Is this the only life we have?
As with any controversial subject, I won't say that I know the answer. I really only know my own experiences, and why should anyone take that as proof of anything? They shouldn't. They can only take what I say and compare it to what they know for themselves, and then come to their own conclusions.
When I was growing up, both of my parents often referred to having previous lives. I don't know why. My mother and father were both raised as Methodists, one in the north and one in the south. So, I can be fairly sure that they were not being taught about reincarnation in Sunday school. And, they never taught it to me. They just sort of tossed the subject out there every now and then, without thinking or explaining. My mother, being an original women's rights advocate, would regularly claim that she was going to be a man in her next life. My father, who had a strong connection to nature, would claim he was coming back as one kind of animal or another - usually a buzzard.
It was my father, however, who really talked about visions from the past. He would have lucid and disturbing dreams of familiar feeling places and people which he couldn't explain. When I got older I would ask, "Have you seen a movie or a TV show about that?" His answer was always no. Many of them were repeat dreams. He said a psychologist would just call him crazy, so he didn't care to pursue the cause of it. He did say, however, that he wondered if he was having visions of past lives.
Because of this background, I had a matter of fact opinion about reincarnation. It wasn't until I was almost 30 years old that I actually read something about it. Shirley MacLaine's book, Out On On A Limb, made reference to reincarnation and cited Edgar Cayce as a source of information, so I immediately went out and bought the first book I could find about this man who was called "The Sleeping Prophet." There are mountains of books about Cayce, and I read as many as I could get my hands on.
Not too many years after that I started making jewelry as a cottage industry. One of my best markets was a new age shop in a nearby town and they only took pieces on consignment. I sold a lot of jewelry through them, but at one point they had an employee under whose watch the receipts and some of my jewelry went missing. The store was hurting from the loss and I agreed to take payment in goods and services instead of cash. The services were an astrology work-up and a past life regression seminar.
In both, of course, past lives were a given.
I arrived for the past life regression seminar with butterflies in my stomach. I wasn't afraid of the past lives - I was concerned that I might not see any. When you have an open mind, you always have to be prepared for anything to be revealed. I knew that it was a possibility that there was no such thing as a past life, or that I was not in tune enough to see them, and I was ready for that conundrum. Just like in summer bible camp, when all the girls were seeing Christ in the curtains and the clouds and rushing to the pulpit to declare themselves, while my friend and I clung to each other wondering why we couldn't see anything.
The regressionist, who was certified, explained that we would be visiting three different lives. She guided our small group into a meditation. We were all lying on mats on the floor in the back room of the nag champa scented new age store. It was relaxing and comfortable, so I allowed myself to go with it. I can't remember how she moved us into it, I guess because I was engaged in the activity, but I did have visions and experiences of three different "lives." One of them carried over later into a very lucid dream that seemed to explain some of the experiences and emotions that I was having in my current life. It was in that dream, in a kind of symbolic finale, that I went to a giant book, opened it to a page bearing only the Nordic Rune symbol "Laguz," and a voice behind me said, "This is your cross to bear."
Since that time, I've read and studied a little more about the belief in past lives. I think for some people who are suffering from unexplainable phobias, or experiencing emotions that don't seem reasonable to them, past life regression might be a good idea. I was able to understand a few things about myself more clearly, and I think it was helpful. But, really, your past lives don't matter that much. All the good or bad from the past is not nearly as important as what you are doing right now. You might be here trying to make amends for something you did in a past life, but do you really need to know what that transgression was? Is it as meaningful to do the right thing for any other reason than just because it is the right thing?
In one book I read about Atlantis, I can't remember the title I'm sorry to say, the story was that the powerful Atlantean leaders were selfish and wanted to do as they pleased. They knew about reincarnation and karma and decided that they could do what ever they desired and pay the karma later. I think about that when I see some of our leaders and heroes acting shamelessly and in ways that hurt others. Reincarnation and karma isn't a widely accepted and institutionalized belief among the majority, in this country at least. So, what do our leaders and heroes around the globe believe about their actions when they are doing things that hurt people?
One of the very important factors in the concept of reincarnation and karma, as I see it, is forgiveness. Forgive yourself; forgive others. That was one of the lessons I learned from my past life regression experience. Holding a grudge and refusing to forgive just binds us to whomever is the object of those negative feelings, now and later. When you think of it that way, it makes it imperative to forgive, to genuinely forgive. It doesn't make you weak to do so. It sets you free. Reincarnation or no reincarnation, forgiveness is really as necessary as kindness.
It's the closest thing I've ever known to a magic wand.