So Many Lives, So Little Time
Even though I believe in reincarnation, I don't think about what sort of past lives I might've lived to now. There are those little flashes where I suddenly feel at home in a place I've never been, which make me wonder.
Earlier this year, for example, we were in Santa Barbara visiting the Vedanta Hindu Temple while it was quiet and there were no activities. Walking along the vegetation, sitting in the silent temple, a certain feeling presented itself and I felt connected to some ancient past inside myself. Nuns take care of the temple and I seem to have an affinity with Nun-life. But enough of that.
What I'm marveling at, instead, is how many lives I've seemed to have lived in this life as Sandy Naimou. How is it that, the person I feel I am now, seems to be a completely different person than the one I thought I was in 2020? And the one in 2020 is very different than the person I was in 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016.
I feel so different year to year, that I sometimes wonder if I should erase my life in social media every so often, almost embarrassed at who I was before! But, I know it's a good way to see how much I've changed, and to admit to that fact. Witnessing those multitude of changes is really the key anyway. The details of who I seem to be aren't the point. The point is that my personality, changing day in and day out, isn't who I really am. And being reminded of that fact is good.
Recently, in Pablo Sender's online Jnana Yoga class, one of our assigned exercises was to ask questions about this "personal self," asking why I have a sense that I'm the same person throughout my life. This mental exercise, maybe we can call it an analytical meditation, has been commonly prescribed to teach us that we are not our personalities, which we try to define by constantly changing physical bodies, emotions, and thoughts. We typically string together memories of these changing moments and try to imagine some sort of personality, a personal identity held together by that string. And then we cling to it. So, what is this "I-sense" that we experience? Is it real? Not if your definition of "real" is everlasting and unchanging.
I practiced this daily for a week, and came to some familiar realizations in new ways. I also continued to build in me a contrary feeling to the "I-sense" by virtue of questioning. An image of a plant kept presenting itself, and I analyzed that when it showed up. I explored memory and the meaning of "to understand." I went through my memories and visited the different variations of my personality, confirming that the only thing that has remained constant throughout my life is that silent awareness operating from within.
But anyway, I'm not going to far into all of that because I really appreciated what Pablo Sender said in class, which was that "You don't want to find the answer, just stay with the question."
I love that. Even in the land of "spirituality," there's this tendency to believe that we have the answer, and what does that do but make us just as biased as we were before we became all "spiritual"?
Clearly, I have beliefs, but being open to questions prevents me from thinking my way is the right way and the only way. The closed-mind empowers the personality, and I'm trying to see myself beyond that personality, that sense of "I" that's a bit inaccurate.
Imagine how many lives you've lived in so little time since the day your current physical body was born. What is still there, amidst the millions, maybe billions of changes that you've lived through? Makes me take a deep breath just thinking about it.
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash