To understand your past, you must first know yourself.
by Bettye B. Binder
Reincarnation has an honored tradition in the East but still meets with disbelief in the United States by many people who question whether memories of past lives are real. Even people who believe they have lived before often ask themselves, “How do I know I didn’t just make up my past life memories?”
Part of the reluctance to accept past-life regression may stem from the fact that publicized cases frequently involve people who claim to have been historic figures in previous lives. I have facilitated past-life regressions for 3,600 people individually and more than 18,000 others in workshops and seminars, however, and only a dozen of these sessions involved people who previously lived as famous individuals. The vast majority of people I have worked with over the past 18 years remembered very ordinary past lives, which is what we would realistically expect.
One could argue that people who tapped into famous past lives could have previously read about their memories in the library, which in fact my clients and students did not. In any case, the vast majority of people are not concerned whether their past lives are historically verifiable. The bottom line for most people is how insights gained from past-life regression can help them improve their present life, just as recalling early childhood memories from this lifetime can help resolve issues in our adult years.
With this in mind, I would reframe the above question to ask, “How do we learn to trust our past-life memories even if we cannot verify them?”
What I have found most useful has been a series of simple exercises I developed. These meditations help people answer the question for themselves.
Reincarnate, Know Thyself
In my seminars, I meet many people who practice meditation and want to explore past-life regression, which they see as another form of meditative experience that can benefit their present lives. Meditation is an act of receiving information without working at getting answers — and without analyzing the answers we get. This approach to life is closely aligned with Eastern philosophy, and Western minds must be trained to relax and allow memories to surface.
I have discovered that we gain access to our past-life memories the same way we recall things we consciously know about our present life, such as what we ate for breakfast, where we parked the car, or where we left our glasses. Once we identify our patterns for recalling memories in this lifetime, we can apply them to past-life meditations.
It surprises some people to learn that past-life recall can be as easy as remembering whether we had cereal or scrambled eggs for breakfast. The issue is not whether we have such memories, but rather how to make them available to us.
Each person perceives memories differently, through visual images, feelings, or other stimuli. Many of us have learned that if we do not see something, we are not meditating correctly, or we may not be getting answers at all. But there is no right or wrong way to meditate, and there are multiple ways to remember a past life — or details about this one.
See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me…
About two-thirds of all the people I have regressed remember through visual images. They see sharp, clear pictures in their minds most of the time when meditating about past lives, or when attempting to recall part of this lifetime. These people, who fit in most comfortably with our visually oriented society, are the least likely to question the reality of past-life images they get through regression.
Approximately half the people I have regressed remember, at least in part, through emotional feelings. They often see clear pictures in their minds only when there is no emotional reaction to their memories. These images often fade when they experience an emotion. Many of these people were told they were too emotional while growing up in families where memories based on feelings rather than verifiable facts were often discounted. For this group, past-life memory becomes “real” only when they feel it on an emotional level. Their struggle is to learn to trust their memories, especially when they see no pictures in their minds.
Another common form of memory perception is reliance on all five physical senses: sight, smell, taste, sound, and touch. There are people who remember past lives through a combination of the five physical senses, but not always the same ones. For example, one memory may encompass certain sounds and smells, while another may be a visual image. A third memory might be experienced through mentally touching familiar objects.
The two least common forms of memory recall are kinesthetic, based on body sensations, and clairsentience, or “clear knowing.”
Kinesthetic memories could include such things as butterflies in the stomach or tensed muscles. Other examples include a sudden unexplained headache or pain in a part of the body at a key moment during regression. The challenge for people experiencing this type of memory is to learn how to recognize and interpret such physical sensations as a form of communication rather than discounting them. Butterflies in the stomach or tightened muscles are often associated with moments of fear or anxiety, for example. Those trying to validate a past life may find it helpful to remember a time in this life when they felt similar sensations and in what context.
Clairsentient people — those who “just know,” or who experience memories without physical or emotional sensations — usually have the hardest time accepting their impressions of past lives. They often experience past-life memories as thoughts that seemingly come out of thin air. I counsel clairsentient people to honor their “self-talk,” since they often use phrases like “I just know,” or “I sense,” in their daily vocabulary. They may experience memory directly, without added physical or emotional content. Once they realize how they operate in this lifetime, they understand it is natural for them to recall past lives in the same way. However, the idea is challenging, since they rarely see visual images and often believe that memories that can’t be seen are not real.
These methods for testing the reliability of past-life recall naturally encounter resistance at first. Many people find it difficult to believe it can be that easy to consciously remember past lives. To overcome doubts, my best advice for them is to observe how they remember things in their present lives, then put it to the acid test. Whatever our individual patterns, it’s important to observe whether or not we experience past-life memories in the same way during regression.
I hope my pragmatic approach to past-life recall encourages anyone harboring doubts to experiment with his or her own memory patterns. After all, past-life regression is little more than a novel technique for retrieving and retaining long-term memory.
Bettye B. Binder has been a reincarnation teacher for 18 years and is author of several books on past lives, including Past-Life Regression Guidebook, Discovering Your Past Lives, and Other Dimensions. She recently completed a four-year term as President of the Association for Past-Life Research and Therapies.