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What the Past Has to Do with the Future

For a long time, I was focused on the future. It was my job. I spent two decades working as a futurist. I consulted with corporations, foundations, and social movements to decode cultural cues and determine where the wind would blow next. I helped big businesses innovate ahead of the curve; social movements predict where the public’s attention would land next; and gave entrepreneurs and artists the language to talk about their progressive work in ways that the dominant paradigm could embrace.

Over many years, I developed a keen sense for our collective stories and cycles. I had a sense for the past, but my paycheck was tied to my ability to predict the future.

Then I realized one day the deeper truth in the words of Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I had long thought this was simply a reprimand to humanity to not make the same stupid mistakes over and over again. In a sense it is that, but it also contains a mystical truth. Until we process (remember) the pain and suffering from the past and accept that it is with us NOW, we will continue to find ourselves presented with similar situations (repeating) as opportunities for integration and growth.

One of my favorite mystical teachers, Thomas Hubl, calls karma postponed energy. “In the mystical understanding…karma means that I postpone energy from one moment to another. I cannot process the experience fully and therefore I take a portion of the experience and pull it into the next moment. Karma is postponed energy that life needs to process later.”

Karmically, we have much unprocessed pain, suffering, fear, grief and shadow on this planet, and we keep postponing the integration. We have massive collective wounds around the feminine, genocide, slavery, ecocide, the loss of indigenous wisdom and culture…the list is long, intersectional, and haunting. That’s the bad news. We’re finally becoming aware that a race to the future with blinders on is not going to get us out of this mess. We can not outrun the shadows of the past. We must stand and face them; shining the full light of our awareness and compassion into the darkest corners. Facing the truth is hard and can be ugly. Anyone with any life experience at all knows this.

The good news…and truly it is beautiful news…is that all of it is coming up now to be healed. when we clear these wounds, we make space for the future to download in us. I like to think there is a supreme, guiding intelligence that is giving us a prod to deal with our stuff because it’s time to grow up, time to move on to bigger and better things. And in the mystical sense, there is an intelligence to what comes up and when. The surfacing of shadow suggests that we now have the capacity to handle it. We can do this. And the result will be a shedding of old skins, a moving on from past mistakes, and a freeing up of collective creative energy to consciously and thoughtfully build the next iteration of culture. Presumably, as we get healthier and more whole, we will be better able to create a sustainable, integrated, evolved culture superior to the dark age we are currently in.

My work these days is about this present moment and all it carries within it; including what we call “the past” and what we see as “the future.” I work daily on my own personal trauma and choose projects where there is a willingness to explore the unexplored aspects that need to be healed before the future can come in. This is the key to innovation: deep healing.

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