Laura Lamun was halfway through her rebirthing experience."I need to do more," she said. "I'm sorry, we have to go deeper. I've got to see this. I've got to see what this is."
Rebirthing is a breathing technique that some think helps access subconscious levels of the brain.
"All of the experiences are a metaphor for what's happening in your life," said Susan de Wardt, a Steamboat Springs personal development coach and a trained rebirther. "You have to unravel the metaphor."
De Wardt said people use only 5 percent to 10 percent of their minds in day-to-day life. Just below that surface level are memories and dreams that can sometimes be remembered. Rebirthing proponents think the technique can go deeper, helping subconscious memories and even past lives.
There are some physical side effects to the process. "Strange things may happen in your body. You will feel cramping in your hands and feet. You will get cold, and you might start to shake," de Wardt said before she performed the rebirthing process on Lamun.
The procedure involves lying under a blanket and performing rapid circular breathing while being guided by a coach such as de Wardt. This meditation practice changes the body chemistry by shifting levels of oxygen at the cellular level so that images come to the participant like a dream, de Wardt said.
The noticeable physical effects Lamun experienced were clenched fists and sobbing that made her whole body shake.
"Luckily it was my right arm (that was cramping) or I would have thought I was having a heart attack," Lamun said after the experience. "I was conscious of the room, the photographs (being taken), the music, my body and not having a body. I was conscious of so many things at once."
She described a journey that began with running through a field of yellow flowers as a little girl. "I met one of my guides who looked like a cartoon version of the Abominable Snowman," Lamun said. "He was my good friend Manni from way back."
Next she found herself in an Egyptian or Indian market where music was playing. She could smell the spices and spoke to a gypsy fortuneteller. "She was sort of evil -- telling me these awful things. Then it cut to this battlefield," Lamun said. "I was being stomped on by a white horse. It was stomping me to death with no mercy."
Lamun recognized the man on the horse as someone she considers a friend. This person appeared as a man and a woman and as a recurring theme in her rebirthing experience.
Lamun said, during the experience, she dreamed of walking up a mountain trail to a cave where she planned to live to get away from the rest of the world. She said millions of people came to the cave, not allowing her to escape.
In the final scene, Lamun saw herself and another man on a throne as king and queen.
"Coming back was intense. My body was vibrating deep in my core," Lamun said. She also described a strong tingling sensation, and she didn't feel like she could move her body.
Afterward de Wardt gave her a pen and paper to record everything she remembered experiencing.
"At an intuitive level, you know that there's a power struggle going on," de Wardt said. "And you can't get away from life issues."
Lamun's goal for the session was to help her deal with a difficult friendship. Her experiences were metaphors that lead to one main conclusion. "I'm not standing up for myself," Lamun said.
"The whole point is to raise your awareness of how we create the life that we have," de Wardt said. "It's about symbolism and understanding your archetypes and how to interpret them at a cognitive level."
Rebirthing is controversial. In 2000, several adults put 10-year-old Candace Newmaker through a simulation of being born during a rebirthing in Denver. Newmaker complained that she could not breathe, but the adults continued the process. Newmaker lost consciousness and died the next day. Newmaker's case resulted in legislation banning the use of restraints in rebirthing processes.
The participants in the Newmaker case broke every rule of rebirthing and did not take Newmaker seriously when she said they were suffocating her, de Wardt said.
In the United States, there is no license for rebirthing, she said. "There is huge exposure for litigation."
De Wardt trained for four years under a registered Shaman and licensed psychotherapist, Dhanya Haremboure, while she was living in Malaysia and Holland. Haremboure studied under Leonard Orr, who developed the rebirthing technique.
There is a stigma of fear attached to the process, as well. Even during the procedure, Lamun did not feel scared. When she stopped de Wardt halfway through, she said, "It's all fine. It's all great. I just need to do more."
The most common question about rebirthing is whether these experiences are real.
"It doesn't matter. I don't care if I made it up or not," Lamun said. "I could care less if these past lives exist. It helped me already."
-- To reach Allison Plean, call 871-4204or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org