Parents don’t always stay. Neither do friends. Certainly not romantic partners. Then there’s fleeting acquaintances and passing strangers that, for brief but meaningful moments, make an impact on us. Some relationships—in all forms, on this planet in any given lifetime—are not meant to last. While this could be taken as negative and, sometimes, even painful, if we look at it differently, we will see the gifts these people came to bring.
When my parents split up when I was very young, my father made nothing but brief cameo appearances in my life. My mother had to move somewhere far to get a job to provide for me so I was left under the care of my grandmother. I didn’t live with her until I was 13 years old. My estranged brother didn’t come into our life until I was around 20.
We moved around quite a bit, so I left behind my childhood friends. When I finished High School, all—and I mean all—of my closest friends moved out of the country. Most of my friends from college and beyond either moved away or disappeared completely. Those with whom I am still able to get in touch are thousands of miles away. Even the members of my own family live far away from each other—a mother and three siblings living in four different continents, in four different countries. We didn’t plan it to be so—things just turned out that way.
With the exception of my husband—with whom I’ve been together for 20 years—most of the people in my life simply come and go. No one seems to want to take permanent residence in my life’s real state. Was it something I say? Am I not good at keeping relationships with anyone? I couldn’t help but wonder if there was something wrong with me. It turns out, there wasn’t. All these people were meant to be in my life for just a short time—that they’re actually my soulmates.
Who are our soulmates?
When we speak of soulmates, most people think of “the one”—their one true love—or their best friend (whether it’s a parent, sibling, childhood friend, or someone else). We attribute it to that special bond with someone we’ve known most of our life. But we don’t just have one soulmate. There could be a few or many that become part of our life. They could turn up in different forms and they are brought into our life through synchronicity—or dare I say, destiny.
Psychotherapist Brian Weiss, M.D. said, “We have families of souls, rather than just one soulmate, and we are being connected, by an eternal energy, all the time. Sometimes it is only for mere moments, yet even this brief amount of time can change one’s life completely. Have you encountered this kind of soulmate connection?”
Dr. Weiss, a graduate of Columbia University and Yale Medical School and Chairman Emeritus of Psychiatry at the Mount Sinai Medical Center Miami, is the bestselling author of Many Lives, Many Masters. He is one of the pioneers and proselytizers of reincarnation through his work in past life regression therapy. His book has inspired and awakened many souls, including mine.
As Dr. Weiss explained, “Soulmate meetings vary in duration—five minutes, an hour, a day, a decade, a lifetime. This is how souls relate. Soul relationships are not measured in time but in lessons learned. Soulmate connections transcend time. When you meet someone with whom you have shared past lives, there may be a sudden feeling of familiarity, an intuitive knowing of what to say and how they will react, a sense of deep trust and safety.”
A year or so ago, I went to New York for a training. I met three women with whom I bonded deeply. We had our meals together, practiced techniques and exercises on each other, and stayed long hours at the end of each day just talking. We felt so comfortable with each other that we talked about things that you wouldn’t normally discuss with people you just met. We felt so open and trusting that we didn’t feel the fear of being judged by each other. We shared things that we admittedly didn’t even talk to our own friends and family. We truly felt like ‘soul sisters.’
But we lived in three different continents. Even the two women who were from the same country lived thousands of miles apart. I felt a little sad through it all because I knew that while technology is there to help us stay in touch when we all finally head home, I knew that life will eventually “get in the way.” I knew this because it was not the first time this has happened and it will probably be not the last. Everyone does their best to keep in touch but, eventually, with the time difference and everyone’s busy schedules, everything would just fizzle out like the bubbles of a fizzy drink.
The gifts they leave behind
There’s a sadness that comes with the loss of such deep connection. But understanding soulmates and the roles they play made me accept that people come into my life (and perhaps vice versa) for a very specific purpose even if for a brief of time only. And I became at peace with that.
In an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show many years ago, there was a couple who had lost one of their twin boys just four days after he was born. The couple struggled to move forward with their life. Gary Zukav, author of The Seat of the Soul, said to them, “If you look at [your son] as a soul….like yourself… like everyone on this earth…that left this earth when it chose, then you will have a different perspective.
"You will be able to see the gifts that this soul offered to you during its short stay on the earth. You will reach a place in your life where you are grateful that this soul chose to be with you for however short a time. If you do not, you will live your life in anguish thinking that a tragedy has occurred..….You will continually be turning away from those gifts. You will be denying the very wealth of wisdom and compassion that was offered to you by this soul.”
Through this lens, we can understand the role of the various people who grace our life and why some or even many of them don’t stay. It allows us to reflect on each of them and what lesson they came to bring for us to learn. We learn to embrace the impermanence of their presence and their short-term involvement in our life as being part of our ‘growth plan.’
Often, we become so entangled in the drama of our interactions that we fail to see a deeper communion taking place. The people who enter our life—whether short-term or for the long haul—come bearing the gift of growth whether in a pleasant or challenging way. They remind us of our paths. They give us something that would help us become stronger and better equipped to stay on that path. They leave footprints that steer us towards that path. These meaningful connections, these purposeful interactions, these people that come and go within our lifetime are, quite literally, soulmates just passing by.
“Thank you...for gracing my life with your lovely presence, for adding the sweet measure of your soul to my existence.” ― Richard Matheson, What Dreams May Come