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.
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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.
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.
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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.
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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.
Do you believe those in the spirit world can communicate with us? Do you believe they can interact with the physical world? And most importantly, do you believe a being without a body can change a light bulb?
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Up high above the staircase to our bedroom, there was a light bulb in a parchment paper globe hanging from the ceiling. To change it required a ladder precariously placed on boards, or one of those special extended light bulb poles you can buy at Home Depot. So when the bulb finally went out, we didn’t bother to replace it.
This meant that my partner Kate and I walked upstairs in the dark every night, step by step, touching the wall for balance. I tended to push my toes into the base of each stair to feel stable. Sometimes, I closed my eyes because sensing each step felt easier that way. Once my toes no longer felt another step, I knew I arrived at the top. Then I’d reach my left hand into the bedroom, and turn on the light by pressing in the round dimmer switch knob before walking into the room. This became our routine.
Then after a number of months had gone by, my walk up the dark staircase became a solo journey.
I admit, I’m biased. I already believe there’s life after death. Several first-hand experiences have opened my eyes to the existence of an unseen world. But even more than that, I believe in an afterlife because of a deep inner knowing I can barely explain in words. The question for me becomes “Is that enough?”
I ask this because I am a seeker. I love research and stories and learning. I love asking questions even more than finding answers. I am an enthusiastic Student Of Life. Which makes me equally a Student Of Death.
This interconnectedness brings me to share Death Makes Life Possible, a new film produced by Marilyn Schlitz, Ph.D. and Deepak Chopra, M.D. (with the Institute of Noetic Sciences and the Deepak Chopra Foundation) that explores whether consciousness survives physical death. This documentary overlaps with much of what I’ve been thinking and writing about since 2012.
It felt only natural to support this project, and so I’ve been helping create the film’s discussion guides and educational materials since last winter. I’ve been thrilled to be involved!