The healing of samskaras and imprints is the aim of Past Life Therapy (PLT). Our past life selves are not only characters in past dramas, but they also live within us today as sub-personalities. We feel their emotions; manifest their talents; think their thoughts; are limited by their fears and perpetuate their quandaries. We often act this out without consciously knowing we are doing so, simply because we are unaware they exist within us. The most problematic past lives for us today, are the ones that have unresolved trauma or ‘unfinished business.’ In PLT these problematic inner characters are brought to the forefront of consciousness and worked with to bring resolution and healing to their complexes, so that they cease to affect the current life.
Usually during a regression session one past life story is worked with. This is not always the case, because resonant stories with a similar theme may also arise in the course of one session, and almost certainly do in successive sessions. In past life work it seems that ‘clusters’ of similar past lives emerge from the soul’s history. They are connected by the same theme yet each may reflect a different facet or aspect. For example, a man may find himself a slave in a past life, where the theme or personal imprint is one of hopelessness. If we are exploring the personal theme of hopelessness, several past life stories may arise that carry different aspects of how this was imprinted. The circumstances may change through lifetimes in which hopelessness became a part of each life. In one life it may be because of slavery, in another life it may be because of feeling trapped in an arranged, loveless marriage where he feels like a slave; or in another instance he may be a hardworking farmer and sole provider of a large family or community and blight comes that kills the crops. In the slave scenario, he may die with the idea that ‘there’s no way out,’ and quite literally this may be true, in the marriage he may simply feel trapped and may commit suicide out of depression. The farmer may come to the end of that life feeling that “no matter what I do, the odds are against me, it’s hopeless.” All these different lives will be connected and recalled by an exploration of what is called the ‘core theme.’ These core themes are present in our current life and are noticed by examining recurring patterns of behavior. This is one way that karmic imprints and samskaras reveal themselves in our current lives.
A few simple questions will open the door to streams of past life imprints.. Just finish the sentence “ I always…” or “I never…” One could answer “I always have to do it all alone” or “ I never have enough money”. Sometimes we even make casual comments when describing our feelings that are loaded with past life imagery, such as, “I feel like a slave”, “My hands are tied”, “I’ve been stabbed in the back’, “There’s no way out”. These repetitive themes, that we take as actual truth and that shape our reality, are most likely core themes that past life characters are still unresolved with. They are changeable, but they are also so darn familiar, that one can’t even conceive that it might be possible.
Stage One: Inducing Past Life Memories
The first stage of PLT is the induction of the past life memory. This is the method used to recall the past life. Following is a brief outline of some of the methods;
Exploration of Current Life Themes – This is like doing a Google search by typing in keywords and pulling up relevant content. In PLT thoughts and emotions, at the center of any particular complex are uncovered and then used to follow backwards through time to find relevant present and past life formative experiences. This happens through an interview process with a client, when discussing issues or doing a review of different areas of their life such as the history of relationships, upbringing or work. This also serves to identify core themes together before starting regression work.
Dream Fragments and Imagery – Past life memories can arise within the dream state, often this imagery is fragmentary, but a particularly charged scene in a dream can be explored for past life content. An example of this could be a dream of being chased by wolves, exploration of this may lead to a literal past life where that happened or it may be a metaphoric image that leads to a different past life memory of being a child in the forest running from invaders.
Fear / Phobias – Present life fears, such as those that seem to not be connected with any current life cause. When these fears are explored they are often found to have their root in past life traumatic deaths. Fear of water or heights for example, is often caused by past life drowning or death by falling.
Womb Regression – Going back to the womb can happen during regression either by direction or spontaneously. Sometimes during a session all of the work will happen in the womb but quite frequently while in this state of memory, past life content arises also.
Spontaneous Memory or Imagery – People, places and charged events in one’s life can often ‘shake to the surface’ deeper associative past life memories. This can happen spontaneously, and the amount of detail recalled in such an event varies from person to person. Some people recall the whole past life, some only fragments of it. When a client comes to therapy with such memories, these can be explored in PLT to go deeper into the story.
Body/Somatic Memory – The mind is not located in the brain but permeates our entire being, including the body. The principle at play is that our current life bodies are recreated from a subtle energy body that is a part of the soul’s memory. ‘Cellular Memory’ is the term often used to describe subconscious body imprints. Thus a chronic neck pain may come from a past life hanging or beheading that has been traumatically imprinted and carried into the current life body. Exploration of current life somatic pains, repeated injuries to a part of the body, illnesses, deformities or even birth marks may reveal past life content.
Guided Imagery – This is a directive process that allows a past life memory to arise spontaneously, where a scene is set in the imagination intending to lead to a past life. This could be the suggestion of imagining crossing a bridge and coming into a past life scene, or walking down a hallway with many closed doors and choosing one, opening it and walking into a past life scene. There are myriad variations of the initial imagery used to get to the past life. This is the induction that most people think of when they think of past life work. It is most commonly used in hypnotherapy and used less frequently in the style of regression that I work with.
All of these methods and combinations of each are used in the cases in this book. No matter how the past life memory was accessed or who performed the regression, the stories still relate to the karmic axis within the birth chart.
Stage Two: Reliving the Past Life
Because we find imprints and samskaras at the heart of our core themes, the emotions and thoughts of the past life character must be explored in depth to reveal what is being carried from life to life. In the form of regression therapy that I teach and practice (Deep Memory Process) it is essential to relive the past life as fully as possible during the session. There are many reasons why this is a part of the therapy, but there are two main points to be made. First, trauma causes freezing and dissociation. Second, one needs to uncover the depth of the past life characters experience to actually heal it. Regarding the first point, reliving the past life helps in the ‘unfreezing process.’ In essence, unfreezing wakes up that soul fragment that may still be stuck or split off from the whole psyche. Reliving acts as a way to revive this ‘dead’ aspect of the soul. Recalling a past life story from the perspective of an observer, instead of being fully in the story suggests that a dissociated part of the psyche is having the memory. A dissociated memory is not an accurate account because, that part of the psyche split off as soon as things got difficult. In present life traumatic recall, people often report watching themselves from ‘above’ or ‘off to the side’ while the traumatic event is happening. The dissociated part of the psyche can remember the details through observation from the sidelines, but the memory will often not include the emotions, thoughts, and imprints that were present in the body, where the actual event was taking place, simply because that part was not present while the trauma was happening. The second point follows the first one closely. As a therapist in past life work, it is essential to know the inner life of the past life self to affect change and healing.
Stage Three: Death and the Afterlife
Every past life we have had ended in death. Each death is a decisive transition stage for the soul. In therapy, this is where the most crucial part of the healing begins—finishing the unfinished business. Since we know that consciousness survives death, it is possible to follow it in PLT through the death process into the afterlife. Deep Memory Process work in this area, is based loosely on the Tibetan Buddhist understanding of the Bardos. Throughout this article I use the terms Bardo, spirit world, and afterlife to mean the same thing. The Bardo is a transitional state; the term is most commonly used for the state after death and before reincarnation although in the Buddhist view all states of existence are Bardo states. The Bardo of dying is the transitional plane between life and death, when the elements of the body are breaking down. Traditionally a Lama or priest would read the Bardo Thotrol or Thodol (The Tibetan Book of the Dead) to the dying or recently deceased person. It tells them not to fear death, and explains to them the experiences they will have on the other side so that they can safely navigate through these planes. It warns that once awareness is no longer in a body it will continue to create a reality in the afterlife. The person is urged to turn from the living, to die with peace of mind and heart so that they do not go further into the lower Bardos, and attachments are not recreated and experienced as reality on the other side.
The Tibetans describe the light that is perceived immediately after death, and say we must recognize this light as our own true “Buddha’ nature to merge with it. But they also warn there are other lights, one is the light of your own individuated mind. If you fail to see through the illusions and merge with the true light, you will journey further into the lower Bardos which eventually lead to rebirth. Many souls obviously do not achieve this recognition upon dying. They bathe temporarily in the light, or miss it altogether, and the weight of the unresolved issues causes them to wander confused, getting lost in the lower Bardos where ‘karmic gravity’ pulls them back into incarnation. Yes, that’s why we are all here! Some confusion as to what the afterlife of the soul is like exists today because of the information that is gathered from Near Death Experiences. Many NDE cases document going into a supernal light (although some do describe hellish states as well); meeting loved ones or higher beings, and then being directed or feeling pulled back into their body on the earth plane. Because this is not a full death experience, it is possibly, only this first stage of the Bardo that is temporarily encountered. This can lead to the misconception that we all go ‘to the light’ after death and remain there. With NDE, the death process and entry into the Bardos can be like visiting a place as opposed to moving there permanently. When you visit somewhere it can be fresh and exciting, you may think “Gee this would be a great place to live.” When you finally move to that place a different reality sets in. There may be difficulties and complications that arise that never experienced when just visiting there.
In working with many cases over the years it is apparent to me that it is only a part of the soul that remains in the lower Bardos. I think of these parts of the soul as ‘split-off psychological complexes’ frozen in time. This is the fragmenting effect that trauma has on the psyche. In Shamanic terms this is a soul fragment that is split off and stuck in a kind of tape loop, replaying its worries, fears, and unresolved complexes. It is not the entire energy of the soul, but is an earthbound fragment. Thus, a dying thought of “ I can’t leave them” may play over and over immediately after death at such an increased rate that it fixes the attention of the newly departed soul on the earth plane, causing it to miss its opportunity to fully ascend to higher planes. Such a dying thought can take over the awareness of the departing consciousness, causing it to remain partially earthbound, obsessively focused on its single objective. Consciousness not anchored in physical matter creates reality faster than the speed of light. Songyol Rimpoche writes in the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying that once awareness or mind is free of the body at death, it vibrates hundreds of times faster. Thus thought manifests instantly in the Bardo, much like it does in our dream states. We create our reality in the afterlife instantaneously.
Buddhism and other traditions such as Hinduism teach that one of the main objectives of life is to be able to die well, thus to achieve eternal freedom from the earth plane or cycle of rebirth. Traditions that have a place for reincarnation in their beliefs all have similar teachings – it is of utmost importance to the evolutionary well being of the soul to die as consciously and untroubled as possible. They explain that the intensity and weight of unfinished desires, emotions, and thoughts in life slow and even retard the soul’s progress after death, like taking too much baggage with you on a long journey. Thus they teach that by limiting desires and purifying thoughts and emotions during life, the afterlife passage to higher planes will be easier to complete. It also is taught that meditation on or invocation of the divine or a divine being at the moment of death, as a continuation of a lifelong spiritual practice, will also result in clear passage through the Bardos.
Unfortunately, uttering “Oh My God” at that last moment doesn’t seem to work!
Anyone who works in the style of PLT that follows the consciousness into the afterlife, will report that many do not perceive the light after death. They are still caught in their emotions and dying thoughts, they are still looking for their loved ones, or they are still angry at the ones who killed them. There are so many variations of the kinds of imprints held at death. That is why in PLT, the state of mind and emotions at death are most important to capture and bring to consciousness because these lead to the lost parts of the soul. A main principle of the Bardos is that recognition and liberation are instantaneous. In other words, we only need to see beyond the illusion to be liberated from it. This is useful to know when working with past life characters that are stuck after death. Often the work that happens in the Bardo involves getting the soul to give up its obsessive thoughts and leave its complexes behind. You will see in the case studies the different kinds of resolution that happen in these Bardo states. They can include the healing of physical traumas carried in the subtle body, reunion with lost loved ones, dialogue with perpetrators, seeking forgiveness from those one has hurt; the finishing of unfinished desires/impulses, or just having a good old catharsis. The reworking of all these imprints in the Bardo, allows this part of the soul to complete its unfinished business and more fully ascend to higher planes.
Stage Four: Overview, Integration and Review
Once resolution happens in the lower Bardos, it is as if the consciousness becomes lighter. It is possible then to ascend to the higher Bardos and this often happens spontaneously. These realms are more like the natural domain of spirit that is unfettered by earthly existence. This is the original light the Tibetans describe that consists of unconditional love and grace. Wise beings and images of the divine are often met here. It is a place of clear, pure supernal light where overview of the past life happens; inspired connections to current life people and places are made, or whole patterns of past lives and the reason for them are revealed, often spontaneously and without direction. It is the place of higher view. Communication here is often direct and intuitive without words. Questions are answered by higher beings concerning the meaning and lessons of the life that was just re-experienced. Often new current life directions and potentials are pointed out. The soul fragment that is resurrected and brought to this plane is often overjoyed to finally come to this place of peace.
After bringing the client fully back into present day consciousness, we work together to recap how this experience fits into the current life context. Often further insight happens this way, but in the following hours and days after a session, clients often report that the insights occur like dominos falling into one another, as they go about their day to day business. After time, the changes that have occurred as a result of the session also become more noticeable, so in some of the cases in this book, the afterthoughts of clients are included.
The stages that occur in regression illuminate much about the psychology of the soul. Even though a lifetime may be in the distant past, it can be very present in the current life psyche. These circumstances from the past shape who we are today. The past and the future are tied together by the present, and the choices we make now affect both. Self knowledge of where we have been, and resolution of any limitations from the past allows us greater freedom in the present and subsequently the future.