A monkey-minded reporter attempts a journey to a past life. It might not matter if it’s real.
Thursday, August 9, 2012
In a previous incarnation I was a man. A builder named Hiro with long black hair, living in the Andean foothills before there were South American countries. My father is a mediator in our village. I have siblings, a wife, children. There’s tension with my son because I’m pressuring him to be someone other than himself, and he’s become distant.
Carmel hypnotist Helen Birdsong instructs me to address that conflict, forgive myself and let go.
Hypnosis sounds exotic, but Birdsong says it’s as familiar as daydreaming. Not a deep sleep, but an altered state of awareness. Like getting engrossed in a book or zoning out on a jog.
Problem is, I’ve got a monkey mind, the kind that yammers incessantly about my to-dos and observations – making it tough for me to fall asleep, let alone meditate. But Birdsong says getting hypnotized takes practice.
At her small but cozy office, she offers a backgrounder on hypnosis. By giving our analytic brains a break, she says, we can open our subconscious minds to new behavior patterns.
While hypnosis isn’t entirely understood, some benefits have been substantiated. The American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association acknowledged its medical value over 50 years ago; today it’s practiced in clinics as reputable as the Stanford University School of Medicine.
Salinas-based family doctor Myrt Hawkins says she’s referred patients to Birdsong; she’s also a client herself. “[Hypnosis] helps me become still,” she says, “and more spiritually connected.”
But Hawkins hasn’t done what I’m here to try: past-life regression, a journey to a previous incarnation. Birdsong does current-life regressions too. For example, she says, an overeater might have been rewarded with sweets as a child or starved to death in a past life. Regressing in time finds the root of the behavior so it can be fixed.
Before we start, Birdsong asks if I’m with her 100 percent. It’ll only work, she says, if I’m willing.
In a soft, slow alto, Birdsong spends about 10 minutes telling me to relax. “You don’t have to think to breathe… You’ve switched off your muscles so they just won’t work… The tendons relax and the nerves unravel… And yet all of your systems are working just beautifully. Your heart beating perfectly… ”
She counts backward from 10, sinking me deeper. “As you allow this time for you, for you, for you, for you… Loose and limp. Loose and limp… You don’t know how you know, but you know all the answers as you continue to sink, slip, drift, sleep, sleep.”
I’m floating in warm honey. Time has become curvy. Birdsong tells me she’s going to touch my arm, but if I’ve followed all her instructions a feeling of “natural anaesthesia” will mask the sensation.
Monkey-mind opens one eye. She touches my arm, and I feel it. I’m doing it wrong, I think. I shouldn’t be thinking.
Birdsong keeps intoning. I sink back into honey. She takes me through a bright light to a lush meadow which she describes in vivid detail. Eventually she guides me through a tunnel to a past life and asks a series of questions. Mumbling, I describe the Andean character.
But even in that trance state, monkey-mind says I’m making this stuff up. As Birdsong asks me to name important people in this ancient life, I can’t help but think, I don’t know any pre-colonial Andean names. She coaxes me to say the first ones that pop into my head, but I feel foolish pronouncing them: Tipu, Osha, Raku, Alia…
My Andean self dies in a rockslide. Birdsong guides me toward “the light” in energy form, though she doesn’t use the word heaven, and tells me all my loved ones are here to greet me. She instructs me to interact with several of them and forgive myself for past transgressions. Gently and slowly, she guides me back to full consciousness.
Walking out of her office, I’m feeling peppy but puzzled. I’m not sure what I experienced.
Even if I imagined the whole thing, maybe there’s value to that, the way there’s psychology embedded in a painting or poem. The message my old self had for his estranged son – I’ll work harder to love you for who you are – is sound advice for a new mom.
“It really doesn’t matter if you think it’s real or made up,” Birdsong says, “as long as it cures the problem.”
BIRDSONG HYPNOSIS is located on Sixth Street between Lincoln and Dolores in Carmel. Sessions are $150. For more info, call 521-4498 or visit birdsonghypnosis.com