I AGREE WITH the admonition an Israeli channel gave her study group, “Why waste your time with spiritual gossip and past-life experiences?” I don’t waste energy trying to remember and revel in what occurred before. I want to be here, now, anchored in the sacred instant. It is a truth that transformation only occurs in present time. Besides, we’ve all been back and forth between the polarities innumerable times, first sadists then victims, leaders then followers, destitute and then royalty. Having said that, I share another truth: there are always exceptions!
My past-life experiences in Peru are essential to grasping what is presently unfolding in my life and heart.
In July 1999, I drove three hours north of my home in the San Francisco Bay Area to participate in an Amanae© workshop to learn a technique purported to facilitate emotional release. I had no context for such a thing. I was irresistibly drawn to enroll after a strong emotion burst from my core during an evening demonstration of the work by the founder, Christine Day. I had never witnessed a deep feeling provoked by an act that seemed to have no relation to my emotional body. The torrent of tears had no label. The best I can do is to say that it was grief.
By the second day of the workshop, we had become accustomed to sensing discomfort in a part of the body, and were beginning to have some skill in breathing into the area, bringing our consciousness to meet the pain and opening to the intention to feel what was being held. I was on a massage table, surrounded by other participants. There was an odd pain in my feet, as if they were disfigured or perhaps trapped in an uncomfortable position. The sensation grew to be almost unbearable. One of the assistants came and spoke to me, encouraging me to go deeper, to allow what was arising. I clung to her words and allowed myself to feel more.
Suddenly, it was if my feet were on fire — literally burning. I began to writhe and scream. I sensed the assistant next to me, hearing her encouragement to open and to feel even more. In an instant, a vivid mountain landscape opened before me. I was tied to a tree and although I could not see my limbs, I knew that my hands and feet had been secured with a spike, driven through my flesh. I was in shocking pain, as a fire below, seared my skin. Before me, many individuals — beloveds to whom I felt a deep connection — were being shot, beaten and terribly gored. One of the attackers dragged a woman before me and my heart jumped. It was my wife! He brought a blade to her throat, and as I could not take my eyes away, I witnessed him draw the knife, cutting deeply and ending her life. I was overcome with profound failure and immense guilt. I was responsible for these people. They had relied on me, my judgment, and before me was the result of their trust. I was not being killed outright but forced to watch the barbaric torture and killing.
The pain in my body slowly abated. I sat up on the massage table and quickly walked to the circle of chairs where our workshop sharing occurred. In the center was a Sacred Pipe. It called to me, “Pick me up.” I bowed my head, touching the carpet, guided by ancient traditions to which I was not initiated. I began to sob uncontrollably. Both hands approached the Pipe and I tenderly picked it up. Huge waves of sadness and tears flowed from me. Moans of agony burst from my throat. I was completely taken by the immensity of the feelings. A tiny speck swirled in this storm: a flash of gratitude that the wall had cracked and emotions were flowing. There was no sense of time. Eventually, I placed the Pipe back on its rocky base and returned to the massage table, prepared to continue receiving the bodywork.
It took years for the details to come into full focus. Hundreds of years ago, I was a cacique or native chief in the Cordillera Andina, the mountain range of the Andes in South America. Many people relied on me. We knew the conquistadores were coming, and I made a decision that we should remain. The Spanish arrived and a massacre followed. The event is a scar on my soul; a wound that interpenetrates all subsequent lifetimes.
After the workshop, I continued to live my life, avoiding the tendency to obsess over the revelation. I felt it was important to maintain a balance between awe for the power of the recollection and a full anchoring in the present. Acknowledging the past-life trauma helped me understand my attraction to native cultures and a deep longing for rich communication with the Divine realms. I also felt compassion for my fear of the spiritual and sacred community, as well as a peculiar resistance to realizing my role as a teacher and leader.
It was nearly ten years before I was to take the next step on the Senderos de Luz, the Trails of Light.