Trapped in the past?


Are you constantly thinking or referencing the past?

If the the answer is yes, then delusion is present.

However, shouldn’t we learn from the past? Especially our mistakes or life’s lesson? That’s what make us wiser, isn’t it?

I wouldn’t discredit this sensible advice. However a Buddhist’s further advice is;

Do not to be caught up in it.

If we are trapped by our past experience, then we are simply “locking” ourselves up. We are tainting our perception of this world by associating them with our past experience. That can be very suffocating if we are trapped by mostly unpleasant memories.

That is why the word delusion applies to this mental habit.

Trapped by unpleasantness

For example lets think of betrayal in a relationship (friends, co-workers, siblings, volunteers, lovers, family etc) If we cannot let go of memories that are painful / unpleasant / disappointing etc, then there is no longer room for happiness to happen.

If we constantly dwell on unpleasant memories, then all future relation will never have an opportunity to develop freely. A simple flash of memory from our past is enough to influence the way we act and speak. That tainted action will receive a corresponding reaction (speech, action, facial expression etc) from the person we are associating with.

It is interesting to note that even Buddhist organisation are not free from such delusion. Instead of letting go of the past, the negativities are pass down from generation to generation.

To be reborn, one needs to let go. No amount of rituals or chanting can change such negativities if there is no miracle of the heart.

Trapped by pleasantness

Another example, let’s talk about work experience. In the course of our work, regardless of profession (accountant, doctor, painter, artist etc);

We constantly tap on our past experience as a reference point to perform our present task. While past experience is important, it can also trap us into a state of dullness that limit our creativity.

Imagine if we are used to painting in a certain manner or certain composition and that method had garnered praises previously. A subtle flash of attachment to that pleasant memory of recognition and praise might trap us into applying the same approach with reluctance to try something new.

Past memory also include media exposure.

For those who experience the “magic” of the Titanic movie where Jack was holding to Rose’s waist while standing at the bow…. Notice people copying that all over the world until today?


That is an example of delusion too. Any experience we had through our senses can form the loom that we weave the fabric of current experience. It had always been that way for human kind.

That is why a mind free from delusion is unique and precious.

How do we break that habit?

The solution requires breaking a bad mental habit through mind training.

Foremost we have to train for mindfulness of our mental activities. If we find our mind wandering to past memories, we have to stop it. The monkey mind loves to do that. Whatever we experience now will send the monkey mind to fetch something from our mind for reference.

To control the monkey mind, we need concentration.

To develop concentration, we can use a focal point to anchor our mind. It can be keeping a mantra round the clock, being mindful of our breathe etc. (Doesn’t matter) Once the monkey mind is tied to this anchor point, the leash will shorten as the mind strengthen.

In this manner, we will not be lost in the past and if the past starts to cloud our mind, we become aware of it. Good enough to do a quick self check and let new wonderful experience blossom.

to be continued…..

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1 reply »

  1. Brilliant post, Jamjang. Well we all tend to go to our past. I used to become sentimental and feeling regretful of the things I should have done differently and so on. Nowadays it has become more of a reflection on how much I have changed and progressed towards a life filled with awareness and mindfulness. If we look at the past in a skillful way by not judging we can gain some great insight.


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