I wouldn’t call myself a cynic; I believe I’ll find love on Tinder. I think Manhattan will become affordable again, and I believe one day the MTA will say, “hey you know what? The fare is good as it is.” But in terms of spirituality I’m a little less optimistic. God seems like a nice imaginary friend, and I’ve certainly never been all that curious about the concept of past lives. We live in New York — this one life is enough. But hey, I try to keep an open mind. Believe it or not, for some people, this past lives’ business is serious stuff. Not only do they believe that we have lived before, but they believe that you can channel your past lives, correct errors your previous self has made, and use that to live a better present. I’m not saying this is utter bullsh*t; I’m just saying, I’m from New York. Convince me.
In the spirit of an open mind, I signed up for a four-hour class at the NY Open Center, with spiritual guide/healer Michelle Brock. I’m all about new experiences, so sure, let’s throw in some past lives. Brock, a spiritual life coach, is an expert in past life regressions — the process of uncovering memories from a previous life by tapping your subconscious in a hypnotic state. People use past life regressions to help heal grief, understand the challenges they currently face, and discover a direction for their current life. It all sounds nice, but to achieve this you need a very essential quality: the belief that this is possible. I just wasn’t sure I was the target audience. I had visions of robes, candles, incense, and a room full of lost souls looking to realize that they can’t keep a man because they used to be Joan of Arc.
I arrived at the NY Open Center and took a seat. The classroom was filled with seemingly normal looking people. No one was holding photos of deceased loved ones and sniffing vials of opium. Much to my relief, Brock was not dressed in shaman robes, waving talismans in the air chanting in Aramaic. She began with a brief introduction about herself and how she got involved in the practice of spiritual healing. She has studied spirituality, intuitive development, and energy medicine techniques from around the world. It all sounded pretty legit to me, except for the whole traveling back in time part.
And then she told a story about her sister, who had suffered a serious stroke. Laid up in the hospital, without speech or ability to recognize her family, she began to talk in a language no one could understand. But it was far from gibberish; it almost sounded like there was a structure to the language — a syntax, vocabulary, and expression behind the words. Her sister had studied French in college, but nothing atypical or advanced. Her family was dumbfounded at her ability to chat away in a language no one had ever heard her speak before. It was later determined that she was speaking an ancient language — something similar to Hebrew or Aramaic. And this piqued Brock’s interest. Somewhere in the deep, subconscious recesses of her sister’s brain was a forgotten language.
I’m not sure if that story was real, but the goosebumps on my arms certainly were. To say I was convinced immediately would be a lie, but I was a tiny bit curious. At the very least, busting out Gaelic or ancient Egyptian would be a pretty sweet party trick. “No big deal guys, I was just a Pharaoh in a past life.”
Brock prepared to lead us into our own regression. There was no guarantee anything would happen. It was a crowded conference room, drafty, with the sound of traffic outside. Plus for many of us, this was our first time, and that brings up issues of skepticism and just general unawareness of how it is supposed to be done. We closed our eyes and began to breathe deeply like we were in yoga meditation. Brock talked us through images in our head; first of a light traveling through our bodies and enveloping us in a warm glow. Then we stood at a staircase, and as she counted backward we descended, pulling us deeper and deeper into meditation. At some point the sound of the cars outside faded and the bright lights shining behind my eyes began to dim to a swirl of black and purple. The tiniest spark inside of me thought that maybe something was happening. I waited patiently for the inside of my eyelids to turn into tiny movie screens showing pictures of me churning butter or leading troops into battle.
It’s difficult to say how long we were in meditation. Brock’s voice had that classic yoga tone that makes you feel like you’re a baby swaddled in lots of soft things. I waited…and waited, and as much as I tried to keep my mind’s eye open to the possibility that my spirit animal would show up to guide me to the netherworld, he never did. Not that I was a huge believer from the get go, but I was kind of disappointed. I really wanted to meet him.
I’m not saying this isn’t possible. For thousands of years, spirit guides and past lives have been the norm. It was only in recent history that those concepts were hushed and washed out, Brock explained — probably something to do with the Catholic church and more of that Da Vinci Code corruption stuff that Dan Brown got everyone so excited about. But the point is, these beliefs were around for thousands of years, and today, many people have these visions. Reincarnation is a pillar of most religions, with the exception of Christianity and Islam. This is not trickery rooted in magic. Just because I’m a jaded New Yorker doesn’t mean you are. And who knows what a quiet room with dim lighting and just the sound of Brock’s voice would do for the experience? Like I said, I’m not a total cynic. If the Tinder thing doesn’t work out for me, perhaps I’ll be giving Brock a call.
Note: All slight tones of mockery aside, Brock is a highly trained spiritual life coach with years of experience. If past life regression is something you are interested in, or want to be interested in, she is the person to seek.