When I was in fourth grade at Bowie Elementary School in San Angelo, Texas, I kept a messy cubby. My teacher at the time called it my regurgitating locker with papers, pens, spiral notebooks, homework assignments, math sheets and colored pencils struggling to work their way to the edge and out onto the floor. It represented my mind too full of ADHD, daydreams, equations, words, God and deep sadness even as a ten year old. Out of this mess, I wrote poetry, played guitar, hummed and then sang folk music and wondered about God. I was Shiva the Destroyer breaking down my mind and creating from it. Not much has changed in forty years.
My house is relatively neat except for one corner. In my den behind the couch, a regurgitating miasma waits for my full attention; two baskets of paper bills, a world globe, a sewing machine, stacked clear plastic containers of quilting fabrics, a fishing tackle box of beads and beading supplies, photos and the albums they should need to go into, and a fabric cutting mat -- muscle for space in front of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves of crafts, theology, fiction and gardening books.
The problem with the past is we perceive it as a regurgitating space of disorder, random experiences, joyful surprises, creative bursts and shameful moments. The past will always encroach on the present and future and it must; the past is who we were and in a universe of constant becoming, the past is along for the ride. Sure I could shove all my clutter under the table in my den, but like the past, shoving dust under a rug only masks it and doesn't solve the issues. And the future? Worry. Always worry.
The Buddha is right, one must concentrate on the present moment to explore one's divinity or from my own religious tradition, the Christ within. But what about the pesky past or the anxious future? They're always getting in the way.
A few years ago, I developed a spiritual tradition called "Tissue Prayers." Finding a comfortable position in a chair (meditation does not have to be painful to be successful!) I write on pieces of paper my joys and heartbreaks, hopes and fears, and I place them in a baggie or paper sack. Like tickets in a raffle, I shake them up. At this point I either stand and walk in a circle similar to the Labyrinth discipline or I remain seated and pick out each item one by one. I cry over it, maybe clutch the paper to my heart and when I have honored and accepted every feeling, asked for forgiveness if needed, and offered them up to the Divine Healer, I discard the paper just like a tissue. I have also been known to burn the tissue prayers and on one occasion, I buried them. Either way, my gesture serves one function; I am done with this for now. I perform this prayer discipline at the beginning of every retreat so my mind and heart can be in the present moment -- ready to receive healing in the present for the past and future.
If ever you need to clear the slate and open up your heart to healing and divine love, tissue prayers will get you there.