How the Past Can Heal Us

Krista in front of oldest tree in Maberly, where Morrow Hotel once stood.

Krista in front of oldest tree in Maberly, Ontario

It occurs to me that in family tree hunting we sometimes forget the most important things: story.  After all these years I have to ask myself, someone trained to live in the present, why going back so far to people who lived before me, who perhaps share some remote traces of my DNA, matters.  What is it that draws me to them, and arguably them to me?  What makes them eternal in my mind, and connects me to their story?  And why does the mystery of what we do not know tantalize us so, so that we never give up wanting to know more?

Funny enough, I am also trained through my hypnosis practice to study and explore past lives – I mean mine, not someone else’s – what some would call reincarnation.  You may not believe in such a thing, and it may go against your spiritual or religious beliefs – or perhaps you believe we are here for a good time, not a long time, and that’s it – dust to dust.  End of story.

Then why the insatiable curiosity?  Whether it be past lives through our ancestors or past lives through our own subconscious or “superconscious” (higher) mind or cellular DNA memory, what links us all together and makes the past come alive – makes US come alive with questions, with desires, with feelings?  Why do we cry when we hear about a hardship our ancestors suffered, or a good story ending in triumph or reconciliation?  It seems I am asking more questions than offering suggestions, but give me a moment.

These questions answer themselves.  The fact is, we do want to know.  Not everyone, to be sure.  Some people may rightly feel that to look back is to get lost in the past. And some may simply not want to hear what might trouble them in the present.  But those who do ask, have a burning desire to know not just for the sake of a good story, but because it tells them something about themselves.  It answers the question: Who Am I? and Why am I here?

If we can look at our lives or the lives of others in retrospect, we see patterns, shapes, stories.  We see parallels.  We see PURPOSE.  And we see PROMISE.  We understand that hardship and suffering can be followed by breakthroughs, and that even death does not stop life from continuing on – we are evidence of that.

Our past stories are collective. What a prominent psychologist, Carl Jung called “the collective unconscious”.  Everything that has ever happened to anyone, and all its apparent meanings, is held there – along with all the wisdom and “knowings” that sometimes  cannot be explained by our current, more limited thinking.  These pieces, these stories have a common source, a common thread through human history, through human consciousness.  It doesn’t matter the time or the place – we find ourselves in its reflection.

Once a year I follow the popular American TV show (now on TLC) “Who Do You Think You Are?” – featuring prominent Americans (mostly celebs) who want to discover something about their ancestry, and the origins of their family.  Notice, the show title is not, “Who Do You Think They Are?”  but rather “Who Do You Think YOU Are.”  Because their tears, their AHAs, their curiosity, and their sense of compassion and forgiveness is not only about their ancestors – it reaches across time and teaches them something about themselves – and even goes so far as to heal their own sense of self, history, story.

We all have a personal destiny, and we want to know that not only will we survive, but that our story will teach those who follow us – it will outlive us – extend us – “eternalize” us.

The truth is, we are already eternal.  But while we are sloshing around here on earth trying to make a living, learning lessons and putting up with the hardships and trials, heartbreaks and breakthroughs – it helps to know that someone will be staring back at us through time and saying, “Wow! I’m really glad so and so lived…  How brave he/she was, how honest, how strong, how compassionate… I want to be more like that.”

When we look back, we want to emulate the best we see, and forgive the worst.  Because when we can do that, we become the greater part of history, we become an extension of it, fulfilling its ultimate purpose – not only to tell a good story, but to teach how to live a good life.   And so we become the living proof of what it means to us, what it offers us, and to our kids and grandchildren.  We are its living, breathing, connections that link past present and future in one eternal loop.

And even as audience, witnessing someone else’s history, we see ourselves – beyond family blood barriers, beyond time itself.  We can identify meaning and purpose without any regard to dates and names.  Those provide the colour and fabric, the identity so to speak.  But the picture is worth more than its parts. One human family struggling to live – and learning to really LIVE – one lesson, one story, one life at a time.

Happy journeying.





SOUL LIVES: A Date with Destiny?

I admit, I never thought I would be broaching this subject on a blog about family history. But since I started with the premise that all of the lives on a family tree are “relative” and that our relativity to each other passes the veils of time and circumstance – meaning, we are all interconnected – I got to thinking…. if this is true, does it matter if this perspective is coming from my current life or a past life?

Let’s assume for a moment, that there is such a thing as a past life. If I existed prior to my birth, and existed in time and history before this time, is that not relevant to who I am today? And am I  not still connected to this memory, this moment in history? My purpose in bringing this up here is to include it in my vast quest to understand where I come from, and where I’m going – and to appreciate my relation to all others who share the path.

So I went to do a past life regression

She was a professionally trained hypnotist/past life regression therapist, so not a tarot card reader or party game host.  It was the real deal. I lay on a couch with a blindfold over my eyes. We did all the prep work: My current family history, relationships, needs and desires. Certainly nothing prior to my birth.  Then she put me under. I won’t go into how she did it, you can look that up elsewhere.

Here’s what I remember:  I was standing in the most beautiful countryside of a nearby village.  I approached a stone house that I decided was mine and went in.  She asked me to look at my hands. I told her, or asked her, “Am I old?” And then I laughed, “I’m old!”  I saw an old man sitting at a kind of bench-like table by the window, and a boy to my left sitting at a different table. Neither was speaking or moving, kind of like a picture in time. I got a sense that the man was my husband, and the boy was my grandchild.

Later she asked me to explore what was happening and I got the impression there was a war going on.  I saw or felt a large rush of men riding by the house on horseback or in carriages. She asked me why and asked me to go the village and find out.  I saw men yelling and slamming down their cups, and got the impression they wanted to fight, go to war, up North somewhere. I didn’t know the details of why or what. All I could come up with was: Austria 1836. Village name? Something that sounds like, “Silvenvost”.  I could not verify the spelling.

Then she asked me about my family. And as I answered questions more specifically, I began to cry. I was afraid I wouldn’t see my son again; and I was left to raise my grandson without any help.  His mother had been burned in a fire.  I was 80 and my husband was useless since he lost all  his animals and ability to work the land.  I died reasonably peacefully at the age of 82-3. I was cold and my hands buzzed numbly. Then she brought me back  “home”.

Well, I can’t tell you if all of that is true. I can’t prove that I existed at that time, or that the events I refer to really  happened. All I can tell you is that emotionally, there was resonance. In those moments I was “Barbara”, my secret identity that came to me through this deliberate but elusive process. And the tears were real.  So was the voice, which sounded a bit Scottish, but I could not decipher my accent.  I did not speak a foreign language. Does it matter?

Sometimes reaching through the veils of the past is the only way to heal it.

I felt the boy in the picture I was receiving was like my son now. And whether he existed prior to this life as well, and whether we have met before or not, I knew that the message of trusting and letting him grow was enough.  I had something to learn.

Whether the war and the village and the little stone house were real to me then, I don’t know.  Between the annals of history and subconscious make belief, there is a very thin line.  What matters is how does it affect me now?  Can I learn from this? Can I grow?

I’m happy I did it. And of course I’m curious to know more. I googled like a mad woman when I got home and couldn’t confirm a thing.  Other than Austria exists and there were many a war going on at the time.  But what I do know is, I feel richer for having the experience, and the story that it brings to my life now. It  makes me hungry for more:  more knowledge, more understanding, more experience. And whether it’s mine, yours, or someone else’s, I guess I have to conclude…  That’s Relative!