(Excerpted from Let Go and Live in the Now, Red Wheel/Weiser, 2004: 1025 words)
We tell ourselves that we want a new life; in our minds we see ourselves reclaiming our right to live without limitations. We see ourselves walking away from destructive relationships and letting go of negative thoughts and feelings. And this is the very problem. We talk to ourselves about a fresh start and even plan the path we will take when things get right . . . but that’s it. We think, but rarely act. We dream, but won’t awaken to the one fact we must face if we would make a fresh start: The new beginning we long for is now or never.
There is no such thing as tomorrow for anyone who really has it in his or her heart to start over with life. There is only one place where we can hope to make a fresh start in life, and this has to be in that place where life itself is new all the time. But before we discuss where this fountain of fresh starts is found, we must grasp what may be a challenging idea: the true place of all new beginning is, in reality, neither a place nor a time.
This thought may seem a bit confusing at first but, by calling on personal experience, we can confirm the truth of it. All of us know those high hopes we have that a new relationship, or change of career, will give us a new starting place in life. But we also know, at best, that these times and places in our lives are more like the momentary burst of a skyrocket than a permanent star on the horizon. And when the sizzle fizzles, we are right back where we started from, looking to change another set of conditions and calling this a fresh start.
As long as we look for some person or a point in time as the starting place for where we will make our new beginning, we cannot succeed. What is genuinely new is not personal, physical, temporal, or otherwise conditional at all. Such places that we long for are little more than illusions, creations of one’s desires trying to douse its own fires. And this is just the point: these longings for a fresh start are promise-driven, but powerless to deliver us to where within us a new life begins. This brings us to a key lesson.
The home of the new does not begin in the fading fires of the old. It is not a continuation of passing time, but the secret ground from which these conditions arise. This teaches us that what is truly new begins only as the end of something is reached, a finding that calls to mind the myth of the fire-feathered phoenix resurrected out of dead ashes — a timeless image that amplifies the teaching that Real Life is never merely a continuation of what has been. This discovery that we must lose what was before we can have what is has meaning beyond what words can describe, but one of the ways we can apply this insight to our everyday life might look like this: We cannot plan a fresh start in life; if we want a new life we must do something new. We must act in the Now . . . beginning with calling upon the light of our new understanding to go before us. Here is what this means to us in practical terms:
The fresh start we seek appears only as our old self disappears — only as we willingly die to who we have been. There many ways to state this venerable wisdom, but the action required remains unchanged: If we wish to start our lives over new, the spiritual price is that we agree to no longer carry over our thoughts about ourselves from moment to moment. To this end, we need to see that while our habit of revisiting and then reliving past mental and emotional states may lend us welcome and familiar sensations, it also costs us our chance to know the newness of Now where our True Self resides in a state of natural peace and power.
The deliberate work of walking away from one’s past is a prerequisite for recovering one’s True Nature. But the false self will not sit quietly by as we work to break its hold on us. It may profess otherwise, but its dark nature loathes the light of Now because it is unable to enter into its newness. After all, how can it? You might as well try to take a shadow into the sun’s corona! This thought-driven desire machine only knows itself by calling up and then considering its own images of past experiences. But in the living Now there are no well-worn images of former glories or future lights — only the Spirit of New Life itself.
As we work to be in the Now and strive to leave the old thought self behind us, it will cry out something like this, “But you can’t live without me! Who will watch out for you and see to your well-being if not me?” And though it is necessary that you learn to craft your own answer to this trickster nature, this one is the enemy of all that is fresh, uncorrupted, and new. Here is one response worth remembering. Send this message out from your silently seeing heart to this deceptive foe of all fresh starts in life: “What I need, you cannot give me. What I long to see, you cannot show me. And what I hope to be, you cannot make of me. This conversation has reached its end.”
Then, remaining as awake to yourself as you can, just keep walking ahead into the new and unknown Now. You need remember only one thing as you go: if you keep the light of your new understanding before you at all times, those shadows that would keep you from making a new beginning will remain behind you. Let this truth be your guide and watch how easy it becomes to let go of all that was in favor of all that is new, true, and you.