Jennifer Mathews, M.A., is a spiritual cheerleader, facilitator and writer who lives in Mt. Shasta, CA and travels around quite a bit.
Based on her own exploration of death, grief, joy and optimism, Jen offers life-affirming perspectives and practical tools to support others on their journeys. She seeks to bridge the seen and unseen worlds and to give voice to that which often goes unspoken.
Since 2014, Jen has been organizing community screenings of the award-winning film "Death Makes Life Possible" and has facilitated conversations on death, dying and the afterlife with over 1,000 people in the US, the UK and Ireland. She is a founding member of the Living/Dying Alliance of Southern Oregon and actively involved with the Ashland Death Cafe.
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 a number of 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.
For many of us, the closest we’ve come to experiencing eternity is being on hold, waiting to talk to someone at AT&T. But one afternoon at Lake Siskiyou in Mount Shasta CA, I glimpsed eternity in a much more satisfying way.
The sky was a smooth, consistent shade of grey. I couldn’t see the sun’s circle of light through the grey, nor could I see individual clouds. The air was still. And like water running over my hands at just the right temperature, I could barely sense the air on my skin.
Time somehow evaporated, and I didn’t know when it would become tangible again.
Of course, the sky had been grey before. The air temperature had matched my skin before too. This wasn’t the first time I imagined what it would be like if the sun didn’t rise and set, if we didn’t gauge our lives by hours and days.
It wasn’t the first time I wondered how my life would change if humans didn’t need sleep and we were awake all the time.
The difference this time was the focus of my awareness. In that moment – regardless of how long the moment lasted – I allowed myself to experience a moment out of time.
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.
Photo credit: istockphoto.com/karelin
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.
If you want your life to stay exactly the same, don’t fall in love. If you want to be unaffected by the loss of anything or the death of anyone, don’t fall in love.
Or if you want to put off what makes you come alive or to sidestep your purpose, don’t fall in love.
Making sure you don’t fall passionately in love is simple: Guard your heart against all that Death stirs up inside of you.
Act as if you will live forever in this physical body, and so will everyone you know. Get on with business as usual when someone you love is dying. Don’t let the temporary nature of anything impact your daily routine, the decisions you make, or your future plans.
But if you are willing to live differently – to have certainty without having answers, to follow unexpected twists and turns, to be deeply moved and satisfied, to grow and give and receive and surrender – then here’s what I suggest for you:
Call upon death to be like Cupid, shooting an arrow of passion into the heart of what matters to you. Invite death to be the matchmaker between you and what brings you joy.
Then accept the real Kiss of Death: Allow death to escort you on the mysterious adventure of falling in love with life.
Soon after my life-partner’s death, I had an experience of new awareness that transformed my life. In this audio teleseminar, I share what I learned and the daily practices that support my inner peace and wellbeing.
This recording is the final seminar of the series “Taking Care of the Caregiver,” hosted by Batiyah at Reflect, Relate, Renew. The purpose is to support you in connecting to more inner peace and joy within yourself, despite challenging external circumstances and loss.
From the recording:
“I’m often asking myself on a daily basis: Where is my energy focused? Is it on loss or connection? Is it on absence or presence? It truly is for me about the awareness first, and then the choice next. And breaking that cycle of absence.”
“Loss only exists hand in hand with disconnection or absence . . . We know the loss is real, the loss itself isn’t changing. But the experience of the loss is what we can shift.”
“How can we live in the physical world, with physical challenges and physical losses, AND still experience presence, connection and alignment to the bigger part of ourselves? And to the peace and love and joy that exists when we tap into this essence of life?”
As you listen, I invite you to discover how these perspectives and simple tools can benefit your personal journey.
I would love to hear from you! Please share your insights and input. Thanks!