Who was I in a past life? A street urchin in the gutters of London? Medieval knight? Prophet of ancient Greece? Bandit of the Arabian Desert? Does it really matter? Pragmatically minded people will point out that I can't change the past anyway. The present and the future are what matter. Why regress, when what I want is to progress?
To the mildly curious, past-life therapy (PLT) seems an indulgence, a kind of bizarre past-life tourism. But for those with a burning desire to know themselves, it is a powerful technique of self-discovery, opening inner worlds and inviting an exploration of consciousness far beyond the limits of the ordinary mind. When applied to deep personal issues and limitations, PLT goes directly to the source of problems. They are resolved at their very roots.
The fact that past-life therapy has increased in popularity over the last decade bears testimony to the growing numbers of people whose lives have been changed by it. I have found that many people, through engaging in a course of PLT, experience their inner blockages swept away, emotional issues resolved, and self-imposed limits exploded. The resulting self-empowerment has brought them and me more fulfilling jobs, better personal relationships, and improved health. More importantly, its brought an inner knowing of spiritual roots, subtle and powerful realizations that external life circumstances can never measure.
But when you are faced with crisis, say your fourth marriage falls apart amidst vicious arguments and intense emotional pain, what do you care whether you were once an African nomad or a Russian monk? How does knowing this change anything? It doesn't. Knowing what your past lives were makes no difference at all. Mentally understanding the source of the issue doesn't bring you any closer to freedom. You remain the same person with the same problem, but with an added bit of mental information to justify it: "My lover abandoned me in a past life; that's why I can't trust anyone now."
But if the samskara of the event is resolved, then everything can change. Samskara, an ancient Sanskrit word, refers to an imprint or scar left in the psyche by an emotional trauma. The conscious mind may forget the event, but the imprint remains, and it continues to condition your reactions and view of the world from a deep and unseen level of your consciousness.
Imagine that you were seven years old when your favorite uncle made (unwanted) sexual advances toward you. What might that do to future sexual relationships, to working relationships with older men? Suppose the uncle was tall and thin with a bushy beard, and smelled faintly of whisky. How would you feel about men of similar appearance, and what reaction is a whiff of scotch on the rocks likely to provoke?
Now imagine that this happened to you in a previous life. The same samskara, creating the same conditioning, now operates from beyond your conscious memory. You would suffer all the same effects, but with no idea where they came from. This is what PLT is for. Regressing to the incident, no matter which life, means that you can reach the source of the problem. You see things as they really happened. You re-experience all the sensations and emotions, but in a safe environment, seen from the standpoint of your present adult self. The emotional charge associated with the event is released. You are freed from the behavior patterns conditioned by that traumatic incident.
"Jane" is a 32-year-old film editor. She suffered from periodic bouts of depression, during which she felt hardly able to face the world. She described the depression as "a black space of emptiness." When the depression descended, all she longed for was to spend a week sleeping and hiding in bed.
In her first session of PLT, Jane regressed to an experience of giving birth:
Jane: "My belly is huge ... there are pains ... I feel the baby is about to come, but it's not safe."
Candice: "What is not safe?"
Jane: "There are people coming ... soldiers ... I can hear them outside."
Candice: "Where are you?"
Jane: "In a tent ... a teepee ... it's a village of teepees, and there are soldiers with guns outside ... people screaming."
Candice: "Are you alone or with someone?"
Jane: "There are women with me; they are there to help me with the labor." (She begins to cry.) "I want to stop the baby coming but I can't ... it's coming out. And at the same time three men are coming into the teepee. It's not right. This is women's business; it is not the place for men. Oh, my God, they are waiting to take my baby! I can't do anything to stop them ... my baby!"
Candice: "See what happens next."
Jane: "One of the men grabs my baby boy from the women and wraps him up. Then they go, and they just leave me there. Then they take the other women outside. I hear more screams ... then nothing. I'm left alone. I didn't even get to hold my baby. I feel very weak; I know that without help I'm going to die."
Candice: "How does it feel inside you?"
Jane: "A terrible emptiness; I feel it in my belly and in my heart. It's exactly the same feeling of black emptiness I get when I am depressed, so big it could engulf me. All I want is to escape the pain, vanish into darkness and not feel."
Candice: "Move forward a bit."
Jane: "Hours pass ... it seems like a long time. I'm so thirsty and weak. There is blood all around me. I feel myself dying, but there is no sense of relief at all. I'm going into the blackness. The emptiness inside me is taking me there."
After this session, Jane could see how her bouts of depression had been coming straight from the woman in the teepee. After a course of sessions over the next weeks, the depression began to lift.
"It's as if that woman whose baby was taken has been inside me ever since, crying out to be heard," she said. "And now something in her is being healed."
Finding the samskara behind the black emptiness meant that the depression had been addressed at its source. In a few weeks, Jane had achieved more for her emotional well-being than she had managed to do in several years of counseling and antidepressants.
What makes going to the source of a problem so powerful? Suppose you want to change the course of a mighty river. It would take millions of dollars and teams of experts to construct a dam large enough to alter the flow of the river. But if you were to divert the same stream at its source, just position a rock in the right place, the stream would flow down the mountain on a totally different course.
What about those who are not sure whether they believe in past lives? When a therapy is based on experience, belief is irrelevant. Samskaras are revealed and emotional charges released, and as a result, something changes inside. You have gone beyond a mental understanding of the cause of your problem; you have seen it for what it really is and emptied it of its emotional charge, and that makes you a different person. For those who have undergone a course of PLT, the results simply speak for themselves.
Candice Oneida is a senior teacher at the Clairvision School, a Vision Healer, and past-life therapist practicing in Seattle, Washington. Information on private sessions with her can be found under "Therapy and Counseling" in the Resource Directory section of The New Times.