How do I know I am more than my body? How do I know I am energy in physical form? I sensed these truths since I was a young girl. And then one day, I knew them in every fiber of my being. Literally.
I recently reread an essay I wrote over eight years ago, published as “A Girl Who Believed” in the book Held in Love: Life Stories to Inspire Us Through Times of Change, (2009, Molly Brown and Carolyn Treadway). I want to share it with you because it is the physical foundation for how I see death. And it is the spiritual foundation for how I see life.
Mystical experiences – both our own and that of others – can play a significant role in how we navigate death and dying. They allow us to take a quantum leap toward the spirit of who we really are. Though I had adventures with the non-physical world when I was much younger, this specific one was the most transformative because I experienced myself as pure energy for the first time.
The gift of certainty
The perspective I share in this story about my mom’s death is still true for me today.
In fact, the outlook I had during and after that time influenced how I looked at life, death and life-after-death when my partner Kate received an unexpected diagnosis of advanced cancer in 2011. She died twelve weeks later (which, as I mention in my story, was the exact prognosis my mom had been given).
There were many parallels in their journeys and many parallels in the spiritual beliefs that allowed me to embrace the deaths of these two women I loved dearly. I still believed wholeheartedly that the spirit survives physical death. I still believed I have direct access to the unseen world. I still believed that . . .
Wait a minute.
I actually don’t believe these things anymore.
I am no longer “the girl who believed.”
I am now a woman who knows.
I know these things to be true.
For years I have been hesitant to declare my inner knowing. I have been unsteady about my first-hand experiences, unable to prove them or logically explain them. I have been uncertain about whether they are enough to support me, let alone others.
But today I know they are more than enough. Today I know all that matters is the embodiment of my true nature, of life-force energy running through me and beyond me. Indeed, this is the miracle of both life and death.
While my writing style has changed over the years, the message is the same today. I share my most vulnerable story with you – from the book Held in Love – in hopes that it offers a glimmer of hope and a glimpse of truth.
The Girl Who Believed
After a silent walk down the longest hallway of my life, the surgeon brought us into a small room with no windows. He sat us down. His slow, robotic voice echoed off the sterile walls:
We can’t operate. It’s everywhere. Cancer. Stage IV. Everywhere.
I had just driven into town from Vermont, intending to stay a week or so to help my mom recover from an unexpected medical procedure. At age sixty-one and recently retired, she lived an active life: tennis twice a week, photography, travel.
In shock, I asked the unavoidable question. “Twelve weeks,” replied the surgeon, “is average.”
The following day, I left Buffalo General Hospital to keep an appointment I had made prior to my mom’s diagnosis. As I walked into the room, I started crying and laughing – Anugana’s Shamanic Dream was playing, the same music I had listened to every night for almost a year to help me fall asleep. The session began with a much needed massage. My body craved relaxation after the long drive home and the emotions of the past twenty-four hours. As I lay on my stomach, Trish working my back, my hands began tingling as if they were falling asleep.
As I wiggled my fingers and focused on my breath, a clear internal voice began repeating to me, “You are ready. You are ready. This is what you’ve been waiting for since you were 13 years old. This is it.”
I found myself responding immediately, “Yes, I’m ready. I am ready.” I felt incredibly open and willing to surrender to whatever came next. Now lying on my back, I was holding back tears. It seemed too exhausting to cry any more. “Let it go,” Trish encouraged. “You’re in a safe space.” And so I did. I cried hard, my chest shaking with sobs and my ears filling with tears. Trish shifted the massage into a Reiki energy session, standing at my side, and then at my feet.
As the session progressed, as I released and breathed heavily into my body, my palms began to buzz even more. Gentle currents of energy began racing up from my toes and simultaneously down my torso. My arms, feet, and upper thighs felt weighted as if they were being held down; I literally couldn’t move them. My breathing became rapid and euphoric as if I was making love. The sensations in my hands intensified, like holding two electrically charged metal balls.
Later I would come to learn the language of chakras and meridians, but at the time I felt like I was in a science fiction film. As the intensity of the vibrations grew even stronger, I repeated, “thank you, thank you, thank you” in recognition of the gift I was experiencing.
Yes, this was what I had been waiting for – the undeniable certainty that an unseen world exists and that I can access it directly.
I reconnected with the 13 year-old girl in me who prayed desperately to witness miracles and make objects move across tables using only her mind. The girl who believed in reincarnation despite modern Catholic teachings; the girl who knew the spirit world is as real as the physical. I had learned from physics that energy can be neither created nor destroyed, and now I was being shown that my own essence was energy. This confirmed what I had been taught in religion classes all along, that we are eternal beings who live on after death.
After the session was over, Trish left the room and I experimented with the energy for a few minutes. Lying on my back, I slowly extended my arms over my head, up and down my sides. I noticed that moving my hands farther away from my body created less sensation; as I brought them closer, the fire swirled in my palms again. When I finally got off the massage table, I stood up slowly. My ears popped hard, reminding me of a friend’s description of his return to the earthly world after a shamanic journey.
I went back to my mom’s house where I had spent my teenage years before moving to Vermont for college. I sat alone in the sunshine of the backyard, my senses heightened. The colors of the petunias and the grass were brighter, the birds’ songs were louder. Everything was crisp and still. It felt surreal. I was so grateful for this deep sense of calm, needed now more than ever as I stepped into the challenges of being my mother’s primary caregiver for the next sixteen weeks.
Going back to the hospital the following morning, I remember feeling genuine acceptance of my mom’s diagnosis. I think many people, including my family, assumed I was in denial. Wasn’t I supposed to be depressed or fearful? Wasn’t I supposed to be furious with God?
But instead I felt more connected than ever. I even felt hopeful. Not hopeful that my mom’s body would survive advanced stages of cancer, but that she – her spirit, her true Being – would.
I feel blessed to have been given the gift of knowing myself in my true form – pure positive energy. Before this time, my spiritual highs were ethereal, never so embodied. No one ever mentioned things like Reiki or Kundalini energy at St. Mary’s Catholic School. But at age thirty-one, I fully allowed myself to have a physical spiritual experience.
That is what this awakening was about for me: the embodiment of the universal life force, of Love. I was ready to reconnect with that part of me that believed anything is possible, and in doing so, I realized the potential is within me, that I can co-create the miraculous.
(“A Girl Who Believed,” 2008, by Jennifer Mathews)
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