How a Mystical Experience Gave Me Certainty

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.

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.

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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Jennifer Mathews, M.A., is a writer, spiritual cheerleader, and change maker. She currently calls both Bristol, Vermont and Mount Shasta, California home (when she's not traveling elsewhere, that is).

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. In her personal and unconventional TEDx Talk, “Death is Inevitable – Grief is Not,” she invites us to break free from the limitations and language of a grieving process and change the way we think about and respond to the death of those we love.

Jen is a founding member and organizer of the Ashland Death Cafe and the Living/Dying Alliance of Southern Oregon. As part of the Community Outreach team of the award-winning film Death Makes Life Possible, she has facilitated conversations on death, dying, and the afterlife in the US, the UK and Ireland.

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16 thoughts on “How a Mystical Experience Gave Me Certainty

  1. Hi Jennifer. Wow. I often think about these things you write about every day. I lost my mother when I was 5 years old.. my father when I was 28 and my brother when I was 40 (he was 33, a motorcycle accident).. death took them all so early. Losing my mother at age 5 has been an ongoing, painful experience for me throughout every day of my life. I am now 51. I have never had the opportunity to connect with her through spirit, although I have tried. Perhaps it is because she took her own life. It caused for a very difficult child hood that has remained with me. However, it has been my strong connection to spirit, and and tuning into a higher energy higher that has kept me going.. but often, I feel the deep pain and loss of it, and at times intensely. I have battled with a life long condition of Ulcerative Colitis/Chron’s, which a Reiki master told me once it is my mothers death that probably brought this health issue on at such a young age for me. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.
    I am sorry you lost your mom and your partner.
    Sending love and light,
    Jennifer Matthews

    • Hello Jennifer,
      Oh my, I somehow missed your comment post all of those months ago! My apologies. Thank you SO much for your deep personal sharing. You certainly have had your share of deaths and challenges at such a very young age. Despite the struggles, it is beautiful to hear that your connection to spirit has been so paramount to you. Though I can’t imagine what you’ve been through, I CAN relate to that part, for sure. I will follow up with a personal email soon since you ask about Chron’s and the energetic aspects of that for you. Be well, name twin.

  2. Thankyou Kate. My experience of my Mums death was unexpectedly peaceful, and l had the glmmering of what you describe. You have helped me explain it.

    • Thank you, Brenda. I’m so touched that my story can illuminate yours! I’m curious how you found my site and posts? Warmly, Jen

  3. What a wonderful description of being truly EMBODIED in grace and wisdom, Jen. Many, many blessings to your beautiful Momma wherever she is now, dancing with the angels!

  4. I a.m. sooo with you sister. My acceptance and understanding have grown through knowing you through your words. Thank you

  5. Beautiful and powerful. My mom is going through her transition right now and this was something I needed to hear and remember. Thank you Jennifer. Very good yay!

    • Hi Tonianne! Thank you for sharing that. My heart is with you and your mom as you both go through this transformative time. Hugs to you xoxox

  6. Thank you for reporting this Jen. I had not read it before. Really moving and wonderful. In my journey through the Shambhala Buddhist lineage, we are learning and experiencing many of the same things you describe. In fact, the Vajrayana teachings are all about subtle body energy, appearance-emptiness, luminosity, other dimensions of space, time and life, and of course — life and death. We also have practices that involve protectors … beings who ward of negative or dark energy. I worry about people “trying this at home” alone, not under the guidance of a trained teacher because of the “trouble” you can accidentally get in. On the Vajrayana path for instance, and Tibetan Buddhism in general, to receive the transmissions and teachings that are most profound — to REALLY receive them — they need to come to you orally from someone who received them in the same fashion … in an unbroken lineage of teacher to student. You can’t just read about it in a book at “get it”. I am curious about your perspective on this and what you have experienced along you path. Looking forward to seeing you when you are next in VT where we can get into these big life subjects in person!

    • Hi Ellen! Thanks for your comments and for sharing your own experience with the Shambhala Buddhist tradition. Much appreciated! The experience I describe here happened in 2003, before I had any “training” about energies, chakras, etc. You bring up excellent points! I had to laugh at the “try this at home” comment since I didn’t intentionally try to have the experience AND because my spiritual teacher also jokes about “don’t try this at home.” Ha!

      Soon after my 2003 experience, I studied with A Reiki Master to learn Reiki energy techniques which at least offered tools and practices from a lineage that included “protection” from darker energies. I agree it’s important to have the ability to deal with negative energies (though not focus on them) and I’ve learned more and more about this over time (yes, from master teachers!) while also holding a high vibration and asking for the assistance of my team of “invisible friends,” healing masters, and light beings.

      Since 2006, I have been studying with Michael Tamura as a spiritual teacher and I agree, it is INCREDIBLY helpful to work with an experienced guide and master teacher as you get more and more into the unseen realm and inner adventure of all things mystical. For me, the purpose isn’t to “have” mystical experiences. The purpose has been for my own evolution and that of the collective – to be able to clear my own energy, see more clearly on an energetic level, and bring more light into the world. I highly recommend that people use their discernment and find respected teachers so they can truly “get it,” as you say. After 10 years of studying with Michael, I feel so grateful for all I have learned, which is just the very tippy top of my little pinky finger!

      Yes, looking forward to in person conversations soon!
      – Jen

      • Glad to hear your response Jen! Glad you are working with a master teacher and finding it helpful and meaningful. That is just super. And I could not agree more that the point is not to “have” mystical experiences … that is what one of my teachers would call spiritual materialism. As you so rightly say, it’s about learning how to tune into our natural state of being — our natural luminosity and wisdom — so that we can bring more light into the world, and help others to recognize their basic goodness. For me, it’s ultimately about bringing about a good human society — one based on compassion, care, gentleness, and wisdom — where each of us can fully experience our innate, primordial goodness.

        • Exactly!! I do believe a society of compassion, care, gentleness and wisdom is guided by these spiritual ideas of connecting to our true nature and beingness. Decision-making and choices come out of this wellspring. And so it is that deepening to our natural luminosity, as you say, it is the ultimate activism for collective transformation! To be continued over a cup of tea amongst the colorful leaves . . . ?? xo