by Herve Boisde
Interest in past lives and ways of exploring possible past lives is growing. According to a 2009 survey conducted by the Pew Forum, 25% of Americans believe in reincarnation and a full 24% of US Christians do as well. In 2010 the New York Times published an article titled "Remembrances of Lives Past" which talks about this expanding interest and how many people are trying Past Life Regression, through hypnosis, to try to remember these past lives. The article states that "The popular purveyors of reincarnation belief these days are not monks or theologians, but therapists — intermediaries between science and religion who authenticate irrational belief."
This is because many believe that Past Life therapy can heal traumas that affect us in our current lifetime. One of the therapists cited by the NY Times is Dr Brian Weiss, a physician and psychiatrist (and graduate of Yale and Columbia), who wrote one of the most famous books about Past Life Regression, 'Many Lives, Many Masters'. Dr Weiss was a traditional psychotherapist, that occasionally used hypnosis, who didn't believe in reincarnation until one of his patients spontaneously regressed to a past lifetime and started describing her experience in stark historical details. This patient was a simple woman with not a lot of formal education but this experience, as well as many other past life explorations, convinced Dr Weiss that her descriptions could not possibly be invention, fantasy, or an attempt to fool the therapist; especially after a historical discovery, following one of their sessions, confirmed some specific details she had described. But what surprised Weiss the most was that his patient, Catherine, began to quickly heal her many phobias and emotional issues, even though long periods of traditional psychotherapy had failed.
I personally attended a week long training seminar with Dr Weiss for Past Life Regression therapy. As a certified hypnotherapist I was receiving requests from clients to explore past lives through hypnosis. I could have done a similar training earlier at the Hypnotherapy Academy of America, in New Mexico, where I got my hypnotherapy certification, but at the time I was skeptical, not to mention a bit creeped-out by going back in time to before I was born. Eventually I began to read more about the many people that had healed not only phobias and emotional issues, but medical ailments as well, simply by doing hypnosis regressions to explore their past lives. This made me consider that regardless of whether it was fact or fantasy, the healing potential alone is worth doing the training.
So away I went to the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY and was able to listen to Brian Weiss tell innumerable fascinating stories about the many ways this type of therapy has changed him and his life. He described how he went from being an extremely Left-Brained, fairly close-minded individual, to a deeply spiritual man with a passion for life, dedicated to spreading hope through his books and speaking engagements. And of course I had an opportunity to have an experience of my own. In one of the very first group regressions that Weiss conducted, I had a vision of a past life where I was a traveling soldier in a barren hilly landscape among men appearing to wear viking clothing and helmets. I eventually saw myself alone and trying to cross a bridge (made out of 3 ropes) over a turbulent stream and then slip and fall into the water, to drown and see my body from above as if floating over the scene. Dr Weiss said that to review a death scene would cause no pain or discomfort and was perfectly safe while in hypnosis, since the subconscious mind will only review material that the subject is ready to handle. This appeared to be the case for me since I wasn't startled by what I was seeing, even less than if it had been a dream I was having at night.
Afterwards I kept wondering if what I had experienced was real or imaginary. I did notice connections between the events in the "memories" and my current life. Some were obvious and some were subtle but even though I had made no intention to explore these specific connections they had spontaneously appeared in the regression session. Could my subconscious mind have been looking to find closure or heal some lingering traumas? The drowning part was particularly interesting because though I don't remember it, I did fall into a swimming pool when I was 2 years old. Luckily, my older sister was there to fish me out, but up until I did my hypnotherapy training I never considered it a trauma or something that was affecting my adult life because I have never been afraid of water. Maybe this regression session to a "past life" was a safe way for me to acknowledge that I came close to drowning as a child. Or perhaps, as Dr Weiss suggested, we tend to repeat traumas in multiple lives, until we finally learn the lesson that enables us to grow. As far as whether past life experiences are real or imaginary, this is up to the individual. But even a skeptic could be surprised and enlightened by exploring the possibilities.