The past is the path we have walked to get to where we are today. In some ways, we are defined by where we come from; the person we’ve been became the person we are, and in acknowledging this we recognise the person we are now will become who we are in the future. At the same time, to live in the past (or future) to an excessive degree is damaging to our present. Reality presents itself now, in this moment – the rest is conceptual, internal and imagined. As such, as part of their project of “seeing things as they are”, Jedi must learn to dwell in the present.

Time moves in one direction; forwards. To put this another way, once something has happened, it can never be taken back. We can rectify problems, resolve errors, and remember past victories and happiness, and we can even recreate these things or change how we respond in the future. What we can never do is reach back and change our actions, or “undo” what’s done. This links to the essay I wrote on Free Will, in that our universe is fundamentally hinged upon a system of cause and effect. One thing makes another happen, and the totality of these things taken together represent the “life” of the universe, or some part of it.

It is important to acknowledge these causes. By recognising mistakes or problems we’ve overcome in the past, we gain strength in the present. We learn to move forward. If we are “stuck” by something then find a way past it, we’ll always carry that knowledge, and to a greater or lesser extent this comprises most of our learning. We face a problem, then we either overcome it or are hurt by it, and we move on having learned something. Or at least, we should…

There is a tendency amongst people to “cling to” the past, either in the form of unhealthy grudges or aversions, or in order to relive their former glories. I have struggled with both of these personally; where people have acted cruelly or thoughtlessly, I have allowed my perceptions of them to be coloured and have carried grudges for many years. I have also “lived in my past” with some of the great memories of what I did as a younger man. I wanted to go back to the places and know the people I knew before, returning to the “glory days” of my past in comparison with the relative humdrum nature of my current existence.

The lessons I have learned whilst training as a Jedi allow me to examine these things, and through them find their opposites. The people who have hurt me most, and against whom I have held the most serious grudges, were all people I cared deeply about at one point or another in my life. They are, by and large, people who I “expected better” of and the lesson here is twofold; one, it was my expectations of them that hurt me; and two, these are largely people who are generally very decent in their dealings with people. What is the opposite of the anger I feel at them? Love. Love is where I started, then I flipped to hate when one thing or another happened. Instead of this flip-flop between extremes, I must embrace the middle way; perhaps adjusting my expectations, whilst also being able to healthily and maturely express my disappointment or hurt to these people. Perhaps I could have salvaged something from the relationships I otherwise rejected, and perhaps I still can.

Thinking about the “living in the past” element of reliving glory days, I think there’s another lesson to be learned; looking through the image of the past (when, actually, I wasn’t much happier than I am now) highlights some of the things I don’t like (or maybe even hate) about my current situation, and this allows me to work on them to reach a synthesis. Perhaps I’m bored of staying in with the kids every night, and can work towards a few nights out a month. Perhaps I wish I looked better or was as agile as I used to be; I can work towards this by exercising and looking after myself more.

Looking further into this there is another lesson. I have been hateful towards people and see how this has hurt not only them, but myself. Should I love everyone? Should I be a doormat and allow the world to walk on my back? This is the opposite extreme; to give myself so fully that nothing remains, and that too would lead to suffering. Better is the middle path, between love and hate, selfishness and selflessness. This is the way of forgiveness; we acknowledge that we have been hurt and ask “what can I learn”, then move on. We perhaps share with the person who hurt us “that hurt!” without implying blame or making a judgement on their character. We can take steps to avoid being hurt in the same way again, but these needn’t be offensive or even defensive in nature – we focus on the pain, learn the cause then move forward in wisdom, forgiving the person who hurt us. This is the path of the Jedi.

Pain; yet healing.