Although people often bemoan getting older, multiple surveys have found that older people are happier than younger people. Perhaps this is because the process of living teaches people what is truly important about life. Usually, as we age, we finally give up trying to find happiness through shallow and elusive means. At last, we can find simple joy and earnest gratitude for what we already have, such as a beautiful planet, a lifetime of memories, and other people with whom to grow and connect.
Yet, I still see that people hang on to and struggle with difficult emotions for decades, even into their later years. These are the memories and experiences that we simply wish had never happened, the events that leave scars that just won’t heal, no matter how many years pass and no matter how much wisdom we have otherwise gained about life. These are the big emotional obstacles we face that must be vanquished, once and for all, if we are to grow to become the highest possible version of ourselves.
Your Emotions Are Not Who You Are
When I underwent deep training on Mount Moak in Korea long ago, I came to certain fundamental realizations about life and the universe. One was this: “My emotions are not me, but mine.” At first, that seems like a very simple statement, but it has profound implications for how to live life.
Most people go about life as though they have no choice about their emotions, as though they are impossible to control. “That makes me mad (or sad or happy),” we say, suggesting that our emotions come entirely from outside of ourselves. But that is not the case at all. Emotions come from within us, and we have the power to choose them.
This is not to say that our emotional reactions are not natural. Of course, our experiences can be very difficult; people can be cruel in their words and actions, and tragedy can derail our lives and leave us feeling destroyed. When something like this happens, it is natural to experience difficult feelings. The problem arises when we cannot let them go, when we make them part of who we are. By repeating to yourself, “My emotions are not me, but mine,” you can begin to see them as something that can be let go when you choose, just like you can choose to drop a ball or let go of a balloon.
Shift to a Positive Perspective to Find AcceptanceSometimes, people turn negative emotions over and over in their heads, reexamining and reexperiencing old hurts as though that will help them find the reason or the justification for what they are feeling. It’s as though they think, “I shouldn’t have experienced that! How can I look at it so it will become okay?” Of course, this never happens. You cannot solve spiritual and emotional problems through the mind.
Instead, you must accept what has happened and what you feel so that you can detach from it and begin healing. You can reach this place of acceptance by realizing that, ultimately, everything is a blessing. Even if you have a tough time believing it at first, shift your mind to an understanding that all that you experience here on earth is here for your growth and ultimate fulfillment.
Practice Coming Back to the Moment
Old emotions can be like a magnet, always drawing our minds back to them. When you notice this happening, practice shifting back to the present moment, the now. All held emotions are by their nature rooted in past experience, not in the present, so shifting back to the present shifts us away from the memories that carry the emotions. If you are completely in the present moment, the emotion will dissipate and disappear since the source experience is no longer present. If you practice this over and over, your brain will eventually rewire itself, losing the habit of returning to the old experience and emotion.
Now Is the Time
As we grow older, it is the time to grow up fully, to let go of the past and come into the full embodiment of our True Selves. Elderhood means full maturity, free from the burdens of the past. Otherwise, the flower of wisdom can never bloom. So, commit yourself to finally let go and to live free of heavy emotions and memories.
I write more on how to fully mature into an enlightened elder in my book, I’ve Decided to Live 120 Years.