Do you believe in reincarnation?
For many thousands of years, ancient cultures held the belief that our souls could be reborn into new bodies after death. Even to this day, the idea of cyclic existence remains a tenet of all major Indian religions. The idea of past life regression is also used as a powerful form of therapy today.
So when I got the chance to do a session with past life regression therapist, LMFT, and published author Ann C. Barham, I was understandably intrigued. I learned that her method of therapy involves using a form of mild, guided hypnosis to unlock buried memories from our past lives — and to help people work through issues in the lives they currently lead.
Some might find this kind of thing totally woo-woo. If you know me, you know I'm not that person. The truth is, I believe deeply in reincarnation. I have for years, although I couldn't always articulate it — this sense of layers, so-to-speak, folded beneath the life I am currently leading.
At times, experiences I couldn't make sense of nonetheless seemed wildly familiar. I've had pervasive feelings that I have been here before, done this before, even when I couldn't possibly have. At least, not in this lifetime.
Of course, even with that awareness I couldn't be sure of what to expect going into the session with Ann at her home in Gilroy, Calif. And what ended up happening is not at all what I expected. It was even stranger. Even more surreal. Even more powerful.
So suspend your disbelief and take the journey with me. Maybe you'll learn a thing or two. I know I did.
The session started with Ann placing me in a state of mild hypnosis. She spoke in a slow and calm voice to guide me through a visualization technique, in which I pictured myriad sparkling lights beneath me. She explained that she would count down from 10 to draw me deeper into a relaxed state. In this state, I would be open to any past life memories that could be gleaned from my subconscious for our session. I would not, however, be completely hypnotized; I would be in a “liminal state," in which she could steer me through the experience.
Did I mention I have anxiety? I was nervous, but also excited to do this. At first, I hovered in a state of suspended belief. I was relaxed, but not fully; my eyes fluttered, my breath hadn't yet slowed down, and I wasn't fully open to the idea that what was coming through was really a past life.
But as Ann began to count down, I relaxed, drawn in by the shimmering lights she described. “You realize that each of these lights represents a different lifetime," Ann told me. “From our current vantage point it's possible to return to any of those lifetimes to see the individual that you were, the other people that played important roles in your life — to discover the key events, and perhaps find places where energy or emotions have been blocked or stuck."
It's hard to explain what it's like, other than to say it's as if you're looking through a fogged-up windowpane, into someone else's consciousness. Into their existence. But you're also in the room with them.
It's like being able to look down and within at the same time.
Almost immediately, I felt the sensation of cold marble against my bare feet. Like I was standing upon a great, freezing cold slab of it. I could faintly see two long, pale legs peeking out from beneath a white dress with a fit-and-flare, '50s silhouette, and tiny little red flowers printed on it. I was in my mid-30s, with reddish blonde hair just a shade darker than strawberry blonde. It was me, but it wasn't me — the me that exists today, at least.
It was like seeing a figure in some kind of grainy old home movie and realizing that that person is you.
Next, I sensed a doorway — an open screen door leading out into the backyard. As Ann walked me through this vision, I found myself in my backyard with two young children. My young children. They were a year apart — the boy 5 years old, the girl 4.
At this point I should mention that re-listening to Ann's recording of our session as I wrote this piece was utterly eerie. My voice was calm, slow, and quiet as I recounted the footsteps I took — down a hallway in what was clearly “my" house, I could see that the front door was open. Bright light shone through in great beams, and I stepped outside, down slabs of marble steps leading to the front lawn.
Ann then asked me to move forward in that lifetime to a time when something important had happened or changed — to perhaps broach the reason for my anxiety in this life. I was silent for a moment, searching. Then, I took a deep, solemn breath. “My husband dies. He's a firefighter. One of the other firefighters comes to tell me at my house," I told her in my hypnotized state.
I realized that “my" hands were shaking. I could hear the sound of the woman crying, feel the kids hanging on her legs, asking when Daddy's going to come home. Running through the house. Through the hallway. Laying on the grass on the front lawn, staring up at the sky.
“So your fears have come to pass. He’s actually died in a fire," Ann said heavily. She asked me to move forward again in time, in that lifetime.
In my next vision, five years passed and I stood at his grave site. It came to me immediately. I could see the dark gray of his gravestone in my mind’s eye, his name emblazoned across it — clear, distinct. Colby O'Connor, it read. Then my own name came through, just as sharp and sure: Daphne O'Connor.
It was then that I realized that the marble I felt at the very beginning of the session was actually Colby's gravestone.
Once this happened, I understood that my life was entangled with Daphne's in a way that is hard to explain, but at the same time made perfect sense. I could feel every single thing she was feeling: All her grief. All her pain. All her love. Every human emotion that wove itself into the fabric of her consciousness made its way into my own. Her feelings braided themselves into mine, and the reason for my (current) anxiety became sharply clear: I had suffered incredible grief in a past life and had yet to fully work through those emotions in my current life.
These feelings somehow still plagued me: The way she had stayed up at night with a black band of anxiety pressing across her chest, waiting for her husband to come home. Waiting for him to be safe.
What I find most intriguing about Ann's work is that she uses the things we remember, uncover, and experience in past life regression therapy to move forward from emotional issues and blockages we carry in our current lives.
In her book, The Past Life Perspective, she writes: “Whether a client is somewhat of a skeptic, a confirmed believer, or something in between, he/she does not have to believe in reincarnation or any other particular belief to have a successful regression session. What I have found is that, as long as the mind is open to possibilities, anyone can be a good past life regression candidate.
Whether you're a skeptic or a believer, there's no denying this form of therapy is effective. For me, the session provided a means of spiritual connection at a time when I deeply needed it in my life. It was transformative, visceral, and raw in myriad ways that I can't possibly fit into a single article or blog post.
And now I know that her first husband's death was far from the end of Daphne's story — she moved on to remarry and find love again with another firefighter, a tall man with salt-and-pepper black hair, who gave up the job for her. I'll never, ever forget the memories I uncovered, of seeing him stand in the doorway of Daphne's home at her son's 17th birthday party, or the sensation of him taking her hand.
The lesson to let go, move on, and keep your heart open came to me through these visions of her life after Colby's death. I could feel it in my bones, with the same deep and pervasive knowledge that belonged to Daphne.
I should also mention that toward the end of the session, Ann walked me through another visualization technique in which I envisioned my anxiety as a gift I had wrapped and was giving back to the Universe. Because Daphne's favorite color was yellow, I envisioned a yellow box with a gold bow, and we both watched as I held it aloft and it disintegrated into thin air.
Not only has my anxiety lessened since the session, but I feel as though I've tapped into a higher part of myself ever since. The part of me that was always open and sure to the possibility of past lives, but could never really know the specifics.
If reincarnation is possible, it really and truly means that the things we feel and the lives we touch and the people we love stay with us. So, too, does the bad sometimes, but if there's anything this experience taught me, it's that the strength and power and the sheer force of our human experiences carry on in our souls, from this life into the next. And so do the loved ones who are lost to us. We will see them again, even if we can't remember or sense them at all times.
Now I know that Daphne is with me. So, too, is the profound love and courage that she felt in her life and carried with her to the next. They'll stay with me.
I can still see Daphne's sky — the same as ours, just a different time. Different life. I can feel her tears on my face, hear her say through my voice, “Let love find you. Let it take your hand."
My life is forever changed.