Reincarnation and Remembering
Written by: Michelle Belanger
Most of you who have spoken with me know that I had memories of who I had been pretty much as early as I was cognizant in this life. I've mentioned that my mother would take me to parties with her friends at college where I would be the center of attention while I recounted when I died in Viet Nam or when I was the ruler of a great island. You would think with a memory like that at such an early age, I might have avoided the whole awakening process and the things a lot of you are going through now, sifting through half-remembered details of lives that are all jumbled up and out of context. But it's never that simple.
For one, I've learned that awakening is a constant and continuous process. Also, I've learned that in childhood we don't have a lot of the barriers of doubt and disbelief that the society and culture tend to impose on us. For example, I can put myself back in the mindset of my three-year-old self, and the past life memories don't feel like anything different from "me". There's just this seamless sense of self where the evenings spent walking along the beach on Crete blend right into wrestling with the dog over a hot dog the night before. The memories just *were* at that point in my life. It never even occurred to me to question them.
But the ease and innocence of childhood ends, especially as you begin to develop that identity which becomes who you are in this life. That sense of current ego often disconnects us from the seamless "I" of past lives, and that's the first barrier that goes up, as near as I can tell. Also, unless people asked directly about them, I didn't really think about the past lives. They weren't important to my life then. What was important was the now, and in the brilliant light of the now, a lot of the past began to fade.
It's not like any of that was ever forgotten. It just got shoved to the back of my mind, where sometimes it would come out in stories and daydreams. In adolescence, I had to relearn how to consciously recall those memories, and they did not come at first with that easy, seamless sense of "I".
At first, it was just hints at recollections. Certain bits of history stood out to me. I knew things that I did not remember being taught or reading anywhere. I had an affinity for several ancient languages that I had never been exposed to. There was a certain English poet that we studied when I was in high school who stood out to me. I hated his poetry, except for maybe one piece. It all seemed like junk to me - with that strong revulsion I reserved generally only for my own poetry that I had written and was dissatisfied with. I seemed to know intimate details about this fellow's life without having studied about him. Like something in the way his death was recorded didn't sit well with me, like the books were wrong. And I felt an intensely personal shame for the way he slept about - almost like I was somehow responsible for his excesses of behavior. And finally, I hated his name. George. Couldn't stand it. Couldn't imagine being called George and liking it. Just set me off for no apparent reason.
Well, quite a lot was going on in my life at the time, so my weird reactions to this English poet got put on the back burner in my mind. I went to college. In the fall of my freshman year, I met someone whom I fed off. In the process of our exchange, (she fed from me at the same time), we both experienced a kind of tearing open in our minds. Images rushed through both of us, scenes, places, people ... it was overwhelming at first, but after going carefully back over all of it, it was clearly past life content. And there was a particular set of images that called to mind that same English poet. At first I was horrified, because I really didn't approve of the lifestyle he had led. The man slept with everything, drank, smoked opium and was generally a pompous ass. And ... I began to fear that the man was me.
Now, with that initial tearing open, a lot of things started coming to the surface for me. And it was hard not to be overwhelmed. The weirdest part about it was that I would start "faceting" - a term they use in the Otherkin community to describe it when a past life identity comes forward and essentially takes over for a while, and you exhibit the mannerisms, speech, and even appearance associated with that past life.
And this was how I first started really looking into who I once was. It was no casual meditation. It was a wholesale surrender of my current identity to who I used to be. It was like trying on an old, familiar suit of clothes. And in letting that self come to the forefront, I got at more and more of his mindset, his memories, what made him tick and what he had to teach me. It's significant that Lord Byron came out first and with a flourish, for at the point in my life, I was going through a lot of situations and relationships that paralleled things from his lifetime. And by getting in touch with my memories from him, I managed to resolve a good deal of past karma and to avoid making many of the mistakes that were his undoing.
Now, the next several years were devoted to exploring not only that lifetime but other lives that started coming to the fore. And during that time, although I knew that all of these were "me", they each felt very much like a separate identity. It was a lot like going through multiple personality disorder. I knew that the ultimate goal was to integrate all of these back into that one seamless sense of self, but for quite some time, I really needed to explore them as separate identities.
Some were pretty distinct, but some of the memories were too vague to even get a real personality off of. They were like remembering things from early childhood. Just an image here, a strong recollection of emotion there, and often no real context to put any of it in. A lot of the remembering also was contingent upon my spiritual development - for a long time, I found it hard to believe some of the things my memories were suggesting to me. I'm a skeptic at heart, and a scholar, and daring to think that our current timelines for the development of civilization, for example, is wrong, really made my brain hurt for a while. So I had these psychological barriers of belief and acceptance - and until I got past certain hurdles, other memories really couldn't come simply because I refused to accept them.
What that taught me is that remembering, awakening, psychology and your sense of self are all very interlinked. Certainly our psychological barriers for what we can and cannot accept really affect our progress. Pushing those barriers, however, is just a bad idea, because as I was having my own development, several other people were exploring themselves around me, and I had seen at least four people go careening off into insanity by 1992 alone. The barriers are there for a reason -- often memories that are elusive involve pain, suffering, or truths about ourselves that we just can't deal with at that time.
I'm trying to remember when all of it came together into a cohesive whole, but I can't actually recall the time. It just sort of happened. And as recently as 1997, I was still having memories occur to me. Often, a new memory or detail in an already remembered life would come to the forefront when I encountered someone who was significant to that lifetime. Although just as often, it was simply the fact that the new person was family, and that connection we all share just sort of pulled something to the surface for me.
I can say now, that although I have that seamless sense of self once more, there are many long stretches where it's pretty vague, and every person I work with now to help remember their own past usually teaches me something about myself. It's like my own memory from this current life. I can forget really pivotal events until someone who was there comes back into my life, or some conversation with someone brings up a similar thought or feeling and the whole thing gets jogged.
Now the one thing that frustrates me even now is the fact that most memories are not exactly linear. I can remember being in Rome and living in the villa with that wonderful rose garden, and that memory can seamlessly segue into a completely unrelated scene in the Holy Lands over a thousand years later. And the only way I can get a feel for the when of a memory is the context - clothes, architecture, major events.
Without significant cues, it's hard to tell when or even where a memory might be - for example, a meadow in France looks almost exactly like a meadow in the United States, in Russia, in practically any temperate environment. So if I remember standing in a meadow and watching the grasses bend in the breeze, there's almost no telling where or when that was without some other cue to go off of. And even historical events might not help, as I've found more often than not, history is a poorly patched together process liberally edited by the winners of every war and influenced by the paradigm of the dominant culture.
And to make matters more complex and confusing, since your core personality is largely the same from lifetime to lifetime, it is very likely that you will have several memories over several lives concerned with the same things. For example, I mentioned the rose garden which I absolutely doted on in Rome. Helen, who lived in England in the latter half of the 19th century, also had a garden, and I garden even now.
Another thing that I find hard are names -- especially now, since names have very little meaning anymore. In the far distant past, a name had power. We treated names with respect, and many of those names linger in our memories. In the past two millennia or so, names have lost a great deal of significance. They're just these convenient things we use to identify ourselves, nothing more. So, although I remember very distinctly growing up in a southern state, getting drafted, and dying in the Viet Nam war, I cannot for the life of me remember my name. I don't think of myself as a name in any of those memories, I'm just me. Of course, for the sake of convenience I've given that lifetime a name - going off the George phenomenon, I figured a name that was popular at that time which I absolutely hate - Frank - might be right. But as for a last name? I'm out of luck.
So what are my recommendations for those of you who are working through memories or trying to recall who and what you have been?
Let things come as they need to come. Don't try to force them. Never try to impose your own interpretation on the memories - just take whatever comes, record it somewhere, and think it over later. Always look for how it relates to your life now and what it teaches you about yourself. Always try to remain objective about the content of memories, and don't get frustrated if things don't seem to fit into a linear progression or if you can't figure out when or where a particular memory occurred.
You will often remember your most recent lives first. You will often remember the deaths first or most clearly, as they left a pretty big impact on your psyche. Not only will you probably *not* remember an entire lifetime in a linear fashion, you will probably remember bits and pieces of many different lives all in a jumble. And it is not uncommon to sometimes adopt mannerisms and other quirks from past selves. It is even very possible for your entire face to change, or at least seem to change to reflect who that self looked like when those memories are very strong. So don't be surprised when doing past life work if you look in a mirror and see a face that's not exactly yours.
As you progress in your remembering, there will be a period of integration. This can happen over night, or it might slowly occur over a period of time. You do not have to remember every single detail of every life or even clearly remember every single life in order for this integration of Self to occur. It's the important lives and the important events in those lives, especially in relation to who you are now, that will really make themselves known. You probably weren't Awakened in every lifetime, and I've found that unawakened lifetimes are pretty hard to remember - like you spent the whole time sleepwalking or something. Especially short lives, unless their ending was really traumatic, are also hard to recall. Childhood and any pre-awakened state is usually pretty hazy. When everything comes together, though, there will just be you, and the sum that is You. And at that point, the real Awakening begins...