We can’t choose our past, but we can choose our memories

When we meet someone who has an ugly scar, that sight may jar us. But once we get to know them and see their good qualities, we learn to see beyond their scar to the person. The scar still exists, but it doesn’t matter, or at least it doesn’t matter so much.

We need to adopt a similar vision towards our own scars. We may not have any physical scars, but most of us have emotional scars from the past. Some of us may have had very bad backgrounds filled with unpleasant, even horrifying memories. Some of us may have fallen into unhealthy habits, which scar us with unwholesome drives.

Significantly however, how much the past scars us depends on what we do in the present. Sometimes, our mind keep replaying the past, feeling sorry for ourselves for all the things that have gone wrong or feeling angry with others who have wronged us. The Bhagavad-gita (18.35) identifies such a self-flagellating mentality as typical of a perverse obstinacy or determination in the mode of ignorance.

No matter how bad our past might have been, the very fact that we have survived till now suggests that some things about it must have been good. We can focus on those memories whenever our thoughts go to the past.

More importantly, we can create a fresh stock of positive joyous memories for ourselves. The process of bhakti-yoga helps us cultivate a rich reservoir of healthy, happy memories, memories centered on the all-attractive, all-joyful supreme reality, Krishna.

The more we strive to remember Krishna, the more we develop our inner muscles to direct our thoughts according to our intentions. Thus, we become free from the disempowerment coming from any dark past, for we become empowered to choose our memories.

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