My Sister Remembers Her Past Life. Somehow, I Believe Her.

My sister said she felt as though she had forced Nada’s family to revisit an unresolved trauma, and it weighed on her. Over the next several years, she tried to put the whole experience behind her. The family had given her a few keepsakes: a bracelet, a gold necklace and the picture of Sara. Eventually, Heba put them away. She went to college in Lebanon a few years later, and Sara showed up at her door unannounced to invite Heba to her wedding. My sister didn’t go. For nearly a decade, Nada only resurfaced as a character in an intriguing story, nothing more.

Then in 2015, while living in Los Angeles, Heba discovered past-life regression therapy, which uses hypnosis to help people recall memories from past lives. The idea, practitioners say, is that if you are grappling with trauma in this life, you may be able to find the root of the problem in patterns or recurring characters from previous lives. Heba realized there were people all around the world, not just from our small town in Lebanon, who also believed in reincarnation. She quickly became certified in past-life regression and, after years of trying not to think about reincarnation, found comfort in its ability to heal.

On the other side of the country, I was starting a career in journalism, and was ambivalent about Heba’s new profession. I wondered why I had accepted her experience with Nada so matter-of-factly without looking into it further. Questions nagged at me: How do I explain something I don’t understand? Are someone else’s memories enough evidence of them having a reincarnated soul? It wasn’t until this past year, while my sister and I were living under the same roof again, that I started to truly reconcile our worldviews.

Before that, living on my own over the past several years meant I could carefully curate my life, and engage only with people who shared my beliefs, mainly journalism colleagues who prioritized evidence-based facts. I thought I was open-minded — until I had to discuss politics and spirituality with my family around the dinner table.

Last December, during the great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, the first time in 800 years the two planets aligned incredibly close to each other and were visible in the sky, I joined Heba and our pandemic pod for a ceremony at a friend’s house. We sat in a circle, drew cards from an oracle deck and wrote down our reflections and hopes in an attempt to manifest our goals for 2021.

It was new and refreshing for me; it felt like much-needed talk therapy after an isolating year. And, my oracle cards were freakishly on point. The first said “Growth,” and mentioned leaving behind antiquated relationships, beliefs or systems. The beliefs I needed to let go of were not the spiritual ones though.

I still have questions — many questions — about past-life regression therapy, but I support Heba and her work. Some of my closest friends have become her clients. She has repeatedly offered to conduct a session with me, but I don’t think I believe in the therapy enough to go under. And if I do, I’m afraid of what I would discover. This life has been challenging enough at times, I don’t know that I could bear the memories of another one.

I also drew a second card that night: “Boundaries.” Heba and I glanced at each other. The card displayed a symbol of a red jaguar, its fangs out. As my friend read the card aloud, I was amazed by how elegantly it spoke to my struggle to be independent from my family while accepting them. The jaguar “has a healthy sense of boundaries and respects magic and the unknown,” it said. I may not be ready to confront my past lives, but at least I’m more open to having fuller experiences in this one.