After more than 30 years of continuous effort to release myself from the burden of a painful past and live more fully in the present moment, I find myself no closer to these goals, in spite of having diligently practiced techniques of catharsis and awareness. Is it possible that one must pass a certain evolutionary threshold in consciousness before one can fruitfully apply these practices?
The simple truth is that it is not difficult to release your self from the burden of a painful past and live more fully in the present moment. Given the right guidance and the right understanding, tremendous transformation should occur within a year, and sometimes much less than that.
I can only assume that your approach so far has been subtly flawed and I feel the highest level of compassion for you in this regard.
More than likely, there has been a subtle or not so subtle desire to rid your self of painful memories and emotions from the past. This is understandable, but not helpful. Usually this desire is involved in the process of catharsis, with many therapists either intentionally or unintentionally reinforcing this desire.
This is extremely unhelpful. Painful memories and emotions from the past must be allowed to surface into the light of consciousness in a spirit of unconditional love and acceptance. Only then will they gently and lovingly relax and dissolve
Any attempt to get rid of those feelings or memories is a judgement of them, and judgement locks them more firmly into place. The only way you can truly demonstrate unconditional love and acceptance of those painful feelings is to allow them to be experienced and expressed consciously within you. They are from the past. You do not have to believe in them or identify with them. Just allow them expression. Allow them to be experienced within you. They will then relax. If they are truly accepted and experienced, they will dissolve, not because you are trying to get rid of them, but because you have truly owned and accepted them.
If you are angry, just express the anger responsibly. Anger is outrageous. It is not reasonable. It wants to scream and shout and cuss and swear. It wants to get even. Allow anger to express itself through you. Give it its voice, but do not believe in its story. Just give it space to express itself. Exaggerate it. Ham it up. Anger responsibly expressed and allowed full freedom leads to laughter. Anger repressed leads to violence or to illness. Anger has every right to exist. Just do not dump it on any one. It is between you and God. No one is responsible for your anger, although your anger would like to blame others. Allow it to blame. Allow it to curse. Just do not believe in it. Do not take it out on the one you believe has angered you.
It is the same with hurt. Allow the hurt feelings to surface. Cry. Sooner or later the tears will dry up, and you will feel tremendous joy and freedom. There is much more on these topics in my three books. I cannot repeat it all here.
Another thing you might need to understand is that the awakened state of Being is a pre-requisite to the healing of the past. You do not just heal and release the past to awaken into the present. You awaken into the present to heal and release the past. These two steps in the awakening process are inter-dependant and support each other. The first and most essential step is to awaken fully into the present moment. Deepen into that awakened state of Being. Become more grounded in that. I share much in my three books on how to accomplish that. It is not difficult. It is just too much for me to repeat here. As you awaken into Being, painful memories and emotions, which have been repressed in the past, will begin to surface into the light of consciousness. They are received into and experienced within an energy of love and acceptance which is deeply healing. This in turn clears a space for you to deepen into Being, which in turn tends to bring up to the surface whatever else it is within you that is still in need of healing and release. It is a natural and flowing process, which becomes almost joyful once you get the hang of it.
A similar approach must be taken with the ego itself. Many spiritual paths imply that the ego must be defeated and that awakening involves annihilation of the ego and all that it stands for. The ego cannot be defeated or annihilated. It can only be loved and accepted into a state of surrender.
I would like to encourage you to purchase my three books, not because I am trying to sell books, but because I believe that they will be very helpful to you. They will make a difference. You could follow that up with a telephone session or an attendance at one of my workshops or retreats.
My sense is that the whole of humanity is passing or will soon pass through an evolutionary threshold of consciousness. There is such a thing as timing. Perhaps now is your time.
The only other thing I would add is that, ultimately, practices will fail. Entry into the present moment is immediate. It does not require practice. That is true for any moment of your life. It is not practice that will deliver you, but rather a gentle remembering to be present. Again I speak of this in greater detail in my books, particularly the second book, Embracing the Present.
I hope that what I have shared is helpful to you. Please feel free to follow up with another question if anything is unclear to you.