A jumble of puzzle pieces…
I’d like you to imagine hundreds of jigsaw puzzle pieces scattered randomly in front of you.
There is no box with an image on the cover for you to refer to, so you have no idea what the completed puzzle “should” look like. And to make things more difficult, you’re not sure if all the pieces belong to ONE puzzle, or if you have pieces from SEVERAL different ones.
Some of the pieces are quite small, just tiny fragments really, while others are large. Also, there are no “edge” or “corner” pieces in front of you to make quick progress with working with those. And finally, as if this wasn’t hard enough already, imagine that all the pieces are face down so you can only see the brown, cardboard backing.
Do you have this image in mind?
Now, let’s say I ask you to start fitting together some pieces in order to “complete ” this puzzle, and then place a limit on how many pieces you can flip over at any one time in order to reveal the “image” on the piece.
Working from within these parameters you might think that working on this puzzle would be an impossible, crazy or cruel task to complete.
Mind you, I haven’t placed any time limit for you to “solve” the puzzle.
Given these conditions it’s likely you would throw your hands up and walk away, forever leaving those pieces scattered across your kitchen table or living room floor, never to look at them again. And it’s just as likely that, should someone come along claiming to have “solved” some portion of his or her own particular puzzle, you might be inclined to call him or her a fool. Or a liar.
With me so far?
Good. Because for me this allegory comes very close to describing how past life memories sometimes emerge, seemingly out of nowhere, giving you a “window” into one or several different past lives as bits and pieces come to the “surface” of your awareness.
This is certainly how it was for me.
Starting when I was very young, like four years old, there were “strange” or “out of place” feelings that I had about certain “things” or “events” that, given the particular circumstances of THIS life, didn’t make sense or seem to “belong.”
Now, before I share some of my particular “puzzle pieces” with you I have one request — please proceed with an open mind and leave all judgments “at the door,” so to speak. Because some of what you’ll find here may be upsetting, or challenging, to what you believe. And some of what I’m about to share with you involves stories and details that I have never spoken about with another living soul before.
If you’re okay with that then let’s get started…
“There are no extra pieces in the universe. Everyone is here because he or she has a place to fill, and every piece must fit itself into the big jigsaw puzzle.”
~ Deepak Chopra
When I was young, like four or five years old, I would cry myself to sleep on most nights during my nightly “conversation” with God / Source / Spirit / Love.
Though the words were probably different from night to night, the basic gist of “our” conversation was about my having to be “here.” Again. And by here I mean of course here on Earth. The “problem,” for me, was that I knew in my bones that I had been “here” before. And frankly didn’t want to be back. So each night I would beg God to come and take me “home” even though each night the answer from Spirit was that I was here for some sort of reason, or purpose.
As you can imagine I didn’t know what that reason was, and at that young age I didn’t understand such things as “reason” or “purpose” or “mission.” And I didn’t care to know such things. I just wanted to go “home.”
Basically, I felt like an orphan.
And though my actual parents were (are) certainly kind and loving, I felt out of place being cared for by “kindly strangers” who certainly acted sweet and loving towards me. But the fact remained that I felt like my parent were “foster parents” when I was very young. Because besides feeling like an orphan, most times I felt like an alien. I looked at people around me and couldn’t understand why they got excited about the things they did.
But even though I felt like I didn’t fit in, I never felt “alone.”
Now, it’s possible that you might find it strange for a little boy to have nightly conversations with God. But for me, God / Source / Spirit / Love has always been as real to me as anything else visible here, or rather even more real than anything or anyone else here. What’s more, Spirit has always felt like my best friend. Literally. “Someone” I could turn to and talk with about anything and everything under the sun and “who” understood me and replied from time to time as well.
Mind you, none of this made me feel special or “gifted” or anything of the sort.
In fact, when I was younger I simply assumed that this was “normal” and that everybody felt this way and had these kinds of conversations. Only later when I became older and tried to share a small fraction of “this” reality with friends and other people (even so-called religious people) did I realize that this type of intimacy or feeling “close” with the “Divine” was not something experienced by a lot of people.
Anyway, most of the time those conversations involved my asking questions, wanting to understand, and this started when I was that small boy crying himself to sleep in the dark. Deep down I desperately NEEDED to understand. I needed to know that there was a REASON why things turn out the way they do, that there was some order to this universe and that things really do “make sense” and don’t simply happen because of chaos. Or chance.
And I really wanted to know why I was here. Lying in bed awake at night all those years ago I did receive an answer. Of sorts.
I’m not sure what word will best describe the nature of my answer, so I’ll use the word premonition. I was wide awake when I had this “vision” so it wasn’t a dream, but perhaps it was something like a day dream of the future. It was shown to me that I would live a very long life, well into my nineties. The image I saw was of me sitting in a rocking chair by a fireplace surrounded by children and grandchildren.
Now, you might think that getting an “answer” to my question would make me happy.
But it didn’t.
In fact, what was shown to me felt like a punishment. “Why?” I asked, “will I have to live here so long?” Here I was asking (pleading) to come home and the answer I receive is that I’ll live here for a (seemingly) long time. So why?
And then, one night so long ago that I don’t remember when it happened, I received an answer to that question as well.
It was explained to me that the reason I was going to live here so long, this time around, was because I was being given a gift. Because my three previous lives were cut short when I was young I had missed out on the opportunity to experience love, marriage and children. So this time around I was being given the opportunity to experience this particular aspect of living here as a chance to grow, through the way of love. This was why the long life I was shown wasn’t a punishment at all, but rather as something beautiful and “deserving” of being thankful for as my particular path to wholeness.
“Was ist los?”
You never know when a “puzzle piece” will emerge in your life. I recognized them when they surfaced because they were always emotionally “charged.”
For example, one strange piece came to the surface during my third grade geography class. That’s when I first learned that Germany (at least, at that time) was divided into two parts, East and West. For some reason learning about this fact bothered me. And by bothered I mean on a deeply emotional level. For some reason the division of Germany into parts didn’t feel “fair” or “right” to me.
Another piece emerged whenever I watched war movies or documentaries about World War II. For some reason that never made sense to me I couldn’t help secretly identifying with the Germans. And it’s not like I was rooting for them to win. After all, I knew the history involved and the atrocities committed by that regime. Yet, for whatever reason I felt “connected” with German soldiers, like “identifying” with them somehow.
Mind you, I was smart enough to keep these feeling to myself.
After all, it didn’t feel good to recognize some kinship or connection with a group of people responsible for the Holocaust. But there was no denying how I felt, especially with respect to the German invasion of Norway and later the Balkans and Soviet Union.
When looking at the particulars of my own upbringing there was no real reason or basis for having these feeling in the first place. And try as I might there was no “shaking” these feeling.
And there were other “strange” feelings and behaviors as well.
When I was about ten or twelve years old I fell through the ice of a nearby pond. At one point as I was struggling to find the opening of the hole I fell through so I could pull myself out I knew that drowning wouldn’t be painful. In that moment I knew on a deep level what drowning was like, that it didn’t hurt, and that if I couldn’t make it out of the pond the warm, peaceful arms of death would wrap me up and take me home.
And that was another puzzle piece, too. Because I was never afraid of death. Ever. And it always amazed me when people mentioned their fear of death, because I felt that it’s something we’ve all experienced, and more than once.
Another “odd” piece emerged during high school when a group of friends and I were visiting nearby Lowell and ran into a Vietnam vet sitting outside on the sidewalk asking for money and complaining about his lot in life. And as we all awkwardly stood listening as compassionately as a group of teenage boys can, I started getting angry. Really angry. I don’t know why. After about fifteen minutes or so I just couldn’t help it and yelled at him “at least you f**king lived” with such force and passion that it shocked me, my group of friends, and the guy himself. He just sat there looking at me, blinking, as if waking from a dream and seeing a comrade that he had served with “in country.”
For their part my friends never brought it up, and neither did I.
And last summer, when my family and I visited Washington DC I went to go see the Vietnam Memorial with my son. For some reason I felt that “my name” was up on that black granite wall, and that I would recognize the name if I saw it. But walking along that long, black monument I became disoriented and dizzy instead.
I graduated high school when I was seventeen years old.
Even though I had been accepted at a number of colleges (some fairly prestigious and expensive ones, too) I had decided earlier my senior year to join the military, specifically the Air Force. And barely two weeks after graduation I was on a plane leaving Boston to start basic training in Texas.
Now as you can imagine, a lot of people over the years found it strange that a National Honor Society student opted to join the military rather than attend college. And each time I’ve been asked that particular question I’ve offered different answers for why I made that decision — let’s call them “variations on a theme.”
Sometimes I would say that I wanted to get out of my small town in Massachusetts. Sometimes I told people that I had been driven by a desire to get away from my home and from my family, and for no particular reason because my childhood had been normal enough, I suppose. Sometimes I would say that the schools I was accepted into were too expensive and I didn’t know much about financial aid and didn’t have the right mindset anyway to study and apply myself (very true). And sometimes I would say that my main reason to join the Air Force was to travel to Europe.
In some ways all of those answers are “right” and “accurate” to greater and lesser degrees.
But the truth of the matter is that the military was my ticket “back” to Europe. And getting out of my town and my parent’s home was also a SIGNIFICANT factor as well.
Admittedly, you might find it hard to believe that I was using the military as a way to travel around Europe, but it’s true. After all, there was no guarantee that I would get stationed overseas. But in my bones I just knew I would land there, with 100% certainty. So it came as no surprise when, in basic training, I heard that my assignment was going to be “Camp New Amsterdam, the Netherlands.”
On hearing the news in a room with about a hundred other people, most of whom were getting stationed in Louisiana, I had no reaction at all. Not surprise. Not relief. It was more like a matter-of-fact acceptance of what I expected to occur, anyway.
Now, two strange things happened once I arrived in (or returned to) Europe.
The first was the onset of periodic bouts of agoraphobia. There were times, in fact, when I couldn’t leave my dorm room for an entire weekend. At the time I had no idea why it started or what caused it. There were no concrete reasons for this sudden onset, either. No traumatic experiences when traveling “off base,” for example.
And in my particular case the anxiety manifested itself if I had to go to a “new” place that I had never visited before, and was especially difficult (if not impossible) if I was going to travel alone. So as long as I had one or two people tagging along with me then the feeling of anxiety was manageable.
So how did I cope with my bouts of agoraphobia?
Well, as I imagine a lot of people do when dealing with anxiety I self medicated. Beer was my “go to solution” in pretty much any and all situations. Beer seemed to quiet my mind and helped me to be more comfortable in social situations. And it helped me to forget those strange puzzle pieces that I had been carrying around with me since I was a little boy.
In short, if you asked most of the people I was stationed with they would probably tell you that I was a “party animal” or the proverbial “life of the party.” They saw an outward manifestation of a behavior, but had no idea of the internal causes and struggles.
And I kept it that way, too.
I didn’t mind being considered a party animal, because I was used to keeping people at arm’s length. Up until that time only one person really knew who I was, my best friend Gary (from high school). Pretty much everybody else only saw glimpses of who “I” was.
Anyway, the second strange “incident” occurred shortly after I joined the base soccer team during my last year in Holland.
We had a match scheduled for West Berlin, and I made sure to get the necessary paperwork in order so that I would be able to walk through “Check Point Charlie” and visit East Berlin on foot. I don’t really know why I wanted to visit the eastern side. I guess I just felt compelled to go there, and that’s what I did.
Now, while visiting East Berlin we had to walk around in uniform so that “they” (the East German secret police) would not or could not accuse us of being spies. I know, real James Bond type stuff. So we walked through the heavily guarded checkpoint in uniform and walked around the eastern part of city, which stood in stark contrast to West Berlin, like it was stuck in time (like the 1950s or so). And because we were in uniform pretty much everybody on the eastern side ignored my friend and I. In fact, most were afraid to even look at us.
But here’s the thing. After walking around over there for about an hour or so I had the thought to “defect” to East Germany. Out of nowhere a thought came to me like “you should defect, right now, and stay here.” And for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why I thought that, except to say that walking those street felt familiar.
In short, it felt like I was finally “home.”
Needless to say I quickly pushed the thought out of my mind and kept my mouth shut.
Some pieces slot together
“You have the flash of understanding, that extraordinary rapidity of insight, when the mind is very still, when thought is absent, when the mind is not burdened with its own noise.”
~ J Krishnamurti, The Book of Life
It’s important to realize that we all have an amazing ability to forget.
In fact, during our life I daresay that we actually forget more than we remember. And that’s probably a good thing, too. After all, this “gift” helps us to move forward in life, helping us move beyond past pain, heartache, or embarrassing moments from our past. Forgetting also helps us to potentially face each new day AS IF it really is a new day and not simply some mechanical repetition or continuation of our past.
Even the most profound life experience, once consigned to our memory, can (and typically does) fade over time. The depth of feeling loses its sharp “edges” and, after a while, sort of “blends” into the background of a life filled with (and possibly defined by) a series of mundane yesterdays.
And this is equally true regarding all these “puzzle pieces” I’ve shared with you so far.
But memories, both the ones we choose to forget and those that simply fade into the background and seemingly become forgotten by us aren’t really gone at all. They are just “underground,” so to speak. And until these past events are addressed and “brought into the light” of awareness they can still influence and affect us, even if we’re not consciously aware of that fact.
In my case after returning home from the service my agoraphobia became much more manageable. But it wasn’t gone entirely.
In fact, under stressful situations it would flare up, seemingly emerging from out of nowhere. So when I started my business and traveled all over Connecticut and parts of New York attending networking events in order to meet with other business owners it resurfaced again. And this time, rather than resort to beer (having stopped drinking years earlier) all I could do was “power through it.”
Which wasn’t easy to do.
And since I was constantly stressed with the need to grow my business, it didn’t feel good to have this problem (feeling weak, powerless, and not a good “provider”) knowing that my lack of immediate success was certainly exacerbated by having this problem in the first place.
To make matters worse, I suffered from extreme “call anxiety” as well. The only saving grace for me was email. Without email my business would have failed a long time ago.
So by struggling along on my own I was barely getting by.
And then one day at one of those networking events I met a guy named Mark (now a dear friend). His specialty was (is) helping people overcome fears and phobias using hypnosis, NLP and something called time-line therapy. Finally realizing that I couldn’t do it on my own anymore I decided to work with him.
Now, I’m not sure if you’ve experienced hypnosis or not but you remain in complete control and aware of your surroundings at all times, even in trance. In my case when it came to my agoraphobia Mark asked me to go back to the first time or instance in my life when I experienced this issue and became fearful of open places.
And in a flash I was “there,” looking down at this scene…
I see an open space covered by snow. It’s so cold, and up ahead there is a line of factories like the old mill buildings still left standing in Lowell, MA. Some are intact while others are rubble with smoke rising from a number of different places. An officer is leading a small group of men forward and suddenly gets shot in the chest by a sniper’s bullet. I watch as he falls on his back and bleeds out into the snow, eyes looking skyward. And as I’m “watching” I immediately know “his” thoughts. He feels like a failure because he won’t be returning to his girlfriend in Berlin.
Mind you, all of this happened in an instant.
And when I saw “him” fall to the ground I immediately burst into tears. Because in that very moment I knew for a fact that “he” was me, or I was once “him.”
As I’m crying I can hear my friend Mark telling me to rise above the scene, to get up as high as possible until I’m able to see what’s taking place without any emotional attachment. So I “zoom out” high above as if I’m watching from a couple of thousand feet in the air. I begin to calm down, still watching everything below but now with a level of detachment. Soon after he guides me out of trance.
As I’m wiping away the tears this much is true… my agoraphobia is gone. Gone as if it never existed or was a problem in my life.
And I know that what I just witnessed is absolutely, undeniably true.
Because in that one instance a whole bunch of different “puzzle pieces” slotted together… why I felt the need to “return” to Europe. Why I joined the military to do that. Why I felt like “defecting” when I visited East Berlin. Why going to new places for the first time used to fill me with dread. Why I have a small scar on my chest since I was a baby, a scar no one could explain. Why certain German phrases were “known” to me. Why I was fascinated with World War II going back as far as I can remember, reading up mostly on the German invasion of Russia. Why certain place names in the Ukraine were familiar to me, as if I had heard them or read them before.
That experience helped to “slot” together a bunch of seemingly random puzzle pieces that didn’t seem to belong to “this” life and which had no logical explanation for existing in the first place. And when those pieces came together in that moment a clear picture emerged based on a past traumatic event that had been carried by me into this life.
But I realized more than that as well.
I realized just how much we are loved, by God, or Universe, or Spirit or whatever word you feel comfortable using to describe the creator of this amazing universe. And the reason is simple. Because all is forgiven. It didn’t matter what I “did” in that past life (or other past lives as well), because nothing is “held against us” as it were. We are loved. Period. And we are given all the tools and support we need in THIS life in order to achieve wholeness and fulfillment.
And the recognition of that singular fact is liberating to a degree that is simply beyond words.
Into the Within
“In ending there is a new beginning. If you end, there is something, the doors are opened, but you want to be sure before you end that the door will open. So you never end, never end your motive. The understanding of death is to live a life, inwardly ending.”
~ J Krishnamurti, Mind Without Measure
What I’ve just shared with you is not something I’m asking you to believe. Or disbelieve.
Because the case for reincarnation, or any “spiritual truth” for that matter, is not something that is reducible to proof. Nor is it something for you to accept… or reject out of hand.
Rather, it’s for you to discover on your own.
Let me put it to you this way. If you were visiting my home and we were having coffee together and I started talking about the white flowers blooming on the trees in my backyard, you could take a look out the window to see what I was talking about. In short, you could “verify” what I was saying because my experience of the “external” world is available to you as well.
You could, quite literally, “see for yourself.”
But when it comes to sharing about our “inner” experiences and WHAT THEY MEAN for us, there’s nothing I can point to that you could also “see.” All I can do (or anyone else, for that matter) is use words to “paint a picture” (so to speak) that hopefully gives you an idea about what I’m sharing with you. But in no way can you “verify” my story for yourself, because no amount of language can “show you” what I “saw” or felt.
All you’re left with is my testimony, which are you free to think about or ignore.
And that’s the important thing to keep in mind, which is why I’m not asking for your belief or acceptance of what I’ve just shared with you here. Because it ultimately doesn’t matter if you believe me or not. All that matters is for you to consider the possibility that everything I’ve shared with you here is real.
Because it’s quite possible that you have lived at least one other life before this one, too. What’s more, it’s also likely that if you take a look at your own life you’ll discover (or remember) some strange puzzle pieces of your own (possibly from past traumas) that never quite “fit” or “belonged” in your life, strange feelings about things that didn’t make any sense.
For example, when I first shared a few of these “stories” with my wife she didn’t think I was crazy and didn’t reject what I said “out of hand.” Interestingly enough, after thinking quietly for a few minutes she was able to remember some of her own “strange” puzzle pieces which she shared with me. The details of her own experiences aren’t important, but the key point is that it didn’t take her long to come up with half a dozen or so feelings that had always seemed out of place to her, feelings about things that didn’t seem to make sense and that she had “written off” or forgotten about years ago.
Additionally, a few days ago I was talking with a high school friend of mine who I’ve stayed in touch with all these years. He’s about as level headed a person as I know, a no-nonsense guy who doesn’t suffer fools lightly. During our conversation I shared some of these stories and episodes with him and his first reaction was, “Mike, be careful about talking like this with other people, because they’ll think your nuts.”
After reassuring him that I didn’t care one way or another what people thought of me, and that I wasn’t asking anyone to believe anything I had to say, he paused for a couple of minutes. And then he shared about a dozen episodes from his life that never seemed to make sense before, such as crying uncontrollably when he visited the Vietnam Memorial in DC a couple of years ago, even though he doesn’t know anyone who served during the war. Then he shared about digging “foxholes” in his backyard when he was four years old. And some other strange occurrences from his childhood as well.
When he was finished sharing all the details he could remember, I said, “Roger, those are just puzzle pieces emerging. Do some join together to show you something, show you some picture?” And on the other end of the phone I knew that, for him, a few pieces suddenly fit together.
So what does it all mean?
Maybe just this — be open to the possibility that you may have lived here before, and that life is much more than “one and done.”
And should you choose to take a look within yourself, just like my wife and my friend Roger did, be open to what you find. Because it’s quite possible that some long forgotten puzzle pieces might emerge for you as well, such as strange feelings you had about things that never made sense to you before and never seemed to “fit in” or “belong” to you in this life.
Should this happen don’t dismiss it. Don’t fight it, and don’t get too attached to what comes up, either. Just bring some awareness to what surfaces, because in this way you can release the emotional baggage of possible past life trauma in order to live a more free and fulfilled life, here and now.
Because the life you’re living really is a gift. Even if it doesn’t always feel like one.
* The key card (#33) comes from the Nature Speaks Lenormand Deck. To get your own deck of cards please click the link.