A Clean Slate
Letting Go of Your Past for a Fresh Start
by Spencer Institute for Life Coach Training Graduate
Shandra Artura, B.H.S., HSM, CWC
Your past can represent snapshots of which roles you were ‘trying’ out as you grew up or a continuous stream of actions and reactions. Your past can be full of encouragement and little successes, fraught with tension and drama or challenging and difficult. For some of you, the past can also represent choices you made with positive and negative consequences, learning some lessons and forgetting others along the way. For a small few, the past can be full of shame, guilt, heartache, and pain…the sticking point that keeps you running in circles, doing the same things with the same results and prevents you from moving forward in life’s discovery full of joy, laughter, peace, love and happiness. Changing your perspective is crucial to letting go and moving forward.
A great way to allow your past to stay where it is so you can move forward to the present is to use the ‘Clean Slate’ philosophy on a daily basis. It allows you to see each new day as a gift to unwrap, a story to be written, and it can help bring light to some of your darkest days. Sure, life will get crazy and memories are going to be painful. But your personal experience can teach you perseverance and dedication while maintaining hope, love, honesty, integrity and a deep gratitude for the ‘little things’.
Living a Clean Slate kind of life doesn’t mean nothing goes wrong. It means anything can go wrong but it won’t stop you or drag you down. It means changing how you look at your life and choosing to rewrite your history every day. It means not dragging yesterday’s baggage into today and allowing yourself the opportunity to be the person you were meant to be and you want to be at any given moment, even if you aren’t that good at it yet. Living a Clean Slate kind of life also means that you attend to the past’s scribbling’s BEFORE erasing and starting fresh for today.
It is not only about letting go of your own heartache, disappointments, loss and pain. Letting go means acknowledging the ways in which you’ve hurt or disappointed others. There’s something that etches deep onto your life story about wronging people, being dishonest, intentionally or maliciously hurting someone, being ungrateful & selfish or even hurting yourself. Those marks don’t erase as easily on your slate. Sometimes we think that only someone else’s forgiveness can erase our wrongdoing. But it’s usually our own guilt, shame and reticence forgiving ourselves that sabotages our efforts at happiness and leading a fulfilling life. So, what can you do?
Here are 9 Ways to live a “Clean Slate” kind of life.
Meditate. By becoming present to this moment, we allow ourselves to step out of the past and into today. Meditation requires letting everything ‘be as it is’. A quiet contemplation, a repeated uplifting mantra or just breathing full deep breaths can bring your mind and body together in unison to connect with the ‘now’. You will then find in the ‘now’ is where your best ‘self’ resides, bathed in unconditional love. Blanket yourself with the thought that you were meant to be, receive and express love at all hours of the day, regardless of your past actions or the actions of others towards you. This cleans your slate leaving a beautiful surface on which to write your story and can be done as often as you desire or feel necessary.
Start a gratitude journal. Studies have shown that keeping a daily gratitude journal results in higher reported levels of the positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness, and energy compared to a focus group who wrote down negative interactions, complaints or grievances. Positive writings also seemed to boost the giving nature “off the paper” because participants also reported helping someone else in need every week the study continued (Emmons & McCullough, 2003). Helping others connects us to the love that we are meant to give and receive and showing others compassion in turn is really showing ourselves compassion.
Begin each day with a clear intention of who you are today. Remember that the past resides only in your mind. You cannot reach out and touch yesterday. Nor can you prevent tomorrow from happening. All you can really do is be fully present now. Set your intention of the qualities of yourself that you want front-and-center and speak it aloud into existence. Allow yourself the freedom to shed the coat of yesterday and see each moment as a brand new gift to unwrap. Greet each moment as new and unscarred by the past. Put it in writing if you need to see it to put it to action. Say it in front of a mirror if you need to see the ‘real’ you, not the one you project or pretend to be.
Let go of trying to control people in your life and their attitudes, reaction, emotions or behavior. You can only control your reaction to other people. Your wasted time and energy can be better spent reflecting on the underlying human emotions we all revert to when stressed, angry, disappointed, rejected or wronged. By acknowledging that sometimes we feel that way too, we can allow space for them to express themselves (or act out) without reacting ourselves. When people are wronged, lied to, cut off in traffic, passed over for a raise, etc. they often blame others for their reactions and emotions. You can lead by example and respond tactfully instead of reacting in ways in which you are ashamed. Even harder is to respond from a place of compassion and love, but it is definitely more liberating.
Blame no one. No excuses. Blaming others for your situations, emotions or luck in life is disempowering. You hand over control of your happiness and fulfillment with every pass of the blame baton. Every action and step you have taken in your life led you to this moment right now. You are in control 100% of the time of your reactions and feelings associated with your situation and you always have been. You are not a victim of circumstance, nor are you the unfortunate recipient of bad luck. Your actions and choices in life, as insignificant as they seem to be, have led you to this moment. However, you will always have the choice of being an empowered person who takes the chalk, determines your happiness equation and writes your life story on the Clean Slate of life.
Learn the difference between pain & suffering. Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. You are going to experience hurt at some point in your life; rejection, hurt feelings, loss of a loved one, etc. It can be physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual. Pain is something we can change the nature of, in small ways or big ways, by blocking or ignoring or filling and giving. Suffering is the emotion of feeling powerless because you cannot or don’t know how to stop the pain. It allows the ego to identify with the pain. Ego loves to be wrapped up in identity. Suffering is something we use as a habit, as an excuse, as fuel to keep anger and resentment burning, as a weight to hold us down.
Forgive. Forgive others in order to allow you to move on. Forgiveness isn’t equated with condoning the transgression, nor does it mean all will be well afterwards. Before you forgive someone or yourself, observe any emotions that come to mind. Feel it as deeply and intensely as you can. You have permission to feel what it is that you keep fighting with. When you have thoroughly turned it over and exhausted every negative aspect to the situation, step back and see you as the center of the drama. See you as experiencing the situation just like someone waiting for a bus at a bus stop. No attachments. This is the space where you let go and let it fade from your mind. When you forgive you give to yourself. Who is the hardest to forgive? You. Yet, you must if you are to move through the current obstacles in your life and rewrite your story the way you want others to read it. Cultivate compassion and you will find it easier to forgive others and yourself.
Face your fears. Try to do one thing that scares you every day. This doesn’t mean walking down a deserted alley at midnight in a rough part of town. It means to discover what you are afraid of and why. It means finding out how your fears stop and block your progress. Work on facing the fears head on instead of shying away from them. You will see where your stumbling blocks are and may find interesting new ways of doing things just by taking a chance on something new. Remember that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Get out of your comfort zone and try something new. It keeps your slate fresh and exciting instead of dull and boring.
Love. Know that you are enough just the way you are. Love is about giving, not getting. When you give love first to yourself, you are better equipped to deal with pain and suffering. It is harder to love yourself when you feel unlovable because of shame or guilt of your past wrongdoings. Sometimes it’s because you ask yourself, “Who am I to be so great?” “Who am I to deserve all this?” Instead of faking it when you really don’t feel it, try instead to focus on just being love. Being love is the ultimate remedy for not only accepting and dealing with pain; it gives you fuel to make the decision as to whether or not you will choose to suffer. Being love also gives you fuel to say YES to your transformation. Being love allows love to flow through you, from you and towards you because of you. Being love is about connecting with everything else in the Universe and with God, finding the common thread that weaves all life together. Love just IS. Transformation happens through love when you let go of your suffering in your evolution to become who you want to be.
Pick a technique, any technique and implement it for a few days. When it feels comfortable, add another one, then another. Soon, you will see life isn’t happening TO you, it’s happening because of you. You are not destined to stay who you’ve been nor are you destined to be what you or others think you are. When you change your perspective and see that you always have a Clean Slate on hand, your life story can be written and rewritten as often as you like. This moment is ready just waiting to be written in your ‘Clean Slate’ kind of life.
Shandra Artura, B.H.S., HSM, CWC