I don’t usually tell people this, but I had what is known as a “shared death experience” when my life-partner Kate died. I know it’s hard to believe, but that night, spirits made themselves known to me.
I felt euphoric. The bliss lasted for months. I can still tap into it now.
And this may sound crazy, but I communicate with Kate and my mom and friends who have died and other non-physical beings. Regularly.
Yes, they communicate back.
All of these words are true for me. And they are all variations of some of the most common sentiments I’ve heard again and again – both spoken and implied – in discussions I facilitated this past year and in one-on-one conversations.
I don’t usually tell people this, but . . .
I know it’s hard to believe, but . . .
This may sound crazy, but . . .
That we give disclaimers or hesitate to share real experiences because of what others may think is a fascinating human idiosyncrasy. But what’s even more fascinating to me is what often happens next.
Beginning to See the Invisible Web
After we express our vulnerability or insecurity with phrases like “you might think I’m crazy, but,” what often happens next is this: We tell our stories anyway.
And other people actually listen.
And then . . . they tell their stories.
Story by story, these invisible threads of seemingly isolated experiences become a visible web, encouraging us all to open our eyes to a previously unseen world.
In 2015, I organized seven screenings of the documentary Death Makes Life Possible on both the west and east coasts of the US. Offering scientific, cultural and spiritual perspectives, the film explores the mystery of whether consciousness survives physical death. More than 500 people engaged in the post-film discussions I lead over the course of the year. Words like “I’ve never shared this before” or “this may sound crazy, but” were among my favorite moments in these conversations.
Tentatively, boldly, and matter-of-factly, people shared their stories about a communication with someone who died, about a near-death experience, about a dream or vision or too-good-to-be-true synchronicity.
I remember the first person to speak at an event with over 100 people present. I could see how compelled she was to share. Fumbling to find words, she told us all that she had experiences with the spirits of people who died for years, but was afraid to tell anyone. “This feels so validating,” she said, with tears in her eyes.
Then I asked everyone in the room a question: “How many of you have had communication with or a visitation from someone who died?”
More than half of the people raised their hands.
I looked over at the woman who had spoken. I wanted to make sure she fully received the message that she was not alone. Her gaze met mine and I felt myself silently saying “See? You’re not crazy. These are common experiences.”
I could see the relief on her face. She smiled a knowing smile.
I asked this same question at almost every post-film discussion, after at least one person spoke about a mystical experience with someone who had died. The response was consistent, with over fifty percent of hands going up each time. People typically looked around the room and nodded their heads slowly.
Some people’s eyes got wide with surprise (whether they raised their hands or not).
First-hand Experiences Change Everything
I consider myself lucky because I do have first-hand experiences of the spirit world.
And yet I too feel afflicted at times by my deep-rooted human logic and my conditioning to believe that if I don’t experience something with one of my five senses, it’s not real.
I find it’s a practice of trusting myself. I know my experiences are real, even if they aren’t typically affirmed in the 3D world. And yet the healthy skeptic in me can tend toward doubt. This is when I need to approach both my own and others’ stories with curiosity and wonder, rather than cynicism and suspicion.
Sometimes I’m reluctant to offer my stories of communication with my life-partner Kate who died, or clear guidance from the spirit world, or outrageous synchronicities . . . because I’m afraid of what people will think of me. Or worse yet, that people won’t believe me and I’ll lose whatever credibility I might have in their eyes.
Perhaps this desire to be “credible” and “believable” is what gives rise to the “this may sound crazy” disclaimer? We know it really happened AND we know it can’t be logically explained and may be a stretch for those who haven’t had a similar life experience.
At least if we are aware something may sound crazy, and proclaim how incredulous we ourselves are that it happened, we confirm our own sanity, right? (Yes, we humans are funny creatures).
In the film Death Makes Life Possible, executive producer Marilyn Schlitz talks about her out-of-body experience when she was in a motorcycle accident as a teenager. She then says, “If that hadn’t happened to me personally, I might not believe something like this is possible.” Many people expressed a similar sentiment in the post-film discussions, that direct first-hand experience IS what shifted their understanding of what’s possible.
Even though it can be scary to expose our mystical world without knowing what people’s reactions may be, it is essential to ask others to be open to the mystery with us.
At the last film screening I did in 2015, a participant expressed what I feel is the greater collective purpose of sharing our stories, despite potential nervousness in doing so:
“Not only was I brought up as a skeptic,” he began, “but I was trained as a special skeptic. I studied science and then became a lawyer. But now I teach people to see past lives and talk to the dead.”
“What brought me around,” he said, “was honoring my experiences as people I trusted would share what happened to them . . . Just listening to people that I trusted tell me their experiences opened up the possibilities of listening to my own experience.”
This is how we begin to shift our awareness. By being willing to listen and share. Just like a beautiful spider web that is out of sight until someone draws attention to it, we can help each other experience the mystical world by pointing it out.
Adding Your Own Shiny Thread
When I was talking to a woman recently about bringing the Death Makes Life Possible film to her community, she said, “It doesn’t mention near-death experiences, does it?”
I immediately felt tense because I couldn’t tell by her tone of voice if my answer would make it less or more likely for her to say yes to a public screening.
“Yes, it actually does,” I said a bit shyly.
And she proceeded to tell me in a hushed voice that she was dead once for two minutes and had a near-death experience. Very quickly she implied that people will think she’s crazy if she talks about it. “That’s exactly why I like showing the film,” I told her. “Because it talks about these things, and then people like you can feel more comfortable sharing your stories.”
This is why I have so appreciated having and facilitating conversations! People are eager to contribute to our collective understanding of life and what’s beyond. And we all need each other in this sense because we all bring a different piece to the puzzle of life.
In this way, a mystical experience is similar to creativity. It is personal and dear to who we are. We may have a tendency to hold it close to our hearts – like a new poem we write or sketch we draw – and yet there is a desire to express it freely. To add our unique understanding can feel vulnerable AND liberating.
Just like we may want our creative expressions to be well-received, heard, understood, or welcomed, we want our glimpses of the unseen world to be as well. If you have ever been new to painting or writing or playing a musical instrument, you know the value of finding people you trust who are non-judgmental and open-minded.
What I have learned is it all starts within me. That I need to be non-judgmental and open-minded . . . with myself. And then I am ready to bring who I am and all I experience into the world, as an honest and at times bewildering offering.
This may sound crazy, but . . .
Look for supportive environments. Find supportive people.
Create these safe environments. Be one of these safe people.
Share your experiences! Listen to others’ stories!
Because every time you do, you bring awareness to the mysterious glimmering web that is well worth noticing.
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