2014-04-16 / Top News


One soul, many lives

A little girl’s voice filled the air with soft sobs. Ahead of the clearing, the menacing woods loomed. The child feared her dog Scooter had run into the woods and was missing. But then a calm, older woman’s voice could be heard. She guided and soothed the young girl as she fretted about heading into the woods.

After a motherly pep talk, the child found her dog. All was well again in the girl’s world. But before parting, the woman asked her what she learned from the episode.

“It gets me in some fixes,” she said, a dreamlike utterance encoded with personal meaning.

Then, in a matter of what appeared to be mere seconds, the little girl’s voice vanished and a mature woman’s voice followed. Valerie Fox, a blonde middle-aged woman, opened her eyes and looked ahead. She was in Elissa Bentsen’s office, a past life regression soul trauma healer based in Sarasota. The recent emotional bout had left Ms. Fox’s face red and eyes welling with tears. She was elated. Ms. Fox, a psychic healer herself, needed to make sense of some issues and had contacted fellow healer Ms. Bentsen.

WEISS WEISS This is not Ms. Fox’s first foray into past life regression. Some time ago, she was going through a conflict in her life and sought the help of Ms. Bentsen, a trained hypnotist and healer. Ms. Bentsen said she helped her to regress back into a former life and get to the root causes of her problem. Past life regression therapy is the use of hypnosis and relaxation techniques to allow an individual to uncover memories from a previous life. Some therapists and healers say by accessing these memories and facing an unresolved conflict during a previous life, healing can begin in the current life.

This seemed to be the case for Ms. Fox during her recent past life regression session.

D’ORSI D’ORSI “I was able to fix it and let it go,” Ms. Fox said.


Spring is here, a time of birth and new life. But how do you grow a new life if the old ones are filled with conflict and turmoil? For some, a springcleaning is just what is needed to feel fresh and alive in the here and now.

Think past life regression therapy, or in simple terms, a look at the old to lighten things in the new.

The rebirth of the soul after death into a new body is nothing new to many Eastern-based religions and philosophies. It’s a sort of redo for mistakes made in a previous life. Still, for centuries the belief didn’t have many followers in mainstream western culture. But according to recent polls, therapists and healers, that is changing. We are changing.

According to the Pew Forum in 2012, about a quarter of people not affiliated with a religious organization believe in reincarnation. And in 2009, a PEW Forum survey asking about spiritual beliefs found that 24 percent of the public overall and 22 percent of Christians say they believe in reincarnation — that people will be reborn in this world again and again.

WILLIAMS WILLIAMS The idea of existing in multiple lives and times is growing in greater popularity and acceptance these days, according to therapists and healers. Some say the Age of Aquarius is upon us while many others consider mankind to be entering a time of greater awareness and spiritual enlightenment.

“The meaning in the cosmos is evolving,” Ms. Bentsen said. “People are beginning to ask questions that they would not have asked years ago.”

Among the questions being asked: What happens to us after we depart Earth? Will we see loved ones again? Curiosity, the quest for answers to these questions, draws some to participate in a past life regression.

COURTESY PHOTO COURTESY PHOTO For some, the pain of losing a loved one can leave them devastated and grief-stricken. The increase in availability of past life regression therapy offers a glimmer, and in many cases a floodlight, of hope in healing from grief and conflict.

For Estero resident Sandi Crea a chance to delve into the past has helped her to manage the grief of losing her 18-year-old son Nick two years ago. Nick was killed in a car crash shortly after his high school graduation. The pain of losing her son proved unbearable and unimaginable. Ms. Crea sought answers.

“I wanted to know why I lost my son,” Ms. Crea said. “I do believe there’s a reason.”

Ms. Crea sought the help of Ms. Bentsen at Forever Souls. To be regressed, Ms. Bentsen hypnotized and relaxed Ms. Crea. She helped her to travel back to another life where she and her son knew each other. In the previous life Ms. Crea’s son was a Native American woman. It mattered not that her boy was a young woman in an earlier life.

Sandi Crea and her son Nick. Sandi Crea and her son Nick. “I saw my son’s eyes,” she said. “The soul is the soul. I could see my son shining through a Native American woman.”

For Ms. Crea — who always believed the soul lived on past death — regression therapy made a difference.

“It just made sense to me,” she said. “When he passed away, I had to find where my son was and make sense of such a senseless tragedy. I am not one who seeks out mediums.”

Past life regression therapy answered her questions and gave her peace.

“The regression did help me with some of the issues I was having,” she said. “And that’s what I was going for.”

Finding peace through therapy

The value of experiencing one’s past lives is of great importance to mainstream therapists who seek the best way to heal their patients.

Dr. Brian Weiss, the acclaimed Miami-based psychiatrist who uncovered the therapeutic value of past life regression therapy more than 30 years ago, holds workshops around the country teaching past life regression techniques and understanding. Many local therapists and healers, including Ms. Bentsen, trained in Dr. Weiss’s workshops and programs.

Dr. Paul DeBell, a prominent New York City-based psychiatrist, said the value of regression is its ability to highlight the spiritual power within.

“It’s a way of getting unstuck that you can’t explain in your lifetime,” he said. “Past life regression is useful for someone who believes in it.”

Dr. DeBell does indeed believe. In a prior regression he said he learned he was a caveman. Over his various lifetimes, he learned. And the learning and growing can be key to helping many overcome challenges.

Dr. DeBell said the social climate and receptivity for spirituality is growing, making it easier for topics like reincarnation to be accepted in the mainstream.

“I am optimistic,” he said.

Therapists often straddle the line between faith and science. But for Dr. DeBell and Naples therapist Kathleen D’Orsi, it works.

“I think past life regression is an option of therapy that helps people to evolve,” she said. Ms. D’Orsi, who works with patients of all faiths, said there is a place for the comfort of religion along with the therapy. The licensed clinical social worker said half of her patients seek the use of past life regression therapy.

“The majority find resolution,” she said.

Ms. Bentsen said she sees about 250 clients a year for past life regression therapy and soul healing, as she calls it, in her home-based business, Forever Souls. Her clientele has doubled in the last two years.

“Everybody is talking about spirituality,” said Susan Ellison, a Naples resident. “It’s time. Mankind will not survive if we do not evolve (from) where we currently are.”

Ms. Ellison, a retired hospice nurse, worked with patients at the end of their lives. She said she experienced early on in her career that there is much to be learned about the soul.

One night during her nursing career Ms. Ellison said she was working on a floor for patients with cancer when a dying man told her that he saw God’s wagon coming. He died shortly after.

Ms. Ellison, who has experienced past life regression, said she discovered she was a Native American woman at one point in her soul’s journey.

“It was really interesting to see,” she said.

Fort Myers psychic and healer Tracy Williams said she is blessed with the gift to see the past lives and spiritual guides of others. During a recent visit to her cozy home healing room, Ms. Williams shared information with a woman about her family. The quest to find one’s roots — past lives included — fills her hours.

She channels and connects with angelic and spiritual guides that help her detail the former lives of clients. On a daily basis, doctors, lawyers, law enforcement officers, hurting and curious people come sit on her comfy chair.

“More and more are starting to ask about it,” she said. “We are about healing our souls,” she said. “Embrace the past and learn from it.”

In Ms. Williams’ own life she found out she was a Union soldier in the Civil War. She said she was killed with a bayonet. In her current life, she had her spleen removed during childbirth. The wound was located at the same place where in the earlier life she had died. In this life she said she corrected a mistake from the previous one and lived through the trauma.

When doing medium work with clients she always looks for a moral connecting the past to the present.

“I want to see what each of their past lives brings to this life,” she said.

Ms. Williams recently authored the book “Blinded By Vision.” The book details many of her psychic and neardeath experiences as well balancing her life as a psychic and mother of two girls. There will be a book signing from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 27, at Cristof’s on McGregor Boulevard.

Uncovering past lives for their therapeutic value is of value to those it helps. Karen Lovero, a Port Charlotte resident and mother of three, had been searching for answers to some deep questions within. For one thing, about a year ago, angels started appearing to her. She sought the help of Ms. Bentsen in Sarasota. Through a past life regression therapy, Ms. Lovero found answers. She learned she had been put in an orphanage and had died in a carriage accident, leaving her baby behind. Fast forward ahead and now she has the same baby she lost — just in a different body. According to Ms. Bentsen and other past life experts souls tend to travel in groups and often reincarnate together in families. Ms. Lovero says her past life regression left her with an overwhelming sense of relief and comfort.

“Its an eye opener for me,” she said. “You are able to know about your life. I definitely know that we have past lives because I saw it for myself.”

Some people who have no immediate issues or conflicts seek out past life regression to satiate their curiosity. For instance, Debbie of Bonita Springs (she asked that her last name be withheld) underwent a past life regression and discovered she was a man in one life and a Greek senator in another.

“What can I say?” she said. “I believe in it but it has not been therapy per se.”

But whether people are exploring their past lives for guidance and help or just for fun, the point is they’re doing it.

Going mainstream

Centuries ago, choices were few when it came to exploring one’s spirituality. Mainstream religion took center place in people’s lives and any other paranormal experience such as channeling or plumbing the depths of the before life could cost someone his life.

But a more open tolerant and enlightened culture is becoming the new norm, according to the academic and religious community. Finding out one’s past life or having a psychic channel your angel guides is for many as normal as making an appointment to get a physical checkup.

“It’s really to me a symptom of a cultural change,” said Emory University Religion Department Chair Gary Laderman. “It’s also likely associated with new age religion. All of our culture is no longer tied to institutions to tell us how to live like it used to be in the past.”

For local religious leaders working hard to keep the pews filled in their respective houses of worship, being open-minded and yet grounded in their faith is a balancing act they must perform.

Rabbi Jeremy Barras at Temple Beth El in Fort Myers said he fields questions about past lives “all the time” at the synagogue. During intimate discussion and prayer with the dying, Rabbi Barras is sometimes asked about future lives.

And though there is a belief in past lives in Kabbalistic teaching or the mystical arm of Judaism, it is not a part of mainstream Jewish theology, Rabbi Barras said.

Walter Fohs, the interim pastor at Faith Lutheran Church in Lehigh Acres, said that for many Christian clergy the concept of past lives can be hard to negotiate in their religious leader roles. For centuries, the Christian faithful have lived by the concepts of heaven and hell. If you live a good life you die — once — and go to heaven.

The idea of coming back again to fix a mistake in a past life is not something discussed much on the pulpit. Pastor Fohs said though past lives may not be a tenet of mainstream Christianity, the acceptance of and tolerance of those who embrace it or other new age beliefs is vital.

“The world is becoming more and more diverse,” he said. “It’s a world of magic, of spirit and mystery. It’s all out there and its getting wider and deeper. The world is opening up.”

To watch the belief in past lives emerge and flourish is what many say is another sign that a new kind of spiritual spring is blossoming.

“The world is changing,” said Dr. Laderman. “This is just not a fringe movement or something.” ¦

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