Woman on Top

“Good morning,” the Bokmakierie bird would have said, if I had eyes to see and ears to hear. He was sitting on a thorn tree branch outside the kitchen window, watching me chop carrots.

He saw me first, because I didn’t look up the first or second time that he ‘trilled’, or when he chirruped again, more loudly. Eventually, he played the party trick that make these cheeky, yellow mischiefs a popular garden accessory: he rang like a mobile phone.

And then I looked up from my carrots. “What have you been doing with your life today?” he appeared to have said, since coincidentally, I had been wondering the same thing.

“Not much, but a lot,” I answered. In fact, I couldn’t remember what I’d eaten that morning, since at least a thousand other things had crowded, squashed, into one day between getting up and chopping carrots.

My mother says that there are no such things as coincidences – only meant-to-bes. There also are no problems; only challenges. Because Bokmakierie flew away seconds after our conversation, I forgot about him until the following morning, when my friend Daniela posted an eye-openingly wise comment on her Facebook profile.

While reading it, I felt reasonably certain that Bokmakierie and Dan’s post were one of my mother’s meant-to-bes.

Dan offered us 12 ‘Zen Things’ to remember during a busy day. We see these pop-up philosophies all over social media these days and most miss the memory bank because there are so many that we’ve reached sentimental saturation point.

But what the art of Zen and birds have in common is a simple methodology, really – one that we are fast forgetting.

I put Zen to the test, thanks to Dan and Bokmakierie, just for an hour or two and would you know it? Bird Zen works.

Remember to do one thing at a time – and do it slowly, deliberately, completely. That’s the first step. Chopping carrots, for example, should be about chopping carrots, and not about rushing the job in your head. The rush speeds up your heart rate and makes you anxious; not only will your carrots be a chore, rather than a serving of nutrition, but you may snap at someone later, because your ‘blood is up’, as gran used to say.

Bird Zen also advises that we do less. Can we? Is it at all possible? I tried it and yes. There was a quarter hour scheduled for clearing the right-hand side of the garage last week, but I was tired and it had been a hot and tiring day. So I didn’t do it, as I’d done so much else. And both the garage and my sanity are still there.

“Put space between things”, is the next tip. Meaning time, actual things, visits with people – anything that exchanges energy or takes up space. Putting space in your life gives you room to breathe.

My kids respond best to number six on the list, which is “develop rituals” and “designate time for certain things”. I didn’t know, until I started having eyes to see and ears to hear, that my young son loves, beyond measure, family hugs. Thinking back, I remember now that he’s mentioned family hugs a few times, but we don’t do it often enough. It’s a ritual and so, it must be done – and often.

Our grandparents and older generations understood the last bits of bird zen so innately: devote time to sitting; smile and serve others; make cleaning and cooking become meditation – and live simply.

Do you remember your granny, aunties and elderly neighbours sitting on the stoep of an afternoon, drinking tea and talking, or sometimes not talking, but being silent; punctuating the peace with an occasional “ag, ja” or, “shoo, the wind is up”?

Wise old birds, those.

Beth Cooper Howell
First published in The Herald newspaper





Stories of past and possible future lives abound and mostly are dismissed by the scientific community as implausible, hallucinatory and without basis in fact. But for clinical hypnotherapist, Chandra Taylor, the evidence is too strong for science to ignore and her ongoing successful treatments support this.

One of the more popular accounts of reincarnation was a book published in 1956 called The Search for Bridey Murphy written by amateur hypnotist Morey Bernstein. Bernstein hypnotised a Colorado housewife, Virginia Tyghe, who recalled a former life as an Irishwoman from Cork.

Bernstein used a technique called hypnotic regression, which takes the patient back to early childhood and beyond. To his amazement, he discovered someone called Bridey Murphy, who had lived in Ireland in the 19th century. Tyghe revealed compelling details of Bridey’s life and the state of being of life after death. The book became a bestseller and provoked investigation by reporters to establish its authenticity. Many facts tallied but an investigation into Tyghe’s own childhood revealed that she grew up in Chicago, Illinois and lived across the road from an Irish immigrant named Bridie Murphy Corkell. Psychologist Andrew Neher wrote that Tyghe had suffered from cryptomnesia, which occurs when forgotten memories resurface and are not recognised by the patient.

Although the tale of Bridey Murphy did not prove the fact of reincarnation, and revealed how easily the mind can mislead, there is other convincing evidence that does make one sit up and think and which suggests the subject should receive wider and more serious attention from scientists.

Chandra Taylor is a psychotherapist practicing in Cape Town, South Africa. She is also a hypnotherapist, having trained at the Institute of Hypnotherapy in London and the European College of Hypnotherapy in Surrey, UK.

‘While living in London I had the privilege to meet and train with some of the most noted practitioners in my field, including Dr Richard Bandler, a former associate professor at UCSC and a consultant to many Fortune 500 Companies, the US Military and US Intelligent Agencies. Dr Bandler is best known as the co-creator (with John Grinder) of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, a methodology that enables one to understand and change human behaviour patterns.’

Although Taylor says she has always been interested in past-life regression as a form of therapy, her interest in past-life therapy was significantly triggered after reading Many Lives, Many Masters by psychiatrist Dr Brian Weiss. Weiss’s book tells the story of one of his patients, Catherine, whom he unsuccessfully treated for 18 months using traditional psychotherapy. Finally he turned to hypnosis as a last resort. As head of psychiatry at the prestigious Mount Sinai clinic in Miami, past-life regression therapy was not part of his repertoire at all.

‘When Catherine started experiencing past-life memories, he was dumbfounded and did not know what to do or how to react. To his astonishment, she immediately showed improvement after the first session. This continued after each session until she was freed of all the negative issues that she had been suffering from. Any therapist knows that patients do not heal from dreaming up a fantasy. Her recovery was dramatic and complete after having relived the events that had caused the issues,’ explains Taylor.

Weiss received peer acclaim for his work, not least from Dr Joel Rubinstein, former instructor of psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School who wrote:

‘Dr Weiss integrates concepts of traditional psychotherapy and the exploration of his patient’s spiritual unconscious. My view of myself and others will never be quite the same.’

Another comment came from Dr Andrew E Slaby, Medical Director at Fair Oaks Hospital:

‘An interesting, well-written and thought-provoking exploration of the influence of past-life therapy on present behaviour. You cannot put it down without feeling empathetic with Dr Weiss’s conclusions.’

Chandra Taylor is bemused that the wealth of evidence available, pointing to what appears to be an obvious truth, hasn’t resulted in more research:

‘There are numerous cases on record testifying that reincarnation does exist and plays an active part in our lives. I’m bewildered that some scientists continue to insist that it can’t be scientifically proven. Pioneers in the field, such as Dr Michael Newton PhD, refute this. His work and case studies are extensive and irrefutable.

‘The late Dr Ian Stevenson, who worked at the University of Virginia School of Medicine for fifty years and was Carlson Professor of Psychiatry from 1967 to 2001 and Research Professor of Psychiatry from 2002 until his death, investigated nearly 3 000 children’s cases without using hypnosis. A journalist once remarked about Stevenson’s work that “The definition of insanity is when you give a person irrefutable proof and they still choose to disbelieve it. Dr Stevenson’s work is irrefutable proof.”’

An aspect of Stevenson’s work is that he often found children could recall who their families were in a previous incarnation and also how they died. Some of the children interviewed lived in remote villages without access to media or television, which might otherwise have influenced or distorted their accounts. An interesting facet of Stevenson’s work was pointed out by Kevin Williams in his article Dr Ian Stevenson’s Reincarnation Research:

‘During his original research into various cases involving children’s memories of past lives, Dr Stevenson did note with interest the fact that these children frequently bore lasting birthmarks which supposedly related to their murder or the death they suffered in a previous life. Stevenson’s research into birthmarks and congenital defects has such particular importance for the demonstration of reincarnation, since it furnishes objective and graphic proof of reincarnation superior to the – often fragmentary – memories and reports of the children and adults questioned, which even if verified afterwards cannot be assigned the same value in scientific terms.’

Stevenson was the author of sixteen books on psychology and research into reincarnation.

Taylor herself is amassing case studies and continuing her research into the subject. Given below are three of her case studies. The studies contain great detail but have been summarised for the purpose of this article.

Case study 1
I once had a client who reported that a pattern of anxiety kept repeating throughout her life: being falsely accused and always feeling helpless and like a victim. After putting her under hypnosis and regressing her beyond the fetal stage, she very quickly began to recall and view a past life in which she had been falsely accused, thrown into a dungeon and then led to a guillotine to be put to death. No one cared or listened to her pleas of innocence, not even her mother. After telling me this, and while still under hypnosis, I asked if she could sense anything she was being called to do as a result of this incident. She replied without hesitation, ‘To forgive.’ Realising the importance of this incident and how it was still impacting on her life, she promptly forgave everyone involved. When she returned to see me a fortnight later, she was visibly and mentally changed and spent an hour telling me of the great things that had taken place in her life since our last session. Now improved, her life could flow because the blockages had been removed.

Case study 2
A male client once told me that because he couldn’t ‘open up’ to anyone, he was unable to have a fulfilling relationship. He also revealed that he didn’t speak until he was five years old. And that he always felt lost and that nothing made sense. During our regression therapy he picked up several previous lives. One of them was as a Knights Templar where he was bound to a code of silence. This was the cause of him not able to ‘open up’ now. During regression he witnessed himself being killed by a sword that pierced him below the ribcage. He has a birthmark in that area, the width of a sword cut.

In another life he became separated from his group while on expedition. He died, lost and alone in a forest.

The third life turned out the most dramatic. He went straight to the death scene where he witnessed an atomic explosion followed by complete chaos. At this point in the regression he became quite nauseous and dizzy and I had to talk him through it so he could watch the scene objectively (this is a perfect example of the fact that patients do not experience intense physical and emotional responses if they are fantasying). His body was blown to pieces and the psyche had held that memory of confusion and chaos, explaining why he was constantly plagued by the meaninglessness of life and why nothing made sense. After the session he regained a new sense of purpose and direction.

Case study 3
I once had a student who had done some courses in healing but had no faith and seemed unable to receive intuitive guidance, a skill required to practise as a healer. During regression she discovered a life where she had been a nun with clairvoyant vision, which perturbed the Church. She was locked up and persecuted, which explained her fear of opening her psychic senses.

In another life she belonged to a native tribe who were experiencing a drought and believed human sacrifice was necessary to appease the gods and avert disaster. She was chosen for the purpose. After witnessing her death scene she remarked that it still did not rain and the tribe perished. Hence she had no faith in God and still carried the psychic memory that she had to sacrifice herself and that God couldn’t be trusted. When I last spoke to her she said her intuition had opened immensely and she could now trust her inner guidance and begin to ‘flow’ with life, rather than always fighting the current.

In 2009 Taylor had the chance to learn a technique that facilitates direct access to the subconscious and can produce instant healing. It is called Quantum Healing Hypnosis Therapy and was pioneered by world renowned author and hypnotherapist Dolores Cannon. Last year she devised a method of her own, which she calls Subconscious Reprogramming, a process that removes old subconscious belief programs that continue to sabotage a person’s progress and success in life:

‘My method has proved successful. It is a combination of various techniques that enable the patient to let go of several issues in one session, resulting in a deep transformation that can take many years to accomplish with more traditional methods. More clients are recalling various past lives that still affect them, which can be time-consuming, rather than dealing with only one life at a time.’

Do the debunkers concern her?

‘Countless books and articles on the Internet written by reputable academics testify to the validity of reincarnation and this vital therapy. I no longer search for proof. The face of a client and the shift in their behaviour after anxiety has been dispelled, is proof enough. As I mentioned earlier, people do not heal from dreaming up fantasies. In the new method I’ve uncovered, the subconscious can be programmed to release the old outdated issues and put a positive belief in its place.’

Taylor also teaches workshops on how to unlock the subconscious, which she claims is a powerful tool to open the intuition and remove negative belief programmes that still operate and adversely affect individual lives.

Whatever may be your viewpoint, the positive interest taken, and successful treatments done, by esteemed academics and hypnotherapists in this controversial subject suggests that perhaps science should take careful note of what Shakespeare’s Hamlet said to his closest friend:

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Hamlet (1.5.167-8)

Bruce Cooper
July 2015

Those interested in learning more about the therapy can contact Chandra Taylor at

Woman on Top

This morning, I walked away from a sticky situation and left it in the hands of someone more capable because I simply didn’t have the patience to deal with drama – not before a cup of tea, certainly.

Impatience has been a permanent stain on my character for as long as I could spell it. Strangely, on the face of it, impatient people may seem like the most chilled out, smiley people you know; but put us in a compromising situ – with places to go, zips to zip and appointments to keep – and we morph into stroppy toddlers with a thirst for trouble.
I’ve often wondered why some people do patience better and, as a result, lead far more peaceful lives. Are they destined to not lead the pack, choosing the path of friendly followers, while the handful of us with a short fuse actually get the job done – on time and well?

My aggressive adherence to schedules and obsession with beating the clock have proved career winners for two decades – no editor ever has had to chase me down for copy and, when I was a teacher, both heads of department and pupils knew that what needed to be done would be done – not by Friday, but a week in advance. I wore impatience like a crown and lived the lie that my life was infinitely better because of it.

But today, when I simply didn’t have it in me to help my grumpy toddler deal with his disappointment about the rain at school – meaning no usual swing-swing routine – I could have chosen the path of the uber-mom, who would have found a way to both teach emotional balance and eventually coax a smile. Instead, after a few failed attempts at empathy, reasoning and distraction, I simply gave up. What’s the point of flogging a lost cause?

Our competitive world worships at the feet of achievement and so, for naturally impatient people, it may seem that we’re built to win – after all, if Richard Branson had just stood around and gone with the flow, he’d never have built a pretty plane.

But since I feel unhappy when I’m feeling impatient, there must be a flaw in that modern argument. And science, as always, proves this to be true. If you’re a true-blue ‘impatient’, then what you’re really getting knotty knickers about is the irritating emotion you’re feeling when things aren’t going your way.

Like this morning, when my toddler was in a towering rage over an apparently simple thing like rain, I felt powerless (I’m no meteorologist and don’t know a workable rain dance), annoyed (everybody else under three is happy – why aren’t you?) and stupid (why did I make the outside swing part of your goodbye routine anyway?).

Beth Cooper Howell
First published in The Herald