“I am confident that there truly is such a thing as living again, that the living spring from the dead, and that the souls of the dead are in existence.” Socrates
Under the powerful and persistent influence of our ordinary human awareness, we naturally experience ourselves as a single individual living alone inside our physical body. From that experience, we can feel that our human self began with our birth in our present physical body, and that it will end at the death of that body.
Such a feeling is reinforced by the observation that throughout history, countless numbers of people have been born, have lived their lives, and then have apparently vanished at death. All of the billions of human beings who have lived on earth in the past have died, and they appear to no longer exist. Therefore, with a normal human viewpoint that is rooted in such experience, it is not surprising that many people find it difficult to believe that they will continue to exist after the death of their physical body.
Through many years of research into human consciousness, and from numerous deep meditation experiences, I have come to directly perceive that our ordinary human experience is simply one aspect of our overall existence. As many spiritual seekers have discovered for themselves, woven into the very fabric of the physical world, there is an extraordinary non-physical spiritual realm. It is in that spiritual realm that your soul exists, and, it is in that realm that you can discover your ongoing existence that is not limited by physical reality. However, your perception of that realm is obscured by your ordinary awareness.
Through your ordinary awareness you experience your daily thoughts, feelings, memories, and other inner experiences, as well as your perceptions of the outer physical world. However, you do not become consciously aware of the spiritual realm through your ordinary awareness.
Since the normal human perspective of life influences us to identify our human self with our physical body, many people find it difficult to experience a larger reality because they are unable to break the strong hold that their bodily experience has on their conscious awareness. Under the dominant influence of their bodily experience, they come to believe that what they experience in their life inside their human body is the full extent of reality.
If you wish to clear the way for establishing a conscious awareness of the spiritual realm, it is wise to look at some confused perceptions that arise from the normal human perspective of life-the perspective of a human self living within a physical body. If you can understand how you are influenced by seeing your life from that ordinary perspective, then you can make some adjustments to overcome any limitations that are inherent in that viewpoint.
One of the confusions that arises from the ordinary view of life is that some people become so convinced that they are their body that they view their entire subjective experience as a product of the body. Often, it takes many years to go beyond such a limited perspective. Dr. Wilder Penfield is one of those people who made the breakthrough.
Penfield, who is recognized as the father of modern neurosurgery, did extensive mapping of the human brain in the thirties and forties. By probing the brains of patients on the operating table, he discovered specific areas of the brain that trigger certain human responses. From that research, Penfield came to believe that human awareness is nothing more than a product of the brain, caused by the activity of the neurons in the brain. Throughout his long career, he was convinced that human consciousness cannot exist apart from the brain.
Yet, after more than fifty years of research, he wrote in his last book, The Mystery of the Mind, “I came to take seriously, even to believe, that the consciousness of man, the mind, is not something to be reduced to brain mechanism.” He added, “What a thrill it is to discover that the scientist, too, can legitimately believe in the existence of the spirit.”
Another misunderstanding that is related to our ordinary awareness comes from the creation of the belief that our life in our physical body is our only reality. This can lead to great discouragement because we can feel that what we do in this life will be wasted when we die.
When I was in my early twenties, under the influence of a narrow, scientific intellectualism that I had adopted, I was convinced that my own personal existence would end at my death. I believed that I would simply vanish from existence. The idea of a soul, and an ongoing life beyond the physical world, seemed absurd to my rigid intellect. As a result of adopting such a limited attitude, I became very discouraged about life. I struggled with a feeling that life was meaningless because everything that I accomplished in this life would be lost at death. At times, under the influence of my bleak viewpoint, I became so discouraged that I felt that there was really nothing important to base my life on.
When I finally broke through to a direct experience of my loving soul through a deep meditation practice, I was able to lift myself out of that oppressive, hopeless vision to see through to a larger reality. My awakening to my soul enabled me to clearly experience the wonderful spiritual aspect of me that will pass through the door of my physical death into the next stage of my journey. Through numerous spiritual experiences in an expanded state of consciousness, I learned about my ongoing existence through many lifetimes on earth, and that gave me a deep sense of purpose and meaning in my present life. I was able to understand how my present accomplishments are important in the ongoing purposes that I have been pursuing through many lifetimes.
Many people have gone through a similar process to break through the limits of ordinary awareness. The famous automaker, Henry Ford, described his personal awakening in a newspaper interview in 1938. Ford said:
“When I was a young man I, like so many others, was bewildered. I found myself asking the question, ‘What are we here for?’ I found no answer. Without some answer to that question life is empty, useless. Then one day a friend handed me a book on reincarnation. That little book gave me the answer I was seeking. It changed my whole life. From emptiness and uselessness, it changed my outlook upon life to purpose and meaning. I believe that we are here now and will come back again. Of this I am sure-that we are here for a purpose. And that we go on. Mind and memory-they are the eternals.”
Ford clarified his viewpoint even further in another newspaper interview when he said to the reporter:
“Work is futile if we cannot utilize the experience we collect in one life in the next. When I discovered reincarnation it was as if I had found a universal plan. I realized that there was a chance to work out my ideas. Time was no longer limited. I was no longer a slave to the hands of the clock.
If you preserve a record of this conversation, write it so that it puts men’s minds at ease. I would like to communicate to others the calmness that the long view of life gives to us. Genius is experience. Some seem to think that it is a gift or talent, but it is the fruit of long experience in many lives.”
To further clarify the relationship between you and your physical body, a simple image can be useful. Imagine that you wish to train dogs. You ask a friend who raises dogs to help you learn how to train a dog. Your friend loans you a beautiful puppy to practice with for a while. Each day, you work training the dog, treating it with great tenderness. As the dog grows, you become very fond of it. Eventually, you come to love that dog.
Then, after a while, your friend returns and says, “You’ve done a good job of training that dog. Now, I can take it to the person who bought it.” You are shocked that you must give up the dog. You became so caught up in your connection with the dog that you mistakenly came to believe that the purpose of the dog was simply to bring you pleasure. You forgot that the dog was only temporarily yours, that you were simply using it to learn certain lessons, and that you would eventually have to give it up.
In this imagining, the dog represents your physical body. At times, you can become so attached to your body that you feel that the whole purpose of life is simply to care for and enjoy your body¾to raise your dog solely for the pleasure of it. With that attitude, you can come to believe that there is no larger purpose to your life beyond living pleasurably in your physical body. You never see that the real purpose of living in your body, just as with working with the dog, is to learn. You do not understand that eventually you must give up your body through death, just as you gave up the dog when you fulfilled your purpose with it.
As you discover more about your true existence, you will realize that your physical body is not an end in itself. It is simply a vehicle that is temporarily useful for one leg of an extraordinary journey upon which you have embarked-a journey that extends far beyond one human lifetime.
Through a deep meditation practice, you can learn to gain a larger experience of life that will enable you to go beyond the limits of your ordinary human awareness. As your inner vision expands, you will be able to discover the following very important truths about your existence. Like many spiritual seekers, I have verified these truths through my ongoing spiritual experiences through the years.
An inspirational way to work with these truths is to say them to yourself as positive affirmations each day. Even though you may not yet be able to directly experience the reality of these truths, saying these statements to yourself will begin to loosen your beliefs, which is the first step in expanding your ordinary view of life that limits your vision.
1. My present human experience of life on earth is temporary. My existence as a soul is permanent.
2. As I am temporarily experiencing myself as a human being on earth, I am simultaneously existing as a soul in a vast, perfect, non-physical spiritual realm that is filled with extraordinary love.
3. As a soul, I have projected a human self into many lifetimes on earth through the ages.
You can work with these statements for a few minutes each day. That will help you use your thoughts as building blocks of growth as you establish a deep meditation practice. Building your meditation practice on these kinds of beliefs will be a solid foundation for your breakthrough to a conscious awareness of the spiritual realm, to an experience of your loving soul, and eventually to an awareness of your past lifetimes. In time, you will be able to directly experience the truth of these beliefs through your own inner experience.