Years ago, I had a phone call to say that one division of our business was in crisis and that in ten minutes the general manager of the market where it had taken place would brief us. It had serious implications for my boss. It looked likely that, as a result of this issue, a programme he had been working on for over a year would not see the light of day. I went over to tell him. He listened carefully, took in everything I was telling him. As soon as I had finished telling him about the issue and had gone back to my desk, another colleague of ours came over to introduce his wife and new baby.
My boss sat the three down at his desk and chatted with them as though the only thing he cared about was their wellbeing, no mention of a pressing issue, no excuses. I heard the small group laughing several times. My colleague and his family left after a short while, glowing from the attention. My boss could have been short with them, excused himself, said he had just received bad news. He didn’t because he was able to be entirely present to what was going on in their lives.
A major aspect of creating freedom in our lives is to free ourselves to live in the present and we can do this by recognising that neither the past or the present are real in the sense we might have thought they were.
What we bring from the past into our every day lives are memories and extremely selective memories at that. Our experiencing of an event is already subject to all the subconscious filters of deletion, distortion and generalisation. The elements of the event that resonated most strongly with us or which had our attention are then converted into memory.
Try doing this test to show the selective nature of what we notice.
Many studies have shown how much memory changes over time. Our minds are filled with events and happenings and people that are our own versions of them, our own personal perspective. Two people at the same event will experience things differently and will remember it differently. The extent to which the past becomes part of our present is also extremely personal. Memories that come into our present do so through our thoughts and our own internal dialogue.
Just as we can chose which thoughts to give energy to, we can decide what memories we want to energise. Think of the billions upon billions of memories that we could have – all the things that we have done, seen, heard, felt. The ones we allow to come into our present live are not necessarily representative of what has happened to us and what we have done – rather they are representative of how we see ourselves right now, of the tone of our internal dialogue.
Life is just one moment from the next and how we live in each moment is how we live our lives.