The Past Life Perspective
Out of the New Age and into the Mainstream
MY COUNSELING career started out fairly conventionally. I earned my master’s degree in counseling psychology from Santa Clara University—a Jesuit university, no less—in the world-famous Silicon Valley of California. And I became licensed as a marriage and family therapist by the state of California in due course. In the midst of my studies, I took a course entitled Therapeutic Imagery. My professor, the late Dr. William Yabroff, was highly regarded but seen as just slightly eccentric within the very conventional Santa Clara faculty; his specialty was the use of guided imagery to deal with psychological and physical symptoms. To my surprise and curiosity, toward the end of the course he introduced the idea that at times clients experience imagery that could be interpreted as past life memory. He claimed he wanted us to be familiar with what this might look like, just in case we encountered it. I learned later that he was very much involved with the regression community at large; this was his way of quietly introducing his passion into the straitlaced Santa Clara program.
My professor described the issues that might be related to a past lifetime—some recurring physical ailment, an unresolved relationship dynamic—and asked for volunteers, as he was going to
demonstrate a past life regression right there in class. I immediately raised my hand.
I recently had undergone surgery on both of my pinky toes due to a condition known as rotated hammer toe, which means the toe lies a bit on its side and slips partway under the neighboring toe, causing the joint to point sideways and rub painfully against the sides of one’s shoes. This had given me some trouble for a few years, but despite surgery and ultrasound treatments afterwards, I was still experiencing pain that interfered with many of my favorite athletic activities.
I lay down on the carpet in the front of a class of about a dozen people. My professor used a gentle hypnotic induction to put me in a relaxed state, then directed me to the time and place where the problem with my feet originated. I was startled to find myself seeing/sensing an adolescent girl with Asian features and identifying with her. Then the story just began to roll out from there: she/I was extremely upset because my family had insisted on binding my feet. Not only was it painful, it limited my ability to move about and do things!
Unusual for that culture and time period, I was a rather strong-willed young girl, and I decided to defy authority and tradition. With the help of a household servant, I made a plan to run away, but I was caught in the act. This defiant action was considered a terrible disgrace for my family and particularly for my father, who had some position of note in the community. He eventually disowned me and sold me into servitude. I saw images of me walking barefoot and in rags over rough and rocky terrain to a place far from my home. I knew that I was in eternal shame for dishonoring my father. I worked for some time as a kitchen servant, and eventually I used one of the kitchen knives to take my own life because I could no longer bear the disgrace of my position.
Dr. Yabroff moved me through the death experience and into a brief life review, looking at the key lessons, decisions, and attitudes carried forward from that lifetime. Some of these focused on the
conflict between loyalty to the family versus following my own path—playing it safe versus rocking the boat. Challenging paternal authority seemed to be a pattern that I had carried forward and continued in my current life, along with the belief that I really had to fight for what I believed. The most amazing part of the experience, however, was the fact that my legs quivered uncontrollably as I lay in front of the classroom. It wasn’t painful, however. It was as if my legs were releasing some sort of energy that had been stored in them since that prior lifetime. (I can’t totally explain how this works, but I’ve also had clients shake during sessions as energy is being released. It seems that the physical body can hold on to trauma in some representative manner, a little like birthmarks that we sometimes see that are related to injuries in prior lifetimes.) To my astonishment and that of my classmates, I was back on the tennis court the following day with no foot distress, and those toes have never bothered me again in the twenty-plus years since then.
I am in no way claiming that past life work will cure a myriad of physical complaints in one fell swoop, but from this personal experience and from my own private practice, I have seen that it can sometimes make a real difference when modern medicine has hit a block. And as you can imagine, after this first experience with regression in front of the class, my interest to learn more about past life therapy was sparked.
The next occasion I had to delve deeper into this unconventional therapeutic approach came after I had started my private practice. Two of the world’s renowned past life experts of the time, Dr. Brian Weiss and the late British Jungian therapist Dr. Roger Woolger, came for weeklong training workshops at a retreat center near my home. Each workshop was uniquely different from the other, and each was a truly marvelous experience. As participants in the workshops, we watched demonstrations given by true masters in the art of past life regression, each with his own distinctive style.
I was fortunate enough to have Dr. Woolger work directly with
me on a theme I described as “being intolerant of ignorant men,” which the rest of the training group voted as the issue they found most enticing. Dr. Woolger regressed me first to a lifetime as a natural healer in the early American colonies, accused of witchcraft by the doctors and community leaders (“those ignorant men”). I was eventually shipped back to France, where I’d come from. The issue linked back further to a lifetime as a Viking raider who died from an axe through the skull in a skirmish over a woman. (I had been quite a thickheaded and ignorant man myself, it appears!)
Of course, as workshop participants, we also had many opportunities to practice leading regressions on each other. Afterwards, I began to experiment with friends and open-minded clients in my practice, continuing to gather techniques and knowledge from other past life therapists as I went along, eventually building my own distinct style. A hallmark of my approach to past life work is the amount of time I spend processing prior life experience and lessons with the client so that he/she can integrate these realizations into daily life. I found the work exciting and rewarding, and the lack of dependence that traditional clients sometimes develop in conventional therapy was quite refreshing to me. Gradually my practice has evolved to the point where I focus almost entirely on past life work.
Demystifying Past Life Therapy
Although the public perception of reincarnation or past lives used to evoke jokes about Shirley MacLaine “hanging” Out on a Limb (well, at least for those of us over a certain age), millions have read books on the subject. Its public image doesn’t accurately reflect what people believe in private: a Gallup Poll taken in 2001 showed that 25 percent of adult Americans admitted anonymously that they believed in reincarnation.1
An online Harris Poll in November 2013
similarly put the overall number of believers at 24 percent, an increase from 20 percent in 2009.2
In both polls, an additional 27 percent of Americans admitted that they didn’t disbelieve in reincarnation; they just didn’t know. And a 2010 article in the New York Times written by Lisa Miller, a religion editor for Newsweek magazine, explored the growing Western belief in reincarnation. The article quoted a Spanish bishop who indicated that a growing number of Catholics (28 percent) had adopted a belief in reincarnation.3
In the general public, there are a growing number of popular films and books about reincarnation that have gained much recognition. The Thai film Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives was awarded the Palme d’Or, the highest prize at the Cannes Film Festival, in 2010. And the 2012 film Cloud Atlas, based on the book by best-selling author David Mitchell, was highly acclaimed. We also see expanding conversation about the afterlife and near-death experiences that has bridged both communities of skeptics and believers as a result of best sellers such as Dr. Eben Alexander’s Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife and Anita Moorjani’s Dying to Be Me: My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True Healing. Dr. Wayne Dyer’s final book, Memories of Heaven: Children’s Astounding Recollections of the Time Before They Came to Earth, coauthored with Dee Garnes and published just after Dyer’s death in 2015, is filled with children’s spontaneous recollections relating to our ongoing existence, and has two sections devoted to reincarnation. These films and books, along with many others, not only demonstrate the general public’s hunger to learn more about the mysteries of our existence but also show our increased openness to expanding our beliefs.
Whether a client is somewhat of a skeptic, a confirmed believer, or something in between, he/she does not have to believe in reincarnation or any other particular belief to have a successful regression session. What I have found is that, as long as the mind is open to possibilities, anyone can be a good past life regression candidate. People
from widely different spiritual traditions and belief systems and from different cultures and parts of the world have been successful in recovering past life memories.
Of course, there are many people who believe we live only one human lifetime. In this case, the stories elicited by this therapeutic approach can serve as marvelous symbolic metaphors for the issues and situations being faced at the present time. Even if one believes these memories are not true past life experiences, they function as representative stories and are equally as effective in resolving current issues. Whether uncovering “real” past lives or not, past life therapy has helped many people resolve issues and get past blocks that were resistant to other conventional approaches.
Past life therapy was once dismissed as a “New Age gimmick” within the counseling community, and it has now become more and more accepted as a credible and effective therapeutic approach that is being used alongside conventional tools. In my own practice, close to 90 percent of my clients have retrieved past life memories on their first try. Considering the fact that we are using a very light level of hypnosis—closer to a gentle, relaxed state that allows the client to easily talk with me throughout the session—it would be misleading to write off these results as coming from the power of suggestion. So let’s look a little closer at the theory behind this therapeutic discipline.
Modern past life therapy is based on the premise that we are all eternal beings who experience physical life on earth in a series of human bodies and their associated personalities. As eternal souls, we carry forward the experiences and lessons learned from one human lifetime to another. On a deeper or soul level, we are involved in choosing aspects of each life as a means of expanding our experiences, learning the lessons we have set out for ourselves, and continuing our ongoing involvement with various other souls with whom we are strongly connected.
As humans, we unconsciously carry forward experiences, attitudes, and relationship dynamics from prior lives into our current lifetimes. Many times this is beneficial, as in cases in which we have a natural gift or seem to master a new skill or area of study as if we already knew it. At other times, traumatic experiences, like a violent death or loss of a loved one, are left unresolved, relationships are left unhealed, or attitudes and decisions that are detrimental to our current life may be carried forward from a past lifetime.
In addition to resolving these experiences from the past that are blocking our progress and happiness now, past life work is also very useful in bringing forth strengths and positive experiences from prior lifetimes that can actually enhance our current abilities and confidence. Our prior personalities can help us reach our full potential now!
Past life therapy is becoming more and more accepted in the mainstream as an extremely useful therapeutic tool. It can be a rapid way to bring up and resolve issues in one or two sessions that might otherwise take many months or years of traditional counseling to address. And it can be useful as well for those who would not otherwise consider themselves in need of counseling or therapy services: people who want to expand their experience, draw upon inner wisdom, and connect with loved ones across the ages.
This work can lead to significant transformations in how you view yourself and the world: people often come away with a greater realization of the eternal nature of their being, their connection to others, and a closer experience of the love-filled energy that underlies all life. There is nothing like going through your own death, realizing that your awareness continues past the existence of your physical body, and finding yourself reunited with loved ones and the incredible love that permeates eternal existence. It is a much less traumatic way to have a near-death experience that transforms your view on life than having to actually experience a serious illness or life-threatening accident.
What Issues Can Be Addressed with Past Life Therapy
Some of the significant areas in which past life therapy has traditionally been used are the following:
• Troubling behavior and attitude patterns that have persisted over time despite attempts to change.
• Relationship dynamics that seem to have a life of their own (e.g., intense attraction/aversion to another person, or deep-seated issues that defy resolution).
• Phobias: intense fears, such as fear of heights or fear of water, that do not seem connected to an experience in the current life.
• Some chronic physical ailments, sensations, and pains.
• Dominant attitudes or emotions that seem to persist throughout one’s life (e.g., depression, anxiety, or negativity).
Past life therapy also can focus on more positive past life experiences in addition to going after traumatic or troubling memories. This can be an exciting and rewarding avenue when applied to areas such as these:
• Accessing strengths and accomplishments from prior lifetimes that can be brought forward to increase confidence in the present.
• Reexperiencing a happy, successful lifetime, which can bring a sense of balance and peace when undergoing difficult times.
• Clarifying direction and life purpose by viewing one’s blueprint for this lifetime.
• Finding prior lifetimes shared with current loved ones, bringing a great sense of reassurance that we are indeed never parted from those we love.
• Accessing the wisdom, peace, and guidance that are available from the “interlife,” the spiritual realm we inhabit between physical lifetimes on earth, where our higher mind and/or spiritual guidance can assess our progress and give direction to our current lifetime.
• Strengthening the clarity of the spiritual nature of our existence.
Of course, not all problems and issues are rooted in experiences from prior lifetimes. It is important to distinguish when we have a current life issue that needs to be addressed directly through other means. This includes assessing whether there is a biochemical imbalance that needs to be addressed—for instance, with antidepressants or antianxiety medications.
Even if you don’t resonate with any of the aforementioned issues, and you are simply curious and wonder if you’ve lived before, then something may be calling to you to give past life therapy a try. It is a wonderful way to expand your definition of who you are and what life on this planet is all about. It’s an exciting adventure into discovering your true nature.
In a typical session, I have found that, for most people, past life memories are actually fairly close to the surface; we typically are just too distracted in our normal daily lives for the memories to surface, or we don’t give them much credence when they do. When I work with clients, a level of relaxation that feels similar to a meditative state is usually very effective in allowing past life memories to emerge, and I do this by using a hypnotic process that deeply relaxes the client. Quite simply, it is a way of entering a very relaxed state whereby your memory is enhanced and the limits and constraints of the logical,
conscious mind can be bypassed, and we gain access more easily to the unconscious mind. In this state it is easier to call up images, symbols, and thoughts we have forgotten consciously, just as we do when we’re dreaming. In this hypnosis, however, the client is not asleep. Other than being very relaxed and focused on inner images and feelings, the client remains aware of what is going on around him/her; after all, the client and I are conversing throughout the session as I guide him/her through the process.
A valuable component of each of my sessions is that I ask clients to tap into their higher guidance. What do I mean by this? I typically invite a client to imagine that a very wise and loving being is coming forward to be with him/her. This wise being can take a variety of forms for the client: most often we see deceased relatives or an angelic spiritual guide; at times it’s an animal or just a ball of color. I can’t say for sure what we are plugging into; perhaps the client is linking into his/her own higher mind or consciousness, perhaps it’s a deep sense of intuition, or he/she is actually accessing a spiritual source. One way or another, the client seems to connect with a wiser, deeply understanding, and very loving energy (maybe the divine) that is often able to give important advice, offer guidance, or share profound spiritual truths. This can be key in helping the client integrate understandings from the prior lifetime into his/her current awareness.
How to Use This Book
All the client stories in the book follow a similar structure. I briefly introduce the client and his/her reason for seeking past life work. We then go into the body of the actual regression, which unfolds pretty much the way it does in session: sometimes full of twists and turns and unexpected outcomes. I typically guide the client through his/her death in the prior life, and then we process that lifetime’s experiences from a place of higher guidance and understanding. We move
toward integration by examining the lessons from that lifetime, how the events and lessons relate to the client’s current life. What I have found is that there is an incredible amount of wisdom, learning, and intrinsic value contained in these stories. Each individual’s higher guidance becomes universal wisdom that can truly benefit all of us.
The case studies are fascinating and, I will admit, entertaining, like a Hollywood costume drama or historical fiction that you can’t put down. What is still amazing for me is the amount of detail that many clients can recall and the deep emotions that can be felt across the ages and relived in the present. These stories have profoundly moved me, and I believe they are inspiring anecdotes that can be a source of self-exploration. These case studies were chosen because their inherent life lessons have a universal and common message, whether in your own life or in the life of someone you know. I invite you to make this an even more engaging process by considering some of the questions for reflection, called “Expanding Your Perspective,” that you will find at the end of each chapter.
Of course, this is purely optional, and I don’t blame you if you just want to go to the next interesting story. You can always come back later when you have more inclination and time to examine how you might integrate some of the information from these stories. If you’re serious about increasing your own past life awareness, it can be helpful to use a journal to record your thoughts and answers to the questions in “Expanding Your Perspective” sections, and then review for past life clues you may discover. My hope is that these stories will prove to be stimulating and open your awareness to the vast potential of your consciousness. When you finish each case study, you can ask yourself these general yet insightful questions: If this were my story, what lessons, conclusions, or beliefs would I draw from it: the same ones as the client or different ones? What meaning would this story have for me personally?
Chapters 8, 13, 17, and 21 do not focus on a specific client’s case study; rather they offer a deeper look at four key reasons that many clients seek past life therapy: past life influences on their emotions,
relationships, physical bodies, and spirituality. These chapters serve as a jumping-off point followed by case studies that illustrate each particular arena, so if you just have to find out more about how a past life can affect your current relationships (Chapter 13), then feel free to jump ahead if you need to. But I highly recommend that you come back and read the rest, because each story really does have something unique to offer!
Lastly, the appendices offer some of my recommended resources and information if you want to delve deeper. I invite you to be curious and educate yourself about past life therapy. Once you do, you will undoubtedly discover how expansive and deep the subject really is. As I mentioned in the introduction, my purpose in writing this book is to not only demystify past life therapy and demonstrate its effectiveness as a therapeutic tool that can help all kinds of people live happier and more fulfilled lives, it is also to expand mainstream awareness of the eternal nature of our existence. Your curiosity and open mind are the first steps toward achieving that purpose.
Although most clients take their regression experience at face value, from time to time I do have clients who decide to do some research to validate the information that came up for them. The next chapter, “3501, I’m OK,” is probably one of the most illustrative of a prior life bleeding over into the current life, and of the client’s being able to research and validate his past life memories. I think it’s a good place to start. It’s an intense story with some strong language, but it gives you an idea of how vividly the client was reexperiencing the events of a prior lifetime.