How We Are

How We Are

photo by Musa Musavi
photo by Musa Musavi

What are the primary things that influence our life experience?

1) Unresolved baggage (experiences) from prior lives drives us forward into new lives to complete them.

2) Development of Atman (consciousness/ presence) and Sattva (purity, clarity) from prior lives are also carried forward into this one.

We don’t all start in the same place spiritually, nor bring in equal amounts or types of karma. While we’re all of the same source, we carry different burdens and different development. Gauging our development isn’t easy due to the shadow of our burdens. Gauging others development by their burdens is unfair.

3) An optimum birth is sought in the cycles of time to maximize resolution of #1 and further development of #2.

Some can find a decent option quickly, some have to wait awhile, and a few change paths markedly, like taking birth on a different planet. If we have to wait, we’re assigned a helping role that will help us too. For example, if we have anger issues we may help embodied humans work through theirs.

4) The birth time itself sets the balance and pattern of laws of nature for this life. We are all made of the same building blocks, but some have more blue, red, yellow, or green ones. DNA is one way this expresses.

The laws of nature give us the tools to work through certain kinds of experiences in this life, so that sets the stage for…

5) We chose a “suitcase” from our backlog of unresolved experiences (karma) to bring in to this life and work through. It seems we can be optimistic of our abilities to do this after we’re born and forget who we are.

Some take a break and enjoy mostly good karma for a life. Or come in for a short time just to deal with one thing or help someone have a certain experience. And so on. (The Yoga Vasishtha tells the story of a king who lives a lifetime within a lifetime within one night’s sleep of his life as king. Many things are possible.)

6) The birth (body) we take also brings some obligations to the ancestors that developed your DNA. We can say they offer a birth in exchange for a debt, although this is done very cooperatively. Like our karma, we have mixed ability here, especially as these obligations are so often unconscious. But we can carry the load forward to our off-spring.

7) How we respond to our experiences determines how our life flows. (samskaras and vasanas) Do we resist and grasp? Or do we step into the flow and make the best of it? Do we work things out or build even greater walls?

The habits we develop physically, mentally, and emotionally influence how we continue to respond. Are we reinforcing those old ruts, developing new ones, or letting them go? So often, we learn from our family and continue our ancestral and karmic habits. But if we take up suitable practices, we begun to soften, then release them.

A surprising amount of intelligence sets the stage for our incarnation. And then we get lost and distracted in it. (laughs)

This forgetting is intentional. We forget who we are so we can experience what is in front of us without the weight of our history.

We might ask why we’d go to all this trouble? A human birth is a rare opportunity to make rapid spiritual progress. It’s not an easy route but has great potential. The challenges we face are often part of that process.

I can now see how many of my life’s tough experiences helped polish this rough stone and steered me to certain choices. For example, I would not be as motivated to answer readers’ questions had my own questions been easily addressed earlier. Similarly, police work taught me assertion and being clear on what is right, even if it was a hazard to my well-being.

It’s also important to recognize that nature works for the whole. It’s all about the collective and what we bring to that. Contrary to experience, life isn’t personal. It’s not happening to a me.

By working through our obligations (practical, karmic, and ancestral) and engaging in a regular, effective spiritual practice, we can make remarkable progress, often in spite of ourselves. (laughs)

That progress may not be obvious when we’re in the middle of it. But at some point, we’ll reach a milestone. There will be a clear day or a clear experience. We’ll be reminded that we are moving along, stumbling toward ecstasy.

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  1. Gina L Westbrook

    Beautiful. This comes at exactly the right time for me. Thank you, David. I am so grateful for the wisdom and knowledge you share through your blogs. And thank you so much for being so patient and answering all my questions so fully, no matter what they are.

        1. Emine

          Thank you David! This arrived at the right time for me too! ‘There will be a clear day or a clear experience ‘ I sure do hope so! For all of us!
          Your writings are very helpful. Thanks.


          1. Hi Emine
            Curiously, experiences may come quietly. Or they’re abstract enough not to make much of an impression for long. Even if we found it a big experience, we soon forget it until reminded when similar returns later…

            In other words, it’s there even if it’s not obvious. 🙂

  2. Carol

    This is so clear and encouraging. I know exactly what you mean about time to time having some clarity in experience and realization that reminds me of the exquisite beauty of the structure of this path, as I can feel lost or in dispair. The long view can help with patience too! Many thanks….once again

  3. K

    David – this is exactly right. It is so simple when one finally understands this – that we more or less willingly brought our baggage. And having a spiritual practice does increase our capacity for experiencing difficult circumstances and finishing the experience. I am all for age – blessed middle age I say. Life takes skill to live and it takes some of us till middle-age to begin to get emotionally skilled.

  4. Jeff

    We have all lived many many lifetimes. We have been different genders, different ethnicities, living in different times, and responding to wide variety of stress. So it pretty safe to say that we all have boatloads of karma and it’s impact is unfathomable. That makes for a whole lot of different impressions. So responding to how life hits us can certainly be complex. And certainly responding to our issues can be like navigating through mud.

    That is why being blessed with such an effective meditation technique was such a great opportunity. Meditating then acting resolves boat loads of karma. Once you have integrated a certain amount of silence, you can add Vedic recitation that can be fine tuned to different circumstances. That is why I am not a big fan of trying to resolve issues on the surface of life. I personally find these attempts to be slow, boring, and a waste of time. However, I recognize that some of us may need to do just that and I would not second guess any attempt.

    1. Hi Jeff
      Yes, and most people’s DNA is an admixture too. Happily, the boatloads we’re working through are largely just that suitcase we came in with. Our mountains do throw shadow but don’t typically cause events. A true awakening breaks the identification with the mountains of backlog, lifting those shadows, and leaving us with just what we’re working through. As we shift from resisting and creating new baggage to just winding things down, the load begins to clear. Increasing clarity, simplicity, and peace results.

      And yes, with an effective meditation, we transcend our bindings and they begin to unravel. This lightens the load, sets the stage for a sustained awakening, and smooths the whole thing.

      Agreed, there are complex factors in play. Sometimes we can resolve things with transcendence or with what is arising energetically. But sometimes we still need the direct experience on the surface of life. It may not even be for us. If we can be with that as it is, it can complete.

      But yes, the surface can be slow. There is much waiting for it to catch up with deeper shifts. But it’s here for a reason and we’ve stepped into this life to fulfill that. 🙂

      1. Jeff

        But how many lifetimes and how many suitcases until final liberation? The karma paradigm seems slow and endless. To me, it seems we evolve or transcend this paradigm after we start to absorb, integrate, then enliven silence. Once establish in a field of pure bliss, at that point, most action seems very superficial and pointless.

        1. Hi Jeff
          There’s no pat answer there. Any even if I said, say, 108, what would that mean unless you were aware of the prior ones?

          Darker ages tend to increase the challenges but also increase the contrast. So we can get bogged down or make dramatic progress. Usually it’s some of both. There are karmic opportunities, like meeting or ignoring a true teacher who can help move things along.

          There are also things to be experienced in different styles of life, like various genders, social status, wealth, and so forth.

          And yes, karma can effectively be endless because when we’re caught on the wheel, we keep pumping it, adding to the pile. Yet through the magic of transcendence and awakening, all of that can be roasted. So there’s a ‘get out of jail free’ card.

          We still have a body-mind that is subject to the rules of karma. But by transcending and integrating our deeper nature, we discover those aspects of ourself that are beyond the rules of action. Water cannot wet it nor fire burn.

          When the ego drivers fall away, we can indeed have a time where routine life seems superficial and pointless. But as we integrate more deeply, we discover those inner values are on the surface too. And by acting, we further integrate more wholeness. To quote the Rig Veda: “By virtue of unitedness and by means of that which remains to be united, I perform action to generate wholeness of life.” I did a post exploring this sentence:

  5. Tim Owens

    “That progress may not be obvious when we’re in the middle of it.”
    A friend taught me something useful many years ago: You can always tell when you’re making the greatest spiritual progress because it sucks so much.
    (Humor is critical to getting through this life.)

    1. Hi TO
      (laughs) The fast road isn’t always the smooth road. I fully agree on humor and was just reflecting that I hadn’t shared much of that recently…

      So often, beautiful openings are followed by a lot of unpacking while everything catches up to the shift. If such openings are less obvious, all we see is the processing. 🙂

  6. Adrian W

    I guess the underline question for me is:
    Why would the universe/consciousness not be content with whatever happens, and in each now moment, without need for change or redirection?

    The details as best as I can explain…..
    It is the pointing at – a person who must individually do something (go through lives, clear karma, etc… – that doesn’t compute in my brain or in my few unity experiences, especially when I think of the universe as all one, all connected, all happening in this Now moment.
    Doesn’t every experience/aspect of the universe in its interconnectedness have access to every other experience/aspect. Why would there need to be a clearing of karma? Is the universe trying to heal itself? Is there something wrong with it that it’s trying to fix? Why is there a need to have a complete experience. Why is human suffering wrong?
    Is not every action/reaction/event a “just is” moment?

    1. Hi Adrian
      Big questions, partly related to perspective. While there is one reality there are various ways or views of seeing it.

      Consciousness is content in that way. However, consciousness is also aware of itself at every point. This allows it to explore the detail in infinite perspectives. Yet the process is cyclic with rising and falling clarity. As the points move forward into the more manifest detail, they get lost in the objects of experience when clarity is reduced. Ego’s become identified with the content of experience, forgetting who they are as the experiencer (consciousness). Then there is resisting of experience leaving incomplete experiences (karma).

      Yes, it’s all happening in the now. And it’s unfolding in sequence. And all of the past and future are in the present. And there is timeless, and eternal time. Time is a perspective of the process of experience in consciousness. So that too is relative.

      The re-balancing / clearing of karma is operating in the field of action, of doing. Time operates on a different level and has different rules. Consciousness also. They interpenetrate each of other but the rules of one level don’t always apply to all levels. Like quantum physics doesn’t apply on the level of driving your car.

      Yes, you could say the universe is trying to heal itself and all the beings in it. But its field of influence is different than each beings. It’s not that there’s something wrong it’s just that it’s out of balance which causes problems. We need a degree of balance to sustain the universe or it will fall into entropy and dissolve.

      We’re here to have experiences as points of consciousness. If we leave unfinished experience, we leave an imbalance. That can build up and cause issues as above. The incomplete experiences also cause shadows which lead to mistakes and suffering.

      Suffering is unnecessary of any type, for any being. This blog is primarily focused on the human experience. Not all principles are the same for animals as they largely run instinctively and are more in tune with nature.

      Humans have the capacity to support the natural world but have instead tried to control it causing suffering for themselves and animals. When we see others and animals as objects, we fail to treat them with respect. When we heal and restore balance, the suffering of animals will fade.

      Big topics, many of which I’ve written other articles on.

    2. Note that the point of this article is about the components that make up this life experience. Our higher nature is in there and becomes progressively more dominant as we awaken, roast our backlog, and wind down the sprouted seeds of action. But how we are as a human continues in some value.

  7. Greg

    Hi David,

    You mentioned that when we come into this life we bring a suitcase of karma from the mountain of our backlog and that sometimes we can be overly optimistic with what we think we can deal with in one go. You also mentioned how awakening roasts our backlog (mountain) and that only the sprouted seeds of karma remain after awakening.

    Does the ‘mountain’ have to be reduced to a certain size before awakening can happen, reducing one suitcase at a time, or is awakening on a sort of fixed timetable and will happen irrespective of the size of the remaining mountain of backlog?

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Greg
      Yes, that’s the traditional understanding of karma and experience has suggested it’s true. I suspect there’s some variation in the degree the mountain is roasted as this relates to identification. For some with a “softer” shift, the roasting will continue over a period of time as the threads of entanglement are released. It’s like our resistance to completing experiences holds them as a backlog. When the resistance lets go, the incomplete experiences dissipate.

      And yes, I know a few people who remember their suitcase choosing. They wanted to move through as much as possible to awaken so took on more.

      This does imply a degree of the backlog must be taken care of for awakening to happen. But if you consider my comments above, I suspect there are just certain types of contractions that interfere with the clarity needed for awakening. Other contractions may shadow our relationships or finances or whatever but have less impact on awakening. (Hadn’t thought about this before.)

      It does seem that a degree of karma has to be processed in this life before a spiritual process kicks in. Few just need to wait for the body to mature to fully awaken.

      Awakening happens through grace so isn’t on our main timetable of unfolding karma/ experiences. However, there are places in said timetable that are more suitable for shifts. To the experience here, grace happens when it’s best for the whole. If one vehicle isn’t ready at a given point, another will be used. Or it happens anyway, ready or not. (laughs) It’s all in the unfolding of the whole, with each increment designed to evolve it in a stable way. Not too much to collapse the appearance. But enough to keep it going. And this seems to be speeding up.

      Thanks for the question. Always interesting what arises.

      PS – I’ll add that for some, life stays about the same after the shift. But in other cases, including mine, life set the stage for the shift (although this wasn’t obvious at the time) and a completely different chapter unfolded. The IT work fell away (slowly because I resisted) and was replaced by research and writing – the last thing I expected.

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