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Past and Future: Two Streams of the Soul

--by Rudolf Steiner (May 14, 2012)


Thus there are two streams, one from the past and one from the future, which come together in the soul -- will anyone who observes himself deny that? -- and produce a kind of whirlpool, comparable to the confluence of two rivers.  Closer observation shows that the impressions left on us by past experiences, and in which we have dealt with them, have made the soul what it is.  We bear within ourselves the legacy of our doing, feeling, and thinking in the past. If we look back over these past experiences, especially those in which we played an active part, we shall very often be impelled to an assessment of ourselves….

We need only to remember the feelings of fear and anxiety that gnaw at our soul-life in face of the unknown future.  Is there anything that can give the soul a sense of security in this situation?  Yes, there is.  It is what we may call a feeling of humbleness towards anything that may come toward the soul out of the darkness of the future.  But this feeling will be effective only if it has the character of prayer. Let us avoid misunderstanding.  We are not extolling something that might be called humbleness in one sense or another; we are describing a definite form of it—humbleness to whatever the future may bring.  Anyone who looks anxiously and fearfully towards the future hinders his development, hampers the free unfolding of his soul-forces.  Nothing, indeed, obstructs this development more than fear and anxiety in the face of the unknown future.  But the results of submitting to the future can be judged only by experience. What does this humbleness mean?

Ideally, it would mean saying to oneself: Whatever the next hour or day may bring, I cannot change it by fear or anxiety, for it is not yet known.  I will therefore wait for it with complete inward restfulness, perfect tranquility of mind.  Anyone who can meet the future in this calm, relaxed way, without impairing his active strength and energy, will be able to develop the powers of soul freely and intensively.  It is as if hindrance after hindrance fall away, as the soul comes to be more and more pervaded by this feeling of humbleness towards approaching events.

--Rudolf Steiner, from Metamorphosis of the Soul, Vol 2


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12 Previous Reflections:

 
On Dec 6, 2016 Esperanza wrote:

 I understand perfectly and agree... but how thus must you deal with the decisions you have to make?



On Jan 29, 2015 Fear of the future wrote:

Fear is one of the greatest obstructions that strangulates the hearts and the mind of mankind. Uncertain fear of the future leads to fretfulness, addictive reactions, drowsy digestion system and even sleep deprivation.

https://www.trivedimasterwellness.com/fear-of-future-phobia/

 

On May 16, 2012 Chris J. wrote:

I like this passage in how it breaks down a fundamental facet of human experience -- that we live with the past and the future, within the present moment. The converging river imagery conveys that beautifully. As much as the next sincere seeker, I try my best to "live in the present." But I can't help but feel that's a sort of initial, simplistic instruction to follow -- like those rules we learned in math class before we discovered they were just training wheels preparing us for a more complex set of rules. So I value how the author addresses the past and future directly as legitimate streams of thought, rather than simply distractions from the present.  (I once got some lovely advice along those lines: "the future is a moment, just as the present; don't be afraid to plan ahead") And yet, ruminating on the past or future *can* indeed be very distracting from living an engaged life, or as the author says, can induce fear and anxiety. He offers dir  See full.

I like this passage in how it breaks down a fundamental facet of human experience -- that we live with the past and the future, within the present moment. The converging river imagery conveys that beautifully.

As much as the next sincere seeker, I try my best to "live in the present." But I can't help but feel that's a sort of initial, simplistic instruction to follow -- like those rules we learned in math class before we discovered they were just training wheels preparing us for a more complex set of rules. So I value how the author addresses the past and future directly as legitimate streams of thought, rather than simply distractions from the present.  (I once got some lovely advice along those lines: "the future is a moment, just as the present; don't be afraid to plan ahead")

And yet, ruminating on the past or future *can* indeed be very distracting from living an engaged life, or as the author says, can induce fear and anxiety. He offers direct approaches for each stream: from the past, learn about yourself; and towards the future, cultivate a feeling of humbleness. Don't you just love that simplicity? :) (not to be confused with simplistic--yet ;))

It's almost scientific in its approach: anything past is already done, so the best you can do with it is learn from it. The future has not happened yet, and nobody can know exactly how it will happen, so rather than make negative (or even positive :)) predictions about it, the best you can do is approach it with a sense of curiosity and humbleness. 

That last one seems really important for this time. Predicting future behavior from past experience is part of our frontal-lobe skill sets as human beings, so quite natural. But are we overusing this capacity? Are our predictions becoming straight-jacket prophesies? ​Our role in climate change, for example. Or my ability to create a fulfilling life for myself, on a more personal level.

I was in a group asking these sorts of questions recently, and one fellow was really struggling with that personal level. He sincerely wanted to change, saw how his opinionating and over-talking was preventing him from connecting with people on a deeper level. And yet, as he was talking about the problems he wanted to change, he was enacting those same problems! Talking quickly and in run-on sentences, explaining from thinking rather than exploring from experiencing ... It was a compassion-eliciting sight.

Then someone mirrored his behavior back to him, confronting him with his fork in the road, of acting out of old behavior patterns, or exploring something new, which was more aligned with his goal. He  tried again, but once again started speaking quickly, nervously.  Finally, he threw up his arms and declared, "I don't know what to do!" Then the room was quiet. And it turns out that was exactly the first step of his exploration; there was finally an opening to create new pathways of behavior. It was a beautiful moment.

That "I don't know", I think, is the essence of the humbleness Steiner is talking about. Until we throw up our hands and say "I don't know!", are we not just re-enacting old patterns that created the situations we are trying to change?  Not knowing can be seen as a kind of weakness, but here Steiner says it's not sentimentality, but reality:  "We are not extolling something that might be called humbleness in one sense or another; we are describing a definite form of it—humbleness to whatever the future may bring.  Anyone who looks anxiously and fearfully towards the future hinders his development, hampers the free unfolding of his soul-forces."



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On May 16, 2012 Riddhi wrote:

After meditating i realized my mind constantly had cravings leading to  anxiety or aversions leading to fears. Eventually practicing surrender,acceptance,tolerance,patience - I am more tranquil as compared to past. Just listing 4 simple steps that have helped me:   1.Surrendering and accepting that you have fear/anxiety 2.Being aware and putting efforts to know the roots of both 3.Fear arouse from a failure-leading to an aversion-Now if we just observe it and take failure as learning and not failure, simply observing it, not reacting to it and being  open enough to accept the result the way universe offers and having faith what ever happens, happens so that I blossom helps overcome fear , Anxiety - arouse from Insecurity-not being grateful about the abundance you already have and you crave and seek for something you don't have - so Being grateful for whatever you have and enjoying the present moment  and working hard for future help overcome anxiety. 4.Eve  See full.

After meditating i realized my mind constantly had cravings leading to  anxiety or aversions leading to fears. Eventually practicing surrender,acceptance,tolerance,patience - I am more tranquil as compared to past.

Just listing 4 simple steps that have helped me:
 
1.Surrendering and accepting that you have fear/anxiety
2.Being aware and putting efforts to know the roots of both
3.Fear arouse from a failure-leading to an aversion-Now if we just observe it and take failure as learning and not failure, simply observing it, not reacting to it and being  open enough to accept the result the way universe offers and having faith what ever happens, happens so that I blossom helps overcome fear
, Anxiety - arouse from Insecurity-not being grateful about the abundance you already have and you crave and seek for something you don't have - so Being grateful for whatever you have and enjoying the present moment  and working hard for future help overcome anxiety.
4.Eventually realizing that everything is impermanent - aversion or craving, fear or anxiety :)

As jayeshbhai mentions' work hard to spread love as if today is your last day w intense action but do not expect results do not expect things and the world to change as per your expectations'- have patience of 5000 years'

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On May 15, 2012 Natalia wrote:

 What I have come to realize lately is that such tranquility can co-exist and this how I have been practicing it. I chose to travel the path of  self love and acceptance. On this path I have what all of you have mentioned anxiety, fear, self-doubt, not deserving, self sabotaging, projecting own pain onto others, you name it, the list goes on and on. And you know what that's fine.In the process of growing up we have lost our wholeness, and we did not do it intentionally. I am not intentionally self sabotaging or projecting own pain onto others. Instead of blaming myself and feeling guilty I have set my self up on this healing journey.  I tell my self out loud i.e.  " Even though I self sabotage I deeply love and accept myself" (this from the EFT technique by the way) For my emotional healing I have decided to use the EFT. I also mediate and as you know meditation is among other things  learning  about healthy self love and acceptance. just im  See full.

 What I have come to realize lately is that such tranquility can co-exist and this how I have been practicing it. I chose to travel the path of  self love and acceptance. On this path I have what all of you have mentioned anxiety, fear, self-doubt, not deserving, self sabotaging, projecting own pain onto others, you name it, the list goes on and on. And you know what that's fine.In the process of growing up we have lost our wholeness, and we did not do it intentionally. I am not intentionally self sabotaging or projecting own pain onto others. Instead of blaming myself and feeling guilty I have set my self up on this healing journey.  I tell my self out loud i.e.  " Even though I self sabotage I deeply love and accept myself" (this from the EFT technique by the way) For my emotional healing I have decided to use the EFT. I also mediate and as you know meditation is among other things  learning  about healthy self love and acceptance.

just imagine this picture, there is a stork trying to swallow a frog and the frog managed to grab for the bird's neck with it's both hands. Underneath the picture it says : "Don't  EVER give up! Not without a fight." "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans" by John Lennon.
I hung this picture on the my path of self love/acceptance  as a reminder of "perfect tranquility " I am learning/practicing daily.
love,joy peace

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On May 15, 2012 girija reddivari wrote:
 ​A great coincidence -from  last one week am so disturbed & experienced someone next to me & convivial ,convincing me & my lonelyness -who's that?my late husband?donot know!!!!!!!

Same experienced five hours back and am a bit confused...just now i opened my mail account & read Rudolf steiner ,from metamorphosis of the soul...thanq for such a topic...


On May 15, 2012 cherry ann emanuel wrote:
 This is a present example in my present life I live in the past and can't seem to move on nor matter how humble I may become at times. The pain of the past has made me in a some what a miserable   person I complain a lot for  small issue . I can't be happy with any one .Only by myself I feel a peace and joy and then it hits me I am alone no one can't ever hurt me again. I have become selfish.The bad experiences can't go away. I  keep hurting the person who loves me and pushes him away every day. Help me  to control this feeling of pain.Help me to love again.

On May 15, 2012 Sowmya wrote:
Thanks for the excellent and thought provoking article. From my personal experience, a very minute incident that happens to us triggers a gush of feelings of fear and anxiety about the past and future. It is just a tendency of the mind to feed more negative thoughts when it is aware that there is a minute one already existing in the present moment. Once we realize this or become aware of this nature of the mind, we would acknowledge our folly in spoiling the present moment for the past or future. So "Awareness" of our mind and thoughts is the key to establishing a tranquility in the present moment.

On May 14, 2012 Veena Vasista wrote:

I am a social activist who has had a lifetime struggle with anxiety. This struggle is now coming to an end, thankfully. iJourney asks two big questions here - how to break the molds of the past and experience the uncertainty of the future without anxiety. What to say in a short space about these two subjects? I’m going to focus on anxiety, fear and uncertainty. In recent years, I’ve dug deeply into my own experiences of anxiety. I’ve done this through intellectual, physical, emotional and spiritual work. I have found that a key gateway to being able to live peacefully with the uncertainty intrinsic to life is to believe in my on intrinsic state of wholeness. That is, I now believe that when it comes right down to it, I lack nothing fundamental.   Rudolph Steiner seems to be saying that we undermine ourselves by because we respond to uncertainty with fear.  I’ve come to think that a key cause of anxiety is fear tied specifically to lack and loss.  See full.

I am a social activist who has had a lifetime struggle with anxiety. This struggle is now coming to an end, thankfully. iJourney asks two big questions here - how to break the molds of the past and experience the uncertainty of the future without anxiety. What to say in a short space about these two subjects? I’m going to focus on anxiety, fear and uncertainty.

In recent years, I’ve dug deeply into my own experiences of anxiety. I’ve done this through intellectual, physical, emotional and spiritual work. I have found that a key gateway to being able to live peacefully with the uncertainty intrinsic to life is to believe in my on intrinsic state of wholeness. That is, I now believe that when it comes right down to it, I lack nothing fundamental.  

Rudolph Steiner seems to be saying that we undermine ourselves by because we respond to uncertainty with fear.  I’ve come to think that a key cause of anxiety is fear tied specifically to lack and loss. That is, we fear we will lose something we currently have and/ or that we will never get something we want. The anxiety I’ve experienced in life has often be triggered by having a decision about something, e.g., do I take a job or don’t I. I could easily weave a narrative about which and decisions have made me anxious, focusing on the details of the choice at hand and aspects of fear tied to lack and loss in relation to material  and mundane aspects of life.

However, that would be a superficial perspective. When I look beneath the mundane details of any of the times I’ve had serious anxiety, I see that somewhere in my sub-conscious I was equating my decisions to self-worth, love and acceptance. Uncertainty generated fear because I was carrying a belief that if I make X choice and Y happened then perhaps I would either (a) not get love or (b) lose the love I have. When I say love I don’t mean romantic love and I don’t mean love from a particular person. Perhaps, the better way to put it is that I would be unloveable if I got the decision wrong – I would be lacking something that would in turn pull love away from me or prevent me from getting it in the future. It would also pull life (not literally) away from me. That is, in some instances, I think my sub-conscious was processing decision-making as a matter of life and death – not physical death, but death of my spirit. If I got the decision wrong, my spirit would be suffocated.

What I have done to be able to live with uncertainty is to let go of the belief that effectively says love is conditional and that unless I conditions right, I will not only be unloved but I will be unsafe, unprotected. I let go of this belief and replaced it with the belief that not only does unconditional love exist, but that I embody it – it is me, I am it. I am love. In this way, I am whole and I am safe. In this I am certain. And this sense of certainty that I now carry within me allows me to move through the world and embrace the uncertainties of life. It enables me to separate out events and happenings around me from my sense of self-worth, value and from my capacity to be loveable, spirited and alive.

A number of years ago, I had the epiphany that life is like swimming in water. We can choose to flail about and struggle in it or we can surrender to it, trust that it is holding us and not trying to pull us down. What Rudolph Steiner is describing as humbleness, I think of as a state of surrender.  Recently, I was swimming in the Pacific Ocean. I experienced for the first time what it is to float in the ocean without fear – to let the water hold and support me, to trust the water.

To experience the uncertainty of the future without fear and anxiety, is to surrender to the belief that I am unconditionally whole, and with that unconditionally loved.

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On May 13, 2012 David Doane wrote:

The writer says the impressions left on us by past experiences have made the soul what it is.  That's not true.  Those impressions influence the soul but don't make it what it is.  We break out of the mold of the past and the anxiety of an uncertain future by truly accepting and realizing that the past is done, the uncertainty of the future is simply how the future is, and what is real and alive is the present.  For me, my accepting lack of certainty, lack of control, and lack of permanence has been freeing.  For me there is nothing so horrible in my past or ominous in my future that I am aware of to override my present -- maybe someday there will be, and that I have some fear of, but I don't know and for now am content.  I doubt I'll ever experience perfect tranquility -- being present and accepting the uncertainty of the future brings me the tranquility I have -- I suppose being 'perfectly' present and 'perfectly' free of  See full.

The writer says the impressions left on us by past experiences have made the soul what it is.  That's not true.  Those impressions influence the soul but don't make it what it is.  We break out of the mold of the past and the anxiety of an uncertain future by truly accepting and realizing that the past is done, the uncertainty of the future is simply how the future is, and what is real and alive is the present.  For me, my accepting lack of certainty, lack of control, and lack of permanence has been freeing.  For me there is nothing so horrible in my past or ominous in my future that I am aware of to override my present -- maybe someday there will be, and that I have some fear of, but I don't know and for now am content.  I doubt I'll ever experience perfect tranquility -- being present and accepting the uncertainty of the future brings me the tranquility I have -- I suppose being 'perfectly' present and 'perfectly' free of fear and prediction would bring 'perfect tranquility,' and I'm definitely not there now.  Yes, tranquility can co-exist with intense action to the extent that the action is present, without agenda, not future oriented, not goal-directed, and simply being done for doing it.   As for transcending the weight of the past and the anxiety of the future, the extent to which I stay present does help me deal with/lessen/and sometimes even end my anxiety or worry about the future.  My transcendence is temporary and imperfect when I leave the transcendent present and come back to my anxiety or worry about the future, which I certainly frequently do. 

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On May 12, 2012 Conrad P. Pritscher wrote:

 My noticing my present experience helps me reduce anxiety about an uncertain future. I have never had perfect tranquility of any kind and I expected I never will, and that is fine with me.  Nothing is perfect. Ordinary tranquility being at-ease) can coexist with intense action.  My experience with my close friend taught me that it is okay to be terrified all the time.  The terror is okay when I notice the terror in the present and what I notice that the terror relates to a fear of the future.  What I noticed terror I frequently notice that I am causing the terror and this greatly reduces the terror and/or anxiety.  I still have not deeply experienced oneness with everyone and everything but I strongly believe that I am and that belief helps me realize that there is no separate one to be terrified or anxious.  It relates to the first few sentences of the Dharmapada: "We are what we think.  All that we are arises with our thoughts.  With  See full.

 My noticing my present experience helps me reduce anxiety about an uncertain future. I have never had perfect tranquility of any kind and I expected I never will, and that is fine with me.  Nothing is perfect. Ordinary tranquility being at-ease) can coexist with intense action.  My experience with my close friend taught me that it is okay to be terrified all the time.  The terror is okay when I notice the terror in the present and what I notice that the terror relates to a fear of the future.  What I noticed terror I frequently notice that I am causing the terror and this greatly reduces the terror and/or anxiety.  I still have not deeply experienced oneness with everyone and everything but I strongly believe that I am and that belief helps me realize that there is no separate one to be terrified or anxious.  It relates to the first few sentences of the Dharmapada: "We are what we think.  All that we are arises with our thoughts.  With our thoughts we make the world." Anxiety and terror are part of the world we make and when we notice we make it, we can unmake it. Thanks for the opportunity to respond.  Warm and kind regards to all.

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On May 12, 2012 Chris wrote:
This is the first Mother's day I have spent without my mother physically on planet earth.  This is the first Mother's day that I have a grandson  seven months along in my daughter's womb.  What a bittersweet  Now this is....I will turn 62 in a couple of weeks and have signed up for Social Security and am transcending to a sense of surrender, trust, allowance and joy.