Q: Susie, I am becoming more and more aware of the tragic events in our world. I’ve always been one to avoid news because it’s very depressing to me and often creates a hopeless feeling in me about the world, but more and more I feel the need to KNOW about what’s going on, even if it hurts. When I see images of a 5 year old child on the streets of India or hear about the extreme violence that women in Darfur endure, I ask myself what they could have possibly done to deserve being born in a world like that. I believe in reincarnation and it terrifies me to think that someday that could be me. Could you please explain more about the process of reincarnation and why some people are born into such inhumane conditions? Thank you.
A: Oddly enough, I, too, used to not ever look at the news because it upset me so much, followed now by wanting to know what’s going on in the world, even if it’s upsetting. What do I believe about reincarnation? I think it’s like having several attempts at experiencing ALL different aspects of life by getting the chance to live all different kinds of lives. So, to understand greed, we may be wealthy in one life to experience that, maybe followed by a life of poverty, to see that side of the picture. In the end, we will then be able to be compassionate, understanding, loving, respectful people because we have BEEN everything – we are not just white, or Episcopalian, or a female (like we may be in THIS lifetime). This gives us built-in empathy – we’re no better, no worse, because we have literally walked a mile in someone else’s shoes. From that powerful position, we can now take affirmative action to help others.
So, I don’t think anyone necessarily CHOOSES on a conscious level to come into a horrible circumstance in their life, but I think there IS an element of choice somewhere that says, “Okay, it’s going to be tough, but THIS will be your lifetime to experience abject poverty.” But that isn’t ALL there is to you, right? That is just ONE life – you’ll have all sorts of other experiences in your other lives. And I don’t think you have to believe in reincarnation to see how that “getting the whole picture” feeling works. For instance, I was involved in a painful situation some years back, concerning some other people. I admit I wasn’t too sympathetic to another person’s feelings – I didn’t really care that much. What happened? A few years ago I was the one in the same situation as that OTHER person was in all those years ago, so I had the “privilege” of feeling how it felt to be on the opposite end of the stick. It didn’t feel very good, and I felt a little squirmy as I recognized the pain that other person must have gone through, and how I didn’t have much compassion or caring for them. NOW I understand, and I have silently asked for forgiveness for my uncaring. Maybe next time I will have a little more understanding. You see how that can all work?
So you went through your time of isolation, of not wanting to be involved with the icky parts of humankind because it was too unpleasant. Then you became stronger and more self-aware until you probably started overflowing the borders of your life. That is to say, you got too big for your sheltered life, and sought to venture outside its walls. This is what happens to our kids when they grow up (hopefully). They aren’t content to stay at home, coddled by their parents – even if life kicks their butts a little, they want to get out there and experience the REAL life. You felt strong enough to start watching the news, and getting involved. That shows me your spirituality in action (you realize you’re not in this alone). But now how to make sense out of the suffering? Face it, you ARE royalty, compared with probably 98% of the world, so as royalty, what’s expected of you? To take care of those less fortunate than yourself, which is what you’re doing. Yes, next time it could be YOU, or it could’ve been you in your LAST lifetime, and then YOU relied on the kindness of others, or WILL be relying on them in the future. So if we’re all in this together, it’s YOUR turn to be the one helping right now. You get something out of it, just as the ones getting helped get something out of it.
Again, I don’t believe in a God who “makes” anything bad happen to people. I believe in a God that’s all love. But in this setup called our life, we have lessons, goals, challenges, gifts, surprises, heartaches, pain and joy. We have no way of knowing what another person has planned for their lives, or even why they’re going through what they’re going through. We can only live our own one precious life (this time around), and take the time to enjoy it and learn and grow from it. Since you ARE in a position of being able to be of service to others, you may want to take a moment to sit with what your skills are, think about what you’re passionate about, then take the steps to implement them into your life. You help others this time, you get help from others next time. We’re all in this together, and I think you should be very proud of what you’ve done so far. You’ve recognized that there are those in the world that need your help, and you’re actively moving toward helping them. That is the greatest gift of all, and all I think you need to be concentrating on. As Deepak Chopra said at a Retreat I attended in California several years ago, “There’s no one out there.” What in the heck does THAT mean? To me, it means that we’re all part of the One, all reflections of God, and as such, we’re connected, not separate. Now it’s up to us to discover that, and then act like it, in this life, and any other lives we may live!
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