In my therapy practice, one pattern that shows up with frequency, and has the impact of limiting clients from being able to experience the unbounded freedom of the present moment, is the habituated need to “fix” the past. If only they could fix what went wrong, life would be happy and fulfilling.
When the need to fix the past enters, the present moment, the only place where the power of choice exists, becomes weighed down by the unrealistic demand that it vindicate all that has happened before. This cruel and often self-punishing demand produces subtle and not-so subtle feelings of failure; pushing happiness and contentment away to an amorphous date in the future. The space between where we are now and that uncertain future becomes filled with anxiety. We postpone the present moment and wait for “someday,” that fictional day “between Sunday and Monday” that never truly shows up.
There is a Zen saying that says “if you try to catch two birds, you catch none.” The power of change exists in the present moment, rooted in the cultivation of new choices and the humility to let each moment and each day become new.
In the Yoga Sutras, the quintessential yogic text, Patanjali says that yoga is the selective elimination of specific (painful) habituated patterns that we repeat over and over and then falsely identify with as ourselves. We become confused and believe our patterns to be us. The process of yoga, and of therapy from a yogic perspective, is to illuminate these habituated tendencies and to begin to polish them away to reveal the splendor of what is beneath. That splendor is the Self, abiding in its own true nature as all things arise and fall. From this perspective, all patterns can become the vehicle to experience the Self, like puppets in a show all leading to the one who guides the strings.
Beyond the need to fix there is the countless opportunity to change and to let go of what stands in the way of the contentment that is already there and waiting….