I come from a family of three Methodist ministers and was raised going to a Methodist church twice a week. In the faith tradition of my family, we don’t choose our parents, we haven’t lived before we’re born, and when we die - if we’ve lived noble lives, we hightail it up to heaven to enjoy everlasting life and maybe even become angels.
And yet…increasingly, I find myself exploring - and even believing in - things that defy the teachings of my childhood upbringing.
I recently spoke at the Hay House I Can Do It conference in Atlanta (if you missed it, come see me at I Can Do It Pasadena) And I had the pleasure of meeting psychiatrist Dr. Brian Weiss, author of Many Lives, Many Masters , which I had never read. As Brian and I talked over lunch together, he told me the story of his patient Catherine, a woman debilitated by phobias and anxiety, who failed to improve after a year and a half of intensive psychotherapy, even after hypnosis had uncovered a suppressed memory of childhood sexual abuse.
Then one day, under hypnosis, Brian invited Catherine to go further back into young childhood, to see if there was a repressed memory even younger, and much to his surprise, Catherine went back 4000 years to a memory of a past life! After many subsequent sessions during which Catherine remembered 86 past lives in great detail, and after her fear and anxiety finally resolved, Columbia and Yale-trained Brian had to face an impossible question - could any of this actually be true?
Brian was initially very skeptical. Certainly, these were just elaborate fantasies created by a wild imagination. But then, under hypnosis, Catherine started revealing personal details of Brian’s life that she couldn’t have possibly known. And her clinical improvement was undeniable. While under hypnosis, Catherine would experience a life, find for herself a lesson she might learn about her present life from the wisdom she gleaned from that past life, and then Brian would progress her forward to the time of her death in that life. After “dying,” every time, Catherine described floating peacefully as her soul renewed itself before incarnating again to learn more lessons. During this time of soul renewal, Catherine’s voice would change and her physical body would be taken over by what Catherine called the “Master Spirits,” and these Master Spirits would share with Brian truths of the Universe that Catherine wouldn’t remember after she was brought out of her hypnotic trance.
As Brian was sharing all of this with me, he was conveying how shocking it all was to him. After all, he was a highly respected psychiatrist heading up the department. He feared for his reputation should he tell anyone about what had transpired between he and his patient. Yet, after seeing thousands of patients, his clinical judgment led him to believe Catherine. She showed no signs of delusional thinking, schizophrenic behavior, bipolar disorder, or other tendencies towards psychiatric diagnoses other than her phobias and anxiety, which were resolving. Catherine was raised Catholic and was secure in her faith, so like me, she had never been raised to believe past lives exist. And yet - here they were. Real as ever, in great detail, in her memory.
After lunch with Brian, I gobbled up Many Lives, Many Masters and read all of Catherine’s story, which kind of blew my mind.
When I was researching Mind Over Medicine (order it here) and finding seemingly unbelievable evidence of spontaneous remissions in the medical literature, I was very skeptical, and yet the evidence was right there in the medical literature I trusted. Why had I not been taught that spontaneous remissions are not only possible, but that we can be proactive about increasing our chances of experiencing them?
Similarly, Brian was equally shocked when he started digging into the medical literature and discovering that there was copious data about past lives in the psychiatric literature. Why had he not been taught about such things? Why are we in the medical profession so reluctant to teach what we may not understand? Why are we so uncomfortable with what lies outside of things we can prove with the scientific method?
Although I have been curious about such things, I have never done a past life regression, but I figured I was here with the master. As Brian writes in Many Lives, Many Masters, quoting his Hungarian grandfather, “Vat the hell.”
I was skeptical. Brian said that about half of those who try a past life regression the first time experience a past life, the other half don’t. I figured I’d be in the half that didn’t. But I was game to try.
He started with a guided visualization in which I allowed “the light” to enter my body, filling me from the inside and surrounding me on the outside. Then he counted backwards- “10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2,” and when he said “1,” I was invited to see a memory from my early childhood.
I saw myself as a 6 month old baby in a yellow jumper, nursing at my mother’s breast. The walls were fake wood paneling. My mother was crying because my father was a medical student, always gone, always working, and my young mother was lonely. My baby self made a vow to never leave her feeling lonely like he did.
Next, I was invited to remember a time in the womb. But all I saw was pink light. Nothing else came through for me.
Then I was invited to go back further and to look at my shoes. I saw black shiny men’s shoes and the sleeve of my jacket with a swastika on it. I was twenty, young and scared to be away from home. My superior had ordered me to be the one who turned on the gas to kill a room full of children who were begging me not to do it. One little boy was crying and telling me I didn’t have to listen to them, that the people ordering me to do this were wrong. I was crying and he begged me not to hurt him, but I was afraid to disobey orders. I didn’t want to do it, but I was scared for my own life, scared for the lives of my family, afraid to speak up.
So I turned on the gas and all the children died. I watched that little boy’s body go limp. The little boy was someone I know from this lifetime, someone with whom I’ve shared a difficult relationship.
Then I flashed to a scene twenty years later, when I killed myself with a gun after decades of shame and remorse.
Next, I was invited to identify the lessons I could learn from the past life I experienced. What came to me is that this explains my sometimes pathologic drive to heal the world in this lifetime. If I really did kill children in my last lifetime, it would make sense that I had some karmic debt to repay in this lifetime in order for my soul to progress. And it would make sense that I would have reincarnated in this lifetime with that little boy to somehow pay him back for what I did. (Brian says we often reincarnate with the same group of souls so we can work things out, lifetime after lifetime.)
This could explain why I felt such a drive to be a doctor, even though I experienced many traumas and had to sacrifice my own health and happiness in order to become one. And perhaps this is why I was given the cosmic download of Mind Over Medicine, so I could heal even more people and allow my soul to progress.
Maybe this is all just fantasy. Maybe I just have a suggestible imagination capable of wild storytelling. Or maybe there’s something to this whole past life thing. I don’t know. I still have a hard time believing things I can’t prove. But I met Brian Weiss in person, and he has now worked with over 4000 people doing past life regressions. He is one of the kindest and gentlest souls I’ve met. And I didn’t get even a lick of the “woo woo” vibe from him. We spoke, doctor to doctor, and he struck me as credible and trustworthy. Clearly, he believes what he is teaching and practicing, and I’m inclined to believe it, too.
I’ll be exploring all sorts of healing phenomena we can’t easily explain with the scientific method in a future book. But for now, tell me what you think!
Any of you gone through a past life regression? Have you had any past life or suppressed early childhood memories? Do you think I’m crazy or that past/future lives are just wishful thinking?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Many lives later,
Lissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician, founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and other health care providers, and the New York Times bestselling author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself. She is on a grass roots mission to heal health care, while empowering you to heal yourself. Lissa blogs at LissaRankin.com and also created two online communities - HealHealthCareNow.com and OwningPink.com. She is also the author of two other books, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, and an avid hiker. Lissa lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and daughter.
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