Anxious about my past-life-regression session, I tried imagining myself to be white, rich, an aristocrat. I asked regression therapist Donald Rice what the chances of something like this were -- how many people turn out to have been, in earlier incarnations, influential historical figures or celebrities fallen from our world at the hand of too many prescription pills. "Only one out of about 15,000. That's about what the odds are, too," he said. Even with those odds, I still had a glimmer of hope. I was also skeptical of the whole thing, and he could see it in the hive on my forehead.
Rice walked me back to a room, all green and furnished with an upright leather recliner with a blanket folded over the top of it. I sank into the chair and listened to the air escape from the cushion. My hands were clammy. He said something like, "May I?", reclined the chair into a horizontal position, and put the blanket over my legs.
I shut my eyes like he asked and felt him lightly touch the center of my forehead. I rolled my eyes up and focused on that middle spot. I attempted to open them but couldn't. I was fatigued, which I thought would make it easier to slip into a deep hypnotic state.
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No such luck. I was consumed with nervous laughter. It never really subsided. He walked me through an imaginary staircase and stopped me at every step -- this is the induction. He told me to imagine a door at the bottom of the stairwell and color it whatever I wanted. I gave it those famous golden arches, and then found it difficult to step through. Throughout the entire session, it felt as though it wasn't working; I was nowhere, wearing nothing, yet feeling safe. Rice claimed it was possible I was caught between lifetimes.
Does that happen? And where were my servants?
It was nothing like I had imagined it would be. It felt as though the entire session lasted 10 minutes, not the 40 recorded on tape (Rice tapes every session because, he says, you remember it more each time you play it back). To prove it possible, he demonstrated a posthypnotic suggestion he'd given me -- he numbed my left hand. Each time he touched it, it became 10 times more numb than before. He pinched my skin with pliers; the handle squeezed hard. Hallelujah, I felt nothing.
Past-life regression was not what I expected it to be -- a romantic escape in search of another identity. I walked away from it feeling very alive, just not the person I thought I once was. I can attest to the reality of hypnotism -- of past lives, I'm not so sure. But Rice claims anybody who goes through his technique will never fear death. I'm not sure of that, either.