This quote by one of the fathers of the modern day mindfulness movement is very simple and yet incredibly powerful and holds many layers to it.
To say that “the past cannot survive” alludes to the possibility that we can actually find way to relinquish the past from our lives, almost “dissolve” it in some way. This, of course, assumes that we are referring to the parts of our past that we find difficult and painful and would rather forget. Remembering something pleasant from our past or something that we are proud of would be different of course. Indeed, it is a double-edged sword this ability to recall the events of our lives.
The second part of the sentence: “…in your presence” speaks directly to the entire body of work that we have come to know as “mindfulness” and which I think has now become one of those words thrown around too much with very little understanding as to what it really means or even how to practice it.
If you are fully present in this moment…where does your past exist? If you are focused on a work task, or talking to a friend or deeply engaged in a hobby or sport…where does your past exist? It doesn’t exist other than when you are CHOOSING to remember it. Usually, it catches you in those moments when you aren’t busy DOING something.
I would suggest that there are two ways one could achieve being present so that your past does not disturb you:
The first is through distraction – continuous, unceasing, unrelenting distraction – which unfortunately means that as soon as you stop “distracting” yourself, your past will be right there in front of you. There are many things both good and bad that we humans use for this purpose. Some can lead to serious consequences if we don’t become conscious of what we are doing to ourselves.
The other way that you can achieve being present is to practice living in the now as much as you possibly can. This does requires a recognition, a deep recognition and acceptance, that your past does not exist right here in this moment. Not easy to do when it can sometimes be just one image, sound or thought away!
One of the ways we can regularly practice bringing our presence to help us let go of the past is through meditation. However, there are limitations to this because we cannot remain in meditation forever – even though it is actually a very powerful tool to create mental, physical and emotional peace for us.
Wayne Dyer spoke about the fact that you have to “Give up your personal history” and that we can only do that by turning to face it, process it, accept it, and come to know that it was a part of a greater plan for our lives and then we just have to bless it and SET IT FREE.
This is a very important precursor to being able to practice the Power of Now and bring yourself right back into this moment anytime you are struggling with a past or future moment in time that does not serve you or exist in your NOW.
Beyond that, if you can find a way to appreciate something about your NOW moment such as engaging with something that you enjoy, or brings you comfort, joy or peace – you may find that you are building more and more enjoyable NOW moments and that these new moments will then help you to see the truth that “your past cannot exist in your presence” and that this is indeed a very powerful technique to bring peace into your life.