Past and future selves

“The past is a much a mystery as the future.”

Season 3 of Umbrella Academy

So often we think of healing or growing as resolving the wounds of the past, and maybe the present. The ways we hold on to experiences, are haunted by them, or see indications of their repetition all around us (whether that’s true or not). We think about ancestral healing as moving back through our lineage. When we do inner child work we see those facets of our awareness from an earlier age as they live in us today, one continuous identity evolving over time. If we are to take seriously the idea that energy moves freely through time, and that time is not actually linear, we would also be wise to remember that our future selves already exist, and even coexisted with those past experiences and younger selves. As we make new decisions, new timelines emerge and we don new masks along with them. Forge new identities even. Is this any more unbelievable than the Webb telescope viewing galaxies as they appeared 13.8 billion years ago? (Light is a form of energy after all).

Indeed one of the reasons I find inner child work and past life work so valuable, is because it can also help us to connect more deeply to our future selves and make more aligned choices. When we are born there are so many potential selves that could come to be. Some of this is shaped by the environment, where we live and who our parents are, our experiences and so on. And some of it is shaped by the raw materials we bring into this life. Perhaps we could say that the nature/nurture aspect applies to past lives as well. We may have had many past lives, and which ones remain most alive in our energetic body also depends on what is activated in this present life. If there was all this potential at our entry point into this life, then it is also true that there are an almost unlimited number of future selves that we may embody at various times. Just as the morning inevitably becomes the afternoon, our future selves are becoming us in every moment. You already are your future self, and yet that self is constantly changing and informed by our decisions in the now.

If this all getting a bit head-trippy that’s only natural, my conscious mind has a hard time holding these ideas too. It is only when my unconscious takes the wheel that it starts to make sense. There are lots of explanations for why this is but one I will focus on now is that to consider time in this way, is to see “the Self” as not only dynamic and fluid, but also primarily a concept that can be quite limiting to who we can become. To live deeply in the Self is beautiful of course, but it also means there are only so many future selves we are willing to consider.

In other words, we see the ones that are informed by our past experiences that we have labeled as significant and can’t fathom versions that seem so wildly different from who we are now. The dissolving of self or ego is one of the ways that psychedelics allows us to forge new neural pathways and create totally new insights into who we are.

When we apply energy work beyond this lifetime to include karmic contracts, past lives even beyond the human realm, and our future selves that we haven’t yet chosen, we open up a whole new possibility of collaboration with our own consciousness. A delicate balance of listening and responding to meet the moment (we are not the only beings in the world after all! things around us are constantly changing), and making conscious choices to resolve the patterns and conflicts that restrict our sense of being and evolving into the most vibrant version of ourselves that is currently available. At the same time we close certain timelines, making choices that change who we are in fundamental ways even as we still move around this spiral.

If you’re interested in exploring your own karmic healing on a personal and individual level, I would highly recommend reading Essential Energy Balancing by Diane Stein. While I have generally found all her books quite illuminating and helpful in various ways, I was genuinely stunned at the almost immediate shifts that have come from taking the time to work through the meditations therein. The ask is big, karmic healing requires a willingness to loosen your grip on who you think you are. The meditations themselves can maybe be done in 6 months or so but the work is lifelong. It asks what you are willing to give up to resolve these patterns, which is often things we are quite attached to. It is a hard process and requires a great depth of self compassion and confronting the urge towards a perfectionistic approach to your own healing. But the results are equally big.

I recently visited with my mom and found myself inexplicably unable to compartmentalize the experience. It was as if any defense mechanisms I had were mostly unavailable, I couldn’t help but see it as connected to this karmic release work. I found myself in a great tension, feeling it all so deeply in the moment. I thought “wow, this would have been an absolutely unlivable way to go through my upbringing.” I had a renewed respect for some of my own personality traits that I find most disagreeable, seeing how valuable they were at one time. I also saw how it was a huge drain on my energy to be so defended. It was as if I was actually peering back in time and seeing it with fresh eyes.
Nonetheless I was in some self-judgement about it that called for deeper examination, and to release myself from an expectation of near-sainthood in the face of relentless pushing. I sought to challenge that tendency to see healing as becoming a person who never falters or snaps, who can “handle anything” and always feels in control; it’s an old program that has a way of reigniting itself under pressure. Who can relate?
At the same time, feeling it so acutely moment to moment meant that not long after leaving it felt inactive. Just a memory, a difficult visit, rather than a slowly unfolding awareness that would reveal itself over days or weeks.

It helps to feel that connection with a future self who has more perspective, who can look back on this time and see the balance that I might not be feeling in the moment. Even a future self who embodies new possibilities that we can find through letting go. Why should this be any less accessible than reminders from the past? What would it mean to be “haunted” by wise reflections from the future? Not because the future is just smooth sailing but because as we get older we realize how important it is to appreciate what we currently have and practice grace with ourselves. Again, finding that balance, cycling around again so that we don’t feel consumed by grief, longing, rage, or hopelessness when it all feels so difficult.

It’s hard to overstate how overwhelming these times have become, so relentless, with barely any time to recover before the next wave. My future self doesn’t so much reassure me that “things will be ok,” as it reminds me of what’s in my direct control and what isn’t. Acceptance is not antithetical to constructive action. But forward movement with no grounding and larger perspective can easily become busywork. Another form of anesthetizing and distracting ourselves from what is to come.
My future self tells me, “so far you’ve survived every experience that’s come your way. That’s something you can feel encouraged by, that whatever happens you’ll do your best to find a way forward.” This is true for you too, as evidenced by the fact that you’re here reading this. Everything that’s ever happened has lead you here, and you are alive and there are still so many versions of you that could be realized. Can you connect to one of those versions alive in you now?

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