Reborn: How to Eliminate the Obsolete Past from Your Life
In the previous article we discussed the idea of being reborn internally.
There is no rule that dictates we have to think and believe the same things throughout our lives.
History doesn’t have to repeat itself. We don’t need to be held hostage to the strings of the past. We can choose to act differently at any given moment and freely move forward.
We can change by eliminating what hasn’t been helpful to us in the past.
Making a decision to let go of old thought patterns is easy. But actually doing it is not. We’re working against years of conditioning and experiences being hammered into our subconscious mind.
Below is a gradual process to get you started.
I. Get rid of physical objects
The first thing we need is a conscious decision to start the elimination process. Before we go into the invisible inventory stored in the subconscious mind, let’s start with the easier part: tangible inventory.
Why eliminate physical items from your environment?
Every object and every experience we seek is the result of an inner desire. And every ownership and experience we go through gives us an inner feeling.
In other words, your entire history (tangible and intangible) is built around inner desires and feelings.
You acquired stuff for an inner reason. You may know what that reason is or may not.
Try to get rid of an object in your home and see how you feel. If you feel tightness and anxiety, you’re attached to a thought or memory about this object. This means that you’re holding on to the past.
We only need to keep the physical past that’s useful and remove what doesn’t serve us anymore.
The fire analogy
You probably heard this before. Imagine that your home (or office) was on fire. What are the things that you really want to take out before you run for your life?
Think of things you can carry easily and the limited window of opportunity you have before the fire consumes everything in its path.
These are the things that you will miss and want to keep. Usually they’re very few. The rest we tend to forget once it’s out of sight.
Questions to ask
As you eliminate anything, ask yourself:
- What am I feeling right now?
- Why do I still hold on to this item? Can I use it right now? Or am I keeping it just in case I might need it later?
- Am I keeping this item to justify making a useless purchase?
- What am I thinking about now? Then,
- Write down your thoughts. It can be as simple as I paid good money for this widget and I’d like to use it someday.
With the above questions in mind, start writing off the obsolete inventory.
1- Purge old possessions.
Pick a few items in your home that you don’t use. It can be clothing, books, decorations, or any household items that you have no use for and have been keeping for no practical reason.
If you have a hard time, just let go of one item at a time. Try selling something on eBay or give it to charity. Don’t feel bad throwing something out if it’s old and won’t help someone else. The more you do this, the easier it becomes to let go.
2- Destroy old journals.
This is a bit extreme but can be quite liberating. My personal experience with journals is that I tend to write more about pain than joy.
You don’t have to destroy everything but you don’t have to keep everything either. Think of what you’d want to read 20 years from now.
You can go through each year and pull the pages that mean something to you. The main point is to keep things on purpose. If you’re holding to stuff just because, it’s time to let go and release the attachment.
3- Go through your photos.
Keep only the ones you really want to save. Instead of having 50 pictures of one occasion, you can choose a few that are representative of the event.
Photos are very personal and can be hard to let go of. If you find it hard, start with a few and eliminate in stages as you become more comfortable with the idea.
Do the same thing with your digital environment.
We accumulate files, music, videos and photos over time. It’s helpful to reduce your digital inventory to the stuff that’s relevant to you today.
The physical stuff in our lives takes a mental and emotional space. That’s why we have them in the first place. So remove as much as you can from your environment and see how you feel. Keep only what’s working for you at this moment.
You don’t need to keep old possessions because you paid money for them. Every time you pass by an old item, you’ll remind yourself that you made a mistake or you should’ve used it. The only message you tell yourself is: I failed—not helpful.
Relationships play an important part in our lives. We are social beings and a lot of the old habitual inventory of thoughts and beliefs has its roots in an interaction (or more) we had with someone else.
We also have a relationship with ourselves. We talk to ourselves more than anyone else around us.
Consider these steps when you’re trying to break free from the old.
1- Change your appearance. Do different things or do things differently.
Change something in your appearance that you were thinking about but were reluctant to do. You can change your hair style or color, or dress differently. The point is just to mix it up a bit and see how you feel.
This may sound silly but it can be quite liberating. You don’t have to recreate a new style for yourself. What you’re doing in effect is giving yourself permission to step out of the old pattern. You can go back to it if it feels more authentic to you.
In the past I’ve had long hair, short hair, shaved my head and bleached my hair. Then went back to my old style. The difference is: it was by choice not by subconscious constraints.
Look different, try a new activity or do the same activity but in a different way.
Realizing that you can change something about yourself without worrying about what others might think is part of releasing the past. To make this realization a belief, you need to act on it.
2- Reevaluate your relationships.
This has two aspects: the relationships that are part of your life right now and the ones from the past.
You’ll be surprised by how much the past affects the present when it comes to relationships. We tend to reminisce about the good old times or poke at the wounds of painful experiences. And, in all likelihood, both involved someone else.
Even if we’re not dwelling in the past, the experiences might cast a shadow over our current relationships. That’s why it’s important to let go of the old relationships that don’t serve us anymore.
With social media we have more people popping out of nowhere wanting to reconnect. There is nothing wrong with that if it’s what you really want. But if you’re doing it out of politeness and feeling guilty, then you’re setting yourself up for more pain.
Relationships will come and go. That’s part of life. We only need to focus on the ones that work for us at this moment. It’s time to make peace with the past and let go.
It might be helpful when you look at the relationships that didn’t work out in the past to write down the lessons you’ve learned. This is all you need. The rest is just emotional attachment to pain.
When you clear past relationships, you open up to the present. This makes you more comfortable with changing your current relationships.
Are you barely tolerating someone because of family obligations? Are you putting up with abuse at work because you have to?
Clearing the past will give you confidence to do the same thing with the people in your life today. You can change what’s not working—you have done it before.
3- Revise your vocabulary.
If I told you: “Don’t think of pain, don’t think of pain, don’t think of pain”. What are you thinking of? I bet it’s pain.
Changing our language (with ourselves and others) can be very empowering.
Over the years we accumulate all sorts of negative words that become part of our daily thought and interaction process.
We think more of what we don’t want. I don’t want pain is usually more familiar than I want joy. I don’t want to be alone is more common than I want to experience love.
Observe your language and reverse it. But when you reverse it, don’t just do it once.
Keep in mind that you’re dealing with a habitual buildup. When you notice the negative word or phrase, reverse it. Write it down and carry it with you. If the situation arises use the new phrase and keep doing it.
This is an exercise in awakening. It helps you see where you’ve been setting yourself up for disappointment.
Also watch for universalities in your language. Words like never, always and their derivatives lock you up in the old pattern.
Take notice and then cast doubt by questioning such general statements.
For example if you have this thought stuck in your head: I’m never on time or I’m always late. Think of times when you made it on time. If you find just one incident you’ll negate the statement. Keep finding more proof. Make it fun. Prove yourself wrong by showing up on time or even early.
III. Deal with inner inventory
After spending some time dealing with obsolete tangible inventory and relationships, it’s time to move to the inner world of transformation.
1- Eliminate obsolete inner thoughts and beliefs.
Eliminating is a great way to change. Going through physical objects and relationships can trigger a lot of painful memories or nostalgia. When you get comfortable with the process, it will be easier for you to dig into the most inner beliefs and attitudes.
If you got some notes from eliminating above, use these as a starting point for the thoughts and beliefs you have around possessions and relationships.
Just like we don’t need a lot of material items to add meaning to our lives, we don’t need a large pile of mental inventory to clutter our mind.
Here is a simple way to get you started in the mental elimination process.
The moment you feel discomfort (negativity, unease, judgment … etc.) pause and reflect.
- What am I thinking right now?
- How do I know that this is the only truth about the situation? Are there other alternatives?
- Can I find examples of the other possible meanings?
- Why am I attached to the meaning I assigned to this experience in the first place?
- What would happen if I allowed all other meanings to have an equal footing?
Cast doubt and be relentless and the old patterns will start to loosen up. Beliefs dissolve in doubt.
If a random thought pops out of nowhere, don’t hold on to it. Let it go without judgment. If it keeps coming up question it as mentioned above.
What happens in life is neutral. It’s the meaning that we attach to it that makes the difference. So be more conscious of the meaning and the thought might not have as much hold as it used to.
If you have time, read this article about letting go of beliefs.
2- Accept uncertainty.
We don’t know what will happen with our next breath. All of the things we take for granted can be taken away in a blink of an eye.
Being okay with not knowing is more empowering than being stuck in a way of knowing that doesn’t work anymore.
When we accept uncertainty, we won’t need to project our fears and thoughts onto the future. We make peace with the unknown and open up to what is.
The moment a fearful thought comes up about the future (usually based on the past), take a deep breath. Remind yourself that you’re here right now and that’s all that matters. Repeat as needed.
Everything that sits in our inner inventory is a product of repetition.
3- Immerse yourself in this moment.
The most beautiful thing in this life is to completely lose yourself in what you’re experiencing in the moment. It’s the state of flow, where time stands still, and nothing else seems to matter.
Let’s try and make every moment about the moment. Be one with what you’re experiencing now, without words, and with as little thought as possible. Be reborn with the moment after—free from the inventory of the past.
I hope you found this article useful. In using the recommendations above, please consider these reminders:
- There is nothing wrong with keeping memories alive (in the present), if we’re doing it by conscious choice.
- The keyword is eliminate. Start slowly with one small step. It’s a process that will take time. It took years for the stuff to accumulate.
- You will experience discomfort. It’s natural. Acknowledge the feelings and move on.
- Keep at it. Do one thing a day and repeat every day. Repetition is your best friend in this situation.
- Every aspect of our life is interconnected. For example, when you deal with something physical, it’ll change you emotionally and vice versa.
Eliminating the inner and outer obsolete inventory creates space. With space comes clarity. And clarity is the mother of focus and awakening.