I had this realization, while I was in the shower, about a week ago. The gist of it was this: I was in the shower, standing there under the water, and I was thinking about a phone conversation I had had a few minutes earlier. I was in the middle of thinking about this conversation when I noticed that I was actually in the shower. I paused in the middle of the thought and said to myself, wait a minute, I’m in the shower now.
In this split-second pause, it was clear to me that while I was thinking about that phone conversation a moment earlier, I wasn’t just in the shower, I was actually still having the conversation, right then. The conversation wasn’t some event that was stuck in the past, over and done with and frozen and unmodifiable. The conversation, as I thought about it, was just as much in the present as the shower was, and in fact no longer existed in any other moment but the one I was currently in. The conversation wasn’t sitting back there behind me somewhere in a perfected form I could only partly access, it was right there before me, happening, even though I was doing something else. It wasn’t just a static thing I was remembering, but something that was still active and changing as I thought about it.
Thinking about all this a little more, it becomes obvious that not only is that phone conversation going on right now as I bring it into mind again, but everything is.. my entire history is in each moment. And every moment, my history is changing. Just as there are many possible futures, there are many possible pasts. There isn’t just this one immutable life story I can plug into or out of at different points in time. It sounds silly, but it is literally true that every breath is a brand new life: a new past, present, and future all in one. And this is why we cannot be forever doomed by the mistakes we’ve made and the traumas we’ve suffered. It isn’t possible, because those mistakes aren’t really the stable anchors we think they are. Or, to put it another way, they are only stable in as much as we think they are. All you really have to do is let go of the belief in this false stability, and you’re free.