You probably know that the negative unwanted circumstances of our past prevent us from moving forward with our lives or even from being present with what is. But an often-overlooked fact is that our fantasy about what we wished would have happened also prevents us from moving forward with our lives and from being present.
If we build our life on fantasies or if we cant escape our fantasies because we keep trying to make them come true in our now or our future, we are stuck in life. We have no stable foundation for creating a life that we enjoy. We continue to try to turn our parents into what we wish they would have been, we continue to try to try to achieve the successes that we wished we would have achieved. This is a painful state of desperation. It is “living in the past” to the exact same degree as we do when we are haunted by the reality of what actually happened. Subconsciously, you think that if you achieve that fantasy, your past will be remedied and healed and you can be complete. But if we have any hope of healing, moving forward or being fully present with all of our energy in the here and now, we must stop trying to chase and create that fantasy. Instead, in order to work with what we identify as “real” we must bury our fantasy of how we wish the past had gone. For that reason, I want to introduce a process that will help you immensely. To begin this process, I want you to close your eyes and connect with your heartbeat. If it helps, place your hands over your chest and imagine it beating. Do nothing more than listen and feel for it’s pulse. Breathing in and out deeply and naturally. Continue to do this for approximately 4 minutes. When you feel yourself settling into the experience, think back on the parts of your past that caused you pain. Instead of deliberately going looking to remember specific events, let them surface of their own accord, trusting that the ones that surface are the parts of you which are eager to be released. As if you were looking backwards and observing over your life, where do you feel stuck? What, if you were being honest could you never really get past?
Maybe you were given up for adoption Maybe you were abused Maybe your parents got a divorce Maybe one or both of your parents did not love you like you needed to be loved Maybe you did not fit in with your family Maybe you were bullied at school Maybe you got hurt Maybe you got sick Maybe you missed a crucial opportunity Maybe someone who you loved, died Maybe you struggled for money Maybe you didn’t feel seen or significant Maybe you felt jealous because of what someone else had Maybe you lost a job or didn’t get a job you desperately wanted.
I want you to take out a piece of paper and write down these past events and think about how you would have wanted them to go differently. I want you to write down your fantasy for how you wanted your life to go and how you wanted the people in it to be. Here is an example:
- I was born in France where I was surrounded by artists and geniuses. I felt like I belonged.
- We lived in a Venetian style mansion overlooking a Parisian street full of markets and cafes.
- My mother was a creative, beautiful, stylish, warm and openhearted opera singer. She loved to wear long velvet dresses and she loved me exactly the way that I was. I was the daughter she always wanted. She looked at me like I was the light of her life. I remember her holding me and empathizing with me when I was upset and telling me that I could trust myself and that she would always be there with me.
- My father was a powerful businessman who made so much money that I could do whatever I wanted. He was loving and gentle towards me but he was protective and hated the idea of me growing older and moving out of his house where he couldn’t watch over me every day. He would buy me presents all the time. I remember the Christmas when he bought me a horse. It was sitting in the stable with a red bow around its neck.
- My parents sent me to a private arts school. My teachers were excellent mentors who made me feel seen and helped me to be fearless to express myself. I got to focus purely on my areas of interest and talent. I studied arts and English and physiology.
- I had a group of really close friends, we did everything together and we even wore matching friendship necklaces as dorky as it sounds.
- I lost my virginity when I was sixteen to my high school sweetheart on a camping trip. It felt like the closest I have ever been to someone in all my life.
- I went to Harvard University and graduated when I was 25 years old with a medical degree. I set the world on fire with my new theories about integrative medicine.
- I was healthy and I was excited to be alive.
- I was on a ski trip in Alaska when my high school sweetheart proposed to me. We were at the top of a mountain in a ski lodge when I turned around and noticed that he was on one knee holding a beautiful engagement ring. I said yes and the whole room went wild. We called everyone to tell them. His mother cried and said “finally”.
- We had a perfect beach wedding, our families (who were already friends) were so happy, the celebration lasted long into the night.
- I opened a clinic, where I employed so many other physicians that I could take time off.
- So, after a year of marriage, we decided to have a baby.
- I got pregnant that very same month.
- I surprised my husband by making a cop pull him over on his way home and pretend to give him a ticket, but giving him the pregnancy test instead.
- The pregnancy was a complete joy. I stayed at home to write and publish my first book. It was completely stress free.
- I had a natural orgasmic birth; in our own home with a midwife it was one of the best days of my life. I felt like I experienced the power of my divine felinity for the first time. It was a boy, we were in heaven.
- The three of us were so connected that I felt a sense of belonging that was even deeper than the closeness and belonging I felt with my parents growing up. And so on… Add as much to this fantasy past list as you wish. Some people will only write one page, other people will be drawn to write pages upon pages.
When you are done writing this list, I want you to close your eyes again and imagine this fantasy in depth. For example, Imagine your parents keeping you instead of giving you up for adoption. Imagine your parents deciding not to get a divorce, but instead loving each other Imagine your fantasy father exactly how you would wish him to be Imagine your fantasy mother exactly how you would wish her to be Imagine you taking that opportunity and becoming an instant success Imagine yourself being popular in school and the other children including you and wanting you to play Imagine yourself as rich as a prince or princess Imagine your life exactly how you would have wanted it to be And then, imagine a coffin or a funeral pyre. One by one, imagine laying each fantasy in that coffin or on that pyre.
If you feel like it, once you have collected everything you want to put into that coffin or funeral pyre, mentally say a eulogy, which will help you to release these fantasies. Something like “I hereby lay to rest my fantasy of the mother I wanted. It wasn’t in the cards for me. It did not happen and it wasn’t my fault. I am ready to release you now and live my life from this day forward; doing what I can with what I have from where I am.”
Now, mentally close the lid and place a flower on top and go through the entire process of burying it in the earth. Or light a match and imagine setting the funeral pyre ablaze and watching all of it turn to ash. Feeling grief during this process is natural. Let yourself cry if you feel like you need to cry. Let yourself sink to the floor. Let yourself get angry. Be present with whatever happens inside you emotionally, without trying to change it. And when you feel like you are ready to come back to the here and now, wiggle your toes and fingers and take three deep breaths before you open your eyes. After you open your eyes, take the sheet or sheets (plural) of paper that you wrote all of your negative experiences and fantasies on and find a secure place to set them on fire. Watch the fire consume the words on the paper, knowing that they are now released back to source. You are now free. You are no longer burdened by these past events or weighed down by fantasies that did not come true.
I know that some of you might be confused about why I am introducing this technique seeing as how I teach that mind creates reality and that you could technically manifest anything you like. The thing is, if we are completely honest, we do differentiate between our fantasy and what we know actually happened. The minute we differentiate the fantasy from the reality, we acknowledge the fantasy as not true and the reality as true. You cannot lie to yourself. You cannot actually lie to yourself that something is or could be true if you don’t believe it is true or don’t believe it could be true. Lying to yourself keeps you in a state of self-hate and self-distrust. If we keep trying to undo what was done, we miss opportunities in the here and now. We may not even see them. And when it comes to people, if we keep trying to turn them into what we always wished they would be, we are running into a dead end. We inevitably find out that we have no control over them and that they constantly disappoint us. The reality of who they really are and how they really act is constantly shattering the fantasy we have of how we want them to be.
As morbid as it is, think of being attached to the fantasy of how we wish the past had gone like trying to revive a dead body. It is much the same because we are trying to revive a dead past. How long are you going to prop this dead body up at your dinner table and talk to it and give it baths and pretend it is alive, before you admit to yourself that you know (but don’t want to face) that it isn’t alive. How long before you let the body go? How long until you decide to own up to what was and what is and grieve your losses and set yourself free to move forward with what you do have from where you actually are?
You may feel like doing this process alone, but I have also found that doing this process in groups can be particularly healing, especially if you share your process with each other afterwards and collectively burn your lists. It is natural to grieve the death of a fantasy. And so it is a good idea and healing in and of itself to support one another as you move through this process. This symbolic burial is a perfect way to put to rest the “if onlys”. After all, chasing a fantasy wreaks havoc in our lives. And it prevents the universe from bringing us the beautiful, feel good reality that we have been looking for.