by Marshall F. Gilula, M.D.
It is not necessary to have a formal hypnotic induction or sitting meditation for recall of past-life material. For me, my daily hour and a half running has proven an excellent time for recall of such material. One lifetime recovered while running related to a lifelong respiratory problem which began with severe childhood asthma and frequent pneumonia and caused me to seek an activity such as running in order to free myself from the problem. Several years of psychoanalysis during psychiatric training did not do away with this problem, nor did several other types of treatment and self-investigative techniques, including daily regular meditation.
It was while meditating during the early Seventies with different types of meditative aids, including long, programmed sequences of music and other sounds that I discovered a tall, headless-appearing male spirit figure standing just to my right side, almost out of my line of vision. Often I could see the figure only with my peripheral vision and I needed to be in a special state in order to have the perception. The image was always the same: a tall, muscular male figure with arms calmly folded across his chest, a calm attitude, but no visible head. “It’s just one of your guides,” different psychics told me when I described the experience. “He’s there to help you.”
The explanation seemed satisfactory for a while. After all, the figure did appear during meditation, and later the figure would often appear during times of severe stress or physical danger, as well as during the meditative experiences. Some of the programmed music and sounds I had used during my original three to four hour meditations that evoked the figure were recordings of Tibetan chanting and temple gongs, so I wasn’t surprised when a Miami Beach psychic went into a trance and began quivering, sweating, and shaking as she described a previous life of mine during which I had been a Tibetan monk in a temple and a master of certain martial and occult arts. While she was in trance, I felt waves of sadness and some tears, and she, too, cried while she began to describe the ways in which I was being tortured. Soon afterwards she abruptly terminated her trance, blew her nose, and dried her tears. We agreed that the life she had seen had been dramatic, but I didn’t feel convinced of its validity, and, moreover, I didn’t know what to do with the information. My feelings as a psychiatrist and scientist interested in hypnosis were that people often were able to imagine all sorts of things while in trance, whether self-induced, or not.
Some years later, when I was older and possibly more evolved than in the Seventies when I had encountered the past-life information, I began to use another device while running, a Tibetan mantram taught to me by Ayang Trulk Rimpoche. On the first day that I used the mantram, I was aware of its focusing potential. In my usual running practice, the first mile or two usually were for warming up and relaxing my physical/mental/spiritual structure so that I would be aligned and at one with the activity. On runs of more than one hour I usually tried to avoid getting too far out of the body while running because it was not unusual to stumble on pebbles strewn on the path around the lake. Physical reflexes helped me catch myself and prevent any real damage, but skinned palms and knees were not really desirable, so I was pleased to find the mantram an excellent focusing device that kept me in my body.
In 1983, shortly after I began to use this mantram while running, I attended the 11th Annual Convention of the International Association for Religion and Parapsychology in Tokyo, where the theme was “Karma and Reincarnation.” Here I was exposed to many different speakers and ideas on reincarnation and past lives. Immediately afterward, while running, something dramatic occurred after a couple of miles. I noticed that my voice began to change and the sounds of the mantram began to come from lower down in my throat. As the sounds became guttural, I settled into the pace and was not even bothered by the light rain and mud. The guttural sounds became more of a grunt, and suddenly I WAS the male figure with folded arms that I had visualized so often while meditating during the previous ten years or more. I knew with absolute certainty that I was an older Tibetan monk/scholar of some type. I could even feel a fur hood over my head and sense the wrinkles in the skin of my face. I realized that the older information had been correct and vaguely knew that this was the past part of me that had been tortured in some way, although the details were obscure.
During the next few days, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle snapping into place, an entire three-dimensional panorama of this Tibetan’s terminal life events took place. I continued to use the mantram while running and experienced an intense telescoping of time: the ninety minute period became as five minutes. Only the soreness and stiffness in my feet and knees told me that I had run my usual long distance.
The picture that emerged was not a happy one, but my habit patterns of running and meditation both seemed to protect me from becoming too subjectively involved. In fact, the aspect of detachment was one important characteristic for me that identified recall of these past-life facts as important and genuine. The monk, who was possibly over a hundred years old, had a well preserved and vital physical body. His torturers were not well identified, which may reflect the altered mind state of the monk while the torturing was going on. Some type of rack or wheel was used to suspend his body while various implements were used to cut, burn, and pierce. His eyes were torn out of his head and pieces of flesh were ripped out of his face. Hands, feet, and genitals were mutilated and then cut off.
More torturing followed without any clear reason as to its purpose. However, while running, I could sense that the torturers feared some ability that the monk had. As the process did not yield whatever was expected, perhaps his death, a new tack was taken and he was put outside the primitive structure where the torture had taken place and buried while still alive. The earth was tamped down quite firmly. There was no sensation of pain or distress, just firm, calm resolution and firm faith and knowledge without a sense of pity or sorrow. I felt neither pity nor sorrow for the monk as I ran along the banks of the lake while chanting the mantram and watching the pieces of the picture snap into place. The sensations were mainly of darkness.
Then the picture changed with loud sounds of scraping and the monk was taken out of the burial spot back into the primitive structure for further cutting and piercing. By this time he was totally insulated and surrounded with an intense white light which the torturers could not see. Finally he was taken outside again and jammed into an object resembling a cask or hogshead filled with salty brine. A top was placed on the cask and the monk’s last awareness was of fluid in his chest, very salty fluid, and white light that became more and more intense while he was breathing the fluid.
Over this week of growing realization it dawned on me that the sensations of fluid in the chest were part of the respiratory problems I had experienced throughout this lifetime. On the physical place, in “real” time, I had a corresponding experience. I came down with the worst cold I can remember, with three days of becoming totally hoarse and losing my voice. I had no fever, but the hoarseness persisted for a long time and some of the cold symptoms went down into my lungs and up into my head. My Western medical proclivity would have been to treat such severe symptoms with a nightly dose of a powerful broad-spectrum antibiotic, but I was a long way from home and none was available, so I resorted to tea, liberal amounts of vitamin C powder, and teaspoonfuls of ground ginger.
The results were meager. Only when I began to spend more time going through the imagery and memories of the monk, whose last moments of physical time were spent inhaling brine, did something begin to clarify itself in my system. I followed a process similar to my meditative activity while running and allowed the imagery and sensations of the Tibetan to work through my awareness. There was no dramatic “Aha!” experience but eventually I came to a time when the flow of life energies began to course more swiftly through my system, as if a sticking point had been passed. Again, this awareness came only gradually and, like the past-life information, in bits and pieces.
Following this resolution, a couple of weeks after the meeting on karma and reincarnation, Dr. Hiroshi Motoyama, the founder of the IARP, gave me a past-lives reading as a part of a spiritual consultation in the Tamamitsu Shrine. The reading seemed to stimulate my internal processing of the past-life information concerning the last days of the Tibetan monk. Effects of processing this information manifested not only internally in my breathing but externally in a facility for channeling higher energies for healing others.
Also, among other things, Dr. Motoyama told me of an old hatred of snakes which began when I was bitten by a poisonous one in the white desert around Israel or Greece before the time of Christ. This was interesting to me because I had had a totem animal experience with a large rattlesnake in the Malibu Hills of California during the summer of 1972. The day after this reading a synchronistic event occurred. While toweling down after my morning run I looked out my back window through the screen and there, sitting atop the stone wall, was a six feet long, greenish-gray snake! Stifling an impulse to squirt water on it and chase it away, I looked into its eyes as it sat there basking in the sun in the humid afternoon. I had no feeling of fear. I remembered the rattlesnake in Malibu which had been chased away from my doorstep by my friends.
“Not this time!” I thought. “This time I am going to see just what this is all about.” I looked carefully at the snake and tried to open up my mind. A message came through that the appearance of this animal marked the ending of one cycle and the beginning of another. In a primitive sense the snake was continuing to be my totem animal. I saw that it was for me an ancient symbol of wisdom and of the higher, intuitive mind and could invest my consciousness with these qualities.
The entire communication took no more than two minutes, but the snake was in no hurry to go. I looked through the screen down the entire length of his body. There was a slight hump behind the middle section, perhaps his dinner from the night before. After a few more minutes of silent communion between us, the snake picked up its head, began waving it around, then turned and slowly slithered back along the wall.
Despite my Western medical-psychiatric-neurologic training, experiences such as the impact of the monk’s death and the appearance of the snake impress me by their synchronicity with past-life information and their potential for deepening integration and improving functioning on all levels.