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Burn the Boats: Let the Past Go

Have you heard this phrase, "burn the boats"? The legend is that Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés instructed his army to burn the fleet of ships they had just sailed over on so they would have no choice but to be successful in their conquest.

Perhaps unfortunate circumstances for a useful concept to arise out of, but it's useful nonetheless. A client reminded me of this when she was describing a huge life change she and her family had made. In my experience and observation, moving forward into an exciting new future often requires cutting certain ties with the past.

When we're moving forward into the next phase of our lives, it does not serve to bring the fears, regret, guilt, and embarrassment from past events along with us. We can certainly hold onto happy memories. But accepting we are constantly changing, and can be entirely different from the version of ourselves we were previously, is quite liberating.

Yogi Bhajan brought Kundalini Yoga to the West. Blending physical postures, meditation, breathwork and mantra, it's an especially potent system for clearing out negative sunconscious thoughts. He implored his students:

"Learn one thing today: Let the past go. Let it go at any cost. Those who do not forget the past, but remember the past and make it their security, will find it very difficult to have a good future."

In the Kundalini Yoga tradition, and many other lineages, people take on spiritual names to reflect their new lives. It's a signal to the subconscious that it's time to change, and that the future will be much more conscious and aligned than a past that included mistakes and negativity.

Most of us won't find it necessary to take that step. However, it is quite common to move to a new city in search of change, which is the same idea. And it is helpful to remember if you are going to really go for it with a new business, initiative, or project, you have to be all in. You cannot worry about what your friends, family or former coworkers think. If you are stuck in past habitual patterns, you will not be able to create anything new. And we certainly need new ideas and solutions during this time on planet earth.

Carlos Castañeda writes in Journey to Ixtlan:

“I have no routines or personal history. One day I found out that they were no longer necessary for me and, like drinking, I dropped them. One must have the desire to drop them and then one must proceed harmoniously to chop them off, little by little. If you have no personal history, no explanations are needed; nobody is angry or disillusioned with your acts. And above all no one pins you down with their thoughts. It is best to erase all personal history because that makes us free from the encumbering thoughts of other people. I have, little by little, created a fog around me and my life. And now nobody knows for sure who I am or what I do. Not even I. How can I know who I am, when I am all this?”

What do you think? Have you had to cut ties with previous versions of yourself in order to start something new? Are there aspects of your past you wish you could forgive yourself for? If you need support with your new venture, learn more about one on one sessions here.

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