I was recently contacted by a reader of my blog, Shiva from India, seeking answers to some deeply personal questions about life. I’m sharing my reply publicly for other seekers with the same questions related to finding meaning, purpose, and truth.
I am not a guru. I am a seeker. I struggle. The answers I share are based on my experience of life and might not resonate with yours.
To start, I want to tell you that I had severe depression for about three years, with panic and anxiety attacks. I had a problem with Derealisation (my note: a condition where everything seems unreal), a result of severe anxiety. Later, after finding spiritual teachers on Youtube and such, I gained a lot of clarity and knowledge. I could understand and release a lot of false conditioning.
Now, going deeper into the process, I fail to understand certain things.
1. When I understand the ordinariness of extraordinary things, I don’t feel motivated to pursue them.
Shiva, I feel ya, because I too stop pursuing things once I understand them well enough. It is part of my personal make-up. In Western astrology I was born under the sign of Gemini, and Geminis are like hummingbirds. We stop at a flower, taste its nectar and move on. Our knowledge is broad and not particularly deep with most subjects. Geminis are ruled by the planet Mercury, which has the shortest orbit around the sun. We’re always in a hurry. Virgos are ruled by Mercury, too. Even if your sun sign is not Gemini or Virgo, you might be able to relate to the need for variety.
I don’t consult astrology for everything I want to understand, but I find it helpful for identifying patterns in my life and understanding my deepest rhythms as a person. Once I understand something well enough to wrap my mind around it, I’m ready to move on to the next subject. That’s my Gemini nature. Dreams are one of the only subjects that I have stuck with for years and studied in-depth, and even after 20 years I haven’t gone as deep with it as I could have.
I have learned through trial and error that I must be led by my feelings. Go with the current instead of against it, otherwise I don’t get very far. If I want to go farther with a subject and truly understand something extraordinary, I put myself in situations where I am exposed to it and reminded why it is important to me. For example, yoga. I used to teach yoga, but the day I moved and my job as an instructor ended, I stopped practicing regularly. Now I remind myself as much as possible that yoga is an important part of my life. I have books, yoga mats, and figurines as reminders to practice yoga. Sometimes I practice, sometimes I don’t.
My point is, don’t force yourself to do anything that your feelings aren’t leading you toward. Understand your patterns. Work with them creatively. And this is most important: Reduce your anxiety by using relaxation techniques. When I’m anxious my energy gets sucked away. I don’t feel motivated. When I slow down, clear my inner space, and drain away the anxiety, my energy moves naturally. I get done meditating or whatever (sometimes I just need a minute to close my eyes and breathe deeply) and boom, I’m ready for launch. My feelings lead me, rather than struggling against them. I get more done.
Anxiety and depression stem from inability to relax and access the natural currents that run through your being. They stem from the ego wanting something it cannot have at the time. If you want nothing and just take things as they come, you have no anxiety or reason to be depressed. Depression is the opposite of inflation, and inflation is the ego struggling against the current. Stop struggling. Go with the flow. Relax!!!
Shiva’s second question:
2. What is the concept of souls picking their own destiny/body before even walking the earth?
Gee, Shiva, could you ask a more difficult question? Ha ha, I kid. I love this question. It is one I have given a lot of thought. In reply I can only share my perspective.
Since you are Hindu you have grown up with the belief in reincarnation. I was raised Christian, and that culture is adamant that we live once, die once, and face Judgment. I now know it is not true. The Bible acknowledges reincarnation, such as when Jesus says that John the Baptist is the prophet Elijah reborn. But I don’t need scripture to reveal the truth to me in this case. I know from personal experience.
Here are the questions I ask Christians when they say they don’t think reincarnation is real, questions that will lead to my answer for your question: Did you exist before you were alive in this body? You believe in the afterlife—what is so hard to grasp about a “before-life?” Doesn’t it make sense that your eternal soul existed before you were born into this body?
If your soul existed before it walked the earth in your body, what was it doing? Was it just waiting around in a hibernation chamber? Of course not. It was having experiences that aid in its development, the same as life as a human aids in its development.
We have free will. We have choice. Nothing is forced on us. We choose our lives as humans before we are born based on what we can learn from the experience. We choose our circumstances based on what we need to learn. Nothing is random about life. It all has a purpose.
We live as many lives as necessary to learn what we need to learn to evolve to the next step in the journey of the soul, ultimately becoming Creators on par with God. Creation is the greatest power, and learning to use it wisely is like tempering steel. It requires heat, pressure, and experimentation. The soul seeks out the heat that will melt away old patterns that are no longer useful—heat generated by the challenges of life. It seeks out the pressure of making decisions and responding to unexpected situations, which as humans happens all the time. We experiment with different configurations that are possible as a human being—male and female, rich and poor, good and bad—and learn from each life lived. You can live thousands of lives before it all comes together and you “graduate” to a higher level of consciousness. Or maybe just a few are necessary. It’s up to you. There is no need to be in a hurry.
From what I have been told by spiritual teachers, Earth is a school of hard knocks. It is for the stubborn, the resistant. It is a classroom where the difficult lessons are learned. Other planets offer easier circumstances, but you don’t learn as much from easy circumstances. Adversity is a great teacher. Would Prince Siddhartha have become the Buddha if he had remained in his father’s compound and lived a life of ease and luxury? Doubtful. Some people would say it would be impossible. No, he left the easy life and instead faced adversity and deprivation. He tempered the steel. He chose heat, pressure, and experimentation.
We have assistance from more advanced souls when choosing the circumstances of our lives. Before being born into a new body we know the general outline of the story—know our family members, the culture, the geographical area, and the tendencies and inherent characteristics of the people we become—but the rest is up to us. Destiny is like a “Choose Your Own Adventure.” It’s a possibility, not a prophecy. We have free will and can decide to tell destiny to fuck off. But we will be nudged in the direction that leads to the soul’s purpose for choosing certain life circumstances. We have friends on the other side—some call them “guides”—who know the plans our souls devise for our lives, and they remind us of our purpose when we need it. However, it is better for them, and for us, to have the freedom to choose. We learn better that way. We learn best by making mistakes and experiencing the consequences, through experimentation. We are all scientists of the soul trying to find the best combination that leads to growth and evolution of our consciousness.
I think that one of the reasons why we are told to “judge not” is, who can really tell the value of a life and what is being learned from it? If you came across Buddha sitting beneath the Bo Tree, or Muhammad in the mountain cave, or Jesus traveling from village to village like a vagabond, you might think they were wasting their time. You might judge them. But you never know what combination of circumstances is going to produce the next great prophet. Every life is significant. There is something to learn from every experience. Think about that the next time you see a beggar on the street and feel pity. Maybe they pity you.
3. What is Karma. Are there any good/bad Karmas, and are we really in control of what we are doing / chosen to do?
Karma is the accumulated balance on our cosmic ledger. It is the result of our actions while in body, in this life and in past lives. If you are a good person you will accrue a positive balance. If you are a bad person who harms other people, well, you will have to pay off Karma one way or another. So yes, there is good Karma and bad Karma, but as I will explain, good and bad are terms, judgments, and it is difficult to discern what is truly good or bad when it comes to Karma.
Our “higher Self” (soul) chooses earthly lives based on Karma. If you have a “positive balance” accrued from living past lives helping others and having a good impact on the world, you might choose a life of relative ease, or even choose to be a “bad” person (again though, that’s making a judgment and might not be an accurate assessment). Some lives are chosen by our higher Self not based on Karma, but instead on mission. The soul has something to accomplish, often related to the advancement of consciousness of humans at the time. For example, I am here to teach about dreams and the subconscious mind, to expand knowledge and awareness of these subjects. Before being born, I planned my life based on that purpose. I set up everything so I could learn what I needed to learn (which is really remembering what my soul already knows) and be in a position to share it. That planning includes the time and circumstances I was born in, the family I have, the significant people I have met, the body that carries me through this life, and the experiences that have expanded my knowledge and awareness.
Your question makes me think of the life of Edgar Cayce, a Twentieth Century American seer who introduced the idea of Karma and past lives into popular Western culture. Edgar could enter a state of self-hypnosis and access information about a person’s health, past lives, and spiritual development. He helped thousands of people and saved many lives. He was blessed with his gift based in part on a past life as a monk who developed the ability to intensely concentrate. His life as Edgar Cayce was built upon that foundation as a monk, plus other lives he lived, such as one as a priest in ancient Egypt. Think of it as putting together pieces of a puzzle. Each life is a piece. Except this puzzle has multiple dimensions, more like a web of interconnections, and each life is built upon the previous ones…with an eye toward future ones. After all, time is only a construct, and outside of physical reality there is no time. Past, present, and future are all one.
Edgar also remembered a life he lived on the American frontier, back in the days when the country was young and mostly untamed. In that life he was a selfish man who had bad habits and was rather crude. It vexed Edgar to know he was once such a person, but he came to see the benefit. It was a piece of the puzzle. It made him more determined to be better person in his present life as Edgar. He had already lived many lives in service to others. Living a life of selfishness was something he could choose based on the Karma he had accrued. It’s like the celibate priest who becomes a prostitute in the next life. The soul wants to experience both sides of the coin.
Edgar’s past lives living in service to his fellow man gave him a positive Karma balance so he could choose a life of selfishness. Karma, to me, is about balance in the sense of balancing positive and negative, good and bad, selfishness and unselfishness. I have learned to think less in terms of good or bad and more in terms of seeing everything as two sides of the same coin. In this life I have been selfish at times. I have harmed people and done some bad things. As much as I feel guilty for the harm I have caused, the experiences made me determined to atone. Hopefully the good I have done as a result helps to balance out the harm I caused. I think that’s why we are all forgiven by our Creator for what we do while in body. Question is, can we forgive ourselves?
Another important question is, can we seek forgiveness from the people we harm? This question is very important for Karma. I have heard stories of people who commit terrible harm then seek the forgiveness of God. Which is all well and good, but I think they miss the point. The forgiveness they should seek is from the people they harm! I picture God listening to their prayers and thinking, “Why do you seek my forgiveness—I am not the one you fucked over.” To me it’s a cop-out and won’t do a bit of good for that person’s Karma unless they gain the forgiveness of the people they harmed.
Everything must balance in the end. Our universe is an incredibly delicate and intricate balancing act. Your Karma can be the rocket that lifts you up to new levels of consciousness, or it can be the chain that binds you to the earth, reincarnating time and again until you learn what you need to learn to evolve your consciousness (which is eternal).
4. What is your belief on possession, like demonic possession and exorcisms? I stay in a place like India, which is overwhelmed with these beliefs / superstitions.
I think the key word in your question is “belief.” Beliefs are tricky. My way of looking at is you either know or don’t know. Belief is for Bigfoot and UFOs. You can’t say for sure it really exists unless you experience it personally.
I can say for sure that some very reputable people have reported encounters with genuine evil and demonic possession. Father Malachi Martin was a Jesuit priest and exorcist who wrote about his experiences in “Hostage to the Devil.” Scott Peck was a psychiatrist and best-selling author who wrote “People of the Lie,” about his encounters with genuine evil. (Both of them are dead now, so I speak of them in the past tense.) Jesus was an exorcist. Muhammad spoke of demonic entities called Djinn. I trust that those people spoke truth based on their experience. I trust the source. Therefore, I think it is real.
Both Martin and Peck say that genuine possession is rare. Most cases assumed to be possession are actually mental illness. Cultures with low understanding of the subconscious mind have many primitive beliefs. Because India is such a massive and varied culture, you would expect to find the entire spectrum of beliefs about this subject, from devout belief to outright denial.
Many cases of poltergeist phenomenon and demonic possession are traced to deeply troubled individuals. I remember a case where a man who had fought in Vietnam as an American soldier had all sorts of poltergeist phenomenon happen around him: footsteps where no person is seen, black shadow people caught on camera, furniture stacked in unbelievable configurations. It was all a projection of his disturbed psyche. Basically, he was externalizing his inner drama. His deeply disturbed psyche affected his physical environment.
I think many cases of demon possession are externalization of inner drama. It’s a way for the psyche to try to understand the problem and heal it. Ritual exorcism—a ritual that many cultures have—is basically a psychological and spiritual healing ceremony. Sometimes the symptoms of possession result from medical conditions such as lesions in the brain and seizures. Sometimes it results from drug abuse.
However, some cases are “real.”
I have had some brushes with what you might call genuine spiritual evil. I have met people who radiated malevolence. I have experienced the paranormal phenomenon that are often associated with possession. If you open the door and invite evil into your life, it will appear. People who use Oija boards and practice black magic are inviting it into their lives…into themselves. Once spiritual evil takes root in a person, it doesn’t go away on its own. Only exorcism or a powerful act of will gets rid of it.
It comes down to the person affected and whether they want to get rid of it. In some cases of possession, the person desires it. They invite it. They can be very powerful, wealthy, and influential people in society, and you wouldn’t know they are possessed based on outward appearance. Some are just ordinary. They do not float in the air or writhe on the ground like a fish out of water. But when you meet such a person you can feel the demon within them.
Let me emphasize again that cases of genuine possession are extremely rare. Also, I emphasize the personal component involved. Possession doesn’t happen unless an invitation is made, consciously or subconsciously. I think in some cases possession is related to Karma—it’s a way of paying for past sins. I also think in some cases that it’s a way of answering the ultimate question, “Is God real?” To which I answer, of course God is real, silly. But some people won’t believe in the Light until they have experienced the Dark.
A shaman taught me to deny all negative forces, all supposed evil, and focus always on the goodness and the Light. I thought at first that he was naive, but now I know his advice is solid. It goes back to belief. Whatever you believe to be true can become true for yourself. Believe that you are sick and about to die and next thing you know you’re dead. Believe that aliens are visiting you in your sleep and you could actually manifest little grey guys running around your bedroom. Believe that spiritual evil is haunting you and next thing you know you are seeing shadows moving and your bed is shaking like it is having a seizure. If you don’t do anything to invite evil into your life, it will leave you alone.
5. I am a Hindu and come from a background with lots of ancient vedas and upnishads. However, a lot of beliefs don’t really resonate with me. So where can I actually look out for truth, and what role does meditation play in this process?
You already know the truth. It is encoded in your mind, in your DNA, in the fabric of space-time. You can access it through your dreams, meditations, and spiritual practice. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will open.
I am only vaguely familiar with the vedas and upnishads. For what I hear they reveal some profound truths. However, I have an issue with consulting books and scriptures that are thousands of years old to find truth that applies to modern day. It’s not to say that these sources don’t speak truth, it’s just that I think the interpretation can be flawed. Often what the writers refer to are truths that applied to situations and circumstances in their time. Let me give an example from my culture:
The Old Testament of the Bible was written for Israelites of the time. There are thousands of statements in it telling followers to “do this, don’t do that.” For example, the Old Testament forbids eating shellfish. This was good advice back in the day before refrigeration, because shellfish handled improperly can be toxic. So when I read in the Bible that God says “don’t eat shellfish,” I think of it similarly to a message from the Health Department. The Health Department says, “Hey, don’t run your car in a closed garage because you can die from carbon monoxide fumes.” Good advice. But eating shellfish is okay in this day and age as long as it is handled properly. You have to apply some common sense and understand the circumstances of the people and society at the time something was written. Now, with electric cars that don’t emit carbon monoxide, it’s okay to run your car in a closed garage—assuming it is an electric car.
Shiva, truth is not a commodity that can be bought and sold, but in our time and all times it has been treated that way. If someone is selling “truth,” I’m not buying. You know truth in your heart. It is free. If you read something and it doesn’t resonate with you, it might be “true” but it is not a truth that you need to know. It won’t benefit you. Or perhaps you are not ready to know it. The truths I have found in my life have come from many sources. Some have come from books—I love to read. Some have come from my dreams. I interpret dreams and trust my dreaming mind to be honest. Some truths I have learned from experience. Some I have learned from friends and gurus. Some I just know because I was born knowing them and simply have to remember. For example, knowledge of my past lives. This truth I know in my heart. I can’t convince anyone else of it, nor do I want to. I can simply share what I know to be true and allow other people to explore the subject for themselves.
You already know the truth. Expose yourself to as many sources as possible and you will remember it. Try everything. I have found truth in many unexpected places. But the one place I can always trust to find truth is my heart.
You asked about resources to find truth for yourself. I can suggest a few. I will close with a list of resources I have used, and wish you well on your journey. Namaste.
Past Life Sources:
Knowledge of the Universe Sources:
Demons and Possession Sources: