Photos: Scott Swanson.
One of the most beautiful songs of my generation is Cat Stevens’ Father and Son.
i had a difficult relationship with my father, especially as an adolescent and so when that song came out in 1970 on his album Tea for the Tillerman, it really struck a chord. I have at least one male friend for whom it also resonated, but really, I think it touched our entire generation, because we really were very different from our parents. Since I listen to mostly 1960s rock, I’ve heard it many, many times since. Coming home from the gym the other day I heard it again and thought about this verse:
All the times that I cried
Keeping all the things I knew inside
It’s hard, but it’s harder to ignore it
I knew young that I was very different from other kids. I lived in my head most of the time, always observing and thinking. The world seemed a strange place to me. Still does, really, but back then I wasn’t really sure what to make of it. I’m still not sure, to be honest. We can spend our whole lives trying to figure the world out, I suspect.
About 18 months ago I had a between-lives regression. That exercise is meant to take us to the time before this life, between lives, for those of us who believe in reincarnation, and the goal is to get clarity about the purpose of this life, the life lesson.
But my experience was a little different.
When the regressionist guided me to a past life i really struggled. I just couldn’t see much of it at all and the struggle was evident in my voice and also in my body as I fidgeted on the sofa in her hotel room. But when she brought me to my death and into the afterlife, it was a completely different story. Very confidently, I described what I saw, what I was doing and what others around me were doing. I remember that feeling of amazement at the work I was doing in that realm with a team of two others, and even MORE amazing was the remarkable way we interacted. Unlike my past life experience, these images were vivid and detailed. The regressionist was excited at what I was describing.
“You might entertain the idea that you have not had an incarnation on earth before,” she said, “but work in the afterlife.”
Maybe, I thought to myself, who knows. We won’t know til we get there.
A few months ago at school our mentor/professor regressed our class and again, I went to the afterlife, a place where I seem to be very comfortable. Which is ironic, since I’ve had long period of time when I feared death. So there I was, up the stairs in that place. When it was time to return to this time and place, I didn’t want to. I REALLY didn’t want to; I could feel my reluctance to return, the tears on my cheeks as I stood on top of a staircase preparing to come back down it and re-enter this life. My father was with me at the top of the stairs and, seeing my tears, said to me, “It’s hard to be human, Carol, isn’t it?”
Those words have rung in my ears ever since. Because it IS hard to be human.
I’ve heard earth referred to as Soul School and it’s evident why. We’re here to learn and grow. There’s at least one big lesson for every life and maybe more and sometimes those lessons are hard. They’re MEANT to be hard, too, to challenge us to grow.
I was pretty sure I’d figured out my one big lesson a few years ago, and some of the deep diving we’ve done as part of my graduate school homework–work in which we charted and found patterns in our lives– has reinforced my belief. Of course, at 65, I have a lot of data that I wouldn’t have had at, say, age 40.
Why is it important to learn the purpose of this life?
Because being happy usually requires that we understand the big picture, how all “stuff”, including all the bad stuff, fits together into a lesson. A life lesson. It’s a perspective that’s worth the work, too.
The other day I read something written by a widow about the blessings that have come about from her husband’s death. Now, most people would see that as a topsy-turvy way of looking at widowhood. But I get it.
Shi* gonna happen. That’s just life. The real question is what do we make of it? And also what do we learn from it?
Many people aren’t comfortable with the search for meaning. Me? I love it. I like to figure out how things fit together.
And I have to say that by figuring out my big life lesson for this go-round–to learn forgiveness–I’ve been able to put a lot of the shi* in my life in a new and healthier perspective.
Have you figured out the meaning of your life? The lessons?