Looking back has never been my strong suit. On the rare occasions when I do take a moment to remember the past, the review is usually littered with second guessing, some regret, and a general distaste for the experience.
It’s not that my past is such a train wreck that I am compelled to avoid it. Rather, I have cultivated in myself over many years a committed focus on the present moment. Almost fifty years ago, I acquired a copy of Be Here Now (published by the Lama Foundation, 1971), an exposition on spirituality, yoga, and meditation written by Ram Dass (born Richard Alpert), the American yogi and spiritual teacher.
This book was a seminal influence on a teenager immersed in mysticism and the occult, seeking to understand a world that seemed to categorically reject him and every aspect of his life.
Over the intervening five decades, I have incrementally made this approach to mindfulness a central tenet of my life experience. By focusing on the present moment, minimizing the amount of time and energy I spend on remembering the past and projecting the future, I have found a version of contemplative peace that most of us rarely engage.
I’m not suggesting that I have somehow become a “perfected being.” Far from it. I suffer, as most do, with self-doubts, insecurities and feelings of inadequacy. However, I can say with certainty that embracing Ram Dass’ messaging has made such challenges infrequent and easily dismissed.
Now, my bouts of “looking back” are usually triggered by conversations with my eldest son, who retains an abiding interest in his own past experiences and often queries me about my memories of shared events from his childhood. When prompted, I can usually dredge up some semblance of recall, although I’m usually unable to provide the level of detail or rationale he’s seeking. I’m sure my lack of interest in my own past is quite frustrating for him.
Now that I’m halfway through my seventh decade of this life, I am even more convinced that “Be Here Now” is where I truly want to be.