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“Don’t let the past steal your present.”

A leaf scudding along, dancing in the wind, has no fear of where it will land. It will let the wind have it’s way until it stills, and then the leaf will rest and just be.

 When we are mindful and present we, too, can dance with the rhythms of life and not be swept away by it. Fears and worry can cause our life journey to feel like we are running against the wind or even worse, caught up in a wind tunnel.

 Mindfulness is not being stuck in the past or worried about the future, but enjoying the present moment. Fears based on our past experiences and worries over future possibilities shut us down. If we can live in the present, our lives can open up to so much more. Liberation from anxiety is huge.

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Ghosts of our past are those voices of fear and doubt in our heads that put us down and say things like: “Who do you think you are, trying that? You’ll never do it, it didn’t work before, you aren’t good enough, etc.” Quiet whispers in our ears that we’ve been hearing for so long we aren’t even aware of. But when we become mindful we begin to recognize that they are simply voices that we have allowed to rule us. Enter ghost-busters. The theory of neuroplasticity has proven that we can change the structure of the brain. The less we use a pathway – an old mindset – it will weaken and break off, like a path in the woods that is no longer used that eventually becomes overgrown and not visible. We create new pathways with practice and repetitions of patterns. IMG_2343

Fear is a big component of stress. Much of our stress is self-created by our mind and wrapped up in fear. While we can’t control the major stress-events of our lives, we can use mindfulness to manage the everyday worries and fears that we tend to marinate ourselves in that threaten both our mental and physical health (increasing the stress hormone cortisol, elevating blood pressure and heart rate). We can choose to keep letting the ghosts of our past put a spell on our lives, or we can choose to let them go. Often they are voices or images of ourselves that we have been relating to for years. Ghosts want to inhabit us. If we continue to listen to those voices we will be haunted by them.

In the June 6, 2013 edition of the Wall Street Journal: A Cultural Conversation with Andrea Martin, journalist Joanne Kaufman interviews Andrea (who won a Tony this year for best featured actress in a musical) about her role as Berthe in the revival of the musical “Pippin.” At 66, she is the age of the grandmotherly character, but years younger. She has always loved the circus, and jumped at the opportunity to perform a traditional trapeze routine, something she’s never tried. “For Ms. Martin, that’s meant an end to second-guessing, to turning down roles for fear that she won’t measure up.” Andrea was quoted: “I said ‘yes’ to learning a new technique in the circus world. I’ve said ‘yes’ to social events and lunches that I might ordinarily have said ‘no’ to. I’m saying ‘yes’ to things, ‘yes’ to life. I want people to invest in every aspect of who she (Berthe) is, and invest in where their own life can go.” Andrea set an inspiring example for anyone who is of a certain age – but also for all of us of any age.

Fear of failure dulls your life, deprives you of a full life experience, and can lead to depression. Fear of falling causes less movement, leading to muscle atrophy and increased incidence of falls. Fear of dying from exercise causes people to stop altogether or slow down so much they decline more rapidly.

Don’t let fears shorten or decrease the satisfaction of your life. Be mindful: See life as an adventure, embrace all its ups and downs. Accept what throws you off-course and also what sends you in a new direction. Rather than trying to resist what challenges or pain or sacrifices you are given, accept them, and be as resilient as the leaf scudding along, blowing in the wind, dancing with the flow of life.P1020516

For more on mindfulness or freeing the ghosts of your past, read “Twelve Mindful Months: Cultivating a Balanced & Fit Body, Mind & Spirit” by Carol Tibbetts. Stay on the mindful path with me by signing up, above, right, to get future blog post delivered directly to your inbox.