Many people have interpreted karma as an “eye for an eye” and have come to see karma as punishment. I have often heard people say, “I must have done something really bad in a past life to deserve this.” But that is not really how it works. The concept of karma should not be used to make us feel guilty or shame us. It is simply a natural encounter with the consequences of our previous behavior:
Karma is actually the evolutionary path of the soul. It is a series of lifetime situations where we have specific lessons to learn so that we can progress. You could see it like school, where we need to get the lessons of first grade before we can be promoted to the second. We are ultimately moving towards graduation, which in the soul’s evolution is enlightenment. We need to have certain experiences in order to purge imperfection and to grow personally. We , at The Wellness Institute of Issaquah, call this development of the soul personal transformation.
In the Native traditions, it is said that to be a shaman one is required to remember their ten most recent past lives. Through the profound use of Heart-Centered-Hypnotherapy, conscious connected breathwork and Heart-Centered psychodrama, we certainly have the tools to remember our past lives. We have probably all seen powerful healings when our clients begin working through past life issues. There is so much to learn about ourselves and the meaning of our existence from past-life exploration. Take it literally, metaphorically, or as dream symbolism, but it does come up in people's hypnotherapy work whether you believe in it or not. The perspective presented here is derived from tens of thousands of people's actual experiences in altered states, such as near-death experiences, hypnotherapeutic age regressions, transcendent spiritual experiences, and meditations.
Gautama Buddha said, “If you want to know the past look at your present life; if you want to know the future, look at your present.” We use our present life experience as the laser beam that takes us back to our most prominent soul issues that need to be addressed. Carl Jung gave a series of lectures in 1932 on The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga (1996, edited by Sonu Shamdasani). He spoke of birth on the earth as an invaluable opportunity not to be wasted: "It is most important that you should be born; you ought to come into this world – otherwise you cannot realize the self, and the purpose of this world has been missed. Then you must simply be thrown back into the melting pot and be born again" (p. 28-29).
The opportunity is to learn and release our deeply held patterns of behavior. For example, a man who lost his wife and two children in a car crash went back to a past life where he was a military leader. In that life he ordered many raids of villages, resulting in the killing of innocent women and children. As he reviewed other lifetimes, he began to see the karmic pattern, which was repeatedly being on one side or the other of life-and-death situations. In metaconsciousness, the experience before this life's conception, our life review and planning stages occur. The man saw that his lesson in this life was to develop compassion and forgiveness. He also began to realize that God was not punishing him, just trying to help him learn.
Often when terrible things happen in our lives, our first tendency is to blame God. Whenever we place blame outside ourselves, we are in victim consciousness, whether we are blaming our spouse, ourselves, or God for our experiences. All of our experiences have been chosen by our higher selves in order to prepare us for certain tasks and future accomplishments. God doesn’t do bad things to people, or good things for that matter. The very essence of karma is that we have choice and thus free will. We evolve karmically so that we can continue to develop the traits, skills and aptitudes necessary for advancement on this road to enlightenment. Our progress is always determined by our free will and our talents progress lifetime after lifetime.
Past life experiences can be compared to very vivid déjà vu experiences when an individual is able to provide descriptions of environments and circumstances related to the observed events without any prior knowledge of them (Brown, 2003; Neppe, 2010). The experience has a convincing quality, generating a sense of certainty regarding the veracity of the experience.
In a review of the literature, psychologist Rupert Sheldrake’s idea of “morphic resonance,” David Bohm’s theory of “implicate order” and Karl Pribram’s “holographic model of the mind” suggest that the whole of the psyche is embedded within each of its parts. In Sheldrake’s words, morphic resonance is a process whereby self-organizing systems inherit a memory from previous similar systems. That means that the so-called laws of nature are more like habits. The hypothesis of morphic resonance also leads to a radically new interpretation of memory storage and of biological inheritance. Memory need not be stored in material traces inside brains, which are more like TV receivers than video recorders, tuning into influences from the past. Michael Talbot (2011) wrote a wonderful book explaining the holographic universe based on Pribram’s “holographic model of the mind”. According to this perspective, our world and everything in it are projections from a level of reality so beyond our own it is literally beyond both space and time. Accessing the source of those projections allows access to knowledge and experience outside time and beyond the limitations of space.
In the Bible, Jesus speaks of the principle of karma quite often. One time is when he talks about his death and states that it has already “been written” (Luke 24:44-46). He was totally aware of what was to come and how it would affect the world. He is a totally conscious, enlightened soul. And that is the great example he sets for us because he also says, “all these things that I do, you too shall do and more.” In other words we can also evolve to the level of knowing how our lives will be played out and knowing that there is no one to blame. When he died, he clearly stated, “forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34), in reference to those who killed him. He can forgive them because he knows that this is his as well as their karmic path and that they had already agreed to it.
Relived memories of past lives or incarnations can be spontaneous, but are usually accessed through hypnotic regression techniques. Spontaneous past-life recalls often come from young children who remember the facts, circumstances, and specific details of the life of deceased people and in some instances demonstrate the behavioral patterns and emotional longings inherent in the personalities of these deceased individuals (e.g., Brody, 1979; Matlock, 1990; Mills & Lynn, 2001; Tucker, 2005). Hypnosis is particularly useful in exploring deep unconscious mental content and transpersonal knowledge, and so can access memories of early experience, including birth, womb, conception, interlife and past life. Our clinical experience is that past life recall may happen regardless of the participant’s belief in past lives.
Many centuries ago, the Hindu scholar Patañjali discussed the idea of the soul becoming burdened with an accumulation of impressions as part of the karma from previous lives. Patañjali called the process of past-life regression prati-prasav (literally “reverse birthing”), and saw it as addressing current problems through memories of past lives. The possibility of accessing the information related to past lives through a contemplative trance, a state of consciousness reached in a concentrated meditation, was noted in Patanjali’s Yoga-Sutras (Whicher, 2005).
In personal transformation work we are now moving into the karmic level. Our facilitators are prepared to take people to the metaconscious level, the place between lives where our choices are made, our lives are reviewed and our plans are agreed to. After experiencing a series of past life regressions, it is then easier to see the bigger picture. It is from that place that we can have a conscious life (and death) as well as making conscious choices and releasing victim beliefs that have followed us from lifetime to lifetime.
The combination of Heart-Centered Therapies (hypnotherapy, breath therapy, and psychodrama) and Kundalini meditation brings Personal Transformation within the reach of anyone willing to do the personal work. The Personal Transformation Intensive® (PTI) is a vehicle for navigating this transformational journey of healing successfully. In a group setting of mutual support, people feel safe to explore and assimilate every aspect of themselves.
We use Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy, which accesses deep, transpersonal levels of the unconscious. The heart-centered aspect of this therapy refers to the energy of unconditional love, which must be present in order for people to feel trusting and safe enough to recover deep trauma. Through Heart-Centered Breath Therapy, people access their birth experiences, age-regressed states, past lives, and the metaconscious state.
Energetic Psychodrama is a highly complex modality incorporating aspects of both hypnotherapy and breath therapy, utilizing the trance state and the supportive environment of a group. Kundalini meditation is another integral part of this transformational work. As we meditate and breathe life into each chakra, we unblock any previously closed energies. Opening the chakras is an important aspect of transformational work in that the chakras hold the energy key to each area of the body. When the chakras are closed, it is like trying to live without electricity in your home or office. Without it, nothing would have the power it needs to perform properly.
More and more clients, especially younger ones, believe in past lives and want to learn about theirs. They are searching the internet for information and courses they can take. In the past, traditional therapists have seen past lives as either a fantasy, part of the occult, completely irrelevant, or a waste of good therapeutic time in session. In fact, we have recently discovered some well recognized colleges now offering courses in Past Life Therapy. This is a potentially dangerous offering which we will discuss later.
If a client just wants to come in to discover their past lives because they are simply fascinated with the idea of this, the session ceases being therapeutic and becomes merely a parlor game. Patterns in people’s lives become quite evident when as therapists, we have done session after session and see individual issues repeating over and over again. Here are some of the common interpersonal issues that we may notice. A common theme for many people has to do with grappling with authority figures.
Examples may be:
As a therapist, we may notice many clients who resent authority in general. They come in week after week with another story about how they have been “wronged,” feel bullied or are in trouble for bullying others. In traditional cognitive therapy we learn to listen with empathy and then help the person to find solution. This is all done cognitively and while valuable in understanding prevalent destructive patterns, cognitive therapy often falls short in long-lasting change because it only engages ten percent of the mind.
With Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy we can request that the client’s own subconscious mind research their experiences and discover where these patterns began. This internal research is quite effective since all these patterns and experiences are stored in each individual’s memory bank, or are accessible from a larger collective memory bank. This operates just like a modern computer doing a Google search and in a matter of seconds coming up with specific information relative only to the search requested. The more specific the keywords requested in the search, the more relevant becomes the discovery of our own personal information. And the more times we repeat the Psychic Google search, the farther and farther into our own personal history we can delve. And this is where past lives and karma come into play.
Let me give you one of thousands of examples I could draw from. There was a woman we worked with who had a lot of what we call unfinished business with others in her life. According to Dr. Fritz Perls, unfinished business refers to people who are carrying unresolved resentments or guilt, fears or hurt from past experiences. These feelings do not go away over the years, but actually are like untreated knife wounds which just continue to fester with time.
Our client, we will call her Randi, requested a past life session to address her persistent issues of feeling unsafe, victimized/persecuted and ostracized by her family and community. We began in Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy with these feelings and she followed the thread back to childhood where her older sibling had a severe disability and usurped most of the families attention. In school her parents made her protect her sibling when other children were making fun of the disability. The result was that Randi became the target of shame and ostracism by peers. These painful experiences led her to conclude in life that when she tried to be helpful, she was persecuted, shamed and rejected. Her internal decision about how to stay safe was to just be quiet, fade into the woodwork and not have any needs of her own.
Over the years this pattern outwardly seemed to work but internally she was seething. Especially when her parents, feeling so frustrated in their lives, took to drinking and became horribly abusive to her and even to her disabled sibling whom she was supposed to protect. When she did express a need, she was shamed and often hit or otherwise abused by her parents.
This is what we term an authority issue especially when session after session, the client continues the pattern with other important relationships in their life. Since she requested a past life session, we then followed that authority issue thread earlier through the Google search. Her subconscious mind traveled independently back to her birth. In her birth experience, her mother was extremely tense after having previously given birth to a Cerebral Palsy child (her sibling), and they had to use forceps to pull Randi out of the birth canal. Randi realized, in her birth hypnotherapy session, that she felt violated by these huge, cold metal forceps, with the doctors (authorities) forcing her out into a place that did not seem welcoming at all.
During her next session, we began with this pattern of not feeling safe or trusting authority figures to protect her. We did the Google search once more and Randi regressed to a lifetime where she had been a female healer in the ancient temples in Egypt. She was revered as a gifted healer until the male authority/patriarchy came in to take over the feminine power. They destroyed all of their healing records and eventually hung her and the other Egyptian healing women. When this was happening, our client vowed to get revenge and to never let herself be overpowered again. As we progressed back into this lifetime, Randi was able to see a bird’s eye view of the many lifetimes in between then and now, where similar struggles with the power figures of the time were repeated by her Soul, searching for completion. This is what we term Personal Transformation. That is, to go to the source of the issues that continue to defeat us in this lifetime, change the archaic conclusions and decisions we made way back then, and discover our true gifts and strengths.
Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy as well as conscious connected breathwork allow an individual to work with these karmic themes in transformational ways. Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy and past life regressions give the therapist and the client access to levels of the psyche not reached by conventional cognitive therapeutic techniques. This advanced hypnotherapeutic work actually goes beyond the conscious mind, deeper even than the vast subconscious mind into the depths of the unconscious. We have developed many methods for exploring the depths of the unconscious mind. One method we use is the Dream Drama. Dream Dramas are a powerful form of energetic psychodrama which uses the client’s own dream symbols to discover and explore the spiritual level, the energetic level and the highest level of consciousness of each person’s soul.
The client in past life therapy must be ready to reach a higher level of consciousness and to assume a deeper level of responsibility for their lives. This involves being willing to explore how their emotional response patterns are related to current and repetitive difficulties in their life, whether they be emotional, physical, or spiritual. Our experience at The Wellness Institute is that most people want to understand their past lives as a way to become aware of what their true purpose in life is about.
We as therapists and healers must be aware of the conscious level of those we attract into our practice. We should not be presenting past life therapies to clients who are functioning on a more basic level of consciousness and are not seeking higher consciousness.
Nowadays, many people are seeking a deeper level of self-knowledge, of spiritual enhancement and of connecting with their Soul or life’s purpose. We have successfully used our methods with some personality disordered individuals (Borderline Personality Disorder and many people with Dissociative Identity Disorder). And this takes us back to why past life therapy should not be approached casually, for example the many folks who are learning this as part of a spiritual, new age, teaching. Without the proper psychological knowledge and clinical skill, using hypnosis especially in calling up past lives can bring forth very painful material that the novice has not been prepared to handle. Students should have a college degree in psychology or a related degree and then learn to do first hypnosis, then hypnotherapy and then the advanced karmic work. Past Life Therapy can be safe and truly effective.
At the Wellness Institute, an international training institute in Issaquah Washington, we prepare our students, most of whom have graduate degrees, with several years of hypnotherapy work which includes having their own personal clearing work under the guidance of professional trainers, in a safe group experience. Their preparation work includes healing experiences in womb and birth issues, childhood healing, past life regressions and soul retrieval work. This results in what we call Personal Transformation.
Roger Walsh (2013) summarizes what the classic texts on karma yoga emphasize as its three main components:
Perform every action sacramentally,
And be free from all attachment to results.
This three-fold practice is profound. It combines a transpersonal motive which undercuts egocentric motives, a commitment to impeccability which requires cutting through personal blocks and barriers, and a relinquishment of egocentric attachment to having things turn out as we want them to rather than the way they actually do. This last step of relinquishing attachment to outcome can also be seen as the practice of acceptance which is a powerful practice in its own right (Walsh, p. 3).
Sergei Slavoutski (2012) has catalogued some of the alternative explanations for past life experiences (PLEs): in general, PLEs have received a mixture of interpretations and have been associated with a variety of phenomena that range from paranormal encounters (Braude, 2003; Chari, 1978; Grof, 1994, Hales, 2001a, 2001b; Luke, 2011; Stevenson, 1977) and altered states of consciousness (Luke, 2011; Simoes, 2002; Tart, 1974, 1992; Woolger, 1999) to fantasy constructions (Baker, 1982; Dwairy, 2006; Kampman, 1976; Mariott, 1984; Robertson & Gow, 1999; Spanos, 1988, 1996; Spanos, Menary, Gabora, DuBreuil, & Dewhirst, 1991; Venn, 1986; Wickramasekera, 2009), repressed memories (Loftus, 1997, 2000; Pasricha, 2011) or genetic memories (Almeder, 1992; Pasricha, 2006; Stevenson, 1987; Tarazi, 1990).
Besides spontaneous and hypnotic forms of past-life recall, some voluntary and involuntary manifestations of PLEs have been reported to happen in various therapeutic as well as in non-therapeutic environments (Grof, 1994; Stevenson & Pasricha, 1980): during psychedelic and psycholytic therapies using LSD with psychiatric patient and non-patient populations (Chandler, Holden, & Kolander, 1992; Grof, 1975, 1976, 1980); experiential therapeutic modalities (e.g., Gestalt, primal, rebirthing, holotropic breathing; Grof, 1985; Grof & Bennet, 1993); and various forms of bodywork (e.g., existential holistic therapy, Reichian therapies, Rolfing, psychodrama; Ventegodt et al., 2004; Woolger, 1996, 2000; Grof, 1994). PLEs are also reported to appear under specific psycho-emotional and psychosomatic conditions, such as: sensory isolation (Grof, 1994; Tart, 1996); spontaneous episodes of nonordinary states of consciousness (e.g., spiritual emergencies; Grof & Grof, 1986, 1989); some forms of deep meditative visualization (e.g., yogic concentrated meditation samadhi; Bilimoria & Stansell, 2010), which could be accompanied by psychosomatic reactions (Pagis, 2009); and dreaming in sleep states (Krippner & Faith, 2001).
The concept of past lives is closely connected with the theory of reincarnation or rebirth that is part of a number of Eastern religious and philosophical doctrines, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Taoism (Knapp, 2005; Obeyeskere, 2002; Sharma, 1990, 2001; Vincanne, 2001). Some indications of this belief can be found in early Christianity and Judaism (Almeder, 1992; Head & Cranston, 2000; Smith, 2003) and later has also been supported by Western and Middle Eastern systems of philosophical thought, such as Kabbalistic Judaism (Head & Cranston, 2000), Rosicrucian and Cathar Christian traditions (Head & Cranston, 2000; Heindel, 1985), the Alawi and Druze traditions in Islam (Abd-Allah, 1983; Stevenson, 1983), anthroposophical and theosophical European doctrines (Morrisson, 2008; Steiner, 1977, 1992, 2011; Querido, 1997), Zoroastrianism (Luhrmann, 2002).
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