What is the Soul – Part 5 – Projection

“Wherever known reality stops, where we touch the unknown, there we project an archetypal image.” Marie -Louise von Franz

After reading quite a bit of Jung, I’ve felt that an important piece of understanding the soul is the concept of projection. However, Jung’s work is vast and I wasn’t keen on sifting through it merely to unearth some quotes about projection for a blog post. I briefly ran into this concept again (although not in the precise words) in Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen’s book, Thanks for the Feedback; still I held back.

But when I heard Dr Libby Weaver talking about projection as part of the 2016 Hay House World Summit and associating it with the Reticular Activating Center (RAS) in the brain, I felt we had to cover this topic before going further.

When we think of projection, we tend to think of it in a negative way, as in, “don’t project your insecurities onto me!” But, in my experience, projection is something we all do all the time. Projection is a big part of how we interact with our world. It is, actually, how we create our world. We can try to avoid projecting, but the practice is so engrained that we might have better luck if we start with identifying our projections and trying to understand them.

So what exactly is projection? It’s a very flexible word – the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary has no less than 9 different ways to define it. Definition #3 from a Google search seems to fit what we’re talking about in this post best; “the presentation or promotion of someone or something in a particular way;” with sub-bullet points, “a mental image viewed as reality,” and, “the unconscious transfer of one’s own desires or emotions to another person.”

I’ll return to a study quoted in my post 5 Habits to Make you Happier Now;

A study from the Netherlands, as referenced in a Psychology Today article from Dec 2012 asked subjects to “identify happy and sad ‘smiley icons’ while listening to happy or sad music. Music turned out to have a great influence on what the subjects perceived. Interestingly, even when a ‘neutral face’… was shown, the subjects often thought they recognized a happy smiley when listening to happy music and a sad one when listening to sad music.”[1]

The participants projected their mood onto the neutral smiley faces. Whenever we find uncertainty, vagaries, empty space, we project into it. We don’t usually notice that we’re doing this because it is seamless with our engagement with the world. It is only when we pull back and really try to notice projection that its ubiquity becomes apparent.

However, the fact that we project does not make our projections ‘untrue’ – they represent deep truth, our truth. We need to recognize that a projection’s primary value is not what it tells us about the other person or the outside world, but what it tells us about us.

If we look at the world through the lens of very defined categories where thoughts are nebulous ‘fluff’ and matter is physical and corporeal, then projections seem like nothing; only a mental interpretation displaced to an outer source, right?

But, as argued in the post Thoughts on Co-Creation, if everything is energy at a root level – then projections become as much a part of world creation as everything else.  If we view everything from the energetic perspective, we might ask what the real difference is between a mental image made up of energy and a corporeal element made up of energy. It raises interesting questions about reality.

But why does projection matter to this discussion on the Soul?

It is my belief, based on my informal study of mythology that our souls have projected our deep truth of discarnate existence into myth. I don’t think this is that far from what a Joseph Campbell or Jung would say – only they would be hesitant to use a term with such a heavy religious connotation as “soul.”

Regardless of the name we call it – the perspective that projects a pantheon of immortal, deathless beings is one that understands such an existence.

However, as we discussed in the post Orbiting, our memories of such an existence become unmoored when we incarnate and thus this soul-level (or subconscious) understanding has to manifest through the context of the time – in stories and myths.

If this only happened in one place, it would be easy to dismiss – it would be easy to say “Well this is one person’s deep truth they’re projecting.” The fact that we see so many similar fundamental themes in mythology, though; the fact that many of these stories still captivate us and resonate on a deep level, suggests that this represents our truth as a species.

In the next post we’ll talk about a mythological figure that may have started out as the ‘dumping ground’ for our feelings about incarnate life, but who has grown and evolved to take on a life of his own.

[1] Quote from psychologytoday.com article The Neuroscience of Music, Mindset, and Motivation, Christopher Bergland, Dec 29 2012

To Infinity AND Beyond

 It could hardly be one without the other

The Trickster. Everywhere I turn I run into him. Everything I read, whatever I see, wherever I look; he’s winking at me. I used to think I could read the world pretty well, but now I’m seeing things in a whole new way. I’ve had a paradigm shift…and while this isn’t the only place to be, and it isn’t necessarily “better” than any other place, this is where I am.

On my way to work one recent morning, I ruminated (I love this word – a Trickster reference bringing together appetite and thought) on the infinite ways to apply the “&” stance from Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen’s book Thanks for the Feedback (see post In My Reflection for more on this). My mind then jumped to how “AND” also allows us to engage thoughtfully with paradox. To use the example from the Trickster post, the signs and symbols are both meant just for me AND have nothing to do with me (See Trickster Makes this Road for more on this).

Suddenly, the little word “and” seemed to carry so much more meaning than the sum of it’s letters. In fact, it represents exactly where I am. According to Carl Jung, the subconscious operates in symbol. An image bubbled up from the deep; the Ampersand turned on it’s side. From such a perspective, it resembles the sign for infinity; “The Infinite AND” was born.

Engaging with the Subconscious

You may be thinking, OK, you just flipped the Ampersand on it’s side, what’s the big deal? I admit, i’m not going win any prizes for innovation here, but a closer study of this symbol and it’s meaning can reveal that there is something interesting going on here.

Part of the beauty of this symbol Is it’s simplicity. Yes, I merely turned an existing symbol on it’s side. Strangely enough, though, when I first show this symbol to people, they usually don’t even recognize the Ampersand. In that way, this new view on an old character is symbolic of the difference a mere change in perspective can make.

Further, on the left side of this symbol we can clearly see the “beginnings” of the infinity sign, but when we follow the lines to the right, instead of the two lines joining together to close the loop of infinity, we find another crossroads; an opening. The very same opening that ’AND’ often allows us to find. So, in a way, this character is a symbol of change – the opening that allows us to get out of a closed loop of thinking, being, etc. It is a symbol of opportunity and, at a deeper level, represents the opening to embrace paradox.

Another funny coincidence; the other mark commonly used for “and” in handwriting is a “+” which is visually reminiscent of a crossroads – the very place we can expect to find the Trickster. Sometimes this “cross” symbol is handwritten such that two of the perpendicular lines are connected (this is the way I write it) which suggests a boxy sort of infinity symbol that is, again, open on the opposite side.

For me, at the deepest level, this image represents the Trickster who governs the crossroads, opportunity, and (often) paradox. Incidentally the Trickster also governs “the lucky find” as this symbol was for me.

What’s in a Name?

According to Wikipedia the Ampersand was once considered a “letter” in it’s own right. Around the 1800’s students were required to recite their letters. After ’z’ the students would go on to distinguish “a” per se “a”, which meant “a by itself a” and referred to the use of “a” alone versus in a word (the same case is true for “I”).

Apparently, “&” was also recited in this way. “And per se and” to mean “and, by itself, and” – the thinking is that this got slurred over time to our modern day name, “Ampersand.” Ironically, if this etymology is true, then even the name of this ligature contains a bit of a fun paradox. “Ampersand” may literally translate to “And, by itself, and” – but (at least from a usage perspective) the purpose of “and” is to join things – so how can “and” ever be by itself?

Dreams AND Reality

Of course the Universe is always ready to step in and make sure I don’t get too full of myself. As I mentioned earlier, I found this symbol on my morning walk. The first blush of enthusiasm had not yet worn off by the time I got to work. So, when I got to my desk, I immediately opened Word and printed out the biggest Ampersand I could, filling the whole page. I then turned it sideways and hung it in my cube.

What I didn’t realize at the time, was that the printer printed out five more copies. Yep, five more copies of giant Ampersands sitting on the work printer. So the rest of the morning, I had to field questions about why I was printing out giant Ampersands. One such exchange went like this;

(Coworker walks to snack table which is located right by my cube and notices my newly hanging cube art)

Coworker: Oh! That was YOU printing out giant “and” signs. I thought the printer was malfunctioning.

Me: Yeah. No. That was me!

Coworker: What the heck are you printing out giant “and” signs for?

Me: Um… (Trying to determine if there’s any way i’m going to be able to condense exactly what happened that morning that resulted in the symbol -as well as the symbol’s significance to me- into a reasonable answer for an acquaintance-coworker. Nope!) ummm…. I find it inspiring.

Coworker: You find it inspiring. Ohhhhhh-K. (Coworker walks away shaking head).

I have to smile because this is an excellent example of how the Trickster operates. There’s nothing particularly magical about what happened here. Clearly, the last time I printed something form Word I had selected to print five copies of it and somehow the default setting stuck.

Nevermind that I don’t remember doing that or that whether or not Word would have saved that default depends on any number of uncertain variables; to try to make more out of the occurrence than it is misses the point. The point is – “pay attention or look like an idiot.” 🙂 A good reminder from the influence that leaves opportunities, traps, and lucky finds lying around. A good reminder and a good opportunity to smile and say “You got me” followed by “Thank You.”

The ‘Stuff’ of Nightmares

Things that we’re afraid of are gonna show us what we’re made of in the end”
– Blessid Union of Souls “Hey Leonardo (She likes me for me)”

I do not remember most of my dreams, and by most I mean nearly any.  Sometimes I wake up with an intense feeling that I had a particularly meaningful dream, but I spend the morning grasping for details that are just out of reach. Or, I remember fragments, but not the most meaningful parts.  Like the time I dreamt I met my spiritual guide, a Tarot reader in a mall, and asked her to do a reading to help me on my spiritual path.  I remember her drawing a large number of cards and going through them all in detail with me.  In fact, at the end of the reading she gave me a binder which included all the cards she had drawn along with the meaning and analysis of each of one.  When I woke up I couldn’t remember any of the cards or their meanings.  Undoubtedly, some of you may be thinking that my soul or subconscious retained whatever it needed from that dream even though my conscious mind doesn’t remember it.  That may be true.  Unfortunately, it makes the situation no less frustrating or disappointing for the ’waking’ me who is trying to find her way.  For someone actively walking the spiritual path (especially a follower of the Jung / Campbell tradition), being unable to remember dreams on a regular basis is akin to having a deep and abiding love of music, but being unable to carry a tune… Or worse, it’s like being sometimes able to carry a tune beautifully and other times (unpredictably) finding yourself rendered completely tone def.

This post, however, is not about all the dreams I don’t remember.  It’s about one I do.  About fifteen years ago, I woke one morning from a dream that changed the way I thought about myself and my life completely.  The dream has ’haunted’ me at times ever since.  Although I was already meditating regularly and actively walking my spiritual path at this point, it felt like communication coming directly from my subconscious, higher self, or the universe. I share this dream with all of you because i’ve been thinking about it a lot recently and because I believe it contains a powerful message, not for and about me specifically, but for and about all of us.

In the dream I was walking in my old neighborhood and needed to go to my childhood home for some reason.  Our once cheerful bungalow looked shuttered and abandoned and, while recognizable, more closely resembled something from a horror story than a nostalgic memory.  I knocked on the door and then pushed it open and made my way inside.  The house felt empty, but waiting.  A dingy and dark atmosphere greeted me, but sunlight streamed through from the windows dappling dusty clothes and papers strewn about on furniture. I was looking for something (I don’t remember what) and found myself digging in an old, packed, clothes closet upstairs when suddenly I came face to face with the menacing grimace of a skeleton!  I screamed and ran only to find another by the window. I changed direction and nearly collided with a third. I ran through the house screaming, trying to find an exit.  When I finally found the stairs, I rushed down them only to find a young girl with long white-blond hair waiting at the bottom.  I did not recognize her, but there was something very soothing about her presence.  “There is nothing to be afraid of” she told me calmly and then pointed up the stairs, “Take another look”. Begrudgingly (and with some trepidation) I trudged back upstairs moving very slowly and carefully. I spotted the skeleton by the window and my initial terror gave way to curiosity as suddenly something about the skeleton struck me as very strange.  I moved in for a closer inspection and realized that it wasn’t a skeleton at all…or well, not a real one; certainly not any monster out to get me.  It was a Halloween decoration; all crepe paper and card stock.  I reached out to touch it and a piece came off in my hand.  I turned back to the closet where I had found the first skeleton only to realize it was another Halloween decoration, this time made of vulgar white plastic.  All the skeletons were fake and, under examination, there was nothing real or scary at all about them.  Feeling an immense weight lift from me, I made my way back downstairs where the young girl was waiting.  She motioned for me to follow her and pointed to a small window under the stairs.  “Look” she told me “this is what’s inside of you”.  Through the window I could see only black and as I leaned over to look through, I nearly fell into the oblivion beyond.  My first thought was “empty – inside I am empty” and something like disappointment settled in my heart.  As my eyes adjusted to the infinite black space, though, tiny specks of light became visible.  They were stars.  I wasn’t looking into empty space – I was looking into actual space.  I was looking at the universe.

I woke from the dream with great clarity on what it had meant.  Often, in literature and even in real life our homes (or the state of them) represent us.  So, my childhood home represented me or some aspect of me.  Perhaps the state of the home represented my years of neglect, of not -in fact – even living there. My presence there at this time, looking for something may have been a reference to my meditation and self-study in my waking life.  The skeletons represented all my fears.  I think it’s worth noting that, in the dream, it wasn’t that my fears weren’t real….or we’re nothing.  They were ‘physical’ entities.  It’s rather that, under scrutiny, I could view them more objectively.  They seemed terrifying but were, in reality, decorations crafted to be scary.  It was I who had made them personally threatening, the way a child will do with shifting shapes and shadows in their room at night.

Although everyone has to come to terms with their fears in their own way, I think the message from this dream is a relevant one for everyone to mull over, not just me.  The most important message, though, was that inside all of us, in the houses of being and life we have built for ourselves, once we have realized our skeletons are all paper, we find our connection to the universe.  This piece of us may at first seem distressingly empty, but only because we cannot easily grasp infinite space.  Once our inner vision adjusts, we realize that what we’re seeing within our own hearts is the starry sky we look up at each night in search of our dreams.

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)

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)

I can’t change the past, but it sure can change me (PLR p1)

“and then you had to bring up reincarnation over a couple of beers the other night… and now I’m serving time for mistakes made by another in another lifetime” – Indigo Girls, Galileo

This post is the first in a series of four about past lives.  This first one will be an introduction to Past Life regression and it’s relation to the Spiritual path.  There will be two that are narratives about a particular past-life regression experience of mine.  The other will explore the concept of the nature and reliability of memories in both this life and past lives and how that might impact a past-life regression experience (and, of course, our current lives)

Past life regression and the spiritual path

In other places on the blog I have referred to psychic development or energy work  as auxiliary skills that are helpful, but not necessary to actively walk the spiritual path.[1]  I feel differently about past life regression.  Our souls have much more to work through than can be experienced in one liftetime[2].  The unfortunate truth is that, if you have lived before – which frankly is likely – you are probably carrying some past-life emotional baggage.

I realize that most of us have plenty of emotional baggage from this lifetime, and the most significant pieces of that should be worked through first on the spiritual path.  However, sooner or later, if you are walking the spiritual path (and even if you are not) you are going to bump into some past life influence.  How do you know when this happens?  Past life influence often shows up as a more extreme liking or aversion to people, places, activities, or things than is warranted.  Some influences are remarkably subtle and only reveal themselves after a past-life regression session.  However, often it is something you do notice that prompts desperate people (of which I have been one) to seek out past life regression in hopes of finding some answers.   Like everything else, your particular feelings on the matter (of reincarnation or past lives) will influence how quickly you recognize a potential past life influence and do something about it.

Obviously these feelings can be ignored or treated as unimportant, but if they affect your life in a meaningful and distracting way – is there really any harm in checking for some past life influence?  I have sat for two past-life regression sessions a number of years apart related to two different issues and they initiated some of the most meaningful self-work I have done in this lifetime.  Some troublesome symptoms may disappear immediately, as happened in my case.  If the past life influence is very deeply entrenched, time may be required to process the full value of the session before the individual can begin working towards recovery and acceptance.  Of course, you should make your own choices about whether or not past life regression is a part of your spiritual path journey, but I believe that working through detrimental and inhibiting past life influences in the current life is critical to avoid the continuance  of karmic debt carrying that needs to be resolved in future lives.

Some of the things that have come up in my own regression sessions have been quite extraordinary – I will share the narrative of one of those experiences in this series.  It’s only natural that I would question the ‘reality’ of these memories.  Did I just make this story up?  I do believe it’s possible that the subconscious could invent stories to help us work through personal issues that we may not want to face as-they-are (much like Campbell or Bettelheim would argue that myths and fairytales allow the psyche to work through issues).  I think of the story “Life of Pii” as an example of this[3].  After much rumination, I have come to the conclusion that my past-life experiences have been authentic.  However, it’s important to hold any particular outcome with a Tai-Chi fist (see the post ‘Sink or Swim’ if you don’t know what I’m talking about here) and recognize the possibility that a ‘past-life memory’ may simply be a spontaneously generated subconscious narrative that helps resolve inner conflict.  Regardless, If going into a deeply meditative state allows your subconscious to weave a tale that explains and offers resolution to some deeply embedded issues in your psyche, it still seems like a worthwhile activity to explore.   And if you believe (as I do) that we have lived before and that the regression experience is authentic, delving into your past lives could help resolve internal fears and angers you have been holding onto for centuries.  How amazing and refreshing would that be?

 

[1] this is in no way to diminish the work of people in these disciplines

[2] If I were going to wildly speculate (meaning – take this with a grain of salt) maybe a long time ago we used to live really long lives in order to experience more within them, but perhaps we moved towards more and shorter lifetimes so that more experience could be obtained.  For example, even in one very long lifetime as, say, a man, important karmic lessons about carrying a child, giving birth, etc cannot be learned.

[3] <spoiler alert> at the end of the story in the epilogue it becomes clear that the bulk of the book is really an allegory for a much more gruesome reality.

Sink or Swim

 “What is the difference between a psychotic or LSD experience and a yogic, or a mystical?  The plunges are all into the same deep inward sea; of that there can be no doubt.  The symbolic figures encountered are in many instances identical…But there is an important difference. The difference –to put it sharply – is equivalent simply to that between a diver who can swim and one who cannot.  The mystic, endowed with native talents for this sort of thing and following, stage by stage, the instruction of a master, enters the waters and finds he can swim; whereas the schizophrenic, unprepared, unguided, and ungifted, has fallen or has intentionally plunged, and is drowning.” – Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By

“There is no such thing as pure experience, raw and undigested.  It is always mixed up with layers of interpretation.  The alleged immediate datum is psychologically mediated.” – Sarvapelli Radakrishnan, Religious Experience and its Affirmations

Navigating the Dark Night of the Soul

My most recent meditation teacher emphasized the light side of spiritual development, referring to the work we did in class as “play.” I appreciate her perspective; if you are currently enthralled with the blissful aspects of meditation and spiritual development, by all means enjoy them!  After all, if the Path were fraught with danger at every turn what is the incentive to pursue it?  However, there is a balance to all things, and spiritual development is by no means exempt.  Powerful forces of both creation and destruction play a vital role in the universe.  When we begin connecting more deeply to our subconscious, our higher self, and the world around us, we find ourselves face-to-face with both of these influences.

Unfortunately, the field of spiritual development lacks much open-minded, scientific study and when the student encounters destructive influences, she must often navigate treacherous and murky waters alone.  For Ron Lafferty, a devout Mormon, a dogmatic belief that God was communicating directly to him ended in the brutal murder of his sister-in-law and niece[1].  The dark rivers of the self, once undammed, can flood, seep, and splatter across all aspects of our lives.  As another example, a Central American church which practiced ecstatic communion with the divine claimed to be possessed by the Holy Spirit.  Joyous celebrations initiated with innocent bliss grew more and more uninhibited.  When an ecclesiastical representative arrived to investigate the claim, he found the parishioners engaging in sexual activity on the altar and burning bibles in the church.  Disgusted, he pronounced the congregation to be, not under the influence of the Holy Spirit, but under the influence of the Devil and condemned the church to closure.  Although absolute moral judgment of the congregation’s actions is subject to debate, beyond doubt, for the ecstatic devotees, things had not gone according to plan.  Somewhere along the way they ran afoul of their ultimate goal and ended up in completely unfamiliar territory.  Reflecting on these examples, perhaps the closest I can come to describing the underlying danger with this work is to point, not to the participant’s actions, but to their steadfast conviction that they were acting on behalf of a higher power. Instead, they were constructing a delusional framework to allow physical outlet for their own subconscious desires.

Of course, the cases referenced above are extreme and high-profile examples of the shadow influence of the self; most students never need fear falling so far into delusion that they would carry out heinous acts of destruction and violence.  Yet, all students wading into their innermost depths have reason to be wary and attentive. Greater and more fearsome beasts lurk in our subconscious than can be found in any zoo.  Anger we thought we let go, desires long kept under tight control, fears we’ve repressed or “talked” ourselves out of, even past life influences our conscious mind is completely unaware of,  are down there waiting to come to light.  All energetic information obtained via connection is translated by the self into usable material.  In the acts of translation and interpretation hides the risk that our own subconscious mind silently adds its own spin, or worse, masquerades as guidance from the divine.

When the Going Gets Tough

Fortunately, we are not completely lacking in tools to help navigate these risks.  The most important first step is to take them seriously.  Recognize that no matter how skeptical you may have been starting out, when you delve into inner work you are likely to experience things beyond your ken.  The most dangerous thing you can do is let your ego or rational mind tell you “I’ve got this under control” or “I can stop myself before this gets too far.”  We are at our most vulnerable when we think we are at our least.

Once you’ve acknowledged the risk and are prepared to take some life-jacket type precautions, start by recognizing what you are connecting to – and what you are not.  When you open the channel of communication; it’s not always easy to discern where input is coming from.  Most inputs are likely to be coming from your own subconscious. There is absolutely no reason to believe you are on a special mission from God to cause harm to others.  Neither God nor the Universe needs help creating harm or misery for individuals or communities if that is warranted. Carefully evaluate both the direct and ripple effects of taking action on guidance received.  Does making this move satisfy your anger, fear, or desire?   If so, this is probably not the right direction.  Reflect on the quality of your meditation at this juncture – has it been held hostage by emotion and indecision about the current test or problem?  If the latter, try to create a space in your life to meditate in a focused, grounded way.  The aim of meditation is to bring about more clarity, not less.  If you are at all emotional about something, it’s not time to take action on it.  Put the problem to the side and allow your meditation to normalize; return to structured, guided meditation if needed.

Another strategy (and it’s best to use multiple strategies) is to use the concept of ‘Data Points.’ Most of us have at least some familiarity with plotting points on a graph and drawing a connecting line.  The key is to avoid putting too much credence in any one data point or incidence of perceived guidance.  Let the data points accumulate and try to understand the larger pattern from them before letting your mind draw a particular conclusion.  Give yourself some time to mull over the signals and signs before taking any dramatic action. Remember that, with relationships, it can take only moments to destroy what took a lifetime to build.  Another helpful metaphor along these same lines is the “Tai Chi fist.”  When I first started Tai Chi, our instructor taught us to form the Tai Chi fist by imagining that we were holding a bird in our hand.  If we held the bird too loosely, it would fly away.  If we clenched our fist, we would crush it.  I often think about this metaphor when I become too attached to a particular outcome for a situation.  Although it may be impossible to completely let go of your hopes for a particular outcome, it can be helpful to remind yourself not to clench your “fist” too tightly around it.

When All Else Fails

When you find yourself really in a rut, it’s time to seek outside counsel – real outside counsel.  Avoid relying on only your tarot cards or your circle of friends for direction as these may be (unintentionally) influenced by your own hopes and desires.  I recommend seeking help from a Past Life Regressionist, a trusted Psychic (ie. as in someone you or your family can vouch for as an ethical individual), or a trusted resource outside your particular mystical tradition (if you belong to one) who understands the spiritual path.  There are mainstream psychologists out there who do past life or Jung-type work – it may be worth seeking out one of those if you feel you need help from someone with professional psychology or psychiatry training.  Outside counsel may be expensive, but it can be worth it when you need a point of view from someone who has no emotional investment in your situation.  I have sought help from Past Life Regressionists and trusted Psychics when in ruts and found their help invaluable in directing me back to my path (the very existence of this blog, in fact, is due to such counsel).  Don’t be afraid to ask specifically about your problem, even though it may be embarrassing – after all that’s why you’re there.  If they don’t have much to say about it – it could be a signal that the problem looms larger in your mind than it does on your spiritual path.

When all else fails, walk away from the path for awhile.  Immerse yourself in activities that keep you anchored in a safe and healthy reality.  Retreat to friends, family, and take a few months off.  Don’t ignore new data points – record them dispassionately in a journal, but return to your work only when you feel ready.  Avoid completely forsaking meditation at this point.  Rather, focus on short, guided meditations specifically grounding, breath, or metta-type meditations.   If you find your meditation or prayer devolving into mental anguish about the situation – stop immediately and do something else.

Actively walking the Spiritual Path is an amazing journey of transformation; a worthy and necessary cause for everyone.  It may seem like the above essay is intended to convince you that the spiritual experience is not ‘real’ or ‘authentic’ but nothing could be further from the truth.  All communication – even that with the self is real.  It will be necessary at times to deal with revelations about yourself that may be deeply disturbing; desires and secret wishes that you may want to project onto others or that you may want to believe are coming from ‘somewhere’ or ‘someone’ else.  Navigating these steps on the path is necessary for progress – but doing so “alone” can be quite a challenge. Understanding the risks, taking them seriously, and developing strategies for dealing with these types of concerns (if they arise), can ensure your journey is as smooth as possible.


[1] Krakauer, Jon Under the Banner of Heaven, Anchor c:2004 / Random House

You Are Here

 

“A dream is a wish your heart makes, when you’re fast asleep.  In dreams you will lose your heartaches – whatever you wish for you keep.  Hold tight to your dream and someday a rainbow will come shining through.  No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dream that you wish will come true” – Walt Disney’s Cinderella

This opening song in the Disney movie Cinderella illustrates two things.  One, inspiration can be found anywhere, even an animated, corporate cartoon and two, that even a child can be expected to understand the connection between the heart and achieving fulfillment.

However basic this idea seems on the surface, most children and many adults do not actively seek to achieve the wishes their hearts make.  Instead, they mentally file them away in a box labeled “impractical” and pull them out in melancholy moments to accentuate what their life is missing rather than spur them to take an active role in their own spiritual development.

You have an advantage over many if you have recognized that there must be something more to life, something beyond the day to day experience of “surviving” or “getting by” whatever your economic situation may be.

Joseph Campbell speaks most succinctly to this feeling by terming this stage of life’s journey as “The Call.”  The stirring in the heart, the feeling of restlessness and dissatisfaction with your life (however busy it may actually be) is actually a call from your heart to engage, to develop, to experience life in a deeper and more meaningful way.

The simplicity of this idea is deceptive.  Responding to “The Call” is not merely recognizing it and taking action by reading relevant books, engaging in activities such as yoga or Tai-Chi, or attending a meditation or self-help seminar.

Progressing beyond this preliminary stage and starting your own internal journey is actually the first few steps on a very long path.

At a high level, this stage is characterized by an opening of a dialogue between the conscious mind and the subconscious, between the self and the higher self, between one’s being and the universe.  It is all of these at the same time and the effort can only come from within.

The first step is hearing and recognizing this call to action, the second step is signaling a willingness to begin the journey, and the third step, the hardest step, is listening to, understanding, and acting on the response from the universe.  Only when one has taken all three steps has the spiritual journey really begun.

The Call

Even the first step, the initial ‘call’ from one’s inner being is, unfortunately, all too easy to ignore.  After all, our western, capitalist culture does not encourage finding fulfillment without entering into the market behavior of vending and consuming.

In response to our quest for deeper meaning, society and tradition push us into mainstream religions that often offer the comfort and celebration of community at the expense of individual spiritual development.

The looming church of whatever religion can sometimes make us feel that there is no room for a growth and exploration of individual belief; one must accept the mandated beliefs (or profess to) and keep deeply hidden any personal reservations or differences of opinion.

This is nothing new or unique to our particular place and time.  For centuries wars have been fought and people murdered as ‘heretics’ for the very act of believing something different from church doctrine; it still happens today in some places.

It is perhaps this violent history, however remote from our present experience, which has led many of us to feel extremely uncomfortable with discussions of our personal faith and, in the same vein, our personal spiritual development in public and sometimes even among close friends and family.  Discomfort such as this can only increase one’s feeling of ‘separation.’

Although seeking to develop further spiritually on an individual level will not necessarily resolve these conflicts and can actually increase one’s feeling of ‘apartness,’ there is some good news.

Walking your own spiritual path does not actually require you to commit to any particular religious belief or swear allegiance to any particular system; it can dovetail quite reasonably with whatever social religious practice you currently follow.

The challenge spiritual development presents instead is to thoroughly examine one’s own life and engagement with both the concrete and metaphysical world.  There should be no surprise if this causes the individual to both challenge old belief systems and develop new ones, but this will happen in its own time and through one’s own efforts rather than according to any prescribed dogma.

Additionally, seeking to develop and understand the self better can help the individual navigate his or her own life with more intent.  Although the feeling of “separation” from others may increase, often the feeling of communion with the self and the divine will intensify to such a degree that the absence of that feeling of “belongingness” from the community is no longer a cause of concern.

Seemingly in opposition with the conclusion just drawn, relationships with loved ones, friends, acquaintances, and even strangers are likely to improve as one proceeds on this inner and outer journey.

As you understand yourself better, you will gain new insight into your own behavior and attitudes towards others as well as understanding their interaction with you.  This will allow you to express, recognize, and respond to love and other emotions in your interpersonal relationships on a new and deeper level.

Each individual must internally weigh these and other concerns against perceived benefits, but the fundamental fact is that there is really no great risk in taking that first step; hearing the call and making some effort to heed it.

At this point on the journey, your worldview is not likely to have changed so dramatically that any “damage” done cannot be undone.  Like the first flicker of eyelids in the morning; one might wake up, hop out of bed, and start the day or merely glance groggily at the clock and return to slumber.

Weeks or even days after reading an inspirational book or finding oneself moved by a conference or seminar or maybe even a particular worship service, we find ourselves slipping back into our old routines, our old concerns, focusing on the external and neglecting the internal.

In such a case, our eyes have only flickered.  In turn, this is why a more direct signal to the self and the universe is required to truly engage in the kind of meaningful dialogue that will start you on your journey.

If deep down you know this is only a spark to be quickly extinguished, the subconscious mind, too, will remain in slumber; hidden deep below the surface of your awareness.  Similarly, the higher self and the universe will be even more remote and difficult to access.

The Signal

When and if you decide you are ready to take more deliberate and intentional action, you are ready for the second step on the path.  This is a direct signal of intent to the subconscious mind, higher self, and universe that one is ready to begin their journey.

One should not expect that merely spending twenty minutes or even a week in daily meditation will result in a response. The timing from the first recognition and heeding of the call to the response from the universe will vary from person to person.

Ironically, like the seemingly “unfair” story of the prodigal son, a complete beginner may receive a response more clearly and quickly than a person who has dabbled in yoga, meditation, and exploratory reading for some time.  This may be because the more experienced spiritual student has signaled fickle interest often enough that it will take a sustained, deliberate effort to communicate commitment.

Another possibility is that the more awake and experienced student may have come to accept certain feelings and signals as second nature due to their own spiritual activities, and thus may be taking no particular notice of them now.

I recently experienced this in a meditation class.  Even though I have been walking my own spiritual path for the last fifteen years, when my meditation teacher recently asked me if I could feel my own energy body, I found myself shaking my head in a confused manner and answering, “I’m not sure.”

However, when she led our class through a meditation to feel our energy body and described the sort of techniques we should use to “feel” it, I recall thinking of course, I feel this all the time, I just didn’t think of it in those terms.  Students who have dabbled in spiritual development before need to be especially attentive to subtle signals they may be receiving.

However discouraging this “waiting” period may feel to your conscious mind, it is not without its own value.  The opportunity, here, is to begin to “clean out” one’s conscious (and sometimes borderline subconscious) mind and observe oneself from the outside looking in.

It is worth keeping in mind that the ultimate goal of this opening salvo is to communicate not only your desire to be more whole, but your commitment to pursue this endeavor with serious and determined intent.

As far as “sending” the signal itself, truthfully, the only way I have found this to really work is through meditation.  To be fair, meditation can take many forms; drumming, yoga, tai-chi, silent reflection, prayer, journaling, mindful living, etc.   However, the most striking results I have seen include at least some form of focused silent meditation either alone or in combination with other forms listed above.  The very act of sitting and clearing out the mind offers an opportunity to both observe the mind and communicate directly with it.

The signal must be clear, intentional, and serious.  By “clear” I mean uncluttered with fears or hidden motivations such as conforming to other’s perceptions or a desire to “confirm” one’s own skepticism.

Because of the inherent connotations, I cringe a little at using the word “serious” to describe communication with the subconscious mind, self, and universe.  Often this communication can be characterized by a jubilant feeling of “connection” and peace, an experience of exploring and engaging with your existence on a new and exciting level.

I would not deny this whimsical part of the spiritual journey by labeling communication “serious.”  Rather, I refer to the definition of serious that dictionary.com lists as, “being in earnest, sincere, not trifling” as well as “requiring thought, concentration, or application.”  Even when approaching meditation with joy and wonder, your communication should represent the aspects of seriousness listed above.

The clarity and intent of your signal can be made more concrete by journaling about what thoughts, images, and questions come out of dreams, meditation sessions, and simple mindful reflections.  Making the added commitment of putting pen to paper to record impressions and allow yourself to digest them can be a direct signal to your subconscious mind, higher self, and the universe that you are “listening.”

If you don’t feel comfortable with your writing, journaling does not specifically have to take the form of the written word.  Drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, song, music, or making collages by clipping relevant words, thoughts, and pictures from magazines or newspapers are perfectly acceptable ways to bring your meditative reflections into the corporeal world.  One of the fastest and easiest ways to journal is by using a personal voice recorder to tape your meditation sessions, dreams, and reflections.

Regardless of what medium you choose, always remember that the primary goal of this exercise is not to produce great art, but to signal to the universe that you are ready to engage; your goal is to actively pursue your life’s destiny.

The Response

If one has signaled clearly a genuine and sustained interest, the subconscious mind will open to the observer.  An opportunity will present itself, a door will appear, a signal will be sent in response; the universe will communicate, “I hear.”

At first, this is likely to be quite startling, and despite the inherent joy in such a moment, one is likely to be internally conflicted.  The student may question; is this a response?  Or have I been wishing so much for a response that I’ll convince myself anything out of the ordinary is a response?

Chances are that your first instinct is correct, but it is good to remember that communication from these meta-entities, rather than a singular shot in the dark, is often a series of encounters or experiences that taken independently seem like coincidence and only have meaning when considered together; a theme that either instantly rings so true you cannot doubt it or, if ignored, repeats itself and becomes more obvious and clear the more you meditate.

A response can come in many forms.  For one it may be a particularly relevant and meaningful dream or succession of them.  For another it may be the experience of overhearing a co-worker talking about a book they read that affected them deeply and then coming across that same book or author oneself in a seemingly random and independent way only to begin reading it and find just the answer or message one was seeking.

Some may find they feel a new spark of interest in an activity that blends spirit with physical movement like drumming, yoga, or Tai-Chi only to suddenly stumble upon an open workshop or see a flyer in a strange place advertising the very thing they were interested in.

Recently I received a call to action from the universe via the combination of a dream, a television show theme, and a church sermon all within the space of a week.

In the case where an individual is not yet very attuned to him or herself, a situation not altogether uncommon in complete beginners to meditation and spiritual development, he or she may actually not recognize a response or may completely misinterpret one.

In other cases, we may deliberately ignore a response or pretend we don’t hear it because we don’t like the message.  If many weeks go by without any seeming “response” or with a perceived response that seems confusing or in contrast with core ethical beliefs, it can be beneficial to seek direct counsel.

Ask an understanding and compassionate family member, friend, classmate, or teacher’s advice regarding your confusion and trouble.  If that does not help you bring clarity to the situation, there may be cause to seek more definite guidance from a psychic or through one’s own direct dialoguing process.

Most often, the struggle in the third step is not so much with hearing the response, but with understanding, accepting, and acting on it.  We may not feel ‘ready’ to take on the personal challenge our subconscious or higher self presents to us.

Challenges from one’s higher self and the universe will almost always be very personal and reach to the very heart and core of our being.  Perhaps the images presented to us while meditating are frightening because they remind us of our imperfections and weaknesses or they expose deep seated fears that are negatively impacting the way we live our lives.

Additionally, perhaps we feel we are being asked to do things we are not ready to do; open our hearts to people we are not ready to forgive, confess a transgression to someone who may not forgive us, or face parts of ourselves we are afraid of.

From a practical perspective, it is most important to have patience with yourself during this period.  It is not unlikely that progressing beyond this beginning stage may take from six months to a year depending on one’s level of dedication, quality of reflection, and timing of action in response to communication from the subconscious mind.

When faced with such deep internal fears, we do best to remember that all heroes throughout time have had to face great challenges.  In stories, as in life, these are often internal fears and conflicts made manifest in the external world either through our own projections or as messengers from the universe.

Rather than be discouraged, know that the practice of spiritual development is rewarding mostly because it is so challenging.  We are presented with opportunities to better understand ourselves, others, and the world we live in; to grow.