Today I tried to regress into my past lives. It didn’t go as planned.
Maybe part of the problem is that I don’t exactly believe in reincarnation. But I don’t believe in ruling it out either. My attitude on most things spiritual is that I don’t know anything for sure. (How are all these people so damn sure about stuff all the time?) To me, there’s no way to prove what happens before we’re born or after we die, so, in theory, anything is possible.
Of course, some things seem more likely than others, and for a long time I saw logistical issues with the past lives theory. One being that there are way more people on the planet now than there used to be. And how does reincarnation jive with evolution – when was the hominid primate that eventually evolved into man enlightened enough to start the process? (Actually, the other day my boyfriend suggested that I was a chimpanzee in a past life – a thought that made me exceedingly happy.)
I’m not saying it’s impossible, though, and there are some people who are really into their own past lives. Like, really into it. So into it they will sit at a dinner party, slightly drunk, and talk to you for an hour straight about how in one lifetime they were a Civil War soldier, and in another they were a Cherokee princess who died young.
Perhaps if I’d only come in contact with these dinner-party-blabbers, I’d think that reincarnation was something invented by people to make themselves feel more important. But, I’ve also read the memoir Expecting Adam by Martha Beck and the psychology case-study book, Many Lives, Many Masters by Brian L. Weiss, M.D., and these books, besides being fascinating and well-written, deal with ideas of reincarnation and “eternal spirits” in a very logical and down-to-earth way. Both Beck (who holds a PhD from Harvard) and Dr. Weiss did not initially believe in reincarnation. Initially, they were normal, mainstream people like you and me. But then they had some very bizarre and enlightening experiences that completely changed their outlook on (as Douglas Adams would say) life, the universe and everything.
I won’t claim that reading those books instantly made me a believer, but it opened me up a little bit more to giving reincarnation a fair consideration. My attitude became, yeah, maybe there’s something to this whole reincarnation thing. Or maybe not. Or maybe something else entirely is going on, and it’s totally beyond our mortal comprehension, but I’m interested to learn more about it anyway.
The other day I was listening to the 500th episode of This American Life, and one of the producers mentioned that her favorite moment on the show was from episode 247: a story about transsexual men who were born women and, thanks to modern science and hormone therapy, transitioned into men. The thing that stuck with her, she said, was how one of the men described taking increasing levels of testosterone . As a woman, he’d been a lesbian feminist, and sure, he’d sometimes noticed pretty women on the bus and wondered what they were like or if he should go talk to them. But once he started taking testosterone, he was noticing every woman, all the time. And his mind would flash with pornographic, often aggressive, images of what he wanted to do to the women. It was really overwhelming for him. He felt like he didn’t have control over his own mind. The producer laughed, saying that for the first time she’d felt kind of sorry for men.
I relayed this story to my boyfriend later, and he said this story should be widely-circulated as proof that women aren’t the only ones who suffer because of their biology. Sure, women have to have a period once a month and whatnot, but men have to deal with their testosterone every day.
“It’s kind of amazing,” Paul said. “These people have had both experiences. They’re the only ones who really understand both sides.”
Maybe it’s because we’re in Seattle, where there’s a Gender Studies section in the books section of the Goodwill, but for some reason, Paul and I have been talking about feminism a lot lately. To be honest, I’m not sure anybody these days really agrees on what “feminism” is exactly, but still, it’s an interesting topic to discuss. My general attitude is that I’m not just pro-female, I’m pro-human. Men and women both have great things to bring to the table, and they should combine their powers for the greater good. Unfortunately, for most of history, in most societies, women haven’t been able to sit down at the table, which is why we still need feminism.
A lot of people think feminism died out with shoulder pads, but if you look at sexual assault statistics and Ke$ha videos, you realize that there are still a lot of discussions that need to happen. And they aren’t happening because when gender issues are brought up, men get defensive and women get indignant. Or no one says anything out of fear of seeming offensive and uneducated. It’s a really touchy subject because we all identify so strongly with our gender and it’s hard – almost impossible – to try to see things from the other side of the male-female divide. The only people who really understand, I guess, are the people who have been in both places.
I was pondering this yesterday after reading a disheartening article titled “What happened when I started a feminist society at school.” The 17-year-old girl writing the article was ridiculed by her peers, and it made me realize that this is still very much a problem. Men and women need to be able to talk to each other about important gender issues, but instead, this teenager’s attempts were met with defensiveness and hostility.
A lot of the negativity, I thought, stems from misunderstanding. After all, I try to understand what it must be like to have fight-or-fuck testosterone flowing through me all the time, but it’s really hard when I have cuddle-and-talk-to hormones instead. How can I understand the male perspective? How can everyone be a little more understanding of the opposite sex?
If only everyone were transsexual!
And then I had a brain flash: reincarnation. Everything I’ve read about past lives say that you come back sometimes as a man and sometimes as a woman. Eureka! If we could all remember our past lives (on the big assumption that we have them), then we’d begin to understand what it’s like to be the opposite sex. Then we could have some real discussions and make some real breakthroughs.
A long time ago, Paul had given me a “Spiritual Progress Through Regression” cd by Dr. Brian L. Weiss, author of Many Lives, Many Masters. Dr. Weiss “leads you to a childhood experience, in utero memories, and then through a doorway to a previous lifetime,” the back of the cd claims. It also mentions healing, dolphins, spiritual guides, and a “treasure chest of manifestation.” The cd has been sitting on my desk for months, in part because the dolphin thing threw me off, but mostly because I’ve been too involved with my current life to go seeking out my past ones.
But today I had a good reason for regression: I was going to solve this whole battle between the sexes thing. So I popped in the cd, lay down on my bed, and closed my eyes. There was some new agey music that sounded like something from an eighties sci-fi movie. Then there was Dr. Weiss’s voice telling me to relax and imagine a blue light coursing through my body. “Decend the stairs into a beautiful garden and go deeper and deeper within….”
I woke up twenty minutes later. Whoops. All the cd did was help me take a nap. No regression for me today. I still only know about the experiences of being female.
But, now that I think about it, that’s not exactly true. I read stories about and by men all the time. I read books and essays narrated by people who are not like me in all sorts of ways: gender, age, race, experience. Isn’t it by reading that I gained a better understanding and more accepting attitude towards reincarnation? Reading helps me understand where other people are coming from. By reading I realize that we all have it tough, and we all have good things to bring to the table.
It’d be cool to learn about my past lives, but if that never happens, at least I have books. They help keep me pro-human.