The Spirituality of Skepticism: A Crossroads

You may remember that I spoke not too long ago with a woman who was an astrologer/medium who talked quite a bit about past lives, which played quite nicely into a piece of fiction I have been working on. Jo’ann suggested during the reading that I read a book called Journey of Souls: Case Studies of Life Between Lives and perhaps even consult with a regression hypnotist.The book is written by a hypnotist who takes people through their past lives, but is really interested in exploring their time between past lives, i.e., what they do when they cross to “the other side.” I know that many would think I was crazy for going down this path, but come on, you have to admit, it’s fascinating. Don’t we all want to know what happens after we die? I felt much more at ease about death and dying after reading this book. Where many people may have felt skepticism, I was willing to accept these ideas, partly because of how similarly each of the book’s subjects describes things, but also in what the ideas might add to what I am writing: that we continue to do spiritual work in the afterlife, that we can split our souls between being in the afterlife and being on earth, that there are varying levels of souls, based on an individuals spiritual growth. As I read the book, I was couldn’t-put-it-down excited by some of the ideas that I will now be able to incorporate into my prose.

Of course, this much excitement has led me to setting up an appointment on Tuesday with a woman I found on the Internet, a student of Michael Newton, who wrote the book. She could easily be a “quack.” There is no Internet BBB for hypnotists, and a Google search turns up nothing but prolific speeches she has made and articles she has written. Turns out you can’t just go and be “regressed” in one session. It’s something you need to build up to, thus requiring several sessions. Not a cheap venture. I have never been hypnotized before so I keep telling myself I am doing this in the name of book research, but I am also intensely curious about such things, which if you have been following this blog you will have probably surmised. I am also hoping I can write off my hypnotism on my taxes. (You scoff).

I have been finding it interesting in the midst of this curiosity on all things spiritual, I have been in several conversations now with CHA about a transformative class he has taken called “Landmark Education.” I have mentioned this to a few of my friends and was surprised when the name was met with a groan. Seems some people have had some bad experiences with “Landmark People.” Its clearly been a life changer for CHA in a spiritual and philosophical sense, and yet my guard is up. If you Google Landmark, there are many articles about it, both good and bad. I don’t want to be skeptical about something that changes people’s lives in positive ways, and yet for some reason I am. I think it has something to do with the zealousness with which CHA speaks of it, yet without being able to give me any specifics with regards to principals or process other than to say, “you just need to take the class.” There also seems to be a pretty forceful recruitment element to it and I am reminded of when I was 14 years old and during a sleepover, my best friend tried to tell me that if I didn’t become a Born Again Christian, I wouldn’t be saved when Christ’s second coming arrived. It made no sense to me and when I tried to question her, she just kept telling me I should come with her to camp. I did visit her at that camp, and was so sad to see that I had somehow lost my friend, so caught up as she was in a life of prayer meetings and singing Christian songs around the campfire, smug in the knowledge that she would be one of the selected few who would make it to “heaven.”

And yet, here I am about to visit a hypnotist. Am I being hypocritical? I suppose the difference is that I sought this out of my own free will, rather than having this hypnotist trying to convince me that her way is the only way to a spiritual enlightenment and yet I wonder if there really is any difference between paying a hypnotist to take you on a journey of your past lives, or taking a weekend-long intensive class in order to put your past behind you.

I am also not sure how this chasm between having transformation thrust at me vs. discovering it in my own way might affect the future relationship between CHA and I. He seems pretty convinced that if I were to take this weekend intensive class, it would change our relationship dramatically, that it would change me in some pretty profound ways. I suppose what has annoyed me about this Landmark thing is what appears to be a disregard for any other form of transformative experience. I have worked hard these almost 9 years to grow through grief, in itself a powerful transformative experience, but I am still encouraged to take the course. Dare I suggest that CHA undergo my form of transformation? If I accept his form of awakening, surly he should accept mine.

And thus, I am at a crossroads. Hopefully one of my past lives will help me figure it all out.

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  1. annie June 10, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    I read Newton’s book. Rob had it. It was one of his “grief” books actually. I already believed something very similar and found it to be credible in terms of my own experiences.

    I don’t know that I want or even need to know about my past lives. Details aren’t necessary to my journey.

    I looked up the Landmark Education. It seems to me that a person can reach the same conclusions/destination via a multitude of other paths. There is no “one path” and I am a firm believer in the right teacher showing up when you are ready. This teacher will feel right and there won’t be hesitation – at least in my experience this has been true.

    I would be a little annoyed too if someone made assumptions about where I was at or what I needed to “move forward” on what is essentially a journey that is part of my blueprint since the beginning of my existence. I think we are better off minding our own journeys and accepting that all we can do with others is accept them or reject them as they come to us. We are much happier and have better relationship when we understand that we can change no one but ourselves.

    The eternal nature of our “souls” and the connectedness to the “energy” that links us all is fascinating – and to my mind a very correct way of seeing things. I have written about it again recently on my blog in fact. I look forward to hearing about your journey.

    1. Abigail - Site Author June 10, 2010 at 5:19 pm

      Annie, I can see how past life details may be beside the point in the overall course of one’s journey. But oh so alluring. And to clarify, CHA has not pressured me to take the course, he has simply expressed how profound it has been for him, and thus would like to pass the positive experience to me, thus enabling us to fully share in a mutual transformation. I do believe his intentions are genuine. That said, it does leave a question about where the relationship would go if I opted not to take the course. I would not possess the “language” for communicating that seems to be a big piece of that Landmark puzzle, and thus it seems there would always be a disconnect. Time will tell I suppose on that. Thanks for your comment.

  2. diane June 10, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    Keep in mind, first and far most, that Landmark is a “business”. In a lot of healing communities things this are looked upon as a quick fix…are almost cultish….and really frowned upon.

    You can’t “pay” for enlightenment, inner peace and healing.
    When your sand is ready to shift, it will…but don’t let others talk you into things that you feel iffy about, and make you feel bad for not being who “they” think you should be at this point in your life. Trust your gut.

    Something tells me you’ve probably already decided to go to this (knowing you, for the adventure)…but just remember that if it doesn’t feel right…you can leave.

    As far as this being a life changer for your friend…you didn’t know him before hand, did you? So you can’t really make an accurate determination how it changed him. It’s just his word. It seems to me that if he would have learned anything from the course it should be love and patience, and to let people heal at their own rate and follow their own path. And if they didn’t teach him that…what did they teach people? Did they wave a magic wand? You can’t find all the answers to your problems in one weekend (and pay someone to do it paid) right?

    This is just kind of weird Abby.

    Nothing wrong with the hypnosis though imo. That has proven time and time again to be a very valuable healing tool for some people…but go to someone who is in the healing arts in private practice who will care about “you” as an individual client. Not a salesman.

    Just be careful about this. No one, or no one group should claim to have all the answers and not want other practitioners to help you. That’s a big red flag.

    1. Abigail - Site Author June 10, 2010 at 5:09 pm

      Diane, sage advice as always. And don’t worry, I have made no move towards taking the course given how “iffy” I’ve been feeling about it. And you have articulated my reservations perfectly. As for the hypnotist, I am meeting her on Tues, so will be able to better assess then, but based on what I have read on her website, I feel I will be in caring hands.

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  4. Carmen June 15, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    I did several of the Landmark courses a little over 15 years ago. I agree with everything you said- I have felt that pushy element to it and I have also had the extraordinary life changing element to it. I am also a huge advocate of all transformative experiences and trying anything and everything that supports growth in this lifetime and many lifetimes to come.

    For me, Landmark gave me a profound foundation from which to continue my exploration of spirituality. It gave me a perspective that gave me freedom in my life. And yes, once my significant other did Landmark, our relationship significantly improved. It’s unfortunate, in my opinion, that there is this sales-y thing there because otherwise it’s awesome. But, like Diane said, it is a business. But, it’s a business with an amazing product. If you can get past the other stuff, it’s definitely worth it. Is it the only way? Absolutely not. But it has landed in your path, so maybe it’s worth exploring? Take what works for you and leave the rest behind.

    I look forward to hearing about your past life adventures and to see if you decide to Landmark. Whatever you decide, it will be perfect for you.

    I’ll be picking up Journey of Souls very soon, thanks for the recommendation!

  5. Abigail - Site Author June 15, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    Very good advice re: Landmark and really what I was grappling with – the idea that its in my path, perhaps for a reason. For whatever reason, my gut has told me its the wrong path, and my gut has yet to be wrong.

    But thank you for providing a different side. I am sure many will find it useful.

  6. Andrew July 26, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    Thanks for your writing here. It has inspired me as I’m also on my own journey of healing. Just wanted to share a few thoughts on Landmark and an insight…. Last year, a friend of mine was considering taking the course, but decided not to. I was quite pleased as I had also chosen not to explore Landmark’s claims as it sounded “too good to be true.”
    I’ve found that seeking answers to life’s pain makes us vulnerable and in such a state we can sometimes get ourselves caught in situations that we would normally have avoided had we been thinking clearly.
    While others may have an influence on how we experience life events, I don’t feel it’s necessary for us to explore every prospect that comes our way. I do think though, that a good dose of both critical thinking and listening to our gut instinct is invaluable in making decisions. It seems you’re doing just that. Doing the research and respecting our instincts and boundaries also has implications beyond the immediate. It can benefit our children by teaching them to not accept things at face value, how to do research, make choices and be responsible and how to hone that sense of ‘professional wisdom’ that comes from repeated exposure to the opportunities and choices that life presents us. Perhaps they will be better able to care for themselves in the world and by extension, care for others. When done compassionately, self-esteem also gets a boost as kids feel more in control (parents, too). Just an idea, but perhaps this is the reason Landmark has come across your path? I worked it out like this with my friend. As with all, take what works and leave the rest. Thanks.

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