Q: In order to move forward spiritually, how valuable is it to analyze one’s past and try to learn from it for the future?

Read in Telugu: గతాన్ని విశ్లేషించడం వివేకవంతమా..?

Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev

Sadhguru: There are so many teachings and theories on the planet, one smarter than the other. The most important thing we have to look at in this context is – has the teaching worked for the person who is offering it? If it has not worked for them, it is not worth anything. If it is not good for them, how can it be good for you? On the other hand, if you see it has worked brilliantly well for them, then even if you do not agree with it intellectually, just do it, because it works. Not everything that looks great necessarily works. By contrast, something that does not look that great may work brilliantly. Someone may look out of it but be brilliant. Someone may look pretty but be out of it.

About analyzing your past – the yogic system is about keeping a distance from the past.

About analyzing your past – the yogic system is about keeping a distance from the past. The fundamental understanding is you cannot fix the past. Can you learn from the past? The learning has been happening in so many ways. You do not have to sift through the past again for that. The past impressions have found expression in the very way you sit and breathe. If you randomly check the breath of ten people, they are not breathing the same way. They breathe according to the imprints within them. In Samyama, you can observe that in seven days, participants’ breathing patterns change dramatically – not because they are consciously trying to change it, but because they learn to keep a distance from their past. Suddenly, there is a certain ease in the very way the life process is happening. Consequently, the breath changes.

Yoga does not believe in sifting through the past. Only when we want to do a specific type of work, and we are looking for a certain type of individual, we sift through the past a bit to identify that individual. You do not have to know what happened in past lives, because you are not able to sensibly handle your existing, conscious memory itself. When that is the case, digging up the past is not necessary. Keeping a distance from it is what is needed. Otherwise, you could easily get trapped in it. How much ever you think you arrive at an understanding about the past, the quality of your life will not improve.

Learn From the Present

If your interest is in life – not in a particular subject that may earn you a PhD somewhere – there is no need to sift through the past. What you have to learn, you have to learn from the present, not from the past. Especially trying to uncover subconscious or unconscious layers of memory is a serious mistake, because you will rouse devils that you cannot handle. The very fact that you are digging into the past shows that your current life is not beautiful and exuberant enough. Because you are not able to sufficiently experience what is here now, you think you will find something there in the past and improve your life. Life can always be improved on the level of activity, but if your life needs to be improved experientially, it means you are not doing well.

The very fact that you are digging into the past shows that your current life is not beautiful and exuberant enough.

So, please do not analyze your past. What is needed is to make yourself intense right now. If you burn with intensity, no matter what your past has been, it will not bother you. If there is no intensity, the past will crowd you from inside. If you are insipid, the past overlaps your present and your future. There is no need to dig up and cultivate the past. It is important that you are full “on” right now.

Your body is a product of memory, and so is your mind. To give an example, if two different creatures eat the same food, their systems will convert it into their specific kinds of bodies, simply because of the memory they carry.

The Treadmill of Memory

There is evolutionary and genetic memory in your body. Otherwise, how can the same food be converted into the bodies of different kinds of creatures? It simply depends upon the type of memory that you carry within you. The same applies to your mind. Whatever I give you, you tend to make your own thing out of it. But there is something called life – beyond your body and mind – which is just like a flame. If you let it burn with a certain intensity, all fire, all light goes in the same direction no matter what memory your body or mind carries. Life will move in the direction that you are aspiring to. But if you go by the bank of memory that you have, it will not let you move where you have to. Whatever you do, it will take you around in circles.

Your body is a product of memory, and so is your mind.

Memory is like a treadmill – it gives you a lot of exercise, but never takes you anywhere. If you want to get off the treadmill and walk on the earth, then the life within you has to burn. It is time to intensify your very way of being. In every cell of the body, there is memory. Your DNA is memory, your chromosomes are memory – everything is memory. You cannot shake it off, but if life burns intensely enough – so intensely that your body and mind cannot catch up with it – then a distance will arise. Once there is a distance between you and your memory, there is a clear distance between you and your body, between you and your mind. Then you are getting somewhere.

Editor’s Note: Find more of Sadhguru’s insights in the ebook, “Of Mystics and Mistakes”, in which Sadhguru reminds us that each one of us can make the journey from confusion to clarity, from error to enlightenment, from self-deception to self-discovery – if only we choose. Download now.

A version of this article was originally published in Isha Forest Flower March 2016. Download as PDF on a “name your price, no minimum” basis or subscribe to the print version.