While I encourage people as far as possible to stay centred in the present without dwelling on their past, except as a learning experience, I know that memory is embedded within us going back sometimes many, many lifetimes.
Ancient memories can be triggered by small events and they can bring back who and what we were at a particular time with a subtle emotional response or vivid flashback, and without the facilitation of a past life regression therapist. I have both observed and experienced this strongly as the papal visit to Britain continues.
Quite unintentionally I found myself watching a television broadcast of the Pope in Westminster Hall yesterday addressing the major politicians of the land and then at a religious service in Westminster Abbey, at both of which there was pomp and ritual honouring what he represented. Even through a TV screen the atmosphere of respect, interest and even deference was palpable, and it felt far more than I had ever witnessed before for a visiting head of state. Self-confessed atheists who were there were captivated - and it was not because of what was said or the personality of the Pope himself.
For me and I am sure for others too, memory was stirred at the sight of the highest representatives of the catholic and protestant faiths together with the great and the good in places redolent with the energy of the history of spirituality in Britain, and in which we were likely to have played a part. As I observed this symbolic coming together of Pope and Archbishop, religion and politics, I felt a collective memory of bloodshed, torture, devotion, betrayal, schism, devout service, destruction, worship, reverence, obedience, and unquestioning love of a church and its teachings. So many of us have spent so many lifetimes in service to "the Church", lifetimes of joy and lifetimes of despair, and we may have memories also of spiritual life before it was first established.
Interest in the Pope's visit was lukewarm a week ago, but it is far more than that now. Some people may not like what he says or represents, but his presence in the UK, and particularly in Westminster yesterday, has been an opportunity to remember, at some level of our being, our individual spiritual heritage on our earth journey, what it meant for us and why, with gratitude for the experiences which are the foundation for our future.