The Past is Gone

Yesterday I was thinking about giving up or letting go in A Course in Miracles. And I suggested that it had to be total – without compromise of any kind. But I think that can be confusing, especially when we start looking at particulars – I used the example of ice cream, but that’s not so hard to give up. It’s our kids or our partners that we don’t want to surrender. And really, beyond those special relationships, it is the self that we think we are that we insist we are going to keep forever.

It is good to ask what we are actually holding onto so tightly. Just a simple rational question: what are we? And then examine the answers. If we are gentle and honest, we will see that a lot of what we think we are is just an idea. And ideas are like fall leaves in the wind – you can pick one up and you can let it go and pick another one up, too. It’s only our insistence of this or that idea as the truth that gives them any real weight.

Even the big stuff – I am a father, I am Irish, I was raised Catholic – are not so much facts as beliefs. And the more you look at them, the more slippery they become. You begin to see that what you are is not stable – or rather, it is beyond these labels in which we become so invested.

What we are called to let go of is illusions. We are called to let go of all that we have placed between the truth and our awareness of the truth. What is this but the past? How do we understand ourselves as Irish or as parents or as U.S. citizens if not through the past? We have accumulated ideas and opinions. We have taken on faith that certain of these convey truths about ourselves and certain others do not. But can we question that? How can we really know ourselves in terms of the past? The past is gone and we are here in the present, aren’t we? It doesn’t make sense.

To let go of the past is a silly idea, really, because we cannot let go of what is not actually here. We are really only asked to let go of the illusion that the past is here. We are asked not to carry the past with us. We are asked not to use it to judge the present. We simply leave the present alone. We don’t have to do anything at all, other than accept that there is nothing to do, and then do nothing.

My teacher, Tara Singh, once wrote that there is nothing to do and only you can do it! Very true, very wise.

So when we think about letting go, our focus needs to be on how we perceive, on how we use time, on how we react to and interact with our thoughts. A Course in Miracles is not taking anything away. It is simply asking us to consider a new way of seeing – one that is not conditioned by the past. It seems complex and difficult and yes, at first it is, because it so unfamiliar. But we will learn that it is not hard at all because it is effortless – because we are not doing anything at all. It is that which yields the peace that passes all understanding.

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