Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Don’t Look Back

Greetings to all and wishes for a good start to the new year. I was at my cabin for New Year’s Eve. I did my usual ritual of writing a letter to the old year thanking it for its blessings, and a letter welcoming the new year.

It’s normal as a year ends to reflect. And considering the year I had last year, there was plenty to reflect on. Some people are surprised when I tell them that 2023 was the best year of my life. It’s true. Something shifted in my life last year that was profound, and I’m grateful for all the challenges and loss that led me to deep expansion and appreciation.

And yet, as I reflected on my blessings, revisiting the timeline through the year, pausing over some of the big events, I got a distinct message: Don’t look back. It’s over. This is now. Be here. Be all here.

That was unexpected. Why wouldn’t I want to go back over the lessons, the gifts, revelations, the joys, and even the tears? But the message was clear. Perhaps it was a recognition of how we can sometimes be defined by our past, caught in a net of endless pondering over meaning, while our life continues unattended by our awareness and presence.

The message reminded me of a line in A Course in Miracles: “The only wholly true thing you can say about the past is that it is not here.” As important as the past was, as life changing as certain events can be, it is not what is happening in this moment. We can sometimes drag our past along with us, whether traumatic or pleasurable, in ways that limit our ability to be fully engaged with our present lives.

Of course, we can’t leave the past behind if we don’t acknowledge it and honor it with honesty and courage. I don’t think the message I received was suggesting that we deny or repress our past. And I don’t think the message meant that we can’t have a treasure box of fond memories that we take out and reminisce over now and then. And it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t own our mistakes and apologize and make amends. But trying to relive the past, or change the past, or hide the past imprisons us in the past, and we will miss our lives, our precious lives that only exist in each present moment.

So I wrote my letter to 2023. It was a big year, one of those years that I will remember distinctly without having to search in my chronologically challenged memory banks. And yet, for all its impact, it is finished. I thanked this amazing year with humble gratitude and said goodbye. Then I turned my face towards the new year and said Welcome.

Have you ever watched a crab on the shore crawling backward in search of the Atlantic Ocean, and missing? ~H. L. Mencken

8 thoughts on “Don’t Look Back”

  1. Hi Galen! May 2024 be a peaceful, loving and generous gift to us all. What a great practice with your year end/beginning with the letter writing. I might try some version of that myself. And I completely agree that the past is gone and now it is time for the future to reveal itself with all its mystery and possibility. YES to welcoming the Isness of each new day. ~Kathy

    1. Thanks for the lovely wishes for the new year, Kathy. Yes, I’ve done this New Year’s Eve practice for some years now. I like the idea of saying a proper goodbye with gratitude to the year ending, and welcoming the fresh new year. I decided when I started this practice to burn the letters as an offering. I didn’t intend them to be a journal or a record.

      I like your statement of trying some version for yourself. We should all take inspiration where we find it, and then make it our own in whatever way best suits us.

      Here’s to mystery and possibility in 2024!

  2. Lovely insight Galen, Reminiscent of this poem:

    You walking, your footprints are
    the road, and nothing else;
    there is no road, walker,
    you make the road by walking.
    By walking you make the road,
    and when you look backward,
    you see the path that you
    never will step on again.
    Walker, there is no road,
    only wind-trails in the sea.
    Antonio Machado, “Proverbs and Tiny Songs”

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