I am sitting by a lake in central Ontario. I am 200 km away from my home in Canada and about 6,500 km away from the place of my birth. Yet, sitting here at this lake I could also be in another country or time altogether.
When I was growing up in Berlin, Germany, going to another town was exciting and going on a vacation to Austria or Italy or Spain was exotic and amazingly faraway and different. Nowhere in my childhood was there any indication that later in life I would not only live in another town or country, but continent. Now I am here in Canada. I have made a life here. I speak, think, and dream in a language that I didn’t know until I was 11 years old and I am in many ways living a different life than that into which I was born. Sometimes I refer to the first 30 years of my life as my “past life”.
It isn’t really all that surprising to me that sometimes I have to think carefully for a moment to determine if something I remember is truly part of this lifetime or another lifetime altogether. the difference seems quite small at times.
Working with past lives is fascinating, sometimes difficult, and usually quite rewarding. There are some “tricks” to the work: For one, we need to learn to distinguish between a past-life memory and our own vivid imagination. Listening with the heart and the whole being is part of that, as is a critical observation of the quality and continuity of the experience. Like my memories of “Life before Canada”, past-life recollections have a specific quality to them: they are consistent, have an emotional connection, and often feel hazy in the beginning, maybe only presenting with one strong but small image or sensation.
Secondly, we need to make good use of the past-life information in this lifetime; otherwise past-life work only is a parlour trick without any true meaning. To do that, we need to start and end the work in the here and now. Starting with an everyday life pattern or event, we can consciously explore its past-life root and use the knowledge and understanding gained in the process to create new, freer, more conscious actions in our current lives. Part of that is understanding that true past-life memories have another consciousness to them, and letting that past consciousness go in this lifetime.
For example, if I was a leader in a lifetime 3000 years ago, my ‘leadership’ would likely not have been a choice or even something I would have considered as mine or something to keep for the sake of power. Back then a more tribal consciousness would likely have made it such that leadership was my role by blood or birth and that it was simply what I did without any personal investment in it. Any investment in holding the position would likely have been more about the good of the tribe, e.g. without a leader the tribe would have been more vulnerable, just like a body without eyes would be more vulnerable. That doesn’t make the eyes more important than the feet. However, if I were to bring some of that consciousness to the here and now I would probably end up with something akin to a controlling martyr energy, always feeling I have to lead and wondering why others don’t want to follow.
And that brings us to the actual purpose of past-life work as I see it: change and personal growth. Past-life work should help us become more conscious, more response-able, less reactive and dependent on subconscious and ancient behavioural patterns; and so the last step of high quality past-life work is about this life: how am I going to do things differently; how is this going to help me be a more complete person in the here and now; how is this going to help my Self, my Ego, be the best it can be? There may be some healing involved in this step but mostly it is about growth — and to me that is the main reason for doing it.
Sitting by the lake, looking back over my life, I realize that sometimes we have great opportunities to grow and change in one lifetime. Moving continents, immersing myself in another language and culture, taking on a training and profession that I never would have considered back home — all this has given me the chance to grow, become more aware, more conscious, more response-able. And it has given me a different understanding for the amazing gifts that are hidden in the exploration of our past, near and far, this lifetime and past lifetimes.