In Kabbalist thinking, one of the most pervasive means of creating suffering, particularly for oneself, is to become or remain focused in the past. Extensive preoccupation with what was or what has been creates an enormous distortion in our perception of life. We end up seeing the events around us in a way that is generally inappropriate and deceptive; therefore in a manner which can be very destructive.
Just as physically, we cannot be in two places at the same time, on a psychological level the same holds true. The cognitive mind can only be either in one place or another, not in both simultaneously. So, if our primary attention is frequently preoccupied with the past, it is simply not in the present. To be too consciously centered on what was is to be displaced from the reality of present time and experience. This displacement causes great suffering and psycho-emotional anguish from the Kabbalist perspective.
When we think too frequently and too intensely about what has happened to us in our lives, what takes shape subconsciously is the emergence of a specific life picture predicated on the past. This focus on what was, creates within us a fixed way of looking at ourselves and the world, which can become our whole frame of reference in life. By overly focusing on the past, we give more and more energy to creating a specific view of our life based on was rather than what actually is.
The Kabbalah sees the Tree of Life not only as the structure of creation, but also as the process of creation. The two dimensions, process and structure, are two sides of the same reality. What that means simply is that space-time and movement are all the same thing manifesting simultaneously. Without space-time there is no movement. Without motion, there is no time-space. Reality does not occur otherwise. Reality is the Present, no more no less.
The Kabbalist view is that Creation itself is the Now, the Present as we experience it.
The Tree of Life is the Eternal Moment playing itself out. The past and the future are not reality per se, only aspects of the Now. They are not realities in and of themselves, because our experience of life takes place in the present. Past and Future are just dimensions of that experience.
What we experience in life is not only happening to us, but it is also being recorded and internalized within. That process of storing and preserving our experiences is critical in ordering, evaluating and understanding ourselves and our relationship to life.
The problem arises when we move beyond those boundaries and get fixated mentally and emotionally on what has happened, instead of on what is actually transpiring. In Kabbalah, this shift creates great distortion, because what was does not necessarily constitute what currently is.
The present is reality. The past is merely a segment of a much broader picture. To focus on the past is to be centered on a fragment of reality, rather than on the now, reality itself. To do so produces a displacement of consciousness and with it tremendous distortion, damage and suffering that we are creating for ourselves.
Rabbi Fisdel maintains a Spiritual Counseling practice in Albany, CA working with individuals of all spiritual backgrounds and traditions, both locally and long distance. Steven has been counseling, teaching and writing for over 30 years.