What Happened When I Went On A Quest To Figure Out My Past Lives
I consider myself a pretty logical person. I have a neuroscience degree, and I try to approach everything with skepticism. But... I kind of believe in past lives. I've had the intuition that they exist since I was six. I'd never heard of the concept at the time, so I thought I'd invented it. Now that I know more, I've done some research — and while I'm still not 100 percent sure, I have found some pretty convincing evidence that reincarnation is possible (though I admit you can find convincing evidence of pretty much anything on the internet).
"There are some incredible stories supporting the position that past life regressions are real," hypnotist Scott Shmaren, who does past life regressions himself, tells Bustle. "A man blind from birth who has no concept of vision whatsoever describing things as he sees them in a past life regression. A woman with no musical ability at all in her past life was a concert pianist... she was left in that state and put in front of a piano and she was able to play magnificently. A woman experiencing a past life was able to get the name of the person whose life it was. After the regression, she was able to research and find that the actual person existed and the details she gave were accurate. Also, having done many past life regressions, if I take people back far enough, they all have a common experience: They were energy and they had thought and consciousness yet they had no physical form."
To figure out if all the fascinating stories about past lives could be true, I went on a mission to discover my own past lives. I sought help from multiple professionals, figuring that if the lives were legit, I may be able to see some overlap between them. Here's what I found during each step of the journey.
Attempt 1: The Shaman
As a shaman, Phillia Kim Downs performs "soul retrievals," where she tells people about their past lives, helps them disconnect from people and memories that are holding them back, and returns bits of their souls that they've lost over the years. Since we did a session over video chat, she had a rock represent me so she could physically blow bits of my soul back into me.
Downs first asked me which people in my life I may want to “cut cords” with — that is, release unhealthy attachments to. This doesn’t mean the relationship ends, she explained; it just means the unhealthy aspects of it do. During the past life regression, she shook a Peruvian rattle and periodically took breaks to tell me about each life.
She touched on many different lives, none of which rang particularly true or particularly false. In one, I was a man married to a woman who reincarnated as my boyfriend. I got involved in black magic, but she/he didn’t complain because these activities put a roof over our head. But then, the magic took a dangerous turn, and she was mad. In another life, my ex boyfriend and I were star-crossed lovers. In another, a friend of mine was sent to take my child away from me, but she showed me mercy and got in trouble as a result.
Some themes from these lives echoed themes from this life (my boyfriend putting up with too much from me, my ex and I being star-crossed lovers), but I couldn’t really tell if they were accurate or not. I'd like to think the soul retrieval did something, though. Downs told me that I’d begin to see major changes in my life starting in a month, and I have — though, to be fair, I could probably say that about any time period in my life.
Attempt 2: The Spiritual Development Life Coach
Michelle Brock is a spiritual life coach who specializes in past life regressions. Rather than tell me what my past lives were, she hypnotized me and had me come up with them myself.
In her Manhattan apartment, she guided me through a visualization that involved walking into a room with a bunch of doors. I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to come up with anything, but she gave me prompts. She had me picture the door I was walking through and describe it to her, then she had me look down and tell her what kind of shoes I was wearing, working upward to my whole outfit. Then, she asked questions like “where are you?”, “what are you thinking about?”, and “what lesson are you supposed to learn from this life?” I felt like I was making it up, but I just said the first things that came to my head.
In the first life I came up with, I was a man in a civilization that looked like Ancient Greece. I had a partner who I wasn’t really in love with and cheated on. After she died, I ended up with someone else, but I didn’t really love her either. Nor did I love my job. I died after being poisoned by some sort of flower and left that life regretting that I was never fully present.
The next life I entered was of a woman in medieval England. I was physically unattractive and in love with a man I was afraid to confess my feelings for. I learned in that life that I thought the world was cruel to me, but I was cruel to myself. I could have had a normal life if I'd believed it were possible for me.
Brock then had me visit the space in between lives, where I got to communicate with my spirit guides and ancestors. I asked them about a health crisis I'd been dealing with, and they told me about the spiritual purpose it served.
I told Brock at the end that I felt like I was making it up, and she said people often say that. She said the proof that it's real is often the intensity of the emotions you feel, but I didn't feel any intense emotions. Regardless, those lives and the space in between them provided valuable lessons.
Attempt 3: The Shaman/Reiki Master/Doctor of Natural Medicine
Stacy Berman has a PhD in Natural Medicine and is a shaman and certified reiki master. Her approach integrates science and spirituality, and she believes past lives can be physically explained by the fact that our physical matter travels after we die. We may get buried in the ground, for example, and then vegetables grow in that dirt, and then someone eats those vegetables. Or some variation of that.
Over the phone, Berman had me imagine myself walking down stairs and then tell her where I was. I was in my childhood basement and saw myself playing with horses. I couldn’t really make sense of it. Then, I walked into a room that was full of scary clowns. She asked me what this all meant, and I said it was to remind me that my irrational fears are like a kid’s fear of clowns. Thinking of them that way could help me avoid taking them at face value.
Through another door, I entered a past life, which Berman had me come up with myself. I was a wizard living in a tower, and I accidentally brought a ghost into my home. After I died, I got trapped in the between-world with him. I was starting to doze off at this point, and I actually saw the ghost in front of my eyes. I realized he only wanted a friend and we were both freed.
Again, I felt like I was making it up. It did seem to kind of match the life Downs told me about where I dabbled in the dark arts, but I could have thought of it because I already had that story in my mind.
Behind the next door, I entered a life where I was just a speck of dust floating in the sky. I was excited about all the planets and the life that was about to grow on them. I felt a sense of wonder about the universe.
I guess I really was once floating in the sky — if not in a past-life sense, then in the literal sense that we all come from matter that was around since the beginning of time. I also uncovered a message for myself: that I was as beautiful and perfect as the specks of dust I was made of. Once again, I came out of the session with no certainty about my past lives but some wisdom to take to my current life.
Attempt 4: The Hypnotist
Hypnotist Marc Marshall hypnotized me over Skype in a similar way to Brock and Berman, having me walk down stairs and then into a field and then through a door. This was the most confusing of the sessions. When he asked where I was, I didn’t really see anything. I just said the first thing that come to my mind, which was an ancient Roman battlefield. He then asked me if I had any tools, and the first thing that came to mind was a can opener. This really wasn’t making sense.
He asked me to relive my best day from that life, and I thought of marrying someone who reincarnated as my boyfriend. I don’t know if I was actually accessing a past life or just thinking that would have been nice. Then, he had me relive my most significant day, and I saw my husband/boyfriend falling off a horse and dying on the battlefield as I tried to help him. I’m not really sure what to take from that life, other than to be glad my boyfriend’s still alive.
There was one interesting observation Marshall made: I told him I died by an axe wound through the neck in that life, and I was constantly readjusting my neck during our session. It’s really stiff and I always feel the need to crack it. Then again, that could just as easily stem from all the time I spend bent over my computer.
I was hoping I'd have some clarity on my own past lives, as well as the question of whether past lives exist, after all these conversations. But nothing really happened to sway me either way. There wasn’t much overlap in the different lives I experienced except that one wizard one. But that could just be because I have lots of past lives, and there wouldn’t be much use in visiting the same ones multiple times.
While I still have a hunch that past lives exist, I'm not convinced I successfully accessed mine. Maybe my mind got in the way, or maybe the universe hasn't deemed me ready to see them. But even if they came purely from my own subconscious, the lessons I learned throughout this process were valuable. The real purpose of reliving your past lives, after all, is to improve your current life. And if I can use what I've learned to do that, I'd say I've been successful.