I wasn’t brought up in a religious household. Sure, my family is Taiwanese and grew up immersed in Buddhism, but few of its tradition and practices were passed down to me. My parents had a very practical way of raising me when I was younger, and religion wasn’t something that they were particularly preoccupied with. It wasn’t something they were much involved in, either. Still, I can’t say that we were devoid of religion, especially if it pertains to spiritualism. Growing up, I had a hard time differentiating between religion and spiritualism, simply because the two seemed so intertwined – I’m often confused by the two terms even now, and I’ll try to explain that as I go along.

In my immediate family, there are things that we believe in, things that we can’t explain with science. We believe in things like spirits, the afterlife, and a higher self. Of course, we relate them more in terms of Buddhism, but I personally don’t see these phenomena as solely pertaining to my religion, as encapsulating them under “religion” seems to limit what they meant. I never felt like my religion was mutually exclusive from other religions; I always felt like it was just an extension, another form, a different perspective. Believing in the existence of a higher self was important when suffering was an inevitability; believing in a higher entity allowed me to see that there was meaning beyond what I could comprehend in that moment.

I recently came across the book of a psychiatrist, Dr. Brian Weiss, who found himself delving into the idea of past-life regressions and reincarnation. Mind you, these were ideas that he had never learned during his extensive education nor his experience as a therapist, until one patient regressed to a past life during one of his hypnotherapy sessions. He has since done many past-life regressions through several patients, and even learned some enlightening lessons through them. In his subsequent books, he relates in detail what happened during these sessions, and what he took away from each of them. Rather than study his patients with the scientific perspective that he’s been taught throughout his years in school, he learns to approach each of his patients with an open mind, and see what he can discover. It’s also important to note that these past-life regression therapies started in the 1980s – a time where duping could not have been facilitated by the Internet era. 

A concept that Dr. Weiss learned from this experience is that our souls continue living after our physical bodies die, and souls can reincarnate in different physical bodies for many lifetimes. This is a very powerful statement, one that he was able to translate into terms that allowed him to bring some form of peace into dying patients. We may also have encountered this ideas in famous figures like the Dalai Lama, or simply regular people who relate their own psychic experiences. Again, Dr. Weiss’ point is not to indoctrinate, but rather bring to those suffering in life and fearing death a peace of mind. It’s a simple idea: our physical bodies die, but our soul lives on. We live on. This lifetime is just one of many.

Something else that made me ponder about is the idea that we are not born with a blank slate. When we’re born, we may have had several past lifetimes. We may have committed crimes, suffered, accomplished amazing feats – but we won’t consciously remember them. However, what we did in that lifetime can and will influence what we do, and what we’re drawn to. The purpose of past-life regression therapy is to go back to your past lifetimes and figure out what tormented you, because the mere knowledge of what happened to you will bring you a sense of peace. In a hypnotherapy session, the therapist guides the patient through their past lifetimes, allowing the patient to see what happened to them, and the rest is healed on its own. Personally, I think it’s a fascinating concept, but I also think we’re all skeptics until we get to experience them for ourselves – if we get to. I don’t think that knowing our past lives and having these psychic experiences is something that everyone needs to know in their present lifetime. I think there’s a reason why we don’t typically remember them in the first place, and for most people, it should stay that way. 

Dr. Weiss found that some people had unexplicable illnesses or irrational fears that were healed through past-life regression therapy after years of failing through traditional therapy. One had a pain on the back of his neck for a long time; it turns out that he was stabbed on the back of his neck in a past lifetime. Another one was so afraid of drowning and refused to get close to the water; it turns out she was drowned in a past lifetime. These patients’ fears were “magically” cured when they found out what had happened to them in hypnotherapy. They had found the source of their fears, and that was all they needed.

I’m not advocating nor trying to indoctrinate you with any of these findings, I’m merely writing about some impressions that Dr. Weiss’ work have left on me. At the end of the day, it isn’t about what you believe or don’t believe in. It’s more about opening your mind to different forms of knowledge and making sense of this world in a way that helps you to both appreciate life and relieve yourself from the fear of dying. For this reason, I think religion can be a powerful source of comfort, and a guiding way to live life. Like I said, I’m not particularly religious, but embracing spiritualism and its endless knowledge of possibilities has been relieving for me. I encourage you to open your minds to different ideas too, and to embrace those that you feel ring truest to you.

Belief can be powerful; it can help us heal, relieve our fears, and allow us to live more.