The water brings relief. All week the thermometer climbed higher and higher into the nineties before it toppled, teetering like a see saw back down into the eighties. Water is spirit I remind myself, grateful for the ease with which I glide through it. I peer down through the green depth to the sandy bottom until it disappears into the darkness below, letting the swollen heat escape through the soles of my feet.
Last weekend I attended a workshop at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck New York. For months I have looked forward to meeting Brian Weiss, whose books have pulled me through the gloom of grief as I have searched for why Jesi, one of my sixteen year old twin daughters left us for the afterlife. The workshop refueled my meditation practice which fell away when she was first diagnosed with leukemia at the age of twelve, and with it, I am beginning a journey deeper into my unconscious to discover when and how the connection I have with her endures beyond time.
For over thirty years Brian Weiss, a classically trained psychiatrist, has been helping people uncover their past lives. I have found it consoling to believe that Jesi’s soul and mine have shared many past lives together and will again share time together on earth in the future. Brian Weiss’s work makes it clear that our incarnations are for the purpose of learning and mastering the lessons of love, compassion and forgiveness. Concepts closely aligned with what Buddhism teaches us.
But in order to experience past lives, something that one is able to do under hypnosis, quietening the chatter of the left brain is essential. So I focus on my breathing as I glide through the water, making my way to Ice Fort Cove.
Breathe…Blow,…Breathe …Blow. I listen to the rhythm emerging from somewhere deep in my throat. It is as if I am sitting straight backed on my chair, instead of stretched out across the skin of the pond, rolling side to side and swaying like a mesmerized guru. I struggle to feel the spaciousness within my mind and rid it of the clutter of past and future. It darts like an elusive mosquito so that the volume of my breath and blow fades into a rhythm and I suddenly realize my mind is churning through my day just as I am now churning through the water crested by the breeze blowing across the pond. When did I lose touch with now? When did the insipid thoughts seek back in and take over, reminding me of things that no longer exist or might (or might not) yet exist? I make an extra effort to lift my eyes to the sky, white clouds splashed like odd shaped stick-ons across it. I look across the skin of the pond checking for kayaks, small fisher-boats, other swimmers, long boards on which figures stand erect sailing across the water surface. There have been times I have been so lost in thought I have “woken” to the sound of hey! and looked up to see the hull of a dingy only a few yards away and alarm on the face of a figure standing peering down at me.
By the time I reach Ice Fort Cove I have tried and retried to focus on the groan of breath and blow from within me. Each time losing it and sometime later realizing my mind is dancing in memories. Each time bringing it back to the breath and blow. As I slide around to my right following the line of shore within the cove, the sight of the thin strip of sand unravels yet another memory, this time of the workshop with Brian Weiss. He was instructing us to walk into a garden during the beginning relaxation before our final regression exercise on Sunday. I found myself at the pond, very clearly visualizing the small beach at Ice Fort Cove. He was telling us to cross a small bridge, opening our minds to the experience of a past life.
Suddenly the air thickened and through the white swirling mist I was aware of floating. Translucent figures like fine wisps of cloud were dancing gently in front and around me. I felt no fear, only a beautiful sense of peace. I was sitting among them but I am not the body that is now slipping through water. I am one of them, a translucent white spirit being. For the first time all weekend I was not concerned about finding Jesi. I was content.
Brian continued to instruct us through a doorway, counting down from 5 to 1 until the door opened and we stepped through. Nothing would move me from the sensation of floating inside this circle of white beings that surrounded me. I don’t know how long the group of workshop participants around me must have been delving into their pasts. I felt nothing but a sensation of peace and drifting.
When the regression exercise finished and Brian bought us out of the garden and back into our bodies I felt deflated. I had wanted so much to have “an experience” and my critical mind had not allowed it. I told my friend Dorothy over lunch I needed to practice more, that nothing had come (expecting some vision of myself in human form) and listened with interest to her recounting her experience.
I knew I needed to practice. I so much want to understand this earthly experience, the purpose of this birth, the journey of my soul…
When I was driving back to Boston later that afternoon it suddenly struck me. I had had an experience. It wasn’t a past life, it was an experience “in-between” states. It was a spiritual experience and I hadn’t even realized it!
Now, swimming back to the main beach I am tiring. My shoulder aches reminding me of a nagging injury. I no longer glide through the water which Brian described as “spirit.” I look up, determining how far it is back to the main beach. The beach house seems to wink at me, a distant guard overseeing the pond. I am aware of a new tranquility within me. No longer racing ahead, nor are my thoughts lagging behind, trapped in the day that has already passed.
I smile walking back across the sand and glance at the water’s edge to watch children play in the water.