I finished reading Many Lives, Many Masters by Brian Weiss M.D. last night. The book has been in print for twenty years already, but the past is always relevant, so it’s longevity isn’t a surprise. While this is the first time I read his book, I did have the pleasure of attending a workshop with him a few years ago at the Celebrate Your Life Conference in Phoenix, Arizona. In a hotel ballroom, he asked 200 people to find a comfortable place on the floor and to close their eyes as the lights were turned off. In the darkness, I nervously cleared my throat and found a spot with enough distance between me and everyone else, put my sweater over my shoulders and tried not to make too much of a commotion as I fashioned my purse into a makeshift pillow for the past-life regression mediation. I was completely unprepared for an actual regression, I was expecting to hear a lecture on the subject, but as Dr. Weiss began to speak asking everyone to focus on their breath, I gradually relaxed intent on getting a little bit of a rest if nothing else.
We started by going back in time to a poignant childhood memory. I remembered myself as a passionate child full of enthusiasm and eager to please, until I saw myself crying underneath a long-forgotten willow tree. The tree I would go to whenever the arguments between my parents seemed like too much to handle. I felt safe underneath the umbrella-like branches of the tree, hidden away from my family.
Next, we were asked to remember what it was like when we were in utero. Immediately, I was overwhelmed with joy listening to the hushed tones of my mother singing. I could feel her excitement as I grew inside her as she prepared for my arrival. Filled with confident naivete, I felt how much my parents had loved each other then. Why I had chosen to be their daughter, out of all the people in the world. My sense of self seemed liquid, unattached to the anchor of my ego. Unhinged from my realized self that needs a boost of unsweetened green iced tea just to get the morning started. I floated freely outside the confinements of the clocks and the pressure to be better, greater, wiser, stronger, funnier, more vibrant than I already am.
Then I landed inside a pair of stiff black leather pointy-heeled boots walking with purpose down a cobblestone road. I could hear carriages and smell horses as I walked over the rough stones and muddy puddles. My shoulders back in natural authority , my long navy blue dress tied tight at the waist swishing with each step. When Dr. Weiss asked where we were and what year it was, a hard-to-describe knowingness replied, “Somewhere along the coast of Massachusetts in the seventeenth century.” I went inside a large stately home and asked the housekeeper where the children were. I sensed a distance there, as if I wasn’t really available for their needs. When my husband entered the house, everything inside me lit up. He was, without a doubt, the love of my life and I was devoted to him in a way that I wasn’t with my children. I also recognized him as being someone that is still connected to me in my present life.
Dr. Weiss asked us to go to the most important moment of that life experience. I saw myself in an old stone church speaking with some of the townspeople. Someone quoted from the bible and I responded, “The bible doesn’t have all the answers. Sometimes we have to think for ourselves.” I could feel the air going out of the room.
I fast-forwarded to my trial, held in the same church, my wrists bound behind my back, my dress now disheveled. My husband was asked to come forward and testify against me. When he was asked if he thought I was a witch, he did not contest. I was sentenced to be stoned to death. He was to throw the first stone. At the moment of my death as I left my body, I could see how devastated he was to have done this to me. I felt forgiveness pouring out of me like a light over every single person that had harmed me. And I realized that’s what it means to love. Seeing someone for exactly who they are–with all of their darkness and all of their light–and choosing to love them in every moment.
To this day, I’m not quite sure exactly how all of that came to be in my imagination as I lay on the stiff, carpeted hotel floor. But I know that the reason that particular person is still in my life, was so that I could forgive him again but this time while I was living and breathing. And I did. Up until that moment, forgiveness wasn’t something I was inclined to do much. I can easily remember a wrong and quickly forget when someone gets it right. I even learned how to forgive myself–the most challenging wrong-doer of all (at least in my mind.) In the end, it doesn’t really matter whether or not I can prove how this experience happened to me. What it did for me fixed something inside I was afraid was broken for good. The nurturing impulse to forgive comes naturally now because I know that it’s not going to kill me. Sticks and stones…