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.