By: Jeremy Edwards, OBOD Druid
“Do not dwell in the past. Do not dream of the future. Concentrate the mind on the present moment.” Buddha
I believe Buddha had a point when speaking about our mindset. We cannot change the past, so dwelling on our mistakes or failures can only lead to heartache and needless suffering. What if you could change the past? What if you were granted the ability to return to a moment in your life or a moment in the course of human events and change one thing? What would it be? The people who answer “nothing” would be the most content and have the most inner-peace.
To answer this question for yourself, you first have to understand what “life” is. Life is a series of ups and downs; lows and highs; pitfalls and promise. Life is more than our fleeting existence on this world. Our life and our choices are interwoven into a universal tapestry containing threads of every else’s lives. Your actions and your words have a profound impact upon the lives of those around you and, by extension, the lives of everyone around them. Life is as a pebble tossed into a lake; the ripple effect can only extend outward, but let us concentrate on the analogy of the tapestry.
Every tapestry is unique because tapestries are made out of individual threads. Each person’s life makes up a tapestry containing the threads of their life. These threads are the actions and consequences that occur from the most mundane to the most profound. For instance, you could choose to wake up at 6:30 in the morning and die in a car accident, but by waking up at 6:31, you would avoid the accident completely. There is a saying that “no man is an island” and with that thought in mind, no tapestry is a universe unto itself. When we interact with others, threads from our own tapestry interweave with threads from another person’s tapestry, connecting our lives.
Going back to the question, then, if you had the ability to return to a point in time in either your life or the life of someone else, would you make any changes or would you allow events to unfold as before. Once, I would have answered this question with a resounding “YES”. There are many things I would have once changed, if given the chance – accident and personal violence which have affected my relatives, for example and untimely bereavement for myself would make the top of the list, however, that would not necessarily be in the best interest of anyone because those events were pivotal to events, which occurred afterward.
Changing an event in the past is akin to pulling a loose thread out of a tapestry. When you see a tapestry, sometimes a thread has broken and is sticking out. It looks bad and makes you want to pull that thread out, but if you do, you cause a chain reaction, which can destabilize the integrity of the tapestry and cause it to unravel. Without the loss of my first son, would we have chosen to have another? Everything my second son has done and every life he has touched would be changed. I can’t bear the thought that he might never have been.
One telling example, though, is the most powerful event in the life of my family. Twenty-Five years ago, my mother and sister were involved in a head-on collision with a man who was traveling on the wrong side of the road. Doctors believe this wreck acted as a catalyst for my mother’s Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyalgia and Lupus. You can imagine the far-reaching effects of such a catastrophic accident, stretching forward through the years. One result was that I no longer had money to attend college. I dropped out and found a job with a local company. Three years later, I married my wife and we had a little boy. I received a job transfer to North Carolina a few years after that and after a series of other events now work in a job that will pay for my retirement and my son’s college education.
If I had a chance to stop my mother’s car accident, these events would not have happened. I would have stayed in college, never met my wife and would be working as a journalist instead of a computer technician. Who knows what I would be doing now, with the economic turmoil that has occurred in the last 15 years. Everything in my life has occurred because of a chain reaction caused by another event in my mother’s past.
IF we had the ability to go back and change things, would we have the RIGHT to do so? I live by the mantra that I will never ask anyone to do something that I am unwilling to do myself, so I am willing to expose my life, thoughts, pains, fears and struggles, if it helps even a single person reconcile some of their own questions or struggles. One of the most powerful changes I made in my life, while going through the OBOD coursework, was that of letting go. I let go of anger, pain, regret, resentment, malice, hatred and most importantly, that annoying question of “what if”.
I could talk about my traumas at work, and the pain, anger, resentment, hostility and want of revenge that I felt, but never followed through on. Through this process, I let it all go. Everything. Once that was gone, once I was clean again, I felt vulnerable.
Exposed. But I could now look in the mirror at myself and truly see myself. I could finally love myself, regardless of my mistakes or sins, because I had forgiven myself and those who had hurt me. It was like a lead weight had been removed from my shoulders. I want to share this experience with others, but I don’t want to force someone to that point until they are ready. That’s something I learned in the Druid grade. We are keepers of knowledge and mysteries, and it is our obligation to share our insights with others, as is appropriate.
When I entered the Bard grade, I was a different person than I am today. Bard grade revealed me for the first time and allowed me to see who I was. Not to change it, but to understand myself better. I became like a caterpillar, naked, exposed and vulnerable. So I wrapped myself up within my studies and continued on with the Ovate grade. I had formed a chrysalis around myself, without even realizing I had done it. At the end of the journey, I came out of the chrysalis and found I was a butterfly. I loved myself for the first time in a long time and I understood that the pain I had gone through up to that point had allowed me to transform into the person I am today. I continued to grow, while in the Druid grade, but I had to learn what was appropriate to share with others.
No good can come of dwelling on questions like, What could I have done differently? What if I hadn’t said this, or done that, or treated someone like this. What if I had only been there sooner or What if I had stopped a person from doing something. A person can struggle with such thoughts and feelings so much, that they eat away at them and cause untold amounts of pain and for what purpose? We can’t go back to change it and even if we could, it’s the pain that makes us stronger. It’s the sum total of our life experiences that make us who we are.
Once a person understands this important point, they can move on to the next step of healing by forgiving themselves and others, whether they deserve it or not.