Past Life Recollection
Updated: Jul 24, 2022
I preface this post sharing a few of my assumptions about reincarnation. First, that it exists, of that I am certain. I have recollections of many past lives, being various genders, ethnicities, & cultures. What follows is one of them. I don't share it lightly - enslavement of humans is a disturbing topic and very much alive in our country in particular as we face a deep racial reckoning in our country, our workplaces, our communities and families.
I met Michael Nagle at a Native American healing ceremony and was immediately drawn to his gentle demeanor. Following the ceremony, we shared our common interest in healing work, and Michael shared that he was studying craniosacral healing through the Milne institute. I’d had one session of craniosacral bodywork years before, and found it pleasant but unremarkable, however, I felt eager to have a session with Michael.
I arrived at Michael’s home without any expectations aside from a friendly chat about our shared interests and some soothing “body work”. I wasn’t having any specific issues with my body or my health, but there were some things weighing on me in an emotional sense. I had just come through a very tough year and was feeling pretty battered.
Following a brief intake interview, I laid down on the massage table and Michael placed his hands on each side of the base of my skull. It was a gentle sensation as he cupped his hands and sat quietly with me for some time. After 5 or 10 minutes, Michael asked me if I had any impressions or thoughts I wanted to share. I shared a few random reflections including my desire to locate the descendants of the people enslaved by my ancestors for generations in the United States.
Laying again in silence, my lip began to quiver and I began experiencing very rapid eye movement. A bright tunnel appeared before me. I leaned into it and felt sucked through time and dropped into a scene that was my 4x grandfather Cary Harrison’s Tennessee plantation. I looked down on the ground and saw golden hay, and felt joy at being “home” again. I looked around and saw I was wearing a brown calico print dress and very worn black ankle boots. I peered inside the dwelling I stood next to, and saw black women busily at work, cooking and cleaning. The dwelling was really nothing but a large shack with a dirt floor, but brimmed with activity and life, everyone chatting and in good spirits. I looked down at my own hands, holding a tattered dish towel, and saw that they were black; indeed, I was black.
Astonished, a flood of images and impressions arrived. I saw myself being born into slavery and having lived on the farm my entire life; it was the only home I ever knew. There were many of us, all ages, and I was around age 17 and didn’t have any children of my own but loved all my many black kin, related or not. I worked mostly in the mistress’s house, tending the children and cooking. I was very simple, illiterate, and loved to embroider. I loved the farm, and the sense of being part of a huge family/community. I’d never been anywhere else; it was a simple existence, connected to the earth and the rhythms of nature and the seasons.
Then the civil war came and everyone ran away, me included. I hid in basements and was separated from my kin and everyone I knew and was aware of the collective trauma being experienced by all of us, black and white, northern and southern. When the war was over, I somehow made it back home; where else could I go? I’d only learned to be obedient my whole life, and had no way to forge a life on my own even though I was free. I also had to see if my white babies were alright - I was afraid the house was destroyed or burned down, or my people all killed by the “blues”. Only a few of us were left. The farm was a shambles, but thankfully “my” babies were alright.
Together, we rebuilt. I became a servant, and continued caring for the children and cooking, and I worked harder than I ever had, because of my love for this family - the black ones and the white ones. I never married. At the end of my life, I lay in a wooden canopy twin sized bed. Now the white babies, all grown, and with children of their own, were tending to me, feeding me, caring for me as I lay dying. I wasn't that old, maybe 40. I thought, “on the whole it (my life) was more good than bad”. Highlights of my life were storytelling and singing (among my black kin), embroidering/quilting, preparing delicious meals from scratch, and the weddings - so many weddings (!), and going to church and loving God.
All this “downloaded” in about 20 minutes or less. Then the tunnel reappeared and I was sucked back in time, onto the massage table. Michael moved into a different position, holding his hands, one under my lower back/sacrum and one on my belly to ground me back into present time. He finished by laying a hand on the center of my chest, which felt very warm and healing.
As I lay on the table, we debriefed the session. I was astonished to find myself a slave in that life, even starting to talk with a dialect as I shared the images with Michael as they came. Since the session, I made it my mission to learn more both about American history as well as my family’s specific history and everything I have learned affirms that that life may very well have existed exactly as I envisioned. (I could write a book on all I’ve learned since our session in 2018).
Astonishingly, after this session, I continued my research on Ancestry.com and discovered the accompanying photo of my Harrison ancestors after the end of the civil war, with their "servant" Tennessee Harrison who cooked and tended the children. Aside from this photo and brief documentation of her name, there is sadly no other history to be found, although I continue looking.
This memory explained a lot for me. Why I have always has such a kindred feeling for the African American community (and minority communities in general). For example, when I turned 18, I moved directly to a black community where I felt I belonged, rather than my middle class, mostly white neighborhood. As a child, I felt happiest living in communities that were predominantly BIPOC, including SF's Chinatown and Richmond, CA. My maternal family are mostly conservative Christian, republicans who are also racist and homophobic. Even as a young child, I bristled at their conversations describing the “N’s” who worked in my grandfather’s factory. I believe that most of my maternal relatives still operate under a Jim Crow mindset, which I cannot abide. That said, I have re-acquainted myself with a few of my like-minded progressive/liberal relatives, which has been a joy.
In closing, even as a "free" woman, Tennessee returned to the only life she knew, rather than pursuing dreams or goals of her own. She likely did the only thing she thought possible, to remain in servitude in exchange for security, economic safety and known community. Many hundreds of years of illiteracy, conditioning, fear, violence and family separation continue to negatively impact all Americans despite the abolition of slavery in 1861. I will continue to process and work with this enlightening session for a long time to come and on many levels.