This Spring, Clean Out The Past

blog pic1-1Stay in the moment. It’s all we have.

Many self-help teachers and spiritual advisors–including Eckhart Tolle— advance this philosophy, and for good reason.

This is where the past and the future connect—in the moment.

But there are times when the past, gone unaddressed, hides like mothballs in the back of the closet, clings like dust to the bottom of the rug, until it is examined. And cleaned.

I believe the past shapes us, mostly for better, sometimes for worse, especially when we avoid looking at it without filters. The past holds the nakedness of who we are, the truth, the clues to why we react the way we do, why we balk, why we rage, why we retreat into our tried and true archetypes.

Looking at our past, deep diving into those dark dusty corners of our psyches can be scary. Especially when we’re so often taught to shrug it off, less we awaken the gremlins that dwell in the land of the forgotten.

We learn early it’s probably best to lock things away for safe keeping, or bury it and let what’s dead stay dead.  That way, no one, including you, will have to take an honest look at what grew in the dark, alone and cold, and left to fester from the lack of light or attention.

But here’s a truth: the past is never truly forgotten or buried until we’ve done our work. Some of the same things that haunted us in the past, bad relationships, feelings of unworthiness, a sense of lack or insecurity, will find a way to the surface.

It’s much better if we do the unearthing ourselves.

Now, let me be clear. I do not believe we should build monuments to our past or worship at the altar of the Wounded Self. I am not a proponent of living in the past or the wearing of a victim crown as a symbol of martyrdom. We all have our crosses to carry.

What I am saying is that an unexamined life is an ungrounded life, a life that cannot fully root in the present. Much less the future.

In Taoism, much is said about the importance of balancing the energies of life, the light, the dark, the masculine, the feminine. I believe this is  how “living in the moment” should be fully expressed, with a respectful nod to and understanding of the past, and a hopeful gaze focused into the future.

To me, this is the truth of a balanced life.

So if you’re planning on doing some Spring cleaning soon, consider starting with your past.

What do you need to unearth, pull out of the closet, address, release? Make a conscious decision to look at it with loving eyes and be grateful for the lessons. After you do this, see where the past is intersecting with the present and decide if it’s a good thing or not.

And make choices that ground you now, so you can build a happier, healthier, more balanced and peaceful future.

I’m rooting for you.

If you’re interested in thoughts on integrity, compassion and grace, particularly at midlife, read my book Tao Flashes.  Or visit me at or on twitter @taoflashes.


10 thoughts on “This Spring, Clean Out The Past

  1. I believe we sometimes need to look to the past to understand the why of current behaviors. If we don’t do that spring cleaning we’re likely to keep repeating the past. Great post.

  2. This is exactly what I needed, and I was considering writing about a similar subject. You are so wise in your advice, and because I admire your writing and how you go about a subject, I always learn from you. Thank you, Lisa.

  3. You are so right. Our past shapes our future. While it doesn’t have to define it, I think it’s important to take what we can from it in order to truly understand ourselves.

  4. I’m preparing to move 700 miles away from where I have lived my entire life. As I “downsize” my personal belongings I have found myself dipping into memories from my past. I have found the ones to keep and those who need to be laid to rest. It’s all been very cathartic!

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