Why I Am Not a (Insert Religion Here)

Sometimes, one size doesn’t fit all

While my husband and I traveled in Japan, we had the opportunity to try on yukatas (Japanese summer traditional dress for festivals and ceremonies,etc).  It was great fun to put them on and I loved the style and feel of the garment, but ultimately I wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing one on the street.  It’s beautiful, but on me it felt like a costume.  In contrast, while we toured the temples in Nara (outside of Kyoto) I saw a couple wearing traditional dress, including yukatas, and it looked so right.  The clothing was a perfect fit on them, not only bodily, but holistically.  This is how I feel about organized religion.  For some people (and, truly, I have met people like this) it works beautifully.  They find comfort in its structure and it acts as a vehicle for them to bring love, kindness, and understanding into the world. As long as a religion remains true to it’s roots (which are usually based in love, compassion, understanding) and avoids setting up false dichotomies of “us” and “them” to facilitate conflict, I think it is a wonderfully helpful institution for many people.  Often, I have lamented that my life would be so much easier if I was one of those people.  Unfortunately, on me, religion feels like a costume.

I was raised Catholic (as so many of us wanderers were), but I can remember questioning church dogma from a very early age.  As a child, I believed in reincarnation, the church didn’t.  That was the main discrepancy, I know there were countless others.  My memories of early church education are mostly of well-meaning volunteers scaring the living daylights out of me with dire warnings about evil lurking around every corner. (One particular instance that comes to mind was of a youth educator who told us we needed to be careful about hand position while praying, because if we held our hands the wrong way, regardless of our intentions, we were actually praying to Satan and not God.  Can you imagine?)  We shouldn’t have to be scared into believing something, the positive aspects of the religion should be strong enough to stand on their own; to make us want to believe.  As soon as I was old enough to control my own destiny, I distanced myself from the church. My parents were never really critical about it and managed to convey a type of support by not being outwardly against the idea.  I think they, too, we’re struggling with their faith.

The Hindus have a concept of the “seven layers of reality.”  It is important to note that these layers are all reality – one is not more real than the others. As humans, we are singular and unified beings, yet we are also simultaneously a collection of cells and even further a collection of atoms.  All of these layers of us are “real”.  I have come to a place where I think of religion along similar lines.  Truth is at the heart of all religions and they have developed a symbology to represent this truth.  That doesn’t mean the imagery is false or wrong; like any visual aide it can be tremendously useful for providing an understanding of the divine.  What I struggle with most about the imagery of any religion is that it often becomes, at heart, a projection of aspects of the self.  Again, this does not mean it’s wrong, in fact, I think it has quite intentionally evolved this way.  However, projection is an outward form of expression and can sometimes distract us from looking inward.  Also, religious imagery is often “pure” or relatively one dimensional, representing supreme good – like Jesus, or supreme compassion and peace – like Buddha, or supreme evil – like Satan. But, in reality, we are incredibly nuanced individuals – we risk losing something of ourselves in the projection.  Over time we may come to see those aspects of ourselves that don’t neatly fit into the imagery we want to emulate as “bad” or “wrong” and therefore to be “oppressed” or “eliminated” rather than explored with openness and understanding.

In January of this year (2014), I had a whirlwind experience with a Christian Mystical church in the area.  It was a small group, only five, including me, at the service I attended. On the altar, a pair of pictures rested; one of Jesus with hands in the teacher position and one of Mary looking both serene and seductive.[1]  The pictures were of equal size and it was clear they were meant to represent the divine masculine and feminine energies.  When we had brunch and discussion together after the service, the reverend inquired on my feelings about the images. I noted that I was still chewing them over to see how they fit with my personal beliefs.  He then said, “Well, it’s not really about the imagery, you know, it’s about the energy behind the imagery”. See, and that right there is what I struggle with.  At heart, I believe that energy is the root of everything. If you believe it’s about the energy behind the imagery, why not go straight to that? It seems limiting and unnecessary to have to go “through” graphical representations to get there. According to Daoism – In the beginning there was the Dao which separated into the yin and the yang[2] and from that came forth the myriad of things.  Why not start with Source and back into differentiation?

If you don’t go to church or aren’t part of an organized religion, people tend to think that you don’t believe in God.  This is true for some of us, but not all. One holiday seven or eight years ago, my family was playing the game “Loaded Questions”.  If you’re unfamiliar with it, basically all players confidentially answer a personal question and the ’reader’, which rotates, has to read the answers and guess which answer belongs to which player.  The question came up, “How many times were you in a place of worship last year?” The answer bubbled up from deep in my soul, “I am always in a place of worship”.  It sounds like a clever answer, but is a true expression of how I feel.  Just because I don’t go to a particular building to worship God doesn’t mean I’m an atheist.  As is true for so many of us, my beliefs in God are personal and complicated.  Actually, to clarify, my beliefs are incredibly simple in my heart, but difficult to explain. But my beliefs inform and direct so much of my life that it’s heartbreakingly laughable when I get criticism from a relative for my ‘non-religious’ behavior.

I don’t have a lot of interest in getting into a theological debate with anyone.  I’m happy with what I believe.  If you’re happy with what you believe – great! Let’s just both be happy instead of trying to convince each other why one view is better than the other. :). And if you’re confused, lost, or unhappy in your relationship with the divine – relax, you’re not alone – we’ve all been there at some point. Keep walking with an open mind and heart and you’ll find your path.

 

[1] I won’t lie – seeing Mary looking about the same age as Jesus and looking somewhat seductive (she had her fingers clutched to her shawl as if about to take it off) was very disconcerting.  I mean, I get it – Mary represents mother, maiden, wife, and all the feminine roles (at least I believe that is what they were trying to suggest), but perhaps some Catholic concepts are too firmly embedded in my psyche for me to feel comfortable seeing “Mary” cast in such a way.

[2] yin representing the divine feminine (among many other things) and yang representing the divine masculine (among other things)

Only Time will Tell (PLR p3)

Tilt-A-World

My husband was out of town; often the case in those days. I worked my way through some laundry, the History Channel running in the background for noise. At night, the beautiful large windows of our home seemed sinister, allowing anyone to look in, and the droning blare of the tv made me feel less alone somehow. I was just returning to the family room after shelving some towels, when I looked over at the tv screen and saw a picture of a woman in a polka dot dress with fluttery brown hair and a familiar face. Suddenly, my knees gave out (luckily, I was standing next to the couch). It was the woman in the mirror from my regression! Although only a head and shoulders shot, I recognized her instantly. I quickly realized I hadn’t even been paying attention to what the program was about, but then I heard a name, “Kay Summersby.” My vision started to close in on me, as it often does when such things happen, but I fought for concentration, I desperately wanted to hear what the narrator was saying. The program spent a short minute or two noting that Kay Summersby was Eisenhower’s chauffeur while he was a General in World War II. The VoiceOver mentioned that there had been a lot of controversy around whether Eisenhower and Summersby had been having an affair. Pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place around my regression session.

Now, I know what many of you are probably thinking -if you were Kay Summersby that means your ex-boyfriend is the reincarnation of Eisenhower!? Honestly, that didn’t even register at the time. I was still reeling from the change between having thought I ’made the whole thing up, but at least it had therapeutic value’ to coming face-to-face with a picture of the woman I saw myself as and a story that fit with the vignette.

Checking the Rear-view

The next day at work I could barely concentrate. I confess, I used quite a bit of work time that day to do Internet searches on Kay Summersby. I wanted to see if I could find anything else that either seemed familiar or corroborated the scene I had envisioned. From my ’deskchair’ research I learned that, while working for Eisenhower, Kay’s fiancée had died in an explosion that had been termed “an accident” (a detail that closely aligned with my recollection from the session). Additionally, the internet alluded to the close relationship between Eisenhower and Summersby, but indicated that Kay had stressed it had neverbeen consumated (this also closely aligned with my feeling about the relationship from my regression). There were some additional details about her having a love interest in later life (in my session I associated this person with my current husband) and dying of cancer (in my session when asked to describe my death I had said I was “sick” and the feeling I had had about it was that it had been a prolonged disease not a quick, unexpected death.) There were other things to, other stories, that began to filter in from earlier life and suddenly make sense.

Once, when I was a young high school student, our neighbors offered to lend us a movie they had just seen. It was called “Somersby”. When they mentioned it, I only heard the title. Off in a part of the living, sitting by myself, my ears perked up at the name. I said to myself, “Summersby isn’t a movie, Summersby is a last name, but whose? It’s someone really close, who is it?”. My vision began to close in on me at this time, it was a particularly bad occurrence of that phenomenon. But I couldn’t at the time figure out who I was thinking of. We didn’t know anyone with the last name Summersby. Notable, also, was the fact that in my head the spelling was “Summersby” and when I saw that the actual movie title was “Somersby” I immediately said “it’s spelled wrong”. After awhile that incident sunk into my subconscious, an isolated event, until this unexpected occurrence dredged it up and breathed meaning into it.

There were other small incidents also that suddenly made sense. Once, when I was younger (i would guess maybe eight) I stumbled into my Aunt & Uncle’s garage – presumably looking for a ball or toy or something. My uncle had a giant (or so it appeared to me from my Lilliputian height) black car rusticating under a drop cloth. Curious, I lifted the cloth and something about the car riveted me. I have never been and still am not a “car person,” but that car captured my imagination for a long time afterwards. Although it certainly isn’t the same make and model Kay drove, i have since realized that the car was stylistically from the same era and had similar structural characteristics. I remember also, as a child, chancing upon some kind of publication related to the card game bridge in the Chicago Tribune. When I looked at the sequences of letters, numbers, and symbols, I felt I ought to understand them (although I did not). In fact, I was very frustrated that it didn’t make more sense to me. This too had inexplicably captured my imagination. I asked my mother about it, but she only said “that’s bridge, it’s a very complicated card game” and that she didn’t know anything more about it. I’ve only recently found out that Bridge was a favorite game played amongst Eisenhower’s staff. A bit later, when I was in high school, I once had the opportunity to give someone a “false” name instead of my real one. Without even thinking about it, I told him my name was “Kay.”  Immediately, when the name sprang from my mouth I thought, well, that’s ridiculous, who has the name ‘Kay’ these days? He also seemed surprised “Kay?” he repeated, incredulously.  I swiftly amended the name to “Katie” – a much more common name in those days.  It is an interesting coincidence though, that my past life name may have been Kay.

The hunt for information on Kay became a mini-obsession of mine for a few days, but I shortly exhausted the internet resources on the subject. I discovered that she had written two books, but when I tried to track them down they were out of print and elusive to find online at the time. I questioned, too, what i was trying to achieve with all this research. It didn’t really matter whether I was or wasn’t Kay in a past life, i had sought out past life regression to help me understand a particular situation in my current life and it had accomplished that. From a therapeutic perspective I was completely cured, so what was the point of all this ghost-chasing? For many years it completely dropped off my radar.

Boomerang

At the end of January of this year, perhaps due to some other strange events, I was suddenly compelled to re-open this chapter of my life. On a whim, I ordered both books that Kay had written and was quite surprised when they actually arrived (I had ordered at least one of the books via alibris a number of years prior, but it never showed up). I was still a bit bemused at my own behavior. What was I looking for here? My husband asked me the same question, “Why are you interested in this again all of a sudden?”. I couldn’t give either of us any answers because I didn’t understand it myself.

In the background, I was just starting to come out of a period of deep testing on my spiritual path. Although doors were opening in every direction, I was in a bit of a rut on which way to go. After much mulling and some financial consideration, I decided to schedule an appointment with Sonia Choquette, a powerful and respected intuitive spiritual guide in the area to see if that would help point me in a direction. In the meeting, one of the things she conveyed was that I had been “a giver” for many lifetimes and that this was a lifetime for me to work on my skills at receiving. (Which, btw, is a fair point, I am a horrible receiver… to the point where my poor husband is sometimes terrified to give me things because he is unsure how they will be received. I know, I know i’m working on it 🙂 ). The funny thing, though, is that I didn’t really think of myself as a “giver” in life. My husband fits much better in that category. In fact, I have often mentally berated myself for not giving enough – for being too selfish. It was as I was reading “Eisenhower was my boss” and “Past forgetting” (kay’s two books) that pieces began to fall into place.

Previously, I had been somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of being Kay. After all, she had a quasi-affair with Eisenhower. Even though the affair was never officially “consummated,” I thought of the Kay lifetime as one I had to atone for in this life instead of trying to understand who Kay was as a person. As I read her books, however, I began to see beyond those circumstances to the more complete woman she had been (at least at the point in time covered by her books). Kay gave so much of herself in her position, and in her own way she was a very positive force in a powerful arena at a pivotal time. I think she was a necessary reminder of the “softer side” of life for the military men around her who lived and breathed destruction and death on a regular basis. One key passage that illustrates her dedication and service is when Eisenhower had her measured for a new uniform.

“As I went upstairs to be measured that morning, I overheard Butch saying, “Well, what does one have to do around here to get a new tailor-made uniform?’ I stopped and listed for the reply. “All you have to do,” Ike said brusquely, “is work day  and night, seven days a week, always be obliging and cheerful and get paid less than half of what the lowest-paid American clerk gets. That’s all’ Butch apologized, ‘I shouldn’t have said that, even joking.  I keep forgetting that Kay’s a civilian.  She must have a hard time getting along.’  I didn’t really.  My pay was laughable, but there was nothing to spend it on.”[1]

I realized that Kay had a tremendous ‘inner strength’ that allowed her to endure in a highly challenging situation.  It is a quality that multiple people throughtout my life have remarked on about me – although I have never before understood what they meant.  In recognizing certain characteristics that we share, regardless of whether I was she in a previous lifetime or not, reading about her, especially in her own words, was helping me to understand myself. And if I really was she, which I sometimes let myself believe, I can see my trajectory much more clearly having this earlier life as a reference point.

You may wonder whether I ever told my ex-boyfriend that he might be the reincarnation of President Dwight David Eisenhower. In the beginning, as I alluded to, I was just so happy to no longer feel “tied” to him, that I didn’t make any effort to reach out to him at all. At some point years later, we did eventually connect in a vey informal way over gmail. I hinted at the story, but also wanted to avoid “influencing” things, in case he was ever interested in going for his own regression session.  I certainly didn’t tell him he might be the reincarnation of Eisenhower.  I mean – what would you do with that information anyway?  Once you’d been told – it’d be hard to establish an objective point of reference on the subject.  It may seem like a fantastic thing, to be the reincarnation of a past President (especially one so famous), but in the end we’re all just people.  Why couldn’t one have a lifetime thrust into the spotlight, followed by one that’s more low-key?  Fame and power in an earth-life are more about spiritual testing than spiritual advancement, from what I can see.  I will say this, though, having now read Kay’s books and thinking back on my ex-boyfriend’s personality, I definitely see it.

 

[1] Past Forgetting, Kay Summersby Morgan, Simon & Schuster 1976

A Word on Semantics

“Conceptual substitutes for ineffable experiences are not adequate.  They are products of rational thinking.  All forms, according to Samkara, contain an element of untruth and the real is beyond all forms… And yet we cannot afford to be absolutely silent” – Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Religious Experience and it’s Affirmations

According to Google, there are over a million words in the English language, but the options seem paltry indeed when an individual is faced with the challenge of describing a spiritual experience. Worse, the words that would normally seem appropriate in such a situation are often either abused or so loaded with negative connotation they make most of us cringe when we hear them.  Faced with this challenge, the spiritual practitioner battles the simultaneous conflicting urges to be silent and to spread the word.  When I was ‘in the thread’ (the phrase I use to refer to my own experience of union) I used to wish I could just ‘touch people’ and ‘give’ them the sensation inside of me.  I realized that even in crafting the most beautiful poetry, I could not express this feeling.  The message of the heart struggles with the words of the mind.  And yet, as Radhakrishnan says, we cannot be silent – the deep desire to share, to bring about more love and happiness in the world, is also part of the experience.

As I have walked the path I have encountered a few ways of handling these challenges, most of them variations on a theme.  Many practitioners end up co-opting common words or phrases and giving them their own “special” meanings.[1]  I am no exception to this rule.  As evidenced above, I refer to my own experience of union as being ‘in the thread.’  Thread is not normally considered a spiritual word and yet I settled on that one because it most captured my experience.  As a single thread is woven into an intricate tapestry it is both itself and integrally part of something much larger.  A person looking at the finished work would have difficulty distinguishing an individual thread, yet without all those single threads there would be no tapestry at all.  In Greek Mythology, it is also a thread that Clothos weaves, Lachesis measures, and Atropos cuts to represent a life.  And let’s not forget that it was a thread Theseus used to navigate the famous Labyrinth and avoid the bloodthirsty Minotaur.  Even a humble thread can have references that make it perfectly appropriate as a spiritual path term.  To be fair, it is not that I researched possible words to use and picked ‘thread,’ the phrase ‘in the thread’ spontaneously occurred to me as the ‘right’ one for me to use at the time.  However, it’s possible that my pre-existing understanding of these concepts subconsciously contributed to my choice of phrase.

One of my meditation teachers refers to her experience as “when I was in the river.”  At first glance these two ways of describing a similar experience may seem quite different.  After all, a thread is a fairly stationary item unless someone is using it and a river is constantly moving; dynamic.  A river can be vast or narrow, but will always be larger and more diverse than a single thread.   I instantly recognized where she had been, however, because it is the feeling that the words are trying to describe that promotes the understanding rather than the words themselves.  In fact, I could have used that phrase to describe my own experience – it just isn’t the phrase that occurred to me.  This sort of translation is like understanding the concept of “Ow” in almost any language when you hear someone, in pain, exclaim it.

In reading descriptions of the spiritual experience, you may notice that a single word can have dual (or more!) meanings or multiple layers of meaning. If you’ve read Gary Zukav’s The Dancing Wu-Li Masters or have done any work with Tarot or other symbology you are familiar with this concept. An example of this most people will be familiar with is the word ‘see;’ sometimes it refers to using one’s eyes and sometimes it refers to an inner observation that has nothing to do with rods, cones, and optic nerves.  As another example which may help with readability of this blog – I often use the term ‘energy’ (if I haven’t used it a lot yet its only because I’ve been holding back 🙂 ).  I think energy is the root of all manifest existence so it pops up everywhere across my spiritual landscape.  I use this term the way many people use the term ‘science.’  There are types of science; Biology, Chemistry, Physics, etc.  But “science” is not just the sum of all these individual parts.  For many, the word ‘science’ is an approach, a philosophy, a worldview.  That is linguistically analogous to my use of the term ‘energy.’  There are lots of different types of energy, but my concept of energy is all of those and more.  It is the stuff our universe is made of and ‘energy’ is simply the best term I’ve found to describe it.

For those who are suffering through the use of casual terms to refer to weighty spiritual matters in your reading, I appreciate your frustration.  Let me apologize in advance, because I am quite sure I will hardly be consistent in my use of terms even across this blog.  The best advice I can offer is to recommend you keep meditating (or if you aren’t already, start! start!) and keep reading on the topic and understanding will come.  I remember reading somewhere that immersion is the best way to learn a language. 🙂


[1] This is yet another parallel with Alchemy – see post “Full Frontal Alchemy” for more speculation on Alchemy as a Spiritual Path tradition.

Through the Looking Glass of Time (PLR p2)

This story begins quite some time ago – Actually half a century ago, but for me, it started maybe six or seven years ago.

I had a particularly hard time letting go of an old ex-boyfriend.  It was comical, really.  Our actual relationship had been only 6 months. Granted, it had been a pretty weird break-up (he had told me that he still loved me, and he still wanted me, but he just couldn’t be with me any longer).

I have met my soulmate since then and married him.  Yet, five years later I was still thinking about this particular ex-boyfriend on a semi-regular basis even though we lived over a thousand miles apart.  Why couldn’t I let go?

Years before, a wise English teacher of mine from highschool had mentioned that perhaps there was a past life influnce at work here.  She said, “maybe you were together in a past life, but it’s not right for this lifetime.”

Although I have believed in reincarnation from a very young age (My mother tells me I first mentioned it around age 5) I certainly had doubts about specific past life influences.

No doubt this was a simple crush that I had become a bit obsessive about – I had a hard time accepting that it could be a real past life influence and that kept me from giving the idea any serious creedence for a long time.  Some five years later without feeling completely over this guy, though, I was ready to explore the idea.

I looked up past life practioners nearby and found one that wasn’t too expensive and close to home.  The woman operated out of her house which was in a somewhat dilapidated neightborhood.

As the sun set, and I approached a stranger’s house, alone, in the darkening evening, I admit to being a little nervous.  My fears were not assuaged by the cacophanous barking of multiple dogs coming from behind the door.

I am not really a dog person.  I don’t hate dogs, but due to two very negative dog-related incidents in my childhood I confess that I am somewhat uncomfortable around them.

A middle-aged woman of slight build opened the door a crack and, upon confirming my identity, let me inside.  Her Rottweiler and German Shepherd barked and pawed wildly at the sliding doors outside.  I gulped as I noticed some of the paw prints on the window were well above my height.

“Do you mind if I let them in?” she asked.  “They’re super friendly, and wouldn’t hurt a fly.”  I bit back my retorts about flies being small enough to evade their enthusiastic bounding and managed to nod as she motioned for me to take a seat on the couch.

Thankfully, the dogs were much calmer once inside.  The Rottweiler, of course, came to sit on my feet.  Not at my feet, on my feet.  Suffice it to say, it was not a very auspicious beginning to a relaxing Past Life Regression session.

We chatted for a few minutes about why I was there and what brought her to Past Life Regression therapy.  She walked me through the process a little bit.  Having been a veteran meditator, even at the time, I was curious about how this would go.

Introductory work concluded, she directed me to a small side bedroom, closing the dogs outside (Thank you!).  The bed was fairly snug around my frame, which at 5’4” is hardly towering, and the room was so small her chair barely fit between the desk and bed.  It created the mild effect of being at the dentist’s office, having her loom over me.

I hadn’t thought to bring a recorder (this was my first time doing something like this and I had no idea what to expect) so she offered to take some notes and I gladly accepted.

She began a relaxation sequence and I tried to let-go and sink into myself.  With past life regression, you are usually completely conscious (this was not something I knew at the time) and the therapist puts you into what’s considered a mildly hypnotic state.

I think because of all my own meditation work, it was maybe harder for me to ‘feel’ as if I was under hypnosis or in a trance (or, rather, to feel that this was in any way different than what I usually do).  She directed me to visualize that I was in a room with boxes and asked me to open one and see what I found in it.

That line of visualization went pretty much nowhere – I found a key in the box and said that I was a princess having a birthday party, but to me it just felt like I was making it up – it felt, honestly, a bit silly.

Perhaps sensing this, she tried to take me to another lifetime.  For awhile I just seemed to be drifting and I think we were both getting a little bit frustrated, but finally I got something – although it still felt so hazy as to just be an impression, a feeling, at first.

The therapist kept asking me to look at my shoes (every time we tried to hit a lifetime she would ask me to look at my shoes).  But, suddenly the scene snapped into focus and I remember thinking, I don’t care about my stupid shoes, I just want to describe what I’m actually seeing.  So, I did.

In the reflection of a large dresser mirror, I saw “myself” in a dark dress with white polka dots – only I didn’t look myself.  I was with someone and we were involved.  Not in flagrante delicto, but passionately working our way in that general direction.  Then something happened – or rather, maybe, didn’t happen – and I saw us both sitting against a bed headboard; talking and smoking.

“Is this your ex-boyfriend?” the therapist probed, “Yes,” I returned, “it’s his face I see on this man, although I don’t look like me.”  She followed with more questions, “Did you have sex?” she asked.  “No… I… we didn’t… we stopped.”  She asked for more details, “He’s someone important.” I told her, “Like a General or something like that.  He’s married… he has a wife and children… but they are somewhere else.”

She asked if I was married, “No… I… had a fiancee… but he died… in an a..accident… there was an explosion or something… maybe a crash… I’m not sure.”  She talked to me more about where we were, “We’re in some kind of house.. or bed and breakfast or something…”  the décor was somewhat reminiscent of my host home when I studied abroad in England in the mid 90s.

“We’re on the second floor… out the window… there are cars…I can see cars out the window on the street… people are sortof watching”  The relationship was definitely clandestine and also clearly somewhat tortured.  I could feel in those moments a sense of hopelessness about it.  We loved each other, but it wouldn’t work, couldn’t work, because he had other commitments that he would never break.

My impressions in the moment were that this was because of his inherent moral compass rather than any external factors – although those were certainly complications.

The therapist tried to bring me forward (I’ve learned later that this is a practice they do) and asked me how I died in that lifetime, “I was sick… it was some kindof long sickness.” She also asked me whether there was anyone else and I indicated that there was someone later who I identified as my current husband.  The details were somewhat more sparse at this stage and she started to pull me out.

On coming out, I wasn’t really sure what had happened – had I just made up the whole thing?  It had felt sortof real, but ‘re-living’ the memories wasn’t like watching a movie, clear and crisp, as I had expected it to be.

When the therapist had asked questions, I had reached for answers and they were there – but were they real?  I took the brief notes from her that were written on a 5×7 sheet of note paper and thanked her for the experience, still a bit muddy-headed about the whole thing.

As I was driving home, pieces began to fall into place regarding my old relationship.  My English teacher had had it reversed – the relationship between me and my ex-boyfriend  wasn’t wrong in this lifetime – it had been wrong in that one and we had just been unable to overcome it in this lifetime.

There was no reason why we were unable to be together in this lifetime.  Once, in fact, my ex-boyfriend told me a year or so after our break-up, “There was always something that didn’t feel quite right about our relationship.” and suddenly that made perfect sense.

The most wonderful fact of all, however, was that I suddenly felt something resolve deep inside me around our relationship.  It was as if all of my confused, romantic feelings towards him were exorcised and I could see him in a new, clean, light.

I felt a deep soul-level love for him as a person who had been very important to me, but I no longer felt any inclination to have any sortof relationship (even a friendship) with him in this lifetime.  It was amazing how immediate the relief was and that it has lasted even until this day.

I was so happy with the results of my past-life regression session on my current life that I no longer cared whether it had been a ‘real’ experience or not.  That’s why, when I suddenly came face-to-face with the woman in my remembering it literally knocked me off my feet….. (to be continued in Part 3)

Through the looking glass (PLR p2)

This story begins quite some time ago – Actually half a century ago, but for me, it started maybe six or seven years ago.  I had a particularly hard time letting go of an old ex-boyfriend.  It was comical really.  Our actual relationship had been only 6 months. Granted, it had been a pretty weird break-up (he had told me that he still loved me, and he still wanted me, but he just couldn’t be with me any longer).  I had met my soulmate and married him.  Yet, five years later I was still thinking about this particular ex-boyfriend on a semi-regular basis even though we lived over a thousand miles apart.  Why couldn’t I let go?  Years before, a wise English teacher of mine from highschool had mentioned that perhaps there was a past life influnce at work here.  She said, “maybe you were together in a past life, but it’s not right for this lifetime.”  Although I have believed in reincarnation from a very young age (My mother tells me I first mentioned it around age 5) I certainly had doubts about specific past life influences.  No doubt this was a simple crush that I have become a bit obsessive about – I had a hard time accepting that it could be a real past life influence and that kept me from giving the idea any serious creedence for a long time.  Some five years later without feeling completely over this guy, though, I was ready to explore the idea.

I looked up past life practioners nearby and found one that wasn’t too expensive not far from home.  The woman operated out of her house which was in a somewhat dilapidated neightborhood.  As the sun set, and I approached a stranger’s house, alone, in the darkening evening, I admit to being a little nervous.  My fears were not assuaged by the cacophanous barking of multiple dogs coming from behind the door.  I am not really a dog person.  I don’t hate dogs, but due to two dog-related incidents in my childhood I confess that I am somewhat uncomfortable around them.  A middle-aged woman of slight build opened the door a crack and, upon confirming my identity, let me inside.  Her Rottweiler and German Shepherd barked and pawed wildly at the sliding doors outside.  I gulped as I noticed some of the paw prints on the window were well above my height.  “Do you mind if I let them in?” she asked.  “They’re super friendly, and wouldn’t hurt a fly.”  I bit back my retorts about flies being small enough to evade their enthusiastic bounding and managed to nod as she motioned for me to take a seat on the couch.  Thankfully, the dogs were much calmer once inside.  The Rottweiler, of course, came to sit on my feet.  Not atmy feet, on my feet.  Suffice it to say, it was not a very auspicious beginning to a relaxing Past Life Regression session.

We chatted for a few minutes about why I was there and what brought her to Past Life Regression therapy.  She walked me through the process a little bit.  Having been a veteran meditator, even at the time, I was curious about how this would go.  Introductory work concluded, she directed me to a small side bedroom, closing the dogs outside (Thank you!).  The bed was fairly snug around my frame, which at 5’4” is hardly towering, and the room was so small her chair barely fit between the desk and bed.  It created the mild effect of being at the dentist’s office, having her loom over me.  I hadn’t thought to bring a recorder (this was my first time doing something like this and I had no idea what to expect) so she offered to take some notes and I gladly accepted.  She began a relaxation sequence and I tried to let-go and sink into myself.  With past life regression, you are usually completely conscious (this was not something I knew at the time) and the therapist puts you into what’s considered a mildly hypnotic state.  I think because of all my own meditation work, it was maybe harder for me to ‘feel’ as if I was under hypnosis or in a trance (or, rather, to feel that this was in any way different than what I usually do).  She directed me to visualize that I was in a room with boxes and asked me to open one and see what I found in it.  That line of visualization went pretty much nowhere – I found a key in the box and said that I was a princess having a birthday party, but to me it just felt like I was making it up – it felt, honestly, a bit silly.  Perhaps sensing this, she tried to take me to another lifetime.  For awhile I just seemed to be drifting and I think we were both getting a little bit frustrated, but finally I got something – although it still felt so hazy as to just be an impression, a feeling, at first.  The therapist kept asking me to look at my shoes (every time we tried to hit a lifetime she would ask me to look at my shoes).  But, Suddenly the scene snapped into focus and I remember thinking, I don’t care about my stupid shoes, I just want to describe what I’m actually seeing.  So, I did.

In the reflection of a large dresser mirror, I saw “myself” in a dark dress with white polka dots – only I didn’t look myself.  I was with someone and we were involved.  Not in flagrante delicto, but passionately working our way in that general direction.  Then something happened – or rather, maybe, didn’t happen – and I saw us both sitting against a bed headboard; talking and smoking.   “Is this your ex-boyfriend?” the therapist probed, “Yes,” I returned, “it’s his face I see on this man, although I don’t look like me.”  She followed with more questions, “Did you have sex?” she asked.  “No… I… we didn’t… we stopped.”  She asked for more details, “He’s someone important.” I told her, “Like a General or something like that.  He’s married… he has a wife and children… but they are somewhere else.”  She asked if I was married, “No… I… had a fiancee… but he died… in an a..accident… there was an explosion or something… maybe a crash… I’m not sure.”  She talked to me more about where we were, “We’re in some kind of house.. or bed and breakfast or something…”  the décor was somewhat reminiscent of my host home when I studied abroad in England in the mid 90s.  “We’re on the second floor… out the window… there are cars…I can see cars out the window on the street… people are sortof watching”  The relationship was definitely clandestine and also clearly somewhat tortured.  I could feel in those moments a sense of hopelessness about it.  We loved each other, but it wouldn’t work, couldn’t work, because he had other commitments that he would never break.  My impressions in the moment were that this was because of his inherent moral compass rather than any external factors – although those were certainly complications.  The therapist tried to bring me forward (I’ve learned later that this is a practice they do) and asked me how I died in that lifetime, “I was sick… it was some kindof long sickness.” She also asked me whether there was anyone else and I indicated that there was someone later who identified as my current husband.  The details were somewhat more sparse at this stage and she started to pull me out.

On coming out, I wasn’t really sure what had happened – had I just made up the whole thing?  It had felt sortof real, but ‘re-living’ the memories wasn’t like watching a movie, clear and crisp, as I had expected it to be.  When the therapist had asked questions, I had reached for answers and they were there – but were they real?  I took the brief notes from her that were written on a 5×7 sheet of note paper and thanked her for the experience, still a bit muddy-headed about the whole thing.  As I was driving home, pieces began to fall into place regarding my old relationship.  My English teacher had had it reversed – the relationship between me and my ex-boyfriend  wasn’t wrong in this lifetime – it had been wrong in that one and we had just been unable to overcome it in this lifetime.  There was no reason why we were unable to be together in this lifetime.  Once, in fact, my ex-boyfriend told me a year or so after our break-up, “There was always something that didn’t feel quite right about our relationship.” and suddenly that made perfect sense.  The most wonderful fact of all, however, was that I suddenly felt something resolve deep inside me around our relationship.  It was as if all of my confused, romantic feelings towards him were exorcised and I could see him in a new, clean, light.  I felt a deep soul-level love for him as a person who had been very important to me, but I no longer felt any inclination to have any sortof relationship (even a friendship) with him in this lifetime.  It was amazing how immediate the relief was and that it has lasted even until this day.

I was so happy with the results of my past-life regression session on my current life that I no longer cared whether it had been a ‘real’ experience or not.  That’s why, when I suddenly came face-to-face with the woman in my remembering it literally knocked me off my feet….. (to be continued in Part 3)

Book Review: Memories of the Afterlife

BookMemories of the Afterlife by Michael Newton, Llewellyn Publications 2010

Rating: ***
Good For: those interested in Life-between-life regression
Reading Level: Easy from a narrative perspective, but some understanding of past-life regression and energy work is helpful

I wonder if there is anyone who can read both Brian Weiss and Michael Newton without comparing their work?  I realize there are other Past Life and Life-between-lives authors out there, but these two seem to be the heaviest hitters.  This third? fourth? book of Michael Newton’s is a collection of stories submitted by therapists and graduates of the Newton Institute around the globe (although chiefly in the US and UK).  The stories themselves are very interesting, sometimes fascinating, but aside from the life-changing effects of their life-between-lives regression experiences there is little commonality to cohere the book. Michael Newton’s primary contribution to the book appears to be the copious, editorial footnotes referencing his previous books that appear after each narrative.

If you are new to the subject of past life regression and life-between-lives regression, this is not a good introductory book[1].  I have not read Michael Newton’s other books and I sorely missed that background knowledge while reading this one.  Some of the things I found most intriguing were revelations made by the regression subjects during the sessions which were just glossed over or never mentioned again.  Ironically, however, that which makes the book least desirable as an introduction to PLR and LBL is actually it’s most redeeming factor.  The stories on their own are captivating enough that I could barely put the book down despite the numerous questions and doubts I had about some of the material.  For me, (and I’m sure I am not unique here) I also look for ways in which a book like this challenges and / or validates my own worldview as it gives me things to think about and meditate on about my own understanding of the universe.  In this case, it did both.

Even though I have not read any of Michael Newton’s other books, this one was sufficiently compelling to make me want to check the rest of them out (well, at least the first one).  I am hopeful that some of the material introduced in these stories is addressed in a more generalized way in his earlier work.  For example, therapists whose work is presented in this book always ask for a soul’s Immortal name.  I hope that earlier books address how a soul gets that name.  Is an immortal soul name given or chosen for oneself?  Presumably you aren’t born to soul parents (although this is another topic on which the book is totally silent – initial soul generation / creation). I’ve read a few of Brian Weiss’ books and there’s a bit of a different dynamic when reading the anecdotes he shares.  Since those stories are mostly other people’s past lives – and are usually (for the most part) pretty ordinary, the reader can empathize with the human aspect of the story without feeling a particularly burning desire to “know more” about that other person’s past lifetime.  In the case of Life between lives work however, the regressed are purportedly reporting experiences common to all of us so the reader (at least me) experiences a much stronger desire for information and the burden of proof is much higher.  If you are looking for “proof” of Life-between-lives experience, I don’t think this book really provides that.  There is very little effort put in to documenting methodology and in fact, I’m not sure the goal is really all that scientific.  As therapy, however, it seems to be benefiting the clients and it certainly is an interesting topic to think about as long as you don’t get too attached to the idea.

Rating Key:

***** – Should be at the top of your reading list
**** – Should be somewhere on your reading list
*** – Good for a very particular audience or it’s a toss-up whether this is worth reading or not
** – I have too much time on my hands
* – If you see a one-star post, consider it my idea of a public service to warn you away

Reading Level:

Easy – Anyone at a 12th grade reading level should have no problem with this
Moderate – May require a bit more determination to work through
Difficult – May require background knowledge in a particular field or need to be read in conjunction with other texts in order to optimally parse meaning
Extremely Difficult – This one I’ll reserve for something like Sankara, where it may take you twenty minutes just to get through a sentence or two.

 

[1] Rather go with Brian Weiss’s book Many Lives Many Masters as a good place to start for both regression and life-between-lives experiences.

Decision Point

 

While afternoon was passing by

I heard the buzzing of a fly;

trapped on back before my eyes

he flailed to skirt his own demise.

Oh, Fly!

Can I,

having seen you in this state,

remain apart from your fate?

If I could help, and watch you die

Is the cause of death now I?

Though your buzzing did offend

Who am I to bring it’s end?

Perhaps after this lowly life

your next one will be free from strife?

Shall I, if I stay my hand

speed you to a future grand?

Tell me, please, I wish to know

Should I help you stay or go