Discovering “The Essence”: Is Contrast the Purpose of Multiple Lives?

By Walter Lacey

Using the Naibaku ken-ni mudra meditation, I asked for insight. All my fingers were interlocked and folded inward toward my palms. After sometime, I opened my hands and eyes. I stayed receptive for the answer, knowing that it wouldn’t necessarily be delivered immediately. It finally came to me weeks later and showed itself in very unexpected ways.

I saw the monoliths from a distance, somewhere between now and then. Towering hundreds of feet into the air, like a crop of pillars sprouting up from the ground. I felt they were totems, organic and carved by some unknown force, meant to represent something that I was supposed to understand.

I zoomed in for a closer look and, to my surprise, one of the mammoth structures was crafted into what looked like a giant cowboy. Cartoonish in its appearance, this totem wore a cowboy hat, vest over a flannel shirt, and a gun inside a holster. It seemed completely out of place among the other majestic totems, which both puzzled and disappointed me.

I flew to another totem. It didn’t resemble a person, but was covered from top to bottom with green-leafed trees and brilliant orange, yellow and white flowers. It had a divine radiance that seemed to resonate within me. That was the feeling I expected a totem to evoke. Not something that reminded me of a cartoon.

Maybe because I hadn’t seen far enough yet, the forest canopy opened below me to reveal the story of this strange place. As I descended, an updraft of sensations infused me.

Navigating between the totems (which looked more and more like miniature mountains) were warriors, highly skilled in defense and death. They wore fangs and amulets around their necks. Each fighter had a blade strapped to his side and a spear in his hand. Fierce and relentless, these warriors showed no mercy in protecting their tribal territories.

The reputation of the Tujia warriors, I later learned, had become renowned throughout Huguang province and word of their fighting skills eventually reached the emperor. He made the Tujia cheiftans an offer. They would be rewarded for the services of their warriors.

And so, the Tujia warriors became protectors for the emperor, and succeeding emperors, fighting their benefactor’s enemies who came to pillage by land and sea.

One day, before I discovered who these warriors were, I came across a photograph that I had forgotten about. It was a picture of an actor dressed as a cowboy in Times Square, posing between my daughter Abigail and her friend Ashley. He was wearing a huge mask that looked like Woody from the movie Toy Story.

I immediately recognized him as the cowboy totem in my dream. It was like a revelation. At that moment, I understood that his presence among the other totems symbolically placed the two young women in that majestic and exotic location.

Later that day, I was reading an article on a travel website. Off to the right were links to related articles. One of them was titled “Ten Otherworldly Places to Visit”. It sounded intriguing, so I clicked on it.

There were some amazing places featured. But when I saw the tenth place, I froze and forgot about everything around me. Before me was a photograph of my dreamscape. In brilliant color, the pillars (my totems) were now identified for me as the Tianzi Mountains located in China.

It seems so unlikely that Abigail and Ashley could have been a part of Huguang’s ancient warrior past. The difference between that long ago time and their lives today appears so extreme. But if you consider that contrast provides a way to fully understand the essence of two things, like conflict and harmony, then the purpose of multiple lives begins to make sense.

Walter Lacey graduated from the University of Wisconsin where he attended the School of Journalism. He lives with his wife and two children in Massachusetts.  His most recent work, a memoir titled “Connecting the Dots”, deals with the exploration of a past life and appears in  Contact him via email at

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