wouldn’t have to ask about one of my past lives, I reassured myself. I wasn’t there to participate, after all. Just observe.
When I had entered the past lives workshop at our local holistic arts fair, I made every attempt to sit in the back of the room, unnoticed. Of course, the fates conspired and this tactic did not work. A small, kind-looking woman with an unplaceable accent urged me to move up closer to the front, as there were plenty of seats. This was, of course, the psychic I was meant to listen to for the next hour.
So there I was, sitting in a folding chair, too close to the front of the psychic’s talk for comfort. I longed for it to be over.
Why? Well, psychic ability is the one realm of spirituality that still makes me very uncomfortable. Very, very uncomfortable. Granted, my only other mildly comparable experience was in my early teens, and all that really amounted to was watching snippets of John Edward Crossing Over with my mother and grandmother after school. Teenaged Allie found the show to be creepy, possibly fake, but still too frightening for daily viewing. To this day, I’ve actively avoided encounters with individuals who possess the power to see the unseen. Palm readers, fortune telling, mediumship? These concepts make me clam up. Even just writing about the topic, I’ve noticed a stagnation of creativity and a trickle of ideas.
As a result, I was actively trying to avoid jumping in the fray, yet I was ironically thrust into the third row of chairs. As soon as the talk started, our gentle psychic opened with four simple words:
“Any questions about reincarnation?”
Then she looked directly at me.
I barely had the opportunity to raise my hand, when she shot back with a confident, “I knew you would.” This generated smirks from the rest of the audience.
Honestly, it could have either been a true psychic knowing, or it could have been physical observation. I’m absolutely sure I looked as uncomfortable as I felt.
I stammered out, “Like…what are the basics? If you know nothing about this stuff, that is.”
Like, totally. Our psychic launched into an explanation of reincarnation, which boiled down to either paying off karmic debt or making a choice to actively return to assist humanity in some way. It wasn’t the clearest of explanations, to be sure, but I felt as though I got the gist of it.
Thankfully, the attention was swiftly taken off me as the other audience members worked their way into the psychic’s sight line, and I was left alone to scribble halfheartedly in my little notebook.
I was baffled by the methodology I saw being employed. The past-life reading seemed to follow a certain format—a person would announce a place they really liked to vacation, and then the psychic would confirm that they had a past life in that place. This seemingly brought joy to the other audience members, but it caused me to grow increasingly exasperated.
What was the point of this? Wasn’t everyone else seeing what I was seeing?
In my anger, I scribbled, “I’m a bit skeptical…” in the middle of my notes.
After which, not a minute after I covertly wrote that, the readings stopped and I was addressed apart from the crowd once more. Our past life reader looked me dead in the eyes, and assured me that she had integrity. She reminded me of the importance of being patient, and explained the virtues of teaching diplomatically. All of this, though I was sure she couldn’t see what I had written in my notebook. Oh shit.
As the session progressed, and people started to feel more comfortable in the room, the questions got more situationally-specific:
I cannot stop arguing with my brother. Is it possible we were enemies in a past life?
I really love my boyfriend. Were we lovers in a past life?
My family has a history of eczema. Can its origins be found in a past life?
Question after question. After a few of these, I began to see that my frustration was misplaced. I sensed a certain feeling of desperation in the room. It felt like a search for answers to problems that people wanted to disentangle from personally. A desire to transfer responsibility from the present to the past. Thus, they searched for extrinsic explanation, for any exterior confirmation for why a part of their life was less than optimal. This was making me angry, and I still wasn’t sure why.
“Any other questions?” Another pointed look directly at me.
Strangely confident this time, I explained my feelings of being an outsider. I told her I frequently felt different from the rest of the people I met, and it didn’t really matter what kind of people they were. It was a strange confession, and I have no idea where this long account of my personal feelings came from.
My explanation was met with a warning. “Be careful,” she said. “There are people who may want to take advantage of you. You need to trust in your intuition.” She paused, shook her head, and muttered, “I’m not going to say that that.” Slightly ominous warning received, I settled back into listening. But as the minutes ticked down in the session, and people were receiving their past lives as fairies and Native American healers and Italian farmers, I couldn’t help but to join in. For research, of course.
“What about me? Did I have any…ahhh…notable professions in my past lives?”
Another multi-second look.
“Yes. Are you Danish?”
I am not.
“Well, you worked near the water in Denmark. Do you like the water?”
I’m actually pretty scared of it.
“You ran a very successful Danish shipping company. You were a man. And you were always cold.”
Shortly thereafter, the hour was up, and the next speaker came to populate the room, leaving me to ruminate in piles of thoughts and new information. Why did I ask that particular question? Because. Because of the same reasons all those other people in that room asked about their brothers, their lovers, and their health. My profession is in flux, I’m worried I’m not always making the right choices, and I’m searching for validation that I’m on the right path. Why was I so mad at those other people, then? Well, they were reflecting my own insecurity right back at me, in broad daylight. I saw that exact same fear and uncertainty in them that I try so desperately to cover up in myself.
I sit here, uncertain and frustrated yet again, because I have no cut and dry bottom line about what I learned from this experience. I do know that while I felt briefly affirmed by my past life as a powerful Dane, I’m not very interested in learning much more of the specifics. I know it is believed that trauma can be collected throughout our living of these many lives. Our psychic went so far as to say our DNA could be altered, and that we may bring actual, physical scars from those past lifetimes. I find that interesting, but at this current moment, I’m not invested in looking back. I want to march forward of my own volition. That’s where I draw the line, it seems. I love the concepts in spirituality which allow me to manifest, to create, and to design. I resonate deeply with the infinite cosmos, and with the energetic vibrations that make up our daily existence. Do I believe in past lives? If I’ve learned anything the past year, it is to question everything, but to also accept that if one can imagine it, then it’s probably true. So yes, I leave this experience believing that it is possible I was a Danish shipping magnate, but ultimately, I’m so excited by the prospect of creating this lifetime of humanity, that I don’t care.
I ran into her one more time, after the talk, as I wandered the fair, buying crystals and smelling oils. She looked up at me, and announced with a smile, “You ask very good questions.”
That is one of the nicest compliments I have ever received, because at its core, I also believe it is true. The questions I’ve asked of myself and of others on this journey have given me the opportunity to encounter facets of the human experience I’d never even knew existed, and I don’t intend to stop asking them anytime soon.