I have a birthmark that is visible to strangers. According to random people who have felt it necessary to comment on my birthmark over the years, it is either "the mark of God" or "the Devil's thumbprint." No big whoop.
It's strange, when you have a visible birthmark: people will always try to fill in the backstory for you, or provide some kind of soothing explanation that you never asked for. "A beauty mark," comes up often enough, while children, who have that awesome/terrifying ability to keep it real and adorable all at once, will typically point out that I've "spilled coffee" on my skin and should probably wipe it off before I get hurt.
As an adult, I understand the fascination; it's noticeable, it's going to be noticed. But as a child, as soon as I was old enough to recognize that it was "weird" and "different," I went through great lengths to hide it, wearing inappropriate clothing during hot days just to keep my birthmark under wraps. In middle school, after reading about the Salem Witch Trials and learning how some women were marked as "witches" due to their birthmarks, I started to get very interested in superstitions surrounding splotches of pigmentation (or lack thereof) and convinced myself for a short time that I was actually marked from a past life—that the thumbprint on my skin was the result of something that had occurred in my past. I also, at this time, thought I was going to grow up and marry Christian Bale and that he would teach me how to swing dance, so, you know, I had a bit of an imagination about certain things.
I started thinking about all of this after reading Lisa Miller's recent piece on reincarnation for the New York Times, in which she details the past-life beliefs of several individuals, who firmly believe they have been here before, and will return again. This is nothing new, naturally—reincarnation has been a fundamental religious concept for thousands of years—but as Miller's piece points out, belief in reincarnation, and the use of past-lives therapy, in the United States is growing, perhaps due to a shift from Western to Eastern religion.
I suppose as with any religious belief system or therapeutic style, it's a matter of what one is willing to open one's mind to and accept, in terms of finding a sense of inner peace. There is something kind of off about the past-lives experiences noted in Miller's piece though: everyone interviewed seems to have an amazing, important history behind them, which gives them a sense of understanding, and, I'd wager, of fulfillment in terms of their life having more meaning than they assign to it in the present. I suppose I find it much easier to understand and believe in the concept of past lives than in a modern-day means of accessing past lives—if it were as easy and possible as some of these therapists make it seem, I think we'd be living in a much different universe.
Perhaps I'm off, though: I don't begrudge anyone the right to find a means of therapy that helps them deal with whatever it is they are going through. Past-lives therapy might not be for me, though I still have days where I wonder what the mark on my arm might mean, or if it means anything. And I also still want Christian Bale to teach me how to swing dance. Call me, Christian! I will buy saddle shoes!
So what do you think, commenters? Do you think past-lives therapy is legit? Have any of you ever had experiences with it, positive or negative?
Interest In Reincarnation Is Growing [NYTimes]
[Image via Elnur/Shutterstock]