Too Close to See: The Influence of Past Lives in Our Daily Life
"I feel that it's just part of our makeup....I think that everybody is born with "x"-number of past-life memories embedded in their psyche, and I think it's the basis for our personalities - for our intelligence quotient, for our sexual preferences, for everything that controls us." - Dr. Marge Rieder
To invert the old adage, people generally can't see evidence of past-life memory because they can't see the trees for the forest. Evidence of past lives is so intricately woven into the fabric of our daily lives that we take it for granted. We don't see what we assume isn't there. Our child speaks of her past life, and we dismiss it. I once saw an entertainer, a stage mind-reader, ask a three-year-old girl if she was married. Neither the questioner nor the girl's mother noticed what I did--how her expression grew sad and bewildered, and struggling within herself to answer, she finally said in a quiet voice, "Yes." When I pointed this out to the entertainer, he laughed it off saying, "What difference does it make?"
Think about the "fads" we suddenly embraced, and just as suddenly relinquished, as kids. I went through a phase of building tiny structures out of matchsticks, complete with soil, miniature trees, and landscaping. At another period I wanted to redecorate my room to reflect an opulant, old-world lifestyle. I had no idea why, except for a pressing feeling of overwhelming nostalgia, that somehow it was *important*.
As adults, many of us have had the experience of meeting someone for the first time who felt strangely and deeply familiar. We felt as if it was on the tip of our tongue, that we could almost recall where we knew them from. We felt we knew their smile, their gestures, and what they meant to us emotionally, as soon as we had hardly been introduced. And if we dared share those thoughts, we might have been astonished to find that the other person was having the same experience!
None of these things can be counted as "proof", and it's not the purpose of this article to prove reincarnation. That has been done several times over, most notably by Dr. Ian Stevenson (see "20 Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation", University of Virginia Press, 1974). Rather, I want to address the notion that reincarnation is a curiosity unrelated to our daily lives.
Linda Adler, past-life therapist and student of Dr. Brian Weiss, makes the point that we may have had strengths in past lives we don't think we have in this life. By getting in touch with our latent abilities from past lives, we can bring new resources to bear on our current situations. Suppose you are called upon to take a position of leadership, but feel inadequate. If you discover that you have been a successful leader in a past life, and tap into that confidence and ability, you will be able to step into the new role with relative ease.
But this still doesn't really get at what I'd like to convey. People ask for proof of past-lives, and that proof is with them in the smallest preferences, habit-patterns, likes and dislikes. Whether one feels cold easily or overheats--fear of heights, or water--delight in the ocean or love of the mountains--all are influenced by dimly-felt past-life memories. But it can have a more serious side--one's sexual preference and comfort level about sex, whether one wants to hang onto someone or avoid intimacy, how easily one angers and what one does with that anger--all of these also have a past-life component.
One common type of past-life influence that deserves further mention is the strong emotional attraction felt for a person one has been close to in past lives. This can be a wonderful experience when the situation is favorable, but it can also wreck marriages, result in a dysfunctional relationship or cause one person to become obsessed with an unreceptive love-object. A strongly felt past-life connection may have been healthy, but it just as easily may have been a complicated or inappropriate liaison in the past life. For example, if a man had a concubine in a past life, he may want to marry her to make things right, but she may feel oppressed and want her freedom from him, while still feeling a familiarity and attraction.
In the situation where one of the people feeling the attraction is married or in a committed relationship, that person may mistake the feeling of familiarity with an existential mandate to switch partners, perhaps even using reinarnation as a rationalization. This, of course, complicates that person's present life enormously, and probably their future lives as well.
The influence of past-life memory can, however, be positive. Probably every person who was born a "natural" in any field of endeavor such as the arts, sports, or science, is drawing on one or more past-lives where they had already mastered the subject to a certain degree. Each of us have an untapped reservoir of talents we can draw upon. This doesn't mean that we are always meant to exactly duplicate our previous goals and projects. Probably one of the reasons nature in her wisdom kept us from having total recall of past-lives, is so that we'd stretch in new directions and thus learn different lessons of balance and tolerance.
Tolerance is one of the finest fruits of a study of reincarnation. It is generally accepted and understood by reincarnationists that we have had the opportunity to live as different races, with different religions, and as both sexes. We have been rich and poor, beautiful and plain, powerful and without influence, healthy and infirm. If we are honest with ourselves, therefore, in the light of reincarnation, there isn't anyone we meet of whom we can't say, "I may have been like this person once. I have within myself the capacity to understand because I've been there." Developing tolerance is one of the most practical applications of an understanding of reincarnation in our daily lives.
So the next time you butter your bread in a particular pattern, or meet someone you instantly feel an attraction to, remind yourself that you may be experiencing a consolidated memory from hundreds or even thousands of years ago, when you identified yourself with an entirely different body. In short, if you take the time to look for past-life influence, you'll find it's with you all the time.
Steve S. has studied reincarnation in conjunction with Eastern philosophy and comparative religion since his late teens, around 1973. He began
studying the Western research in earnest about three years ago for the documentary and website titled "In Another
Life." He has a masters in Counseling and Human Systems from FSU (1981), during which time he studied the hospice movement and taught a free class on "death & dying". He served on the board of
an organization which started the first hospice in Tallahaseee, FL. Email Steve at email@example.com.
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