You can begin again and again

It’s raining where I live in Minnesota today, but my mind is on the end of the dry season in Thailand 12 years ago.

I was in a truck, which shook loose our bodies and the dirt. Out tumbled a question I’d been wondering about for a while:

“What about reincarnation?”

We’d been having conversations like this for a few months. I had been working on a meditation practice and was finding a lot of benefit in it. Mostly because of the way it oriented me to what was happening right now and the clarity it gave me about myself.

Buddhism seemed like a religious practice I could finally see myself keeping. I’d always been interested in religion in the way you’re interested in what you think you lack.

I once made a project of reading the King James Bible before bed. It seemed like a natural pick after the Redwall series, and its dimensions made for an even swap in the drawer of my white wicker nightstand.

I liked some of what I read as metaphor but faltered in my self-conversion when I tried to convince my brain to file any of it as fact the way I did that Boron has 5 protons. Maybe the juxtaposition with Redwall didn’t help.

So when I asked about reincarnation, it wasn’t a challenge, it was a plea.

Ajaan Adisak heard what I asked. “I don’t believe in reincarnation, but I do believe in rebirth.”

I pressed my fingers into my thigh one-two-three-four-five while I waited for the rest of what he had to say.

“Buddhism tells us to pay attention to the present moment to see how things really are. I can’t tell from the present moment whether reincarnation has happened. But what I can tell from the present moment is that every moment is new. And in every moment I can be new. Every moment is a little birth. I know rebirth is true because I can observe it.”

I saw a raindrop on the windshield. I imagined more of them on the road, pressing the dirt into the earth, fusing them together. I imagined Ajaan Adisak’s words doing the same thing in my mind.

I

 

You can begin again and again

This essay also appeared on Medium.

Published by Emily P.G. Erickson

Emily P.G. Erickson is a writer with a master's degree in psychology. She crafts helpful, science-backed pieces that come straight from the heart. Her writing about mental health, mindfulness, and motherhood has appeared in The New York Times, Elemental, Forge, and more.

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