These are your lives

By Jennifer Bradbury, The Evening Chronicle, Nov 12 2004

Reincarnation is the subject of Nicole Kidman's controversial new film Birth - and it's a concept that millions across the globe believe in. But what's it all about? Jennifer Bradbury attempts to find out.

Newcastle, UK -- I'm in little more than a broom cupboard at the rear of a hairdresser's in North Shields and the woman opposite me is telling me, matter-of-factly, that I used to be a man.

According to Maudie McKenzie (pictured above), who practises past-life therapy in the backroom of Hair by Missoni on Albion Road, I've been a man at least twice (comes as news to me) and my most recent reincarnation was as a nurse, early last century.

I sound like a lost soul. It's the 1930s and I'm working on a children's ward. She says I'm in my 30s, not married and don't have children. My young lover, she says, was dying and I'd nursed him to the end.

"There's a strong sense of her having a broken heart," reasons Maudie. And she's adamant that it must have had an impact on my present life. In relationships, she says, especially when younger, I would have been expecting something horrible to happen, and been basically very insecure.

Hmm, it does sound a bit like me.

But how does she know all this?

Well, Maudie, a healer who also practises tarot card reading, palmistry and crystal ball reading, claims to be able to read people's previous lives' auras, which many mystics claim are visible as a faint light around the body.

Maudie is petite, with sparkly blue eyes, a friendly smile and blonde hair tied neatly in a bun. She sits at one side of the small, simple table and she beckons me to sit at the other.

We've just been discussing the concept of reincarnation and now it's time for the actual demonstration.

She asks me to relax and, with her hands firmly grasped in front of her on the table, she looks at me intently.

It's not uncomfortable. She'd warned me beforehand that she would be reading the pictures that she saw in my aura.

Earlier she'd said: "The past lives, if they are relevant, are on the outside of the aura waiting to give influence. It's like watching a video, and I usually find some kind of connection."

She went on: "Everyone has had past lives, but we don't remember them because they're over. But there are people who remember, especially children."

I've got to admit that I don't fall into this category. There's been no explained recurring dreams or feelings of déjà-vu.

So back to the reading. After taking in my aura, Maudie closes her eyes. Her face is a picture of focused concentration. And then she opens her eyes and tells me what she sees.

It's not scary, and it doesn't hurt. But does it mean anything?

As I say, personally there aren't any memories of a past life, but some of the things Maudie said did strike a chord.

She asks me if I've any connections with travellers or Gypsies. Well, I've always suspected my Irish mother's side of the family of being tinkers, but Maudie says she can't see an Irish connection.

This time I'm a man; a traveller in Europe in the late 18th Century.

Maudie says the images are very strong. She sees the travellers come to a stop and I go off by myself. I stand motionless, and a large bird passes me by.

Maudie makes a gesture with her hand, clenching it in a vice-like grip. Apparently, the man I once was has grabbed at the bird, caught it and killed it. It didn't have a chance.

"It's very much you and the land. You and it are very connected," she says.

"Can I ask you a question?" says Maudie? "Of course," I respond.

"Are you intuitive, instinctive? The way I see him, he's so in tune, he would know what was going to happen next."

It doesn't really sound like me. It's hokum surely? Maybe, but there are millions out there who would beg to disagree.

Take Hindus. The concept of reincarnation is thought to have originated within Hinduism. They believe that they will experience multiple rebirths based on their actions in this and previous lives, and call it karma.

Reincarnation is also an important doctrine in Buddhism. Many who accept reincarnation believe in the bardo, a spiritual realm where the soul goes between dying and rebirth.

And then there's the celebrity believers. Hollywood actress Shirley MacLaine has long been fascinated with the concept of past lives and in one book, she claims she was the lover of the Emperor Charlemagne in a past life and of his reincarnation, Olaf Palme, the assassinated Swedish prime minister, in this one.

Then there's the former England football manager Glen Hoddle, who, despite identifying himself as a Christian, also claimed to have a firm belief in former lives. Committed to the idea that we have lived many times, and that our experience of this life is a consequence of our behaviour in past lives, he controversially suggested that people with disabilities should accept their afflictions in this life as they reflected their character of lives in the past.

The furore that ensued led to Hoddle's subsequent resignation.

And there's plenty of North East people who believe, too. Take Jen Brockhurst, 54, a receptionist from North Shields.

She readily admits that she's long held an interest in all things psychic, but that it was the death of a close family member that ignited a curiosity in reincarnation.

Which is why she found herself, as I had done, being at the receiving end of a reading from Maudie.

"There were definitely some connections with the present," insists the new convert.

"Maudie asked me did I like sewing, and before I had time to answer she said she could see me sewing sheets by hand. I love cross-stitching and embroidery but I detest dressmaking, and Maudie wasn't surprised; she saw me with those sheets."

This particular past life was around 1914, but Maudie saw many other past lives.

According to Maudie, Jen has twice, in previous lives, been with men who have died, and has then cut herself off from relationships.

A parallel with the present, as Jen admits that following her divorce almost 20 years ago, she's not been tempted to embark on another relationship.

"Because of the connections I'm much more calm about things like death," she says.

Another believer is Jane Moran, 64, from Wallsend, whose whole life has been haunted by a recurring dream. In it she's walking over a wooden bridge across the Tyne, near to where Bessie Surtees' house is now, and one of the wooden slats breaks and she falls...

And that's when she wakes up.

The mum-of-two and grandmother has also always been interested in Egyptian and Tudor history and France.

Nothing unusual about that. But now these interests and the recurring nightmare have all been explained and Jane feels enormously relieved that they are all memories of previous lives.

She is adamant that she has been convinced that Jane Moran, former medical secretary and now a housewife, is just the latest reincarnation in a long, long line.

The conversion happened just eight months ago when Maudie gave Jane a reading.

"The things that were going on in my head. I was sure I'd been here before and then Maudie started," says Jane.

And, according to Jane, Maudie picked up on her recurring nightmare straight away.

"When I sat down she started saying I was afraid of bridges and water. She could see that I fell through the planks and fell into the mud."

But where Jane's dream always ends, Maudie's reading continued.

According to Jane, Maudie can see a man, a Roman soldier, who comes from the Gateshead side of the river, and digs her out of the mud. "But I'm already dead," says Jane.

And since being told of her past life, Jane insists that she's not had the dream.

Other past lives include as a supervisor of slaves in Egyptian times, and as an elderly man in Germany who practised homeopathy.

She was also Anne Boleyn's sister.

Jane has long held a fascination with the Tudors, especially Henry VIII, and so Maudie's reading fits perfectly.

Like Jen, Jane's convinced that she's been here many times before. And who are we to scoff?

* To contact Maudie ring (0191) 296 1137.

Coming back for more?

Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists all embrace elements of reincarnation and karma.

There is strong belief that actions in your current life are stored and have a spiritual consequence on the next.

According to these beliefs, if you dedicate your life to helping others, you build up a good karma and will be rewarded in the next life and of course, visa versa.

In the Far East the idea is widespread among the populations in the Himalayas, Mongolia and China and it's a commonly held belief among the original tribal populations in Africa.

The idea of reincarnation is well-known among aboriginals in Australia and in the Pacific Islands.

Many great figures throughout history have embraced the idea of reincarnation including Pythagoras, Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, Jack London, Robert Burns, Charles Dickens, George Patton, David Lloyd George, Napoleon Bonaparte, Rudyard Kipling, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison.

Being at one with the universe

Reincarnation is the belief there is a pre-existing soul before birth which continues after death. The soul incarnates hundreds or thousands of times, depending on which religion or philosophy one follows. The incarnations promote spiritual growth so eventually the soul can arrive at one with the universe.

It's believed the following experiences support reincarnation:

Near death experiences; out of body experiences; mediumship and channelling; hypnosis and regression; spontaneous past-life recalls.

Safe way to take a trip through time

Regression prompted by hypnosis is one of the most popular methods of getting in touch with past lives.

Hypnotherapist Nevil Houlis, who runs his private practice Genesis Therapy from Westerhope in West Denton, offers regression services to his clients and emphasises that hypnosis is perfectly safe.

"People won't get stuck in a past life and they won't be made to do anything they don't want to. They remain in control and are aware of everything that is happening to them. It's a natural state of mind very much like daydreaming."

Further details on (0191) 2863949.