The following is an excerpt from ‘Coming Back’, Dr. Raymond Moody’s classic book, recently reissued –Ed.
There is a belief on the part of some people that exploring past lives is something only certain people can do, that you have to have a special knack. I have found from my own research that this is not true. There are ways that almost anyone can do these regressions. Many patients have told me before trying a regression that they aren’t the type to be hypnotized, or that they are too well-grounded to experience anything so “flaky” as a past-life regression.
They then prove to be excellent subjects, capable of deep hypnosis and rich imagery.
But before attempting a past-life regression, I think it’s important to go deeply within and find the reasons for wanting to examine your past lives. Why do I want to do this? What do I want to get out of it?
It’s best that these be done as an attempt at self- understanding since they can be great tools in trying to figure out why you have phobias or even character problems.
I also suggest that you contact a local past-life therapist or guide. Choose someone who is interested in using these experiences to help you solve or understand present-life dilemmas. Past-life therapists committed to proving that these experiences are proof of reincarnation might miss some helpful links to a person’s present-life problems.
HYPNOSIS: YOU’RE ALWAYS IN CONTROL
I can’t think of a single other psychological phenomenon that is so confused in the public eye with magical beliefs and myths as hypnosis.
I use hypnosis in my own practice and am constantly amazed at the fear with which it is greeted by patients. By and large, when you bring patients in for hypnotherapy— whether to teach them relaxation or to recover an unconscious trauma—they will often try to refuse the therapy. One of the most common fears is that the hypnotist has them under his power, making them into automatons or slaves.
Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. You can’t go into a trance unless you decide you want to, making all hypnosis self-hypnosis. The hypnotist is merely an instructor, a person you go through to enter a hypnotic trance.
Generally speaking, you cannot be forced to do anything under a hypnotic trance that you would not do under waking conditions.
Many people also think that hypnosis is a loss of consciousness and that they won’t remember what happened when they are in a trance. Again, this is wrong. Hypnosis is a state of increased concentration and relaxation. It is an extremely restful and peaceful state of consciousness.
Most hypnotized subjects are well aware of what is going on around them in the room, unless they have accepted the suggestion that they will not pay attention to their surroundings. In a way, hypnosis is a state of heightened awareness of inner feelings and processes.
One of the most common reactions I have from people I bring out of hypnosis is, “Well, I don’t really know if I was hypnotized or not.” They expect it to be something bizarre or magical, when it is merely a state of relaxation that focuses them on internal stimuli.
There is nothing dangerous about hypnosis. In fact, it is one of the safest psychological procedures we have.
Another mistaken impression about hypnosis is that you can’t tell a lie while under a trance. Because of the media’s interpretation of the trance state, many people think that everything said while in the hypnotic state is truth.
As a matter of fact, it is well established in the psychological literature that lying is perfectly possible while under hypnosis. That is why we have to avoid the belief that because people come up with these elaborate past-life stories while under hypnosis, they must actually be past lives.
TRANCE LOGIC AND OTHER SIGNS
That these experiences can be so vivid is a function of the brain’s trance logic, its ability to believe two very contradictory things at once. So when you are hypnotized and in a past-life regression, one part of you is perfectly aware that you are living in the present. At the same time, another part of you is convinced that you are in, say, China in the 1600s. It can be a very convincing experience.
Trance logic is one of the signs of deep trance. Here are the signs of hypnosis that may be experienced by the subject. Keep in mind that you may not have all of these feelings. But you can expect one or more if you are truly hypnotized.
- A feeling of relaxation that is so deep, you have no desire to expend any effort.
- Feelings of heaviness, especially in your arms and legs.
- Feelings of numbness, tingling, or dullness in your feet or hands.
- A floating sensation.
- A sense of being detached from the environment in such a way that surroundings feel quite distant.
I have found that past-life experiences are helped by the ability to enter a fairly deep trance. It is generally a good idea to become comfortable with hypnosis before entering a past-life state. That’s why I suggest that you don’t attempt to regress the first few times you enter self-hypnosis. In order to help you do this, there is a sample hypnotic induction technique in the back of the book. Read this through a few times and then read it into a tape recorder, pacing yourself slowly. Hearing your own voice on the tape should ease concerns about loss of control. When you decide to regress, get into a comfortable room and a comfortable position in which you feel at peace and at ease. Eliminate all distractions. Turn the phone off. Turn the lights down. You might have a single candle to provide soft illumination. And remember, privacy is important.
FORM INSIGHTFUL QUESTIONS
Begin by clearly formulating questions that you need to have insight on before going into the hypnotic trance. For instance, you might ask yourself, “Why am I having such difficulty in my personal relationships?” Or you might wonder, “Why do I have such a phobia about animals?” Keep the questions simple and clear.
Then take off your shoes and get comfortable on a sofa or mattress. Put your hands by your sides and make sure that your legs aren’t crossed. You might even want to cover yourself with a blanket, since hypnosis makes your body temperature drop.
At this point, turn on the tape and follow your own instructions.
DIGEST THE EXPERIENCE
When the experience is over, lie there and reflect on what you have learned. You might even want to tape- record your impressions or write them down in a journal. Don’t do this so the experience can be filed away and forgotten. Think about it frequently, trying to relate the past-life experience to experiences in your present life.
It might also help at this point to discuss your experiences with sympathetic friends. I even know of groups that meet on a regular basis to discuss their past-life experiences. All of this helps us understand our intricate inner workings.
In the reissued classic, ‘Coming Back’ Dr. Raymond Moody investigates past lives with the new science of regression hypnosis. His goal: To discover if we can indeed recall “past lives” and what such memories tell us about the possibility that death is not the end.
A confirmed skeptic with regard to reincarnation, Dr. Moody first became interested in the phenomenon when he encountered psychologically healthy patients who, under deep hypnosis, suddenly began describing in vivid detail episodes from other historical periods they could not possibly have known. His interest in the meaning of these visions intensified when he decided to undertake his own journey into the baffling and exhilarating realm of “past life” experiences. ‘Coming Back’ is the fascinating result of his findings. Learn more about the book here.
Raymond Moody, M.D., Ph.D. is the bestselling author of eleven books which have sold over 20 million copies. His seminal work, Life After Life, has completely changed the way we view death and dying and has sold over 13 million copies worldwide.
Paul Perry is the co-author of four New York Times bestsellers, including Saved by the Light (which was made into a popular movie) and Evidence of the Afterlife. He has co-authored five books with Dr. Raymond Moody.