When my husband abandoned our marriage, the shock waves reverberated for months, I was emotionally paralysed, everything I knew for certain – my husband’s commitment and love for me, his integrity and fidelity, his respect for the vows we had taken – all of it was a cruel lie. He had used and manipulated me from Day 1 and what was worse, I had allowed it to happen. I had become a broken shell of a person, my heart, my soul, my compass which I relied on to work out what was real and what wasn’t, all lay in shattered pieces on the floor, and I sat slumped in the middle of the devastation unable to move forward. I replayed the scenes over and over in my head – the other woman in his bed, his cold, uncaring, “I haven’t loved you for a long time”, but that didn’t make sense because he told me he loved me just a few days previously, he sent me flowers on our wedding anniversary the previous week, and so on and so on.
I searched the Internet for something, anything that could help me move on and I kept coming across references to a book called ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle. Reading this book has helped me to start getting past all the hurt. Tolle urges us to become observers of our minds to become aware of the negative thoughts repeating themselves continually. Take a step back from your mind and when those sad, painful thoughts happen, listen to them but realise they are not you. You are standing back as an observer watching your mind replaying the tragedy once again, continuing the pain by reminding you of what happened. Once you are aware of your mind as separate to you, every time the mind hits replay, you can say, “Oh there you go again mind!” and switch focus to the present.
John Lennon said, ‘Life is what happens, while you are busy making other plans,’ and essentially this is what the power of the now, the meaning of living in the moment is all about, it is about living now, not in the past or the future, but now, because when you think about it, the present moment is all that really exists. That pain that you are feeling by continually thinking about those awful stories from the past is draining your energy and stopping you from creating new positive experiences right now. Living in the now is about giving your complete focus to whatever you are doing in the present moment. Tolle says, “Every time you walk up and down the stairs in your house or place of work, play close attention to every step, every moment, even your breathing. Be totally present.” Every activity or task that you undertake – washing dishes, walking to the bus stop, going to the supermarket, cooking dinner – focus your attention on every moment. When your mind wanders, just say “Oh there you go again mind!” and bring it gently back to the present.
Another relevant concept in ‘The Power of Now’ is the idea of the ‘pain-body’ or lingering emotional pain. Some people spend their whole lives living through their pain-body and I know in my case it gave me a new sense of identity – for a while there I would almost introduce myself as ‘Amanda, my husband left me for another woman’. What happens is the hurt and all the other emotions surrounding the abandonment, soak into you – like dying a t-shirt or marinating chicken – and they supply you with your new identity. So the t-shirt becomes purple, the chicken becomes lemon garlic and Amanda becomes her past – the heart broken, abandoned, wronged woman. Tolle says, “Once this pain-body has taken you over, you want more pain. You become a victim or perpetrator. You want to inflict pain, or you want to suffer pain, or both.” I have often wondered how my ex-husband’s affair partner, rationalised their relationship, when she herself had been the victim of an unfaithful husband. Maybe this explains it - her pain-body drove her to become a perpetrator so that she could inflict the pain on me that she had suffered in her own marriage.
According to Tolle, the way to be free of your pain-body is to observe it and be aware that it exists. Stay present and understand that the emotional pain was part of your past, it does not need to become your identity. I am now Amanda, awesome mother of two, gym member, knitter, reader, home decorator, dressmaker, blogger - I am whatever I am doing right now because my attention is completely focussed on the present moment, which is all that really exists.
Nobody has to be defined by their past, and nobody can predict their future, the now is all we have. Tolle says, “All we have at this exact moment is something that needs to be dealt with or accepted. That’s it! Why make it into a problem?” Recognise that you don’t need to suffer the pain anymore, you don’t need to be stuck in your past, let go of it and the negativity, and choose to live completely in the present by becoming an observer of your mind and your pain-body and giving whatever you are doing your complete attention. If you are having obsessive thoughts about your marriage breakdown, I would highly recommend reading the ‘Power of Now’ and taking on board the idea of staying present.