By Anupama Bhattacharya
Past life therapy can help resolve karma, improve relationships, cure diseases and aid your personal growth. Above all, it can bring you a step closer to the timeless in you that can never die
Before the sun, the moon, the earth,
Before the stars or comets free,
Before e’en time had had its birth
I was, I am and I will be.
To live again is to confront your immortality. As you meander from life to life, scooping out handful of moments to relive, you recognize the wänderlust deep within your soul. Seeking adventure and peace, joy and hardship—an immortal in the guise of mortality.
Beautiful thoughts. But are they for real? Born with a constitution that vacillates eternally between imagination and cynicism, I approached my first past life session with mixed feelings. Can we cross the frontiers of this lifetime? What would it be like to confront my doppelgänger? And the final doubt—is there really a life beyond this?
Closeted in a small, dimly lit room, as I allowed myself to be enveloped in the fragrance of incense sticks and flowers around me, the chime of bells and a Tibetan bowl ringing in my ears, I tried to follow the instructions for past life regression (PLR).
If you haven’t experimented with PLR, the idea might seem scary at first. It did, to me. I wasn’t prepared to be swept off my feet into the life of some strange personality. Neither was I willing to let go of my hold on my consciousness. But Poonam Uppal, a past life therapist and psychic who was conducting the session, reassured me that nothing of the sort would happen.
Most people experience PLR as a gradual unfolding of images. In fact, your conscious mind continues to wonder if you are making everything up. Only a minority experience total involvement, and fewer still have amnesia about the session.
‘A PLR is never at random,’ says Poonam. ‘You go back to understand and live this life better. So you glimpse only those events that might have a positive effect on you. Even if you experience trauma, it is to release the negativity of your past.’
Opinions differ on whether PLR should be done without a therapist’s guidance. Most Indian therapists I spoke to were dead against self-conducted regressions, or even doing it with a friend who isn’t an experienced therapist. However, past life therapists and psychiatrists outside India, such as Glenn Williston and Michael Talbot not only encourage you to try it on your own, but also explain how you can do it. Pradeep Aggarwal, a Calcutta-based hypnotist and past life therapist from India, has even brought out audiocassettes for self-regression.
AN ANCIENT TECHNIQUE
Though PLR dates back to the 4th century BC when Patanjali, the ancient Indian philosopher who codified yoga, instructed how past lives can be recalled through meditation, it made a comeback in modern times around the early 20th century with Albert de Rochas, a French colonel who practiced hypnotism. However, Dick Sutphen, an American past life therapist, popularized its therapeutic use in the ’60s. Raymond Moody, author of Life After Life which detailed near-death experiences, also contributed through his book Coming Back—a tale of nine of his past lives.
PLT entered India less than a decade ago through the seminars of Karl Everding, a German past life therapist. Since then, a handful of therapists have been practicing PLT in India, but not exclusively. They are based mostly in Delhi and Mumbai.
Past life therapists claim that PLT can easily cure obesity or overeating, often caused by past life deprivations. Diseases such as allergies, headaches (especially migraines), back problems, chronic pain, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, hyperactivity and insomnia can also be traced to past life experiences. Even depression, suicidal tendencies, addictions, child abuse, multiple personalities and schizophrenia have their roots in the past.
PLR can be induced through many methods, the most common being hypnosis. Though each therapist’s hypnotic suggestions have slight variations, the skeletal frame remains the same. You visualize a dark tunnel with a white light at the end which apparently connects you to a different reality. The rest is up to how well you can regress. According to Poonam, I went on an astral travel the first time. Shanti Dhawan, a school principal, could not regress at all in a group session, while there were many who immediately stepped into their past lives and apparently experienced the emotional intensity of another life. Many came out of the session crying.
Carl Carpenter, a hypnotherapist, uses hypno-kinesiology, a system combining hypnosis and muscle testing, for PLR. The system consists of asking questions and checking the body’s reflexes to determine the answers.
PLR can also be induced through acupuncture, as experienced by Hollywood actress Shirley MacLaine. ‘When the needles are placed around the third-eye area or the psychic meridian points, the patient begins to experience scenes, memories and vignettes of lives he has lived in the past,’ writes MacLaine in her book Dancing in the Light.
Breathing can also induce regression, claims Gurdeep (Deep) Singh, a Delhi-based past life therapist and reiki grandmaster. A system also used by Everding and Dr Syed, a Hyderabad-based workshop leader and channel for spiritual energies. ‘I learnt PLT from my invisible master Power-King from the sixth dimension,’ explains Dr Syed who also remembers the destruction of Atlantis and Lemuria through past life recall.
The American, Dr Morris Netherton, who introduced the non-hypnotic method of regression now named after him, made his patients talk and listened for ‘specific recurring or out-of-place phrases’. Whenever he came across one, he asked the patient to repeat the phrase till a mental picture appeared. This leads to a past life incident with which the phrase was related. The Netherton method is practiced by past life therapists such as R. Chandran and Dr Pradeep Diwan in India.
Sometimes, dreams also become windows to a different reality. To understand them, maintain a chronological past life journal. Whenever you undergo a PLR or feel that you have had a glimpse of a past life, be it in dreams or a sense of déjà vu, jot it down in as much detail as you can remember. See if any characters from the past remind you of somebody in your present life. Soon, you’d become adept at recognizing images that have a past life connection.
DOUBTS VS BELIEF
But do we really regress to past lives? Attention seeking, information stored in DNA, hallucination-there are many explanations for past life memories.
A patient is also said to develop a telepathic link during regression and reveal unconscious thoughts passed by the therapist. Not improbable. Most regressions confirm a therapist’s particular beliefs. Take, for example, Williston. He believes that animals belong to a separate soul family and cannot be born as humans, a belief ratified by his patients during regression. However, Poonam, who has grown up with the Indian belief that humans do take birth as animals, tends to find patients who speak of lifetimes as animals.
Dr Satwant Pasricha, clinical psychologist at the National Institute for Mental Health and Neuroscience (NIMHANS), Bangalore, India, who has extensively researched cases of reincarnation claims, says that subjects under hypnosis are in a condition of increased suggestibility and might create images of a past life on the basis of implied or explicit suggestions.
Americans, Dr Leonard Zusne and Dr Warren H. Jones write in their book Anomalistic Psychology: ‘Because suggestion is part of hypnosis, suggesting that the subject examine his previous lives achieves precisely that result… This, however, is no proof of reincarnation.
The cases that have been thoroughly investigated show that one is dealing with hypnotic hypermnesia coupled with the subject’s unconscious wish for exhibition, for romance… and similar psychological needs, all reinforced by the hypnotist’s own belief in reincarnation.’
A doubt echoed by Santhosh Babu, an Indian hypnotist who conducts PLR. ‘It is not difficult to regress a person. I have done PLRs for more than 500 people till now. But I was never convinced that they actually visited a past life,’ says he. ‘I never recommend regression as therapy since it transfers the responsibility of your life on a past life persona with whom you don’t really identify. It is an easy way out and doesn’t help in the long run.’
However, Poonam discards these speculations as irrelevant. ‘Many images can come from the subconscious. But when you actually regress to your past life, you somehow sense it—through the detailed images, the intensity of the moment.’
Aparna Jha, a past life therapist based in Delhi, India, and meditation teacher, feels that PLR is questioned because very few can put in the effort required to find a proof. ‘It’s a very long process. A person has to undergo many sessions, much research and traveling has to be done before you even begin linking up the past life images. And since regression often leads you to parallel lives, you may come up with facts that are not in accordance with what is known. So the debate is bound to continue,’ she argues.
More so when regressions apparently lead you not only to past lives but also to lives on other planets. ‘I used to get this bout of intense cold in summers,’ recalls Deep Singh. ‘I understood it when I regressed to a life as a dinosaur-like creature on an extremely cold desert planet. It was so cold that even a little bit of heat would activate the body.’
Scientology, a science of the mind founded by the popular sci-fi author L. Ron Hubbard, also has an alien connection. It believes that most problems are due to engrams or blocks created by threat in early childhood, prenatal stage or past lives, and can be corrected through a method called auditing. But the basic belief of Scientology is that all individuals are spiritual beings called Thetans, who were uprooted billions of years ago from another planet. The engramsformed during all this time have made man forget his own divinity.
However, in 1894, Theodore Flournoy, the famed subliminal psychologist from Geneva, Switzerland, began studying Catherine Elise Mueller, who spoke of past lives on Mars and wrote the Martian ‘script’ under regression. Later, it was discovered that the syntax of the script closely matched French, Mueller’s native tongue. Did Martians have an affinity with French? Or was it a creation of Mueller’s subconscious desires?
‘I usually take regressions to other planets and dimensions with a pinch of salt,’ says Aggarwal. ‘But it is possible to regress to another person’s life. So there is no definite answer to what PLR is.’
My experience with PLR,’ says Ajit Mittal, an ad man, ‘was a letdown. I saw images, but they were the kind anybody would see if you close your eyes for a while.’
The most popular case of past life recall till date has been that of Ruth Simmons who regressed to her life as Bridey Murphy (The Search for Bridey Murphy by Morey Bernstein). Though Simmons’ description of life in Ireland, as seen by Bridey, was correct, no trace of Bridey or her family could be found, even after extensive research.
Most people, under regression, recall lives in civilizations they are familiar with or consider exotic. Even the strange lives that people claim to remember are either from Atlantis (where they were invariably high priests or brilliant scientists) or from Egypt. More glamour there?
THE HEALING PROCESS
Vanit Nalwa, a practicing hypnotherapist, however, is not overtly bothered about the validity of PLR. ‘I can’t say if it is a door to previous lives, but it certainly works as therapy,’ she insists. ‘Under regression, a person can dissociate himself from the present reality and express feelings and thoughts he wouldn’t otherwise be comfortable with. They might be past lives, images from the subconscious, or just hallucinations, but they still are therapeutic.’ Agrees R. Chandran, a Mumbai-based therapist and reiki master from India: ‘For me, proving past life is not an issue. What is of value here is the outcome which certainly is effective.’
According to Roger J. Woolger, a Jungian psychotherapist, PLT is done done in three stages. The first is the ‘realistic-cathartic’ where traumatic experiences from the past are relived, the second is the ‘symbolic-archetypal’ where past personalities are seen as aspects of the present self and lastly the ‘integral-mystical’ where everything is perceived as part of the eternal play of creation.
Once a person accepts the past, healing doesn’t take long. ‘Patients of asthma usually have traumatic links with choking in their previous life,’ says Poonam. ‘In one case, a patient recalled asphyxiating in a blocked cave. Here, as in the case of most other phobias, the cure lies in facing your past and realizing that that which you fear is already over.’ Poonam uses fragrant flowers for her therapy sessions since, according to her, flowers exude positive energy. Crystals, gem elixirs, flower essences and incense sticks also find their way to Poonam’s therapy chamber.
Aggarwal mentions a patient who was extremely wary of intimacy. ‘When I regressed her, she recalled a life as the daughter of a very rich lady in Egypt. She was in love with a servant who was tortured to death before her eyes.’ It made her understand the root of her insecurity and work towards resolving it.
Dr Pradeep Diwan, a surgeon who also does regression, recalls a client who, in one lifetime, was an omnivore and had stolen jewelry for which he was imprisoned. ‘In this life, he was born as a Jain. And since he was born in a jeweler’s family, he was the target of thieves this time,’ says Dr Diwan.
‘I remember a client in Australia, who was extremely scared of stepping out of her house,’ says Kaicee, who uses free association for regression. ‘After 10 sessions we discovered that in a past life she was chased across a meadow, raped and dismembered. It made her terrified of open spaces. But after PLT, she called me over and confidently walked out of her door.’
Sometimes, a phobia or an illness is not the result of a single lifetime but accumulated traumas of many lifetimes. In such cases, the therapist can direct the patient to pick up key incidents from a cluster of lifetimes. PLT ‘that flows from key moment to key moment is a very practical, successful therapy modality’, writes Brian L. Weiss, a psychiatrist and author of the bestseller Many Lives, Many Masters in his book, Through Time into Healing.
‘Everything I’m interested in, comes from my past,’ says Rohini Gupta, a businesswoman who underwent PLT. ‘My love of gardening comes from a lifetime as a Japanese. Even my dislike of cold water comes from being drowned in another lifetime.’
‘PLT can be resorted to for many reasons. I prefer to take people on a journey within which helps in their spiritual development,’ says Aparna. ‘The main purpose of life is compassion and love. PLT can make you aware of this and help you reach it.’
‘The benefits of PLT are many, but the most important is the realization of the eternal in you,’ says Dr Syed.
TRYST BEYOND LIFE
Have you ever felt a strong like or dislike for somebody without understanding why? The root of such reactions, say past life therapists, lies in souls who continue to meet through many lifetimes to resolve their problems or form supporting soul groups.
Sadhika was traumatized by her bully of a husband. When she underwent a PLR to find out why, she discovered to her shock that she and her husband had been couples in many lifetimes, interchanging genders. Each time, whoever chose to be the husband, would traumatize the wife.
‘A group of people kept recurring in my lives,’ says Fali Kumanna who underwent regression with Everding. ‘My past lives revealed that they had done me grievous harm. When I managed to forgive them, they stopped resurfacing.’
‘Most people feel that it is their evil past which makes them suffer in this life,’ says Aparna. ‘But if you let yourself be harmed or victimized, you create a negative energy which would put you in similar situations again and again till you resolve it by letting go of the victim mentality.’
‘I always felt used and cheated by everyone around me,’ says Sanjeev Raheja, a student. ‘When I underwent regression, I expected to see myself as a tyrant who manipulated others. Instead, I saw myself as a frail young woman who never had the guts to protest against the injustice done to her. It taught me that unless I learn to put my foot down, I would be caught in a vicious cycle and remain a victim.’
According to most past life therapists, gender changes are common in various incarnations. Antje Wilms, a German patient of Poonam who went to seven of her past lives, was male in five of them. ‘When she regressed, she realized that she had known her soul-mate for many lives in the past. In fact, her main worry was what if the soul-mate she is looking for was born as a woman in this life,’ says Poonam.
Not that it would have made much difference, believes Williston. According to him, it is not necessary for soul mates to be lovers. They can also be brother-sister, parent-child, master-student or friends.
‘My past life travels with Poonam were like pieces in a puzzle,’ says Antje. ‘The first was very sad, but in later lifetimes, I found peace and immense love.’ In fact, Poonam also took Antje to her future and showed her how she would meet her soul mate, who, to Antje’s great relief, turned out to be an eligible male.
‘You may or may not meet your soul mate in a lifetime, but if you fully recognize him, it is equivalent to nirvana. Most often, people who belong to the same soul group marry each other mistaking it as a meeting of soul mates. Though it is possible to have many relationships in a soul group, the relation between soul mates can only be that of lovers since that is the closest and most intense of all relations,’ says Poonam, contradicting Williston’s theory.
CROSSING THE THRESHOLD
In PLRs, you are directed to a death experience since fear of death underlies most phobias, says Williston. PLRs also make you realize that the after-death state is neither a punishment, nor a cessation of awareness. It is, in fact, a state where we are more conscious and can review our life from a detached perspective.
‘We know everything about our prospective parents before we choose them,’ says Williston. He goes on to suggest that we not only choose the kind of people we would want around us, but also the genetic strain that would determine our looks, intelligence, strength or impairments. In other words, we literally make ourselves what we are.
‘Everything is there in our life because we chose it. Before birth, we decide how and as what we would be born to resolve our past karma. But once we are born, we forget why we had chosen this lifetime and thus fail to fulfill our task,’ explains Aparna.
But this means that there is a nonphysical component in each of us—a presupposition underlying the concept of PLT—a ‘self’ beyond time, space and mortality.
Writes Williston: ‘Experiencing… past life regression is an important step in restoring faith in the existence of the soul… Thus past life therapy acts directly to alleviate feelings of helplessness, alienation or loneliness.’
Though regressing to past lives cannot be proved, the experience does seem to give you a glimpse of your higher self which experiences everything objectively—while pains, fears and guilt lose all meaning. You experience life in all its variety and partake in the grand celebration of existence. Detached from transient identities of lifetimes after lifetimes, you watch yourself laugh and cry, exult and cringe, while something silent, eternal and timeless in you reaches out to clasp your wandering soul.
With each step back, time begins to melt in liquid drops through your regressing mind. Ripples of moments spread upon the pool of your memories, as you recognize the still center of the cosmic dance that was always there in you. Free at last, you prepare to break the shackles of nescience, so that, in the words of John Donne, one short sleep past, you wake up eternally, and death shall be no more.
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Do it yourself
There are many ways to induce past life regression. However, if you are doing it with a group of friends, be sure that you feel comfortable with them.
Sound SimulationPlay soft and monotonous music and face a wall in a dimly lit room. Single notes played by a woodwind are effective, as is soft meditation music. These sound frequencies transport you into an altered state of consciousness.Mirror Method
In a dimly lit room, focus on your reflection in a mirror held by you. Soon, the reflection would change and you might come face to face with your personality from a past life.
Here, a person mentions a particular country or time in history and all others are asked to concentrate for five or ten minutes to see if they feel any connection to it. This is repeated.
Each group member makes some intuitive comment about the past life of the participants. It often reveals surprisingly similar responses.
Do you feel a special affinity for any country or culture? Are your tastes specific to any period? See if you can find a pattern in your behavior. In fact, one of the many indicators of your past life is also the kind of climate you’re comfortable with. Even your body structure, especially your eyes, often bear a close resemblance to your past persona.
Caution: Make sure that there is at least one healer or therapist in your group.
Reincarnation has been one of the integral beliefs of most religions, especially in India. However, it was Dr Satwant Pasricha, a student and co-researcher of Dr Ian Stevenson, world authority on reincarnation research, who first conducted a scientific, empirical research into the phenomenon of spontaneous past life recall in India.
In her attempt to validate reincarnation, Dr Pasricha came across some interesting phenomena including strange birthmarks, often corresponding to the previous personality, or their manner of death. Her research revealed some interesting facts, such as changes in gender or class are rare in most cases of spontaneous past life recall (as against evidence from PLR).
Dr Pasricha also came across cases where a child started to talk about a previous life after suffering from a near-fatal disease. But the previous personality claimed to have died after the birth of the child. This is known as parakaya-pravesh or possession.
During her research, Dr Pasricha discovered that many children who remember their past lives often do so in a state of fever. ‘It is possible that the fever changed the brain metabolism enough so that previous life memories could come into consciousness,’ she writes in her book Claims of Reincarnation: An Empirical Study of Cases in India. Though her research could not provide absolute proof of reincarnation, the probabilities of fraud seemed minimal in a large number of cases.