Born Again… and Again…
Pueblo Chieftain, Nov. 1, 2007
Editor’s note: First, some background. This year, for the Halloween/Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) holiday season, we wanted to explore a different realm. Something beyond writing about the usual haunted houses, trick-or-treat candy, goofy costumes and sugar skulls. Something way beyond.
Writer-editor Scott Smith decided to explore the mysterious world of past-life regression. What follows is a first-person account of a session he had with Pueblo resident Marcia Beachy, a licensed professional counselor, certified clinical hypnotherapist and trained specialist in regression therapy. The 2 1/2-hour session was tape-recorded.
By SCOTT SMITH
I am Gregor. More precisely, I was Gregor, a Catholic priest who lived — and died — in a small village in 14th-century Britain. Or so I believe after undergoing a recent past-life regression session with counselor Marcia Beachy, a gentle woman who has been professionally trained to help individuals examine their souls by connecting with their former lives. And so how does one embark on such a journey into the deep unconscious? Well, it goes something like this . . .
For starters, it helps to have no preconceptions. I consider myself an open-minded skeptic (“That’s good,” Beachy says), and I believe that anything — and everything — is possible. I have no answers, only questions, especially concerning things like the afterlife. And although I happen to be a big believer in reincarnation (it’s a concept that makes karmic sense to me), I’m not exactly a crystal-hugging, Shirley MacLaine-loving, mantra-chanting New Ager. It also helps to have a good spiritual guide, like Beachy. She’s been doing professional talk-therapy counseling for 23 years and has specialized in regression and soul-connection work for the past 13 years. She seems to know what she’s doing. She has a soothing voice and a calm, reassuring bedside manner.
The session, which took place at Beachy’s new home on Pueblo’s north side, began with a half-hour interview. It was a chance for her to learn a little more about me, my family and any issues that might be troubling me in my present incarnation. And it was a chance for me to be the interviewee for a change, which was fun. We briefly discussed my childhood, my professional life and my interpersonal relationships — including two wonderful marriages that ended suddenly, painfully and, at the time, inexplicably. And we agreed that the main purpose of my regression therapy would be to satisfy my curiosity about the past-lives business, as well as to perhaps learn something about my soul that I could apply to today’s reality.
After the interview, I stretched out on Beachy’s massage table, on my back with my eyes closed and my head on a comfy pillow; she covered me with a warm blanket, put on some nice, meditative music and began the session with a series of relaxation techniques (breathing, color imagery, etc.) and hypnotherapy. She guided me deep into my unconscious, using images of a hill, stairs, a path through a deep forest, a wall and a door. I followed her spoken instructions, and in a matter of minutes I was in an odd state of semi-consciousness. I also was immersed in the past.
I heard Beachy’s voice. I answered her questions. And I swear I “saw” moments from one of my past lives unfolding somewhere beyond all my known synapses. I was aware of the present (I occasionally heard the wind howling outside Beachy’s house) and the past at the same time. It was strange, but not unsettling.
Beachy guided me, literally step by step, on my path of self-discovery. She asked me what I was wearing on my feet (straps of leather, held on by twine, with no soles — “rudimentary shoes,” I said) and my body (a well-worn, hooded robe), what the ground was like (dirt packed down by horses’ hoofprints), where I was walking (“toward a wooden building”), what I saw (laughing, barefoot children who were dressed in rags and chasing chickens) and how I felt after entering the building, which turned out to be a church (“I feel like I own it. I feel like it’s my church,” I said).
And so one of my past lives unfolded, detail by detail, with occasional unobtrusive prompting by Beachy. I was a Catholic priest named Gregor. He was short (5-foot-2), bald, old and tired. He was happy with his life’s work, but sad at the moment, because many of the villagers — his congregants — had died. The church benches were empty. Gregor was especially sad for the deceased children — kids who barely got to taste life, harsh though it was in this village. The mourning for the dead youngsters brought me to tears; I could feel tiny drops forming in the corners of my closed eyes, threatening to spill down my cheeks.
On this overcast day, Gregor was preparing for a funeral. He was weary. There had been many, many deaths — and enough burials to nearly fill the small meadow on the outskirts of town. And now, Gregor not only presided over the farewell services, he handled the burying part, too, because the town’s gravedigger had died.
As Gregor slowly walked out of the village and toward the meadow, shovel in one hand, he felt an apple in his pocket. He was looking forward to eating it later, after the burial. The apple was dinner. There was little food in the village. He reached the burial site — a freshly dug hole in the meadow’s rich, dark soil — and waited for the funeral procession. The dead man was named Jacob; he had no family. Four of the village’s men carried the body, tightly wrapped in a blanket (there was no coffin), to the grave site. No one else attended. The men set the body into the hole. They prayed. One of them offered to help Gregor with the shovel work, but the priest waved him off. “You’ve done enough,” he said. “Thank you.”
When Gregor was finished filling the grave — it was hard work, especially for an old, tired man — he rested on the shovel’s handle and surveyed the meadow. At the far end, a red fox raced into the trees. Gregor smiled. Life goes on, he thought.
Beachy asked more questions. Why did Gregor become a priest? (“God’s will.” And it was a decision made at a young age — after the death of his mother.) What year is it? (“13 and 17.”)
Then she guided me to Gregor’s deathbed. The priest was 70 — ancient for that time. He was in no pain, but felt a great heaviness on his chest, “like an anvil.” Beachy asked Gregor how it felt after his final breath. How did he feel as his spirit left his body? The priest responded: “Elation. Freedom. Satisfaction. I feel like I’ve lived a good life. . . . I feel like life is everlasting.” Asked Beachy, “Things you taught as a priest and now you know?” Said Gregor, “I don’t know them yet. But I believe in them. And I’m going on a journey.”
Beachy encouraged me to take that journey right now. But instead of following Gregor’s spirit into the afterlife, I instead found myself in another past life. I was dressed in Depression-era clothing — ragged shirt, dungarees and hat— and had just awakened after sleeping the night by a large river. My stomach was full — fish that I had caught in the river, I think — and my bones were stiff from sleeping on the hard ground.
After realizing that I’d lost contact with Gregor and had dropped into another life, Beachy gently guided me back toward the dead priest’s soul. I grudgingly followed, but part of me wanted to connect with that middle-aged man by the river. I wanted to follow him and learn about him.
Once I reconnected with Gregor’s spirit, I felt a sense of total belonging. I was everywhere. I was a leaf. I was a tree. I was a rock. I was everything on the planet, and everything was me. My personal identity was gone. Beachy asked me what I had learned while living as Gregor. My response: “It made me better understand people’s frailties. I learned about empathy. I learned about giving. I learned about honesty. I learned about selflessness. I think they are areas in which I had been deficient previously, whatever that means.”
And what messages, what wisdom would Gregor give to Scott?
“It’s important to keep trying to improve . . . in areas of deficiency, because it’s attainable. Perseverance, I think, is the message. Focusing on others in a positive way strengthens yourself. But it has to be sincere. You have to believe. “Just persevere. We’re all flawed, but we’re all individuals. Life is good. But life is not perfect. It’s not supposed to be.”
And one more request from Beachy: Anything else for Gregor to share with Scott? “Just be thankful. Be thankful for all the good. Enjoy that apple in your pocket . . . because a lot of people don’t have one.”
And it was over. Beachy slowly brought me back to full consciousness. I felt woozy. Amazed. Peaceful. After a drink of water and a brief visit with Beachy, I collected myself and left the counselor’s house. With Gregor.
Some observations after the regression experience: While transcribing the tapes of the session, I had to listen very carefully to hear my words when I was immersed in Gregor’s life. I spoke slowly and deliberately, but I also sounded fatigued and weak, almost speaking in a whisper sometimes. Was that because Gregor was tired and worn-down? Or was it just the way I sound when I’m under hypnosis? (Hypnosis, says Beachy.)
I was fascinated with the detail of my descriptions when I was Gregor: the smell of my robe (sweaty and salty, but not unpleasant); the frayed twine that held together my rustic footwear; the musty smell in the empty church; the fact that there were not headstones or upright crosses in the graveyard— just a few rough-hewn crosses made of branches and lying flat on the ground; a hungry horse neighing in the distance; the distinctive feel of the apple, cool and smooth, in my pocket. Beachy says that details like smells are a good indication that “you’re really there.”
Most of the time, it felt like I was seeing life from Gregor’s eyes, but a couple of times I felt like I was outside his body, watching a scene unfold. That’s just the difference between being an “experiencer or an observer,” Beachy says.
After the session, I Googled English history, circa 1317, and discovered that it was the final year of The Great Famine in Europe. It was a three-year span when an estimated 10-15 percent of the continent’s population died from famine-related causes. (The Black Death didn’t hit until 1338.) That would certainly explain the many deaths in Gregor’s village, as well as the dearth of food.
And here’s a spooky coincidence. When I returned to my home to eat lunch after the regression session, I turned on my iPod sound system, which was set on “shuffle” to provide random tunes in a library that contains more than 3,200 songs. The first song that came on was a version of “Jacob’s Ladder,” by Bruce Springsteen. Yes, Jacob. The name of the man that Gregor had just buried . . .
Source: The Pueblo Chieftain