A couple on a park bench over looking the horizon with his arm around her. In love
April 4, 2024

Journey Back in Time: Explore Your Progress Through the Lens of Mindfulness

By John

“Reflecting on our journey is like looking in the rearview mirror of life; it helps us appreciate how far we’ve come and gives us perspective on where we’re headed.”



Imagine yourself sitting on a park bench on top of a hill. Look out as far as you can see. It is a beautiful day. A clear blue sky. As you look, watch all the comings and goings of isolated cars travelling on the distant roads. Imagine that you are sitting with someone close, maybe a friend, or a loved one. Both of you are enjoying the view.

As you read, I want you to feel that both of you are just “being” together. As you enjoy this ‘just being’ feeling, cast your mind back over your life. Imagine, the further the distance you can see of the over landscape, the further back down memory lane you can go.

Personally, I do not think, we do this often enough. I think we hold ourselves back and resist looking back, because we may have to face some truths that could be hard to take.


I think we fall into one of these mental traps, which we set for ourselves. These traps prevent us from looking at ourselves truly and honestly. Here is a little list that I produced, have a look, and see if you agree:


  1. The comparison trap: We often compare our progress to others or to a self-inflated version of ourselves, leading to feelings of inadequacy or disappointment. In the present moment, we avoid this by keeping up with the Jones’
  2. Full of regret or guilt: Reflecting on past mistakes or missed opportunities can trigger feelings of regret and guilt, making it challenging to appreciate our progress. In the present moment, we undervalue our achievements and wish we had done more.
  3. Living in the past: Longing for the past or romanticising over previous experiences can overshadow our recognition of personal growth and achievements. Reliving an experience that was ‘perfect’ or ‘just right’ is only a state of mind that has dominance.
  4. The past is too painful: The sheer volume of painful past experiences and memories can be overwhelming, making it difficult to assess our progress objectively. The effects of bad experiences build up over time. They are silent and creep up on us like a stalker in a dark alley.
  5. Failed before, fail again: Fear of repeating past failures or not living up to past successes can create anxiety and self-doubt, hindering our ability to acknowledge how far we’ve come. Lack of confidence is the elder brother of ‘ not good enough’ and twin of ‘insecurity.’


The only salvation is to realise these are just mental states. They exist only within our minds. They manifest as actions and deeds, but by focusing our attention on them, we can pull down the house of cards, leading to a brighter future.


Recognising the Need for Reflection

A woman in a white dress sitting cross legged looking out over a valley

A woman in a white dress looking out over some woods, that is down in a valley

Just imagine what would happen if you did sit back and just have a good old-fashioned look at what has happened and how far you have come. Take a moment and consider:: would it be so bad,

so harmful? Let ease into this gently and ponder on the big players in the mindfulness world.


  • Mindfulness helps us to become more aware of our thoughts.
  • Mindfulness helps us to be grateful for our past, even the painful times.
  • Mindfulness helps us to learn from our mistakes.
  • Mindfulness helps us to strengthen our resolve when dealing with setbacks or emotional triggers.
  • Mindfulness helps us to stay present, keeps us grounded, and allows us to appreciate our journey.


It all sounds lovely, doesn’t it? What an ideal state to be in. However, practising mindfulness on a regular basis can be like eating Marmite—you either love it, or you hate it.

There is an expression ‘know yourself’, written on the wall at the Temple of Delphi, and you will find any self-respecting Gnostic quoting it. It means to look within you for your answers. No more, no less.

As simple as that sounds, putting it into practice is much harder. The feelings that arise can cause pain, and the body’s default motive is to avoid pain. Since ‘comparing ourselves to others’ is one of the traps, let us use it positively.


Maybe these examples will bring something to the surface.

Sarah feels stuck in a cycle of comparison, constantly measuring herself against others and feeling inadequate despite her achievements. She wants to break free, but this mindset holds her back. She wants more, but her only measuring stick is the achievements of others and how she compares. She can easily feel good about how good it must feel for them but struggles to associate that feeling to her own life.


James regrets past mistakes, and the guilt is stopping him from forming meaningful relationships. He did have troubled teenage years because he was ‘too rebellious’ in some circles and ‘immature’ in others. He found it difficult to live his life in the way that was ‘expected’ of him. This caused him to be selfish and self-indulgent in later life relationships. Now, he feels, this is who he is, and is unable to make solid changes without people ridiculing him.


Emma is overwhelmed by the memories of her childhood. She struggles to make sense of her world because her mind is too busy and desperately needs a break. She had overpowering parents, who, from an early age had the perfect career in mind for her. However, she did not want the same as her parents did, but she did not want to upset them. For years she tried to ‘force herself’, eventually breaking down when she found herself repeating the same pattern with her children.


It is clear to see the traps that we fall into when we are looking into someone else’s life. We do not even give ourselves a thought, because the biggest trap of all, is the idea that this is how it is, because that is how it has always been.

What we need is a simple and effective process that will not hurt us, not harm us, and not cause us loss. We need to grow, to learn to embrace how far we have come. Doing so will increase our self-confidence and our trust in our own ability to overcome issues effectively.


Embracing the Present Moment.

Let’s get into it. What is mindfulness, and how can it help us? Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of your thoughts in the present moment. It is not passive wishful thinking, nor is it daydreaming. It is active awareness as you are doing something.

Doing something is a broad term. It covers all actions, all verbs, shall we say, but it also covers the activities not normally associated with ‘doing something’

Sleeping, for instance, is doing something. At its most fundamental core, sleeping is how the body rests, repairs, and cleans house.

Thinking is doing something. Thinking had been quoted as being the hardest work of all but some historically great minds.

Consider listening. Submissively active or powerfully passive. Listening not only uses energy in the present moment but also in the future as it joins forces with remembering or application of knowledge.

Doing something does not have to have movement. The body can still be doing something when it is still, as can the mind. Sitting in Silence is the practice of this.


Less speed more haste.

When I lived in the Buddhist monastery, I was assigned to the kitchen. My job was to help the head chef prepare lunch for around about eighty to one hundred daily visitors. We had to take into consideration that people had various dietary needs, but everyone who turned up had to be fed. We did not take bookings, but the head chef’s experience gave him a good idea of the Thai dishes to prepare.

My job was to prepare the vegetables. Simple right? I have a family and spend plenty of time in the kitchen. Those who work in the industry know that a home kitchen is not the same as a commercial kitchen. In my ignorance, I thought, “I can manage at home, Just scale up.”

To begin with, I thought that there was a sense of urgency because we had a ‘sit down time’. A time when everyone would appear all at once. I would chop the vegetables as fast as I could. It was not long before the head chef warned me to:


  • slow down (for my own safety)
  • begin to think about what I was doing.


Naively, I ‘was thinking’ about what I was doing. I was chopping vegetables, without chopping off my fingers.

As I looked over to another Precept, who was always quietly smiling, I began to see that there was “another type of thinking about what you are doing.” She had a knowing smile and always seemed to be enjoying the moment. The task itself, chopping vegetables, was dull and I could not wait to finish it. To her, it was essential because she was experiencing a different awareness. She would experience the layers of lessons, found in a single moment, that is only experienced by someone who is one step further along the road than I am.

This was like a discovery for me. It was like I found the golden egg. I began to slow down and became more aware of each cut of the knife. Instead of mindlessly chopping, I was exerting just the right amount of pressure to make a single continuous cut. I began to visualise the cut before I made it. It sounds silly, but when you slow down time, more is revealed.

This is not “drag your heels”. By bringing your awareness into the moment, the moment feels extended and reveals what is out in the periphery.

In the film The Matrix, special effects teams created the famous bullet time sequence. They show the ripple effects in the air as a bullet is shot from a weapon. (Consider the slow-motion dojo fight scenes between Neo and Morpheus.) This is a good way to view your awareness. Regardless of what you are doing, you will experience your special effects.


Section 3: Letting Go of Comparison and Regret

That is fine for current activities, but how can we apply these ideas to the past?

We believe the past, is the past. That it has gone. Yet, if that were truly the case, why does it have such an impact on us? It may well be gone and be ‘not now’, but the effects of it are still here. Still causing some issues that we must eventually deal with, even if we have been putting them off.

For some people, their default mindset is one of negativity. They fear the worst. Others are positive. They embrace the best. It is fair to say, that most people would claim to have had dreams, goals, or ambitions in the past. For instance, an ideal job, a partner, a house, or more money may not have been realised in reality.

Remembering old dreams, goals, or ambitions is not a bad thing. Everyone should want to be more and grow. What is sad, though, is when someone has had them, failed to achieve them, has regrets about them, then punishes themselves for not attaining them.

I understand that life can throw an unexpected curveball. Sometimes life does not pan out as we planned. Situations do come up as circumstances change. Mindfulness is never about wanting, wishing, or not getting. It is always about viewing.

How we view the past is the most important thing. The way we look at our progress is a clear indicator of where we are headed. If we continue forward with an avoidance mindset, then we will only repeat past habits. If you change how you view the past, you stand a better chance of changing your future.

Everyone has skeletons in their closet. No one is perfect. You would not be you. If you were perfect, you would probably be boring. I like to consider my imperfection’my’spice of life’. Just as ‘fat is flavour’, in cookery terms, then your idiosyncrasy is the spice of your life.

It naturally follows, to eliminate worry, stop comparing yourselves to others. Let go.

No matter where we turn, everyone does it. Everyone compares. To everyone else:. We look on, noticing what they have, what they do not have, what we have, what we do not have. How new their car is. How bigger their arms are. How flatter their belly is. How tanned they are. We are creatures of comparison. It is non-stop and will drive you nuts.

Fortunately, we can do something about it. We can get out of our own way and take the pressure off.


A simple technique by way of a thought exercise may be beneficial.

Let us say that the idea of allowing someone to get close is an issue for you. Let us say, you have trust issues because you got hurt by someone in the past. You know you could be missing out. But instinctively you can not do anything about it because that is just who you are.

Okay. First of all, you are awesome. You are fabulous, despite what that little voice says. I guess you would like to be more awesome and more fabulous.


Try this, and see how you go.

A woman in a green dress walking on the beach

A woman walking alone on a beach in a green dress and a white hat. It looks windy


  1. Mentality state the issue. In this example, “I have trust issues because…” Fill in the rest yourself.
  2. Imagine the cause behind that statement. If it is a person or an event, imagine it.
  3. Then slowly bring it into your awareness to focus on part of the issue, and use your imagination to wash over you.
  4. This could be the feeling associated with the past event, the feeling felt when getting close to a person. It could be anything that you can fix your attention on.
  5. Some people like to convert feelings into colours or images that they know represent the feeling. It’s a personal thing.
  6. Do not try and fix it. Do not try and resolve it.
  7. Picture this to get a feel for the idea. Remember a time when you were at a beach. Recall paddling at the water’s edge. Picture the incoming tide washing over your feet. Then watch as the tide recedes out again. Replace the tide with a feeling and observe its flow.


Reflecting on Personal Growth

Now we have a simple technique we can use; shall we apply it?

Many people like to think that they have come a long way. They probably have. Some people think the opposite and wish they had gone further than they have. Once again, it is not about how far

you have or have not travelled, but how you view how far you have come.

No one I know, is in the same place they were five or ten years ago. People may be in the same situation, but if nothing else has changed, their awareness of that situation has. Even if there is not much physical difference, there will be a mental difference. In this respect, you may not be fully aware of how far you have actually come.

When you look in the mirror, and compare your reflection with an old picture, you see the differences in how you look. Mental changes are harder to see, though. They say that your palate matures with age, that you like to eat things now that you did not like when you were younger. The same is true for your mind. The beliefs you have now, may not be the ones you held when you were younger.

People think that they have not changed. They have. In some way, they have grown. People overcome hurdles and obstacles all the time. You can, deservedly so, give yourself a pat on the back. You have done well.

For some reason, though, we do not see it that way. People consider achievements not as achievements but as everyday troubles that have to be sorted, just to get to the end of the day. Consequently, they do not realise how naturally strong they are and undervalue the journey. With practice, mindfulness will open up your past experiences and show you a deeper sense of worth.

This leads us to the understanding that consideration and reflection are not all bad. In time, we begin to practice mindfulness and make it an active part of our day. We begin to see issues in their true form.

Some say these lessons are meant to make us grow. Others say they make us stronger. I’m not too sure, because I have not yet reached the end of the journey either. Regardless of the reason for them, you will feel better off because you spent time with yourself.


Cultivating Clarity and Resilience

This all seems like a lot of hard work. Hard work might make us dislike ourselves even more. This notion comes from the little voice, which does not know better but likes to have its say when you take the time to look at yourself.

I am not saying that it will be playing sailing. I am not saying that you might open up deeply suppressed emotions. I am saying that we can drop any baggage that we have been lugging around, and begin to feel a lot lighter.

I know you want to change. I know you have tried before. The reason I know is because you’re still here. I am looking for answers. You are just like everyone else. You want to be stronger. You want more clarity. You want to surge forward and achieve whatever it is you want to achieve. So do so.

This may feel like going backwards. As you gain confidence with mindfulness practices, understand that you will be more present with yourself. You’ve been through a lot. There may have been, not just rainy days, but full-on storms. Yet, here you are. Surviving. Imagine what you could achieve if you wholeheartedly embraced mindfulness.


To sum up, then,

  • You are awesome.
  • You are fabulous.
  • You have your own spice of life about you.
  • Everything you need can be found within you.
  • You have come so far, and have grown so much, you should be proud of yourself.
  • Use the technique in any way you can and let us know how you got on below in the comments.


Closing Thoughts:

One last thing, if you know anyone, who would benefit from this insight, please share the article. Better still post it all over your socials, (as your good deed for the day.)

Take care, speak soon.