Q: Why are we here? What is the meaning of life?

A: The meaning of life is experience.

Q: Can you offer advice on how we can be in the world but not “of” the world?

A: This means that you live in this world, you incarnate in here, but you are also aware of: more than this reality, awareness itself, and what your spirit came here to do.  So you are aware of these three realities.

Incarnation allows our spirit to experience what it wants/needs to experience in material form, and awareness makes us automatically aware of this.  All three need to be attended to in order to be a fully integrated being.

Some religions and teachings focus on the materiality of this incarnation only. Others teach you to transcend this material world completely, that this world is just a dream.  Both have something missing from the big picture.

While it is true that you want to transcend this material world, it is more accurate to say that you want to transcend the idea that only the material world exists, to become aware of awareness itself, and to become aware of your intuition, which is a window into viewing what your spirit longs for, what it came here to do.  But how does one do this?

The first step is to become aware, to allow yourself to believe that there is more than just the material world.  This belief allows for the reality of awareness and spirit to enter into your conscious awareness.

Once you become aware of this expanded reality, focus on your awareness.  When you do this, you more consciously live your life, allowing you more of a bird’s eye view of what is happening so that you can act more in line with what your spirit has come here to do.

So, step one, open yourself up to awareness.  Step two, put your attention on awareness.  Step three, become fully aware of what you are doing.  Step four, you will naturally develop your intuition, one of its functions being to make you aware of the longings of the soul.  This is a continuing, meditative existence.  It is a continual process. In this way, you are living in the world, but are aware of much more.  You are in the world, but not of it.

As an aside, I think I should talk a little about the material world, intuition, and awareness.  

Open your eyes, and you see the material world.  It is what is.  That’s easy to see.  When you look at the world, what is looking is awareness.  It is happening automatically.  So the material world is what is, and awareness is what sees the material world.

If you focus on awareness, eventually you will also become aware of intuition.  What is intuition?  It is an internal, automatic knowingness that is in constant communication with you that is often overlooked because of our natural preoccupation with the material world.

To become more aware of intuition, focus on awareness.  This will make you more present in the moment to experience your existence more fully and automatically develop your awareness of intuition.

These three things — the material world, awareness, and intuition — seem pretty simple then.  The confusion comes about when the ego steps in.

While awareness makes you automatically aware of the material world and your intuition, sounding very simple, what your ego does is come along and comment on everything.  It makes so much noise and is present so much of the time that people think that their ego is what they are.

To help yourself out of this confusion, once again, concentrate on awareness.  This will allow you to see your ego for what it is, an automatic movement, based on past fear that occurs within your consciousness.

Once you see how automatic it is, and that it occurs within your consciousness, it becomes another thing, just like someone’s voice or a TV in the background, as you observe your life.

Q: OK, so what’s the deal with past lives?  Do we have them?  How many? Do they matter?  What do I do with them?  Do I have to know about them to move on?

A: Yes, there is such a thing as past lives.  Also, when looking at “lives,” it’s important to see that the divine does not see lives in the same way that ego does.  What I mean by that, is that ego consciousness defines as a life as the time of one incarnation on this earth.  The divine, or enlightened beings, or consciousness, define a life as more of a unit of time in which one lesson, or life, is lived.

For instance, you’ve had two lives during the time that you’ve been on this earth during this incarnation.  There was before your wife died, then after, when your perspective of ‘what is life for’ drastically changed.  You had a spiritual awakening.  This happens to many people in many different ways.

So, different souls have many incarnations, and many lives.  A soul has hundreds, or even thousands of incarnations and lives.  In each life, there is a lesson, or more than one major lesson to be learned.  Each incarnation is defined as the length of time one body spends upon the earth.  So, one life may span more than one incarnation, or many incarnations, just as one incarnation may have one living out one or more lives.

Past life recall may help an ego gain understanding of the conditions one is living through, giving one clarity.  Clarity eases emotional pain and suffering, and may help quicken the rate at which one learns the lessons one wants to learn.  So, yes, it may be helpful.  But, just like many things the egoic personality gets involved with, it tends to go overboard.  It obsesses on knowing about past lives, fantasizes about them, not concentration on living the life of now, which is why one is alive in the first place!  So in order to be help rather than a distraction, use past life recall to help bring clarity to your understanding of an issue if you feel stuck, but focus on the lessons of learning your life practicing present mind consciousness. This will give you the best of both worlds, literally.

To the last part of your question, no, you do not have to know your past lives.  The most important thing in learning the lessons you want to learn is to live life as consciously and as non-judgmentally as possible, practicing witness consciousness diligently, and faithfully.  You only have to live your life consciously in order to learn the lessons you want to learn.  The more intent you put — or is put on — by consciousness itself on consciousness, the quicker you will learn, and probably the less pain you will endure.

To boil it down further, past lives only matter as much as how much you still have to learn from them, and what attachments your ego still has to the way of thinking that caused the problem in the past life.  What matters is the egoic attachments you still have to your past lives.