell

Sam Russell is a young writer from the southeastern corner of the UK. He’s a cynic by nature trying to prove that cynics can be happy and positive, too. Visit his blog at

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  • Celeste

    I too can relate. I’ve been reading my Tina Buddha emails everyday for the last year, taking in the positive and letting go of something negative. It has kept me strong and focused through a separation, and now it is my rock as I travel on the path to a healthier me. Thanks for sharing the article and thank you Tiny Buddha!

  • Jennifer

    I can relate to this alot. I’ve only been reading Tiny Buddha for a few months, which has branched out to a number of different blogs and communities, but I can definately notice forward movement within myself. I also went back to counseling and found a counselor who makes sense for me. I always used to think of “getting better” in terms of all of a sudden I’d be in this place where I wasn’t plagued by my past. But honestly, it’s been more of a slow trickle reforming the landscape. And then I realized it wasn’t even about “getting better” as realizing me.

    I’m very happy for you and the progress you’ve made and will continue to make!

  • Molly

    thank YOU for this inspiring account of your life. blessings to you and namaste.

  • No problemo Molly. Thanks for reading 🙂

  • Thanks for reading Jennifer 🙂

    I’m glad you’ve found someone who makes sense. It always helps to have that when you’re working through difficult stuff.

    I have to agree with you about the ‘getting better’ part too – I was convinced at one point that I needed fixing in some way but then I figured it out: I don’t need to become something someone else tells me I should be. All I have to do is be 🙂


  • Hey Celeste 🙂

    Yeah Tiny B is this little nugget of pure goodness and well, downright awesomeness. I’m so glad I came here 🙂

    Thanks for reading!

  • Colette K

    Thank you so much for your article Sam. Your words describe my life. I have spent many years struggling to let go of a difficult childhood. I lost my 20’s too through lack of confidence and self belief. But thankfully through a lot of hard work on my part I am coming out the other side.
    Life is short and it’s time I grasp it, enjoy it and not give another day of it to the demons of the past. Best of luck to you on your path!

  • The present is a way of insuring the past does not become the future.

  • kate

    Thank you Sam. I struggle with my past often and your article was a good reminder. Keep going forward.

  • Indirainsmama

    Just what i needed to read. Thanks Sam

  • Your post is truly inspiring, am currently dealing with a similar situation…its re-assuring to know of others that have been through similar circumstances…makes you feel less ‘Alien’ x

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for sharing, Sam. You’re incredibly brave. 🙂

  • Thank you for reading Amory 🙂

    I’ve never thought of myself as brave before. I’m just looking to share my genuine experience of positive change with people who are maybe in a similar position. It’s nice to know you’re not alone.


  • Anne M.

    I absolutely loved this post Sam! It was as if your article came at just the right time for me. I’m so glad for you that things are working out well – I believe that all of us are a work in progress :). Sometimes reliving painful events is like a form of self abuse. I know that was true for me. Yesterday was a yucky day – however it felt like my heart broke open and I knew it was going to be okay, everything will be okay. Thanks again Sam!

  • Thanks Siobhan,

    I’m glad that I’ve given you some reassurance and I wish you all the best in working out what’s best for you in your situation. It is nice though, not to feel so ostracised 🙂


  • Glad to be of help 🙂


  • Likewise Kate, keep going. It’ll get easier the more you make that conscious choice to move forward.


  • The only time history repeats itself is when we instigate it.

  • I know what you mean Colette – my late teens / early twenties sucked and I’m determined not to let my late twenties and thirties be the same.

    Nice one on making it through! Good luck on your path too 🙂


  • You’re welcome Anne 🙂

    Sometimes it’s hard to recognise when you’re being hard on yourself. I think I was caught up in many of those memories and events because I doubted myself over them. They didn’t make any sense to me. Some of them still don’t but it’s more important for me now to move on from them.

    Sorry to hear you had a rough day but you’re right – you got through!


  • Anne M.

    Thanks for your reply Sam! What I realized last night was the “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve” routine that I’ve done to myself for years. Like you said in your reply, things didn’t make a lot of sense to me either – yes, I made poor choices, I hurt people, people have hurt me and on it goes. My heart opened to the realization that I was finally willing to move forward. It’s okay to make mistakes – do your best not to make the same mistake twice!! Stay the course Sam! 🙂

  • Anne M.

    Thanks for your reply Sam! What I realized last night was the “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve” routine that I’ve done to myself for years. Like you said in your reply, things didn’t make a lot of sense to me either – yes, I made poor choices, I hurt people, people have hurt me and on it goes. My heart opened to the realization that I was finally willing to move forward. It’s okay to make mistakes – do your best not to make the same mistake twice!! Stay the course Sam! 🙂

  • erin

    Love it!! This really described what I went through the last 18 months..much like a rebirth. You really find yourself going back to basics: learning how to forgive, moving forward, just practicing self-awareness to the fullest!

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  • Natasia

    The part about reliving past wrongs and thinking you deserved really hit home for me. To the outside world I am pretty accomplished. Little do they know how much I struggle with self-worth. Thank you for the article. Now is a good time to be happy with myself.

  • Ppelayo

    Well written, and such a joy to read. It’s lovely the way it just flows and keeps you interested. You are a great writer!! hope to read lots more from you.

    The article is full of all the important things we need to think about and do, in order to be walking in the right direction. I loved it!!!


  • Ninadani2005

    I am going to the bad stuff at the moment…hope I can reach the positive level that Sam Russel did. Sometimes I just want to give up…but I have to start looking to the positive side of things. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Shellyparadise

    Thankyou, I have really needed to move on with my life after past traumas keep weighing me down and most importantly to stop feeling I deserve the pain to continue……I do not…..time to release thanks again!

  • Congratulations for accepting your past and getting over them, Sam! Although they are likely to come back again, you already know how to deal with them, and your skill will only get better each time!

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  • Alfred

    This is such strong story. It takes time to recognise your strength, yet it is this strength that will help you to get back on a track that is far better than you ever imagined. I experienced the same situations and by reading this contribution I feel empowered to move in the direction I chose. Thanks Sam!

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  • Orengiskies

    You said everything that I have been feeling inside for the past 25 years. Thank you. You make a difference ^_^

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  • Tosha Moore76

    Thanks Sam I have been stuck way to long myself and need to move on.

  • Lv2terp

    FANTASTIC! Thank you for sharing your story!! 🙂

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  • bellaa

    But… how would you relive past events? How do you get past it.. i am slowly but shurely on the path to becomming A spiritual being, and i can relate to you story and you view of life.. but i cannot let go and forgive.. i dont know how..? Seems like everyone is capable but me.. 😕

  • tips

    hey Sam,

    thanks for this. i wonder how one can really let go of trauma. especially when it has been of the sort like domestic violence and if one has grown up with it. Any kind of violent or even remotely heartbreaking unfair incidents in general trigger pain and anger…

  • jo

    Thank you for this article.

  • Leo

    I struggle for the last 15+ to let go of what happened in my childhood and teenhood.. stuff that I found myself doing at that age because I was a bit lost.. sometimes I feel like I still am. Seeking to find myself … this article is eye opening and I feel a bit more sane that I am not the only one who had dwelled.. just awful to live it every day. I want to change

  • Julius maximus

    Thank you for your article Sam. I’ve learned many things by confronting and releasing my past. You’v e taught me that it isn’t only what happened in the past but how we transform those experiences into something good and positive. We have to remember but it’s growth that’s important. Julius.