In the exploration of past lives, it is important to remember that there are basically two types of memory. The first is genetic memory, which is passed down through the generations, from parents to their children or grandchildren. This is evident when innate talents such a natural ability to play an instrument or to draw, manifest. Sometimes these genetic memories skip a generation whereas in other instances almost everyone in a particular family displays a talent in a similar field.

The second type of memory is soul memory, which is a record of past lives and journeys, sometimes accessed in the subconscious mind. It’s possible that this memory is stored below conscious awareness so that it doesn’t forcefully shape a person’s daily life or unduly influence the individual’s journey in the present time. The conscious knowledge of actions in a previous life may be an unnecessary burden in this lifetime, especially when a person is not proud of past endeavours.

On a lighter note, it’s tempting to dream of being a king or a queen in a past life, while struggling to pay the rent in the present day. If you were a ruler or a wealthy landlord in a recent past life, it might be tempting to engage the services of a past-life debt collection agency to secure your vast landholdings from 1674. If your test case is successful it might make for an interesting turn of events, especially if a class action suit is organised for the Middle East. “What have the Romans ever done for us?” you might well ask.

There are several methods for exploring previous lives, which include consulting a clairvoyant who specialises in past lives or committing to a series of Rebirthing (connected breathing) or hypnosis sessions.

In broad terms, an astrology chart can offer some past life details and a medium or clairvoyant might briefly access past life information but clients have to take what is said on faith. There is no proof. It is much more rewarding to discover your footsteps personally.

Rebirthing or connected breathing is a process where a practitioner guides a client through the process, often while the client lays on a mat placed on the floor for comfort and safety reasons. This process offers more convincing proof as clients experience their individual memories directly, without any hints or suggestions from the practitioner. It usually requires several sessions to learn to access these memories efficiently.

Hypnosis can be an effective tool for exploring past lives, provided the hypnotherapist doesn’t ask leading questions. Instead of asking a client “Are you in the 17th century?” or “Are you in London?” the practitioner’s questions need to be open ended. “What is the name of the place you live in?” or “What year is it?” and allow sufficient time and space for the client to answer. It is important to bear in mind that if the client is regressed to a past life in Thailand or in the Middle East, he or she may offer an unexpected date. The western year of 2013 is 2566 in Thailand and 5774 in the Hebrew calendar. If the person is a simple farm hand in a previous life, he or she may not be concerned with dates and may not even know them.

Sometimes during a regression, the client has limited knowledge of life beyond the immediate village or town. If the person is describing a life on the land as a serf, it’s unlikely that he or she will have travelled widely.

When I first studied hypnosis I specialised in past life exploration and for two years it was almost exclusively what I did when regressing clients in hypnosis. It began when I guided a client back to the cause of her fear of enclosed spaces. Her breathing became laboured as she became more agitated. She described a luxurious cabin of a ship rapidly filling with water while the vessel sank. Alone in the room, she felt the floor tilt. Bewildered, she tried to ignore the gushing sounds of water filling the space while scanning the room for options. In her panicked state she explained that stepping up on to the bed afforded her only a brief respite from the rising water levels, before the water reach the ceiling. As the gap between the water and the ceiling diminished, she gasped for air, avoiding the floating pieces of smaller luggage and a hairbrush, bobbing around her head.

Taking a final breath, she descended into the water in a bid to open the door. It was jammed tight. Turning back in search of an air pocket, she realised that her room was already full. She struggled once more with the door until she passed out.

Gradually a sense of calm enveloped her and when I asked what was happening, she explained that she had died. Each time clients experienced a past-life death, I asked them what they had come to learn in that particular lifetime and if they had mastered their lesson. The results have often surprised me. Instead of complicated answers, clients usually describe seemingly simple lessons, such as learning to trust, discovering self-belief, compassion for others less fortunate or the importance of a rewarding family life. Upon reflection, I appreciate that these were probably not simple lessons but basically uncomplicated descriptions.

Eventually I asked my clients if their lives might have been better or more rewarding had they made different decisions at some important point. Many expressed regrets – for not pursuing a relationship, not standing up to a bully, allowing others to dissuade them from their dreams or for not realising that no one is guaranteed an old age.

For hypnosis to be effective, clients need to be in a deep, relaxed state. If they are not, there is a risk of imagining past lives instead of seeing and feeling them through subconscious memories. When experiencing the events of a particular lifetime, the sights, sounds, smells and emotions can be overwhelming at first. In films set in the 18th or 19th centuries, people ride horses and live in squalor but the streets are usually clean. When clients describe lives in these times, they depict the filth, drudgery and tedium that was daily life for many people. They speak of how the struggles and the rewards shaped their world-views, both then and now to some extent.

After speaking publicly on past lives, I have often heard from audience members who say that they had been kings, queens or pharaohs in previous lives. I wonder where all the past life Roman viaduct builders ended up? They were obviously not at my presentations. However, in hypnosis regressions, I have rarely encountered a king or queen.

Whether a past life was spent in the gaze of the public or in relative obscurity, the spiritual lesson remained the same. After becoming a counsellor, I realised that most problematic issues that clients experience in their adult lives, usually originate from their current lifetime. Some guided hypnosis sessions take people back to childhood or to their teenage years, where emotionally charged incidents shaped their beliefs about life. Some people only need to be regressed a few years to discover an incident not consciously remembered that is causing their current issues.

One of the reasons why soul mates sometimes remember each other upon first meeting in this lifetime is that when karma begins between two people, they are connected to each other through a psychic cord. This invisible cord of energy remains in place until their karma has been completed. This karma or unfinished business may be joyous or troublesome. Sometimes it’s possible to meet a soul mate and not proceed with a friendship or a relationship because circumstances are not suitable for completion of the karma this lifetime.

Meditation is another effective tool for accessing past life memories. When Danielo’s son Marc was born, he was present at the birth. As Danielo first held the baby he knew on a deep level that they were old friends. As the mid afternoon sun poured through the tall window, the nurse left the room and it fell silent. In the silence they stared at each other, rekindling an old friendship. Later that day when he returned home, Danielo meditated to discover more about their shared history. He could clearly see that they had been good friends, living in Edwardian England. As Marc grew up, he often treated his father as a peer rather than a parent, negotiating with him instead of becoming demanding when his needs weren’t being met. Now as adults, they are firm friends and equals, despite their current life roles as father and son.

Sometimes when travelling in foreign countries a person feels instantly at home in an unfamiliar place. An ancestor may have lived in that place and the genetic memory surfaces with the recognition of the locality and past experiences. This also occurs when a soul memory of a past life spent in that location is triggered. If either the genetic or the soul memory is negative, it may be accompanied by fear or a deep-seated urge to leave that place as soon as possible.

Past live regression sometimes assumes that time is linear. If time is not linear but universal, it may be possible to venture back to the past or forward to likely futures, to glimpse the origins of beliefs and the consequences of current decisions before they arrive. If a person holds a film on DVD, he or she is effectively holding the beginning, the middle and the end simultaneously. By watching and experiencing the film in linear time, it makes sense.

If and when it is possible to venture off into different time zones, it would be the ultimate clairvoyant glimpse of the future. This is something I do in pure clairvoyance readings when mentally moving forward to the final day of a client’s life and asking that person to tell me the highlights of his or her life. It’s not necessary to dwell only on the winters ahead because life’s summers usually balance out any of the struggles we have. At the end of their lives, most clients tell me that they are happy to have bought the ticket and taken the ride. If these readings are an accurate guide, most people will leave this lifetime emotionally and spiritually enriched by the journey.

© 2013 Paul Fenton-Smith

For more information on soul mates and unfinished karma, see Paul’s book Finding Your Soul Mate (Academy Publishing 2010).

For more information on past life regression through hypnosis.