There’s an old hymn I remember from childhood, called ‘I Shall Not Pass This Way Again’. What we know, with personal experience into reincarnation or past lives, is that this statement is inaccurate. Most of us hold the belief that we do pass this way again, we do return, in a cycle of movement of incarnation into life, life after death and of reincarnation.

And the purpose? To complete, to learn our lessons, to grow our spirituality, to open to love, to heal and to be healed, to honour and finalise those agreements with those we are connected to in karmic relationships – here on this earth.

On a soul level, we understand this cycle, and we know why we have chosen our circumstances and situations and what the learnings are within them. We know this, deep with us, but on an everyday level, it’s easy to forget, to watch what is happening within our lives and beyond us, out there in the world with all its pain and misery and seeming chaos – with horror, sorrow and judgment.

The media offers little other than bad news and thanks to technology we can see misery, and violence happening beyond our own doorstep, our own community, in places like Bangladesh, America, Europe, Africa.

What do we take from this experience? Usually a sense of sadness and a deep feeling of helplessness. At that moment we lose our centre, that wise part of us that understands that everything, somehow is in perfect order, that the earth we are living upon is essentially a School – one in which souls wrestle with karma, work things out and complete agreements with each other.

School is about learning and growth, and difficulty and pain is often our greatest teacher. The Buddhists have a saying that ‘pain is inevitable, suffering is not’. How quickly you process, learn from and travel through the necessary journey of pain will depend on how comfortable you are staying in ‘suffering’, giving power to the ‘Victim’ part inside us all.

Trauma is how we learn best. And, in order to go deeper inside ourselves to access the joyful energy of our spirit, it’s necessary to go through the pain first – a little like a birthing mother in labour. And, as many of you know, labour is challenging, messy and there are moments when we wish not to feel it, not to continue because the pain is so great. And the key to moving through it is to breathe, to reclaim that centre, and to let how to go, whilst holding the vision of a healthy happy baby at the end of it all. So in life, it’s important to understand that while there will always be a journey of challenge, there is a gift at the other end, a gift of wisdom, of clarity, of understanding, of moving onwards and upwards.

When we think of spirituality, we often think of the yogi on the mountain, the Tibetan monks in silent meditation, of priests and nuns committed to the light of the Universal, by whatever name they call it. Our souls recognise their calling, and often wonder at their ability to disengage from the rest of life so calmly and serenely.

The trouble is that we are all souls within human bodies on this earth in School. We are in this form to have the human experience, to feel our feelings, to grow and open. This means, as much as we dislike it sometimes, that we are forced to be in relationship with other human beings on the planet. This is our karmic lot, and there’s not much we can do about it. It’s a little like going to the dentist – you know you have to, but you don’t really want to.

So how do we grow while we are here? It’s said that there are two paths to Enlightenment – one is Transcendence, and other is Transformation. These paths are very different and the energies within them feel different too.

Transcendence is the path in which we get to strengthen our connection to spirit – the divine spirit, our connections to the heavenly realms as well as the earth beneath our feet and the wisdom of Mother Earth. So we learn how to sit quietly, how to have faith in something we might not yet see or understand fully, to see our lives in a greater, more loving perspective, to let go of our judgements that separate ourselves from loving other people, and from loving ourselves. To open up to the light, to work with powerful vortex energy, to clear a space inside so that we can hear better. That is transcendence – and its energy is passive and opening, a surrendering.

Then there is Transformation – this is more active in energy – and one in which we look at the choices we have made in life, what we have learn from every relationship, every connection we’ve had with others, a path in which we also take a good hard look at ourselves and take responsibility for our limiting thoughts, attitudes and actions. In order to grow spiritually, we have to do the personal work too, and there will always be some who do not understand that.

One cannot be truly spiritual unless one is being honest, acting in integrity with oneself and choosing love over fear, awareness over ignorance and having an impact on the world that is very loving and utterly harmless. What others may do is their choice. We are all responsible for ourselves only. Personal growth is a journey and one is never finished with it unless you have no more reason to incarnate. This path is about letting go of the stuff that gets in the way of loving and being loved.

So which path are you on now? Which path are you choosing? Are you choosing one over the other?

The catch is this: we have to travel both these paths during our lifetimes. And often what we see around us are those who have chosen to ignore one path and have committed their lives to the other. Relationships are considered the most difficult yoga, the most challenging spiritual practice of all. What path has the yogi chosen on his mountain? And, if our reason for being here is to learn about the importance of spirit over the mind, to open ourselves to God, to the Universal energy, in order to receive wisdom and inspiration – what has the workaholic businessman chosen for his path?

So how can you interpret this on an easy everyday level?

Firstly, perhaps, how about taking on the thought that Life is About Letting Go. That nothing is permanent, that there is no “been there, done that” – as every time you walk down a familiar path you think will be predictable, will be the same as before – it’ll be different, because of who you are now, compared to who you were then. Sometimes, I think we have a way of freezing our images of people – as if we are growing day by day, but they aren’t necessarily – like an old photo in a wallet. Perhaps we can change that image by imagining that we are all seeds in a nursery, all of us growing day by day.

Secondly, knowing that you are always at Choice. That if nothing is the same, then there is nothing sacred about tradition – especially the ones we were brought up, that limited our view of ourselves and of life. If we were in charge of ourselves and could make different choices, right now, in this moment – what kind of relationships would we be choosing to have with other people – be they with our parents, our children, our partners, our friends, our enemies?

I live by a simple rule of thumb and that is to examine each relationship I have in my life from the perspective of being a flowering plant, living in rich soil perhaps in the Botanical gardens! As I see each person before me, I ask myself: does this person support me in growing? Do I feel nourished by my connection with her or him? Does he/she notice my leaves, my flowers, do I feel seen for who I am and appreciated? Am I being watered and fed by this gardener?

If not, if I feel that my soil is dry and cracked, and my plant is withering from lack of love and positive energy, I will choose to let go of that relationship. There is nothing that dictates that we should be beholden to any lousy gardener, regardless of whether they are family or friends. There are always more loving people out there available to us. We just have to let go and trust. So take a look at your relationships and take a look at your attitudes and thoughts, and see what you need to let go of, what words no longer suit you, perhaps words like “should” or “must”, anything that is unloving. Choose who you are, and what your values are, for you, not passed down from one generation to the next.

Notice your judgements. There are two types of people in this world – those who believe there are two types of people, and those who don’t. If every soul is down here in school, and if we are One in spirit, then how can we be separate from the criminal, those who destroy? How do we know what his path is, and how can we be sure that his victim is unaware of a karmic bond between them and that they are completing a necessary agreement so that they can each move onwards? How do we know this is not the case? Often its easy to stay in the drama, rather than take a bird’s eye view – gain a wider perspective on life.

So we have choice – choice to open our hearts to others, to take responsibility, to be real with other people, to take a risk and jump, and trust that you are being held in the palm of a great spirit hand. And we learn to let go, because we know that the more we can let go of the unloving stuff, the more space we have to receive the good stuff, the light.

So consider who you might to be ready to let go of – perhaps there are people in your life you still need to forgive. What’s clear is that forgiveness is a journey. Who are you ready to love more?

And, consider this thought: what if you had two weeks to live? How would you spend the last 14 days of your life, starting on this very day? What would you want to tell people?

What if you lived every day with that thought. How would they transform your life, right now?

I think the trick is to love people like they’re gone. To say everything you ever wanted to tell those you care about. And to look at how to let go of those you don’t. As surely as the clock ticks, whatever agreements you have not completed in this life with someone, you will continue to work on and heal in the next – so knowing that, what do you need to heal with another?

May we not die unlived lives

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