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Protecting Your Karma (Use What You've Learned), by Ruth Marie Davis

Ever asked yourself if you've been here before? Ever gone someplace you've never been before and felt like you've seen it, done it, or experienced it already...experienced what the French call dejà vu? Ever wondered if it might be because you were here before?

Enchanted Path, by Anca Laxer
"Enchanted Path", by Anca Laxer

I vividly remember my mother taking me along to my older sister's dentist appointment when I was no more than five or six years old. I was sitting on the floor in the waiting room, coloring in a corner set aside for small children, when an older gentleman exited the examination room. He stepped up to the receptionist's window, scheduled another appointment, and then turned away to leave. The receptionist's parting words to him were, "Have a nice day, Sir." Something clicked in my little head.

"Mom," I asked, what else is it that you can call a man?" I still remember her questioning look. I knew what I wanted to say, but being only a very small child, I could not seem to articulate it the way I thought it. "What other things can you call men besides 'Sir'?" I prodded.

"Well," she replied. "I don't know of many other things except for maybe 'Mister.' You can call a man 'Mister.'"

That wasn't good enough. "No, Mother, there are other things, lots of them." I was beginning to feel upset, frustrated and confused. If there were other names, my mother should certainly know them. Mothers knew everything. If she didn't know of these things, than they couldn't exist, but still my little mind nagged and nagged. My mother, tired of this childish line of questioning, squelched any further inquiries on my part with a stern warning to keep quiet and color.

It wasn't until many years later that my question was answered. I was in my ninth-grade history class when our teacher began to discuss certain individuals that lived in what we now call the Medieval times. He explained that in those days, the aristocracy ruled and, for the most part, anyone who was anyone held a tile: Lord, Sir, Viscount, Earl, Duke.....all those titles (names) I had been seeking from my mother as a little child, sitting on the floor in the dentist office. It was a revelation to me at the time. My teenage mind flashed back to the child's mind, and I realized my question had truly been answered.

This revelation was not without questions of its own. Inasmuch as I had established that these titles were truly what I had been attempting to articulate as a child, how could I possibly have known this? I had never been exposed to that information at the tender age of five or six, yet I knew of its existence. This left me with many more questions. My mind wandered further back to my fifth-grade class at Lyman-Amassa Elementary School in San Bernardino, CA. Once a week or so, our teacher, Mr. Johnson, would roll an old, beat-up piano into the classroom, and we would sing songs from a song book, accompanied by Mr. Johnson's questionable musical skills. Although the songs he chose for us to sing sometimes bordered on the ridiculous, for the most part, it was quite pleasant.

One day during our musical hour, Mr. Johnson's selected a song from the book and asked us to turn to that page and sing on his cue. The name of the song was unfamiliar, and if I had heard it before, I had no recollection of it. I only know that a lump developed in the back of my throat, the minute the music began. I opened my mouth in a feeble attempt to sing, but nothing came out. The words blurred across the page through the tears that had formed in my eyes. My hands shook, and I felt like my heart was breaking, though I had no idea why. I let the book fall to my desktop and gripped the back of my chair as I stood behind it as the tears streamed down my face. This became such a serious and intense pain that my classmates began to notice it. It ultimately became a very embarrassing situation when my mother was called to pick me up from school, and I couldn't explain to anyone why in the world I was acting the way I was.

Of course, my mother's answer to everything was that my period was probably "working on me." I always hated that phrase. I believe my mother to have been of the opinion that all girls' periods began "working on them" shortly after their birth. Once we ascertained, however, that this simply did not explain what I had been feeling, my mother sat me down and told me something I would never forget. When she began her story, I had no idea what in the heck it had to do with that song's making me upset. I later learned why.

My mother explained that she'd had a young sister, one born after my Aunt Mary (whom I had always known to be the youngest). This little girl was named Ruby and was very frail from the moment she came into the world. In addition, she was born both blind and paralyzed on the left side of her body. She could walk, but would drag the left leg when she did. Mother explained that Ruby had watched her parents burn the trash and decided one day that she would like to burn it. Ruby lit the fire and watched it begin to burn. She didn't feel the flame that was licking at the left side of her dress. Being blind in that eye, she didn't see it either. By the time Ruby realized she was on fire, her dress was burning wildly. She ran to the house screaming for her mother, fanning the flame along the way. My grandmother was apparently not a quick thinker, and instead of rolling Ruby on the floor, she began to whip her about screaming, in some sort of an attempt to blow the flames off her. In any event, by the time it dawned on anyone to roll Ruby on the ground, she had suffered third-degree burns over pretty much her entire body. She lived only a few days, and then, at the age of eleven, Ruby was laid to rest. My mother explained that during her short life, Ruby had been bright, inventive, and full of energy and laughter. She had big, blue eyes and brown hair with red high-lights. Apparently she loved to pick the little weeds that grew about, but never the yellow ones. Ruby was partial only to the purple petals.

When mother was finished telling me this story, I wiped the tears of sadness from my eyes and asked her why she had told me this story. "Because," she replied, "I have always wondered if you were Ruby somehow returned to me through reincarnation. When my older sisters were sometimes mean to me, Ruby was always a joy to be around. You are so much like her. Even your eyes are the same. And you've always only picked the purple petaled flowers. I guess no one can be for sure, and I've never really told anyone before because I didn't think anyone would understand, that they would think I'm crazy."

I was quite taken aback at hearing this. I had never heard of that concept before. I had attended Christian churches throughout most of my childhood, and never once was this subject brought up. I asked my mother to explain to me what this meant, this reincarnation. Her explanation was simple. We're born, we live our lives and make our own choices as God gave us the privilege to do. When we die, our soul leaves our body and is re-born as another baby, so that we can do it all over again. This certainly served to enlighten me as to the concept, but I found myself with even more who, what, why, when and how questions than ever. Mother said, she couldn't really explain much more, because she didn't have a real thorough knowledge of it, but felt that maybe the song that had upset me so was some sort of a "carry-over" memory from a past life. When she asked me the name of the song, I responded that it had been a song called "Dixie." She simply nodded her head and said, "Well, Honey, you never know. There are many things in this world that we do not understand."

My mother and I didn't really discuss the subject again. I returned to school, told my friends I thought my period was working on me, and life went back to normal. Almost.

From that day forward, I discovered that I had a voracious and insatiable appetite for information about reincarnation. I began to frequent the school library and began to read everything I could get my hands on: Bridey Murphy, Audry Rose, and many books written by Ruth Montgomery. I can't say that I believed everything I read. I guess my mind sort of sifted through the information, and I judged for myself what I "felt" to have merit and what I didn't. I read much of spirit guides and tele-transportation, but those subjects were not part of my mission, and so, for the most part, I did not form opinions. The information on reincarnation, however, began to sound more and more plausible and logical by the minute. I had always found it difficult to conceive of the concept of dying, being buried in the ground, and simply rotting until the second coming of Christ. It certainly didn't sound like much of an end to a long and fruitful life.

As I read, I learned that believing in reincarnation certainly did not make one a non-Christian. I discovered that in reality, the whole concept of reincarnation tied in directly with my Christian beliefs. I read that reincarnation was actually taught in churches, hundreds of years ago. However, it was taught, for the most part, to individuals who were not particularly well educated. They perceived it as another chance to redeem themselves in the next life so that they could indulge in the pleasures of this one. That was not what the concept of reincarnation was about, and these principles began to be systematically withdrawn from the churches teachings.

As I began to learn more and more about this subject, I also began to learn that the Bible itself was open to a great deal of interpretation. All my life, I had heard the preachers teach us that the phrase, "Lest ye be born again, no man can enter the kingdom of God," and this meant that one needed to be born again through baptism. As I delved deeper into this realm, I realized that the paragraph of the Bible that contained these words did not say anything about baptism. It did go on to say something about a man not physically returning to the womb, for this is impossible ... duh. In any event, I had learned that the concept of reincarnation was about being born again, alright, just into a different body. I began to understand that many people can interpret the Bible in many ways. Many preachers even differ on some of the interpretations. I decided to read and interpret for myself. I discovered phrases like, "He who lives by the sword shall surely die by the sword." But was that true, I wondered? An ax murderer could die peacefully in his sleep, which would make that phrase entirely untrue. If, however, he was to die peacefully, be born again as a baby, and then die at the hands of abusive parents, or in a violent car crash, that phrase would make perfect sense. So would the phrase, "What ye sow, so shall ye reap." Again, many people seem to sow seeds of ignorance, greed and selfishness, but they have luxury cars, beautiful homes and lunches at the country club. I know this to be true. Perhaps, though, they will be the beggar on the street corner, holding out a tin cup, in their next life.

The Bible also tells us a story of a man named John the Baptist who was baptizing many people at the river. Someone asked him if he was this Christ of which everyone was speaking. He replied that he was not. Then they asked him if he was the Prophet Elijah, to which he also responded in the negative. It should be noted, however, that at that time, the Prophet Elijah had been dead for a good many years. What were these people asking him, then? Could they have been referring to a former life he may have led as this prophet? Why would they ask him such a question, if they were not referring to reincarnation?

I began to frequent the county library as often as possible. There I found books that explained even further the concept of this life-after-life existence. For example, that it is believed people actually help choose who and what they will be when they return, and often choose to be reborn into the same family circles. Your grandfather dies and is re-born as your second child, or maybe your son was your brother in another time. It is also believed that we return as both male and female in our various lives. I found that to be quite a concept. I also found it quite interesting to learn that people that love deeply and truly, that are soul-mates, will find a way to both be re-born in a place and time that will ultimately allow them to find each other. It is believed that their souls will recognize one another when next they meet.

There is an age-old saying that "The eyes are the mirror of the soul." Ever met someone you instantly took a dislike to? Maybe they didn't even come near you or speak to you, but you knew the moment you saw them that you didn't like them. By the same token, ever met someone, looked into their eyes and felt like you had known them forever? Ever wondered if maybe you had? I've often thought of the great composers, Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, children who were writing concertos at the ages of five and six years old, if not younger. Children who had no formal musical training, but were simply born knowing how to play--and play well. Ever compare the flamboyant talent of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to that of Liberace?

I have reviewed my own past and have made more than one connection with these very concepts. As a very poor child in the projects of San Bernardino, California, I had precious little in the way of toys and entertainment. My aunt and uncle were quite wealthy, however, and when their daughter would get new, my sister and I would get the hand-me-downs. I vividly remember the time my aunt and uncle delivered my cousin's old writing desk to make room for her new one. It wasn't terribly fancy. There was a shelf or two and a few cubby holes here and there, but that desk became a very important part of my character.

With the $1.00 per month allowance that my mother always managed to squeeze out, I no longer bought an outfit for my only Barbie doll. Instead, I bought pens, a date stamper, index cards with a box to keep them in and little alphabetical separators. It was during the TET Offensive in Vietnam, and I was nine years old. I had developed an almost bizarre fascination with the Vietnam War and could simply not understand the concept of our soldiers being killed while fighting someone else's war. Of course, we didn't have CNN back then to give us constant coverage, but I was glued to the old black-and-white television set, anytime any information about the war came on. I am certain that my mother and sister thought me to be a lunatic. This led me to sit at my desk every day after school and pull up a chair next to me for my invisible "client." I would ask my clients questions like whether or not they were in the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines, and if they had been injured. I would scribble their imaginary answers on my little index cards and file them away alphabetically in the box. This actually went on for a year or so, before my mother had to sell the desk to buy some food. Secretly, I think she just wanted to get me away from the thing.

I missed that desk a great deal, and truly it wasn't until recently when my husband purchased an old writing desk from his cousin for $20.00 that I even remembered the one I'd had as a child. When I did remember it, though, I was quite choked up. Not just because of the desk itself, but because of the fact that for the past twenty years, I have worked in the local County Veterans Services Office. I am a Veterans Representative and file claims for many Vietnam veterans, as well as World War II veterans, Korean veterans and Gulf War veterans. I am now left wondering if this was a vision, an omen, or something, that meant a great deal to me in a past life and was somehow carried over into this one.

The need to know became overwhelming, to the point that I finally actually went to a hypnotic regressionist and paid money to try and find out. In a quiet, darkened room, with the scent of aroma-therapy candles wafting about, the woman began talking to me clearly and softly. She lead me through some relaxation techniques and then began to lead me down a flight of stairs and then to a hallway in my mind. She told me to choose a door, open it, and describe what I saw. There were no numbers on the doors that I can remember, nothing to recommend one over the other, but I chose one nonetheless and opened it.

There was a lovely, lush forest and I stepped over the threshold and wandered further into the forest. For all its beauty, it did not feel good. I was immediately uncomfortable and imagine that it began to show. In her soft voice, the woman instructed me to look down at my feet and describe what I was wearing. There was a good deal of fog about my feet and I couldn't see them clearly. The soft voice instructed the fog to drift away. The feet I saw could not be mine. They were encased in hideously big, black boots and looked to be huge. As my eyes panned upward, I saw the curly, titan-colored hair on my arms and the freckles underneath. Huge hands with fingers that looked like big fat sausages were attached to the ends of those ugly arms. The voice wanted to know my name and I told her that it was Sam. My name was Sam and I wanted to get the hell out of there right damned now! I was frightened, and I could almost hear my heart pounding against my ribs. The voice asked me to focus on whatever joy or happiness there was in my life, to which I replied, "There is no joy, there is no happiness...get me out of here!" The soft voice began to instruct me to step backward towards the doorway I had entered from. It was then that I saw the rifle barrels pointed at me through the foliage, and I screamed for all I was worth. I sat up and stared at the source of the soft voice. "Thank you." I told her as I rose to leave. "I appreciate your efforts, but I don't ever want to do that again."

I headed for the door, but her words stopped me. "I understand you are a Veteran's Representative, Ruth. Have you ever thought that you do what you do because you needed to finish something that was cut short? Because you need to serve again in some capacity? Or maybe because you need to care for your comrades who made it home?"

"I don't know what to think," I replied as I turned and exited her establishment. Did I die in the Korean War, separated from my unit and killed by the enemy? Was this why I had such a bizarre fascination with war at such a young age? Why I chose to dedicate my entire life to serving the veterans of this great nation? Who knows? I have certainly heard things that sounded a great deal less logical.

There has certainly been case after case of children who seemed to remember former lives. For some reason, this seems to prevail in India, Pakistan and the like. Many times over, small children have begun to describe former lives in which they had wives and children and that they miss those family members. In several cases, the parents have taken these small children to neighboring villages that the children have never been to before and find that their off-spring are actually able to point out these people and relate to these "former relatives" information about their lives so personal, no one else could possibly know it.

This rather lends one to wonder why we don't all remember these former lives. Think about it, though. Think of all the little bits and pieces of information in your mind right now, and then think about that same amount of information having been attained in each and every life. It would be impossible to sort out the here and now from the then and there, or to be able to differentiate the memories from each separate life. I would imagine, remembering all this would cause one to become a blithering idiot. Perhaps we do remember bits and pieces when we are very small, but those memories begin to dissipate when we start filling our little heads with things like learning how to walk, talk and play nicely with our friends. Perhaps the new information pushes the old information further back into our subconscious minds. Ever wonder what information might be stored in that five-sixths of our brain that medical science tells us we don't use?

I have come to believe that reincarnation is really all about Karma. As many of the Eastern religions believe, I feel that we must 'become at one with our karma." I am convinced that we all continue to come back over and over again. If we strive to be as productive and as good a person as we possibly can, I firmly believe we will reap the benefits of these actions in our next life. Maybe if the red neck keeps calling the East Indian Gentleman a "rag-head," he will be reborn a little Hindu child somewhere in the Far East in his next life.

I am now a forty-one year old mother of two, and I live my life according to the dictates of my deep and abiding belief that I have been here before, and I shall be here again. Am I the reincarnation of my mother's little sister Ruby? Maybe. Maybe not. The search for the answer to this question opened my eyes and my heart to the possibility that maybe my soul is too important, too unique, too individualistic and too full of knowledge, passion, love, concern and energy to simply live once and be gone. I wholly believe that selfishness, greed, laziness, prejudice and egotism will follow me wherever I go, from one life to the next, and so I must be careful how I live my life and how I interact with others.

In short, the only thing that really changes in anyone's life who comes to understand reincarnation and follow its dictates, is that they will become a better person for it.

BIO:Ruth Marie Davis was born in 1958 in the projects of East Los Angeles and later moved to the projects of San Bernardino, where she lived until the age of twelve. After graduating high school, she worked at the County Veterans Office. She now works on a science fiction novel, and has written many poems to our veterans in tribute to their dedication and sacrifice.
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