There’s an old saying how a young man has no past so he drives fast cars to catch his future - and an old man has no future so he sits in his rocking chair trying to hold onto his past.

This has some truth to it. There comes a time when we get beyond the stage of reliving our past in actuality, and only relive it in memoirs. We either lack the energy, the money, or the interest to actually do it all over again, so we sit back and remember the good times. It’s amazing how the mind erases the bad ones.

When guests come to our hermitage to practice meditation, we ask them to leave their memories of the past and their plans of the future at the gate. They can pick them up and load them back on their shoulders when they leave. We ask them to try to be just in this very moment, every moment, at Rocksprings, where the only freedom is.

What’s wrong anyway with living in the past or planning our future? It’s great fun. Planning a vacation is almost as good taking one, sometimes even better! And what’s wrong with remembering our past? We might embellish it a bit as we get older as the stories get better, but so what? What else do we have to do when we get old other than live in our memories? But memories are bitter sweet aren’t they? Pictures reveal how time changes everything, and how we can’t really hold on to much before time erases it. Snapshots of life written on white sands with a tide rising. But there are other problems with memories and plans.

It’s not that memories and plans are bad per se, but when a person is trying to learn to meditate, memories and plans come up in the form of thoughts. We think about the past, we think about the future. Sometimes we think about the near future: (when is this damn meditation session going to end, my knees hurt) or the near past: (Wow, I just saw some brilliant colors!)

The problem with this is that when we stop to remember the colors, they disappear! When we move the mind by thinking, either about what just happened or what is going to happen, we completely miss this moment.

We take ourselves out of the moment where reality is happening, and place the mind into either a past or future fantasy. The past and future is always just a dream. The past is never exactly remembered as it actually happened, and the future, well, whatever you imagine it to be, will be different from that. The only thing that is real is the now.

When a mind is not trained in meditation, the now happens much too quickly to notice. The untrained mind will catch it after it happened as a memory, and while it is remembering that last moment, it completely misses the reality of the next. So it never lives in reality, only in images of the past. That means the mind is constantly caught in files, not originals, so to speak. Thought, all thoughts, are nothing but dead computer files. And as Einstein once observed, “Insanity (is) doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

There is never any true creativity through thinking. Thinking is a problem solver, a conflict solver, and as such is never creative. Thinking is not you, it is only a part of the mind that depends completely on memory. It is the part that creates an ego self. It can put the past together in different ways and seem creative, but true creativity is not that. True creativity happens when the mind is absent of thoughts and there is direct insight, Those are the AHA moments that we remember so clearly in our lives, usually where our life changed forever.

Why do you think writers, suffering from writers block, go into the forests and mountains by themselves? To empty their heads of all the baggage! To instill some new creativity! and it works.

When we learn to touch this thoughtless creativity, all kinds of new and amazing opportunities present themselves. No longer lost in the daze of memories, we jump off the rocking chair and dive into a mind that is as young as a new universe. No aging here. Aging in the brain? Yes, but never in the mind.

Mind is what continues after the body dies, and a mind cleared of the baggage and confusion of the past and future is a mind that continues in unbelievable ways an d to amazing destinations. This is what the sages whisper about and the contemplative saints spend their entire lives searching for - the unencumbered mind that can see eternity in each moment. The unencumbered mind that comes face to face with the ultimate.

Author's Bio: 

E. Raymond Rock (anagarika addie) is a meditation teacher at: and author of “A Year to Enlightenment:

His 30 years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Theravada Buddhist monk.

He lived at Wat Pah Nanachat under Ajahn Chah, at Wat Pah Baan Taad under Ajahn Maha Boowa, and at Wat Pah Daan Wi Weg under Ajahn Tui. He had been a postulant at Shasta Abbey, a Zen Buddhist monastery in northern California under Roshi Kennett; and a Theravada Buddhist anagarika at both Amaravati Monastery in the UK and Bodhinyanarama Monastery in New Zealand, both under Ajahn Sumedho. The author has meditated with the Korean Master Sueng Sahn Sunim; with Bhante Gunaratana at the Bhavana Society in West Virginia; and with the Tibetan Master Trungpa Rinpoche in Boulder, Colorado. He has also practiced at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, and the Zen Center in San Francisco.