At 3 in the morning today, I woke up with a start in my dark room.
That is, when the old-fashion wooden clock on the drawer showed exactly 3, I was awake.
My brows locked together as I realized the ominous hour mirrored the time in which a character in The Monk had been murdered. That realization seriously jumbled up my psyche. Groggy and exhausted, my mind was at its most vulnerable state: I was highly susceptible to suspicion and superstition. The only comforting thing was that I didn’t wake up from a nightmare; I merely had to use the bathroom.
After trying to find solace through petting my two adorable rabbits, fear continued to surround me like thick fog. I felt myself panicking as I sat on the side of my bed, unable to calm my mind or ease into a more relaxed pose. To make things worse, I started hearing weird sounds and feeling unknown presences. My mind persisted in exploding with random but upsetting thoughts. “Unpleasant” would be underselling the experience — it was more like “chilling” and “terrifying.”
Just as I was about to give up on sleep, I saw my prayer beads on the top of my drawer.
Well, it looked something like the above photo, except, imagine the pendant as a medium-sized rectangular piece of white jade with turquoise beads in place of white. Okay, maybe I only got the black jade part of the beads right in this photo.
Immediately, I clung to the prayer beads as though I had just been rescued. Without a second thought, I started counting the beads. 1, 2, 3, 4……110, 111, 112. Minus the extra separation beads, it would be 108, the exact number a mala should have.
I am not a religious person. If anything, I harboured a sort of resentment towards religion and could not truly understand how anyone can be religious. While I do respect other people’s beliefs, I would never understand them. I won’t go into the details, but basically, I believe in a personal and compassionate God not revered in any known religion — one that would not discriminate against LGBTQ and loves all. Why do I have prayer beads lying around my room then? To put it simply, I like them. It was a gift from my mother for my birthday, and I picked the pendant myself.
Ever since I was a child, my mother had always shown me how beautiful and calming jade is. The main reason I love jade, without being a Buddhist, is that the gem supposedly has the quality to protect its wearer. Bizarre? Why do I believe in the power of a gem when I don’t even believe in a divine being celebrated by many? Well, I don’t know. I was just groomed differently.
When I finished counting the prayer beads, I felt a sudden calmness and serenity that was strong yet delicate; it wrapped around me like a silk armor and warded off my superstitions. I held onto the white jade pendant and climbed backed into bed. I realized, at that moment, religion is something people lean on when they are lost, whether or not they believe in the same God or gods. Fear is a powerful emotion that connects all religion, makes us believe, makes us have faith. This morning I believed that my piece of white jade would protect me from all the lurking shadows. I just had to believe.
As I held the white jade closely to me, I stopped worrying, and finally fell soundly back to sleep.