Don’t Assume Reincarnation

Dan Cayer
3 min readMar 2, 2021

A brief case for patience

The busier I get, the less patience I have for the learning curve of others. On one of these packed afternoons, I felt so annoyed because my older daughter couldn’t figure out how to work the speed dial after I already showed her one time!

[Sigh] How often I structure my days to depend on every single thing working out, the first time.

But meditation and the Alexander Technique and parenting teaches that life builds towards something better when we stop being so results-oriented. We give up the fantasy (this is called samsara in Buddhism) that life is just a few tweaked circumstances away from perfection — a better job, an unexpected windfall, or my children quietly flipping through the encyclopedia.

In some Buddhist cultures, there is a tradition of reincarnated lamas, or great teachers, who are reborn after they die, again and again bringing their special qualities back into the world (like the Dalai Lama). (Interestingly, even though the nature of these lamas may be unique, the nurture is pretty darn strong too. These lamas train intensively for decades, starting from the earliest age.)

I don’t know where I come down on reincarnation, but I can say that it serves me well as a parent to not assume my children are reincarnated beings who should have learned how to use speed dial, hold a spoonful of soup in a level manner, or stay on task for an entire homework session. This life is new to them. We all have so many things to learn in this life. If we were ants, we’d have figured out the gist of living from about day 3. But we are humans and that means we have endless learning to do.

Like learning what patience is, and how it’s more than just not expressing how pissed we are. Patience is one of the six Buddhist paramitas or “perfections” that any aspiring bodhisattva must train in. Contrary to popular thought, patience is not simply something you’re born with or not. Just like aspiring runners who begin the ‘couch to marathon’ training regimen, you definitely have to try.

In situations that require patience — have you watched a three-year-old get dressed recently? — I notice the enormous difference between offering someone else a kind or loving wish compared to, say, just waiting until…

Dan Cayer

Meditation + Alexander Technique teacher. Author of “Don’t Get Better,” forthcoming guide to sanity, humor, and wisdom during illness.