India, like Past Life Therapy (PLT), changes people. But how can you compare a country with a therapy method? I’ve been wrestling with that strange comparison feat ever since I became aware of the similar insights and feelings that have overcome me from both experiences.
Extended travel around India feels like therapy. It challenges and expands belief systems, which can foster growth whether intended or not. Once you’ve experienced it, you won’t be the same person. It’s more than simply becoming an enthusiastic fan of eating all meals with only your hands. India induces great peace at times, inner turmoil at others. Like a past life regression experience, the country has a way of bringing to the surface your biggest issue to work on, often surprising you as to how that happened without your noticing.
Yet, like PLT, you also often discover that you had the inner resources to resolve the conflict all the time. Conflict isn’t bad. It happens by design and we’re supposed to have conflict, says Paramahansa Yogananda, one of India’s many self-realized masters and author of Autobiography of a Yogi. Earth is designed as an illusion of duality and opposites for the purpose of growth toward wholeness, he says, by creating the perfect chance to experience ourselves as love and light in the midst of darkness. Thus, conflict translates to "opportunity" when seen through the eyes of the soul’s broader perspective, that place of completeness and insight, whether the conflict lies within oneself, a relationship, a family, community or internationally.
This grand opportunity to view problems from a higher perspective usually happens during the life review portion of a past life therapy session, and I’ll share how it happened to me in India.
Exploring methods of healing
I was one of the lucky ones who traveled to India to attend the World Congress in Regression Therapy last March, taking in the workshops, lectures, entertainment and the electricity from a community of like-minded participants gathered together with a common passion of exploring methods of healing. But I was even more fortunate than the "lucky ones," because I extended my travel around India for more than three months, feeling the open-hearted warmth for which India is famous. Strangers quickly transformed into friends, then hosts. I received several invitations by Congress participants to stay in their homes when it was over. I also accepted an invitation from a stranger I met on a train to attend the wedding of his niece. I was with two companions at the time. We were treated like royal guests, being provided accommodation, sight-seeing tours, and given seats of honor at two wedding feasts – all because a stranger wanted to share something of his life with us.
I experienced that these genuine, heart-centered invitations by strangers desiring to give something to me were quite common in India. However, so too were the interactions with conniving individuals who viewed me only as an opportunity to get something. The former gave me feelings of appreciation and value, the latter gave me feelings of resentment, unless they were honest and open about their intention, like the beggar with elephantiasis asking for rupees.
Being an even-minded individual, I don’t often feel resentful and angry in America, but India has a way of creating this inner conflict, or as I eventually learned, "opportunity." Not only is India good at stirring up emotions, but it also provides countless environments and teachers that encourage one to see the world and its challenges through the higher understanding of one’s soul. Some of these places and teachers lie inside the walls of India’s thousands of ashrams.
I stayed at eight ashrams while I was there. Although ashrams vary widely, they generally are peaceful places for retreat and spiritual study or introspection, where travelers can stay, sleep and eat for a week or a month, usually on a donation basis. They are typically founded by an enlightened guru or teacher who is either alive or long passed on, whose life continues to touch and draw many followers. Each wants to share, if you’re interested, their own particular path to lasting happiness, or God/Source of All. The paths vary greatly and take an approach that can be either introspective and intellectual, service-oriented, devotional, meditative or physical in method. Some ashrams I visited had thousands of resident devotees, while I was among three at another. Despite the huge variance in their teachings and approaches toward Self understanding, or yoga (literal meaning is union with God), they each had basic underlying premises in common.
We are all individuated manifestations of the same divine Source energy, under the illusion of appearing separate. In other words, we are all One.
All the love, security and joy that we are looking for lies only a perception shift away within ourselves.
There are many diverse paths to reconnect with the divine Source of Everything. Most of the ashrams I stayed at had representative pictures or symbols of all religions.
We are eternal, indestructible, spiritual beings using these bodies to learn and evolve.
Conflicts are seen as effective tools to potentially overcome the limitations and illusions of human ego that keep us bound to the wheel of reincarnation until we master our minds.
Reflection of myself
In the ashrams I was at, conflicts were viewed as opportunities to overcome one’s fears, frustrations and issues and to move toward healing or wholeness or completeness. It was taught that ANYTIME we have a conflict with anyone, even an unwarranted kick from a stranger, it’s always about us – how are we going to respond to it? Do we see only the faults in ourselves or another, complain about them, hold onto anger, or respond in a different way? One approach to deal with any conflict is to view it as though it was designed and set up by a wiser part of ourselves (our soul) for the sheer pleasure of responding to this challenging person or circumstance from a place of divine love, not fear. After all, if we’re all One at the highest level, it’s really a reflection of myself causing me this inner anguish.
Author Neale Donald Walsch suggests that all human thought and actions are based in either fear or love. He articulates, "Fear is the energy which contracts, closes down, draws in, runs, hides, hoards, harms. Love is the energy which expands, opens up, sends out, stays, reveals, shares, heals." He notes that fear judges, is intolerant, lies beneath anger and holds onto it, whereas love empathizes, is tolerant and seeks understanding. Fear feels lack. Love feels wholeness, completeness, that all needs are met. Fear separates, divides, and is based on conditional acceptance. Love sees and feels Oneness, unites, and is based on unconditional acceptance. The communication of fear is vague, indirect and withholding of truth. The communication of love is clear, direct, honest and specific.
Many teachers say that what we are doing here is to try to obtain the wisdom that impels us to move towards love in all thought and action. Conflicts and unpleasant feelings arise to tell us that we are presently operating from the fear end of the continuum. There is no judgment in that, only a chance to introspect and respond in a way that yields more beneficial results. In past life therapy, after a life of blunders and hurt, we often arrive at a non-judgmental place of higher understanding where we access the insights that usually point to how we could have lived or thought differently. We gain awareness as to how we could have made a choice to respond to situations from empowerment, strength, understanding and love, rather than from fear, limitation and lack.
Consciously transforming fear-based thoughts and actions into love-based thoughts and actions is healing. Healing literally means becoming whole. When we feel whole, we feel that all our needs are met, and we can in turn respond more easily to people and circumstances from a place of love. This process is one reason why the effectiveness and benefits of past life therapy often extend beyond what is easily articulated. Shifts towards healing occur, sometimes overtly noticeable, at times subtle. In a way, this is also why India feels like therapy. Conflicts and learning opportunities occur in abundance.
For instance, I could share about the time I lost $180 in a well-organized, almost applause-worthy street scam, or the time the rickshaw driver refused to stop at the hotel I intended to go to because he wanted the commission that he would receive by bringing me to another place. Rather, I’ll share the more common experience of getting charged three times higher than the normal rate at a phone booth, as the clerk ignored the automated computerized total. I hung onto resentful feelings of being treated unfairly for a while until I tired of it and decided to let go of these unpleasant emotions.
The hindsight wisdom
Then I imagined that I had died and was reviewing this particular event in my life from the hindsight wisdom of my soul’s carefree perspective, allowing the most beneficial response for all involved to settle into my consciousness. I reasoned, or rather felt that the highest response wasn’t to punch him in the nose, but to view him as an extension of myself, as an eternal soul trying to learn to not operate from dishonesty and lack. I imagined looking into his eyes with a kind, loving, light-hearted firmness, while gently insisting on being charged what was on the customary computerized print-out. I might even give him a tip. If he flat-out refused to give me the honest rate, I really wouldn’t care, but would cheerfully share my perspective with him on the matter, and even invite his viewpoint. I questioned whether the highest response was to let the matter slide because I was a comparably wealthy foreigner, but reasoned that enabling dishonesty and avoiding conflict was not the most beneficial response for either of us as souls who had little concern for money, only the manner in which we respond to one another while playing out the dream skit of life.
Extended travel around India often reveals the warmest acts of heart-felt, selfless love. It also uncovers dishonesty based in the fear of feeling like something is lacking. Like the Indian taxis that quickly weave in and out of traffic, you become intertwined in both scenarios. It feels like the ultimate land of duality. Perhaps not coincidentally, it is also the place where multitudes of masters have taught that this apparent duality is really an illusive trick, designed for us, by a higher part of us, for the purpose of trying to see through it, and then act in thought, word and deed as though we were really One with each other.
"When one is illumined, he sees himself as the One Spirit throbbing beneath all minds and bodies," Yogananda said. As we exist in this manner, we begin to live our lives as though we are already viewing our thoughts and actions from the insight and clarity of our soul’s perspective, much like consciously living from this clear vantage point in a past life therapy session.