Letting go of yesterday

Why is letting go of yesterday so hard? Why do we feel pulled into the past as if lingering there mentally will allow us to prolong it? And why would we want to prolong it?

The days pass ne’er to return. And depending on how much emotion and energy we experience in them, we may feel grief as each day ends. It could be grief from happiness we wish would continue forever. Or grief that comes from guilt, embarrassment, or anger that compounds into resentment. Regardless, it’s a longing for what was and a sense of loss for what’s gone.

No matter how good or bad the days seem, it’s easy to hold onto them and develop an attachment. We can’t change anything about yesterday, and we can’t relive it except from what we conjure in our minds and bodies.

Our longing for the past stems from our resistance to accept the impermanance of life.

Nothing lasts forever, not even the good stuff.

But we cling to what we’ve seen, said, and done in an attempt to feel safe and guarded from life’s temporal nature. The past is a known, and knowns make us feel safe. The future is unknown and therefore uncertain, spurring anxiety and worry.

Practicing letting go of the past helps us detach from what we cannot change. It frees us of yesterday so we can live in the present.

But letting go doesn’t mean we move forward unchanged. Each day impacts us and provides numerous opportunities for growth and joy. There’s plenty we can carry onward in a healthy way without tethering ourselves to a time that no longer exists.

What can we leave in the past?

Embarrassment. That icky feeling that we did something other people laughed at or frowned upon. All humans make mistakes, and we’re responsible for our behavior. We can’t control how people react, but we can control what we do next.

Guilt. Prolonged guilt compounds into remorse and spreads throughout our minds and bodies. Unchecked, it can negatively affect our health, relationships, and self-worth. Guilt is a helpful teacher, but we can keep the lessons without punishing ourselves permanently.

Anger. A nasty comment, an unexpected blow, a cheat or steal or betrayal — all viable reasons to feel angry. But for how long? When we internalize anger, we harm ourselves. The others have probably already moved on. Yet we stew in anger, which becomes long-term resentment and alters every aspect of our lives.

What can we take from the past and carry into the future?

Lessons learned. Most life lessons sting like heck. And if we choose to learn from them, we’ll be all the better. Let’s grow with each lesson and share them with others to give everyone a chance to evolve.

Joy. Moments of joy may end. But if we let them, such moments can infuse us with joy such that we become joy itself. Let’s welcome the positive energy we experience into our bones and blood and become part of our beings.

Beauty. Life is an artform. How we see our environment depends on the lenses we choose to look through. If we pick up a new lens, we’ll no doubt experience a completely different scene. Let’s carry our discoveries into the new day and enjoy the beauty of life.

How to let go of yesterday

There’s no complex formula or ten-step plan for letting go of the past. It’s simple, yet challenging.

The way to let go is to release your mental and physical grasp. Your mind has wrapped itself around the past and is clinging to it so tightly, protecting it the more you rely on it for safety. You probably feel it all the way through your neck and back. It’s no longer just a thought but a whole body experience that stiffens you, aches you, and blocks feelings of happiness and enjoyment.

You must practice releasing such energy from your mind and body. When thoughts of the past flutter in, just sit back and watch them flutter out. When your shoulders tense up all the way to your ears, unclench your jaw and surrender your muscles to gravity, letting them gently fall back into place.

Set aside time to practice. Get in tune with your thoughts and your body. Spend five minutes in the morning before the day begins to focus on your thoughts, feeling the rush of yesterday’s happenings come in and sitting back letting them rush out the other end. Watch the movie in your mind reel through without engaging in any of it. Just let it all pass. No need to stop it, just let it run its course.

Spend another five minutes slowly rotating your head about your neck. Roll your shoulders gently forward and backward. Sit or stand up straight, aligning your spine and breathing deeply through your nose. Give your body a good dose of oxygen and let it permeate your organs and limbs.

Later in the day, when you feel the past creeping up on you (or barging in unannounced), take just a minute or two to sit back and watch the movie rush in and out of your mind. Roll your head and shoulders and align your posture. Breathe deeply a few times and visualize the air reaching your every cell.

Before you go to sleep, spend a final five minutes reconciling the day and clearing your mind for rest. Release tension, relax your face, neck, and shoulders, and slow the breath.

That’s how you let go of yesterday. You literally let go of its energy. It might not be something tangible you can hold in your hand, but it’s an energy that sustains in your being until you release it.

So, practice loosening your grip. Practice relaxing your mind and body and letting the energy of the past go.