Hope is the only thing that matters because it points to the inevitable.—Pam Grout
Today, I watch my prayer flags blowing in the wind and remember a time in my life when I was ridiculously optimistic. I was eighteen and close to graduating from high school. I hadn’t received any scholarships yet, but I visualized money flying into my mailbox on a magic carpet ride. Thousands of dollars did indeed arrive, and I knew those checks sealed my fate. I would be leaving East Texas and never returning. I took pictures of my ramshackle of a home to remember it. I captured the sinking floors, the sinking roof, and the black mildew covering the walls. I captured the peeling wallpaper, the wood panel, and the mouse droppings. I grew up poor, ridiculously poor, like Walmart was too good for us kind of poor. Poor like I rolled up white bread and ate it slowly when the hunger pains hit. Poor like I wished my parents weren’t proud and would’ve applied for welfare so I could eat free school lunches. I envied the kids eating warm breakfasts in the cafeteria.
I wore clothes from garage sales and was picked on unmercifully in late elementary school and early junior high. Girls called me ugly, disgusting, and worthless. When I look back at the pictures, I was adorable, a little malnourished and underdeveloped but worthy of love. All kids are worthy of love. My innocent heart and compassionate nature was lovely. I liked all people in an open-hearted way. I didn’t understand why my love wasn’t often returned, but I realized that was probably more about them than about me. I didn’t understand why my parents hated each other and didn’t get divorced. I didn’t understand why I had to observe mom hurling abuse in dad’s direction and dad ducking out the door and coming back late at night. He never came around much during the evenings other than to shower and head out again, only saying, “Keep up the good work in school, kiddo.” At least he said something nice. Sometimes, that phrase would be the only kind thing I heard all day.
Most nights, dad stayed away from the house until 10 or 11 p.m. On weekends, he went on fishing trips. When he wasn’t around, mom generally yelled at me for minor reasons, threatened suicide around 5 p.m., and went to bed around 6 p.m. At first, I tried to find help for her by asking a few friends parents about therapists or ministers, but she refused all help. She wasn’t always unstable, but many times I felt scared for her. I was unable to help her in those moments because I needed parenting myself and a peaceful place to live. I didn’t have siblings and there weren’t any kids in my neighborhood to hang out with. I was alone except for the phone and the moon and the stars.
However, my life situation didn’t matter much to me on most nights. I had a connection to nature, books from the library, and so much freaking optimism. I had the optimism of a rocket not afraid to leave the earth’s atmosphere. I wrote poems late into the night. My future felt like a wild ride, and I was a racecar driver. I left East Texas a week after graduation with unlimited optimism. Whatever life had given me didn’t matter. I was a live wire, a magician, and a song writer. My life was my song.
I wish I could bottle the enthusiasm of that eighteen-year-old girl. I wish I could make it into a magic, everlasting elixir and give it to everyone. It didn’t matter that life would crush me in a hundred different ways after that moment. It only matters that I dared to dream. I dared to try. I shot for the stars and made it to a few mountaintops around the world. Hope doesn’t have to be reserved for the young. Hope is a gift we give ourselves because we love ourselves despite our life situations or challenges. Hope is a gift we give ourselves in order to rise above and beyond what is going on around us. Hope means loving yourself enough to get excited about what comes next.
Eventually, my mother left my father and created a better life for herself by looking to new horizons and taking chances. My father died eight years ago, but he died better and more optimistically than anyone that I have ever witnessed or read about. He didn’t try to hang on desperately to his dying body. His soul grew large, and he met death with curiosity, ready for his next adventure and solidly certain that his soul would go on. To this day, I still get communications from him.
Today, I am excited about what comes next, not exactly in the same way that I was excited at eighteen but excited. This excitement comes from not bothering to turn my head back into the past. My head is on straight, and my sight is set on the next horizon. Each setting sun is a prayer flag waving back at me, a blessing giver throwing confetti. I am my own beacon of light, and I’m not lost at sea. My ship has docked in a fabulous port. I know there’s spicy food at a restaurant nearby, and I like my food very spicy. I can afford desert as well. I’m in my own commercial, and I’m sold on the life that life is giving me. Everything is turning out beautifully. Better than I could’ve imagined. I wish this for everyone. Hope and so much freaking optimism.
In this wonderful video, “How to Stop Absorbing Other People’s Energy,” Ralph Smart details five ways to deal with negative energy from others. I’ve listed those ways below.
As a former public school teacher and college professor, I inherently know how to deal with negative students and parents and redirect negative people very quickly in different directions, sometimes even transforming their anger or negativity into a talk about what is really going on in their lives to make them lash out at me or others. Other times, they are sent in a different direction all together so that I can focus on others who are willing to learn and grow. Ralph Smart’s responses make sense to me, and I incorporate most of these techniques automatically in the classroom.
Each situation with a negative person requires a slightly different response and a different set of skills, but the main point is that negativity doesn’t get to win. I won’t let one student’s negativity detract from my mission from the light. I wasn’t sent back to earth after my NDE to let negativity interfere with the light and my mission. I am meant to shine light into my own life and the lives of others. My guides don’t let negativity win, and I don’t let it win either. At a basic level, I must help my students become better communicators, thinkers, and writers. On another level, I have an intent to help others feel better about themselves and achieve their personal goals.
I don’t talk about the negative students in the lounges and with other professors unless I want input on how to more effectively deal with a troubled student and think someone I know can offer sound advice. I don’t complain about students and spend my energy in that way. I talk about the students who inspire me with their drive, ambition, and ability to persist despite adversities.
The Five Ways Ralph Smart Recommends for How to Stop Absorbing Other People’s Negativity:
- You can’t please everyone. Everyone is here for a different reason. There is nothing wrong with being nice, but it’s more important to be yourself. When you trust yourself, you are loving yourself and accepting of yourself 100%. If others don’t like it, they can hit the road. (As a teacher, realize that every student will not appreciate your style of teaching, your content, or your ideas. Realize that you are there to reach who you can on a deeper level and to help every one of your students succeed whether they like you or not. Things generally run smoothly if you take this approach. And remember the ten second rule. Students make judgements about you in the first ten seconds they see you. Smile, hold your head high, look in control, and ask certain students informal questions before class starts to show that you care about them.)
- Choose whether you want to be invited where this person will take you. No one can enter your world without an invitation. We are consciously and unconsciously inviting others into our temple which is ourselves. (Pay more attention to the students who are doing things right–learning, growing, and participating. Those who are working as a distraction need to be dealt with in various ways. Extroverted students can be fun, and if you make room for discussion in your classroom, give them specific ways to talk about the content. Engage with them during discussions. Negative distractions should not be invited into your consciousness for long.)
- Do not pay attention. Some people can be classified as energy vampires. A parasite can only live on the host’s body. Whatever you focus on grows. Energy vampires work by making you think of them. Just the thought of them alone is tiring. Pay attention to where you pay attention. Are you focusing on what you want or on what you fear? An “emotional drive by” is when someone dumps their negative energy on you and then drives off. Don’t become a trashcan for someone else’s garbage. (Know what your purpose and intent is in the classroom. Don’t let your focus waver from the goal of helping and inspiring others. For example, one of my intentions is to give my students new ways to think and to give them the light and peace that comes from loving oneself and believing in oneself.)
- Breathing increasing the blood flow. Just going into nature can purify your senses. Meditate, dance, sing, and heal. Become like the butterfly. It is light and moves around quickly, not absorbing others energy. Keep your head up and pay attention to your body language. Becoming lighter is the only way to fly. Keep it moving. (Consider teaching mindfulness in your classes or let your students research ways to decrease stress and increase joy in their lives. You can also invite someone into your classroom to teach mindfulness if this is not your area of interest. On nice days, I sometimes conduct class by the river or outside somewhere. I always recommend nature to heal our bodies, minds, and souls.)
- Take responsibility for your internal condition. Ask yourself, “How do I feel?” To stop absorbing other’s energy, you must realize that you should take care of how you feel at any given moment in the day. What you fight, you give energy to. Everything is based around perception. The perception we have of ourselves is greater than the perception others have of us. That is the secret. Once you change your perception, you change your reality. No one has power unless you give them power. Fly past other people and let go of fear. (Know that with the intent to help others in the classroom, you will generally feel GREAT. All of your problems will evaporate the minute you step in the classroom ready to be a force of goodness and work for the benefit of others.)
As a teacher, you have control over the flow of energy in your classroom. If you make it known that you are there to work for the benefit of all your students, you usually gain their respect, even if this takes a while. Everyone has a different teaching style. You don’t have to make yourself into someone you are not. I’m not an authoritarian, but I deal with problems quickly.
I hope every new public school teacher and college professor has a team of administrators who support them. Years ago, when I did my student teaching, I taught an eleventh grader who abused drugs and sometimes walked on desks at random. I immediately moved his desk outside and asked him to step outside. Long term, I preferred that he get the help he needed somewhere other than my classroom. When I talked with the principal and suggested an alternative school, he looked at me with a smirk and said, “There isn’t room in the alternative school, in ISS, or detention. You’re going to have to deal with him yourself.”
This might’ve been an initiation of sorts, but I didn’t appreciate his lack of support. I dealt with the student in two different ways. By a stroke of luck, I ended up on a city bus with the student, and he looked smaller and more afraid amidst a crowd of adults. A friend of his was making fun of how little he knew about history, so I first taught them both a few memorization skills. Secondly, I confronted his actions and said, “I know you are planning on dropping out of high school. You don’t take school seriously and have a zero in my class. When are you dropping out?”
He looked startled and told he was wasn’t sure when. I told him that before he dropped out, I wanted him to take this test using the memorization skills and see if he could pass. I asked him to write one serious essay in my class and receive my comments. Amazingly, he agreed. He passed the history test and wrote a surprisingly creative essay for my class. I praised his writing and told him that the GED was always an option if he dropped out. We talked about alternative careers as well that didn’t require a degree, but I let him know he had the ability to do well in school.
He never walked on desks or interrupted my class again once I focused my attention on what he was doing right and could do right. Eventually, on the days he planned on being a disruption, he moved his own desk outside of my classroom so I could teach the other students. This student was kicked out of school after a fight, but I think about that essay he wrote, and I remember the positive moments of our interaction way more the negative.
Sometimes, dealing with a negative person means finding something they are doing right and focusing on that and making that grow in their lives. Sometimes, dealing with a negative person means not dealing with that person at all. In good school districts, I had administrators who handled negative, disruptive students in loving but firm ways. They gave consequences for bad behavior and reeducated these students.
In society and in schools, rules and those who enforce rules are very important. Schools run better with great administration who care about students, and societies run better with understanding but firm police officers and enforced laws. With this kind of help from administration, teachers can focus on all the many amazing, positive students in their classrooms, and people in the world can live their lives in peace.
Higher Beings/Angels: Annie Kagan’s translations of Billy’s experience in the afterlife makes for a moving and uplifting book. Billy’s descriptions of the Higher Beings/Angels ring true for me. As an NDEr, I have struggled to translate the experience of coming in close contact with two of the most intelligent, large, amazing beings I have ever encountered. By default, I have called them angels, but Higher Beings seems an accurate term as well. I got the sense that other people might have different Higher Beings as their guides, but the qualities that my protective angels/Higher Beings exhibited most were intelligence, compassion, and healing powers. They healed me through the backs of my surgeons with their light, and I had complete faith in their healing abilities.
Perhaps at different times in our life, different angels and guides show up for us. In Kagan’s book, Billy describes the Higher Beings as, “Whatever qualities come under the heading of benevolence, that virtue is right there in the light. It’s different with these Higher Beings. They’re more specific, more personal, like the Divine Presence is focused through a prism. And the colored rays that come through the prism—these are the higher beings.” I resonate with that description because my Higher Beings were indeed specifically focused. Perhaps at different times in our lives we might require differently focused Higher Beings.
Toward the end of the book, Billy says, “There’s an impersonal quality to these Supreme Beings, but that’s not a negative—it’s a big plus. There’s a pureness to it. This is what I’ve imagined being in the presence of God would be like….They are pure Spirit. Just as our bodies are the carriers of our souls, our souls are the carriers of our Spirit.” For me, this description helps add clarity to my interactions with my angels during surgery. They were pure Spirit, pure benevolence, and put me at ease outside of my body immediately with telepathy and strength. I knew I would be fine whether I stayed in the environment outside of my body or returned. For me, all signs pointed to returning, but I got the sense that everything would have been beautiful, pleasant learning experience for me had I not returned.
Nature: One of my other favorite lines in this book is a simple but true message reading, “Nature has more light than anything else on your planet.” In the book, Kagan takes Billy’s advice and returns to nature for healing, inspiration, and connection. All of us need the healing power of nature in our lives. Technology is a powerful connector, but not healing in the way that being in nature is healing. When I am broken, I go to the mountains and let the mountains give me their strength. When I am stressed, I go to the ocean and let the waves wash away my pain and troubles. When I want fun, I head to nature.
At another point in the novel Billy says, “The best cure for suffering? An enlightened experience of it all. What does that mean? It means finding the invisible within the visible.” Nature is a great place for people to experience enlightened moments. Looking down from a high peak at a city helps us put everything in perspective again. We are a small part of the whole, but our enjoyment of our life is key. Nature keeps us present and helps us enjoy our lives more fully and even sometimes catch a glimpse of the invisible within the visible.
Addiction: (Spoiler Alert) Billy’s struggle with addiction and even his death as an active addict did not prevent him for any of the bliss, compassion, or benevolence on the other side. Life’s purpose and a particular soul’s purpose can be grand on the other side while looking rather shabby on this side. One of the more important lessons I took away from my NDE was that the shadows I danced within during that time in my life (the drugs and alcohol) only prevented me from living more fully and connected to others at times. I wasn’t judged by the light. I was met with deep compassion and love. Maybe if I would’ve stayed in the environment outside of my body longer, I might have seen how my life looked from a musical perspective—the ups and downs, the crescendos, and the drumrolls.
In recovery, people are sometimes shamed for relapsing, and there is so much disappointment around the deaths of addicts. As an NDEer, I sometimes have a different perspective and see the struggle for sobriety as more of a dance the way Billy described it. I see those who relapse as in need of more compassion and care, not less and definitely not condemnation. The other side greets us with compassion. Part of our lesson on this earth plane seems to be finding a way to take everything a little less seriously, to let go of resentments quickly, to forgive ourselves and others instantly. As Billy says, “…there is no one to forgive, because we signed up to do this dance together before we were born. We weren’t acting out some type of I-did-something-wrong-to-you-in-another-life-and-I’m-paying-for-it-now kind of thing. It doesn’t really work like that… It’s more a kind of experiment chosen for soul-type reasons that humans have an almost impossible time understanding. And not understanding is an important part of the experiment.”
If there is one criticism I have of the book, it is that there is not a lot of description of how the oneness occurs. During my NDE, I saw from the perspective of others in my life review. That part of the life review for most NDEers shows us where we have hurt and disappointed others, not as a form of punishment but as a way to fully understand our roles and the perspective of others. I know that there is much compassion on the other side, but the ways we harmed or hurt others is something worth noting in the life review process. The ways that we harm ourselves are only pitied, but in my experience the light seemed to wish that I could love myself more and open up to others more frequently. I appreciate the compassion and benevolence described and know this is correct. There is a bit of “relearning” about our roles that goes on outside the body. Mabye this could have been explained a bit more.
However, this is actually a minor detail. The book as a whole is a fantastic read. I loved it and highly recommend this beautiful, unusual, uplifting book.
I enjoy coming across amazing bloggers on WordPress. This list inspires me. I hope it inspires you as well.
We’ve all heard that happiness is a choice, and that is true. It is not what happens to us, but our attitude and the way we react to situations that will determine our happiness. Here are a few “secrets” I have discovered so far in my 39 years that have led me to a life filled with happiness and inner peace.
1. The attitude of gratitude will ALWAYS bring you happiness. Find something to be thankful for. We are all constantly surrounded by so many gifts and blessings.
2. View every encounter and experience as a gift. Even the seemingly bad situations are a gift in the end. Try to recognize and appreciate these gifts every day.
3. Be kind to everyone, but spend the majority of your time with like-minded, positive people who are also committed to improving their personal and spiritual growth and are willing to support you…
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Annie Kagan’s wonderful book which channels messages from her deceased brother is a lovely description of the afterlife through an interesting, colorful, musical character named Billy Fingers. The quote on the back cover is one of my favorite pieces of advice from Billy Fingers. He tells his sister, “If I could give you a gift, it would be to teach you how to stay free inside that game, to find the glory inside yourself, beyond the roles and the drama, so you can dance the dance of the game of life with a little more rhythm, a little more abandon, a little more shaking-those-hips.” I am often shocked by how seriously people take themselves. Nothing is funnier than arrogance (even our own) when you have a universal perspective. When you have journeyed far beyond the confines of this body and your personal drama, it is hard to get back in the body and play the game of life without remembering the oneness beyond the self and how beautiful divine love really is.
After Death Communications: Beyond the beautiful descriptions from Billy Fingers, I appreciated the author’s candor and openness about wondering if her communications were only wishful thinking or unreliable. For years, many of us have heard ridicule and disbelief around the topic of after-death communications. I am glad that Annie Kagan addressed the disbelief that she feared others might have concerning her communications with Billy. In the beginning of the story, she admits to fearing being viewed as a fraud and asks for verification from her brother. Billy’s gifts of information to others are lovely and humorous at times. These gifts of information seem to bring the author closer to those around her and that seems to be part of the gift.
Though ridicule is possible when talking about spiritual topics, our times are changing and the more of us who come forward and discuss our spiritual experiences, the more others feel free to discuss their experiences. In a short amount of time, I have had lots of people open up to me about their NDEs, their communications with loved ones who have passed over, and other related topics. I have only had two people ridicule me, but I take the occasional flares of jealousy as a sign that I’m on to something good.
I battled with discussing my communications with my deceased father, but I am glad that I did. Reading The Afterlife of Billy Fingers reminded me to open up and ask if he had a message for me. I thought about where he might be on his journey, several years after his death. His perspective now seems to be even larger and farther away, and Kagan explains that process of becoming one with larger realities beautifully.
When I asked for a message from dad, he very quickly replied, “At least you are trying to access the invisible and bring what really matters to the people. So many are not even trying.”
His words felt more profound than just those words, as if my dad exists so far away in that Universe now and is able to see the workings of this place and others in the cosmos. He saw the world as if it were a world of busy bodied ants, driving from place to place, building things, doing things, but not thinking about the true meaning of what they are doing. The spiritual ones are the ones looking up and wondering how everything works beyond the veil, wondering how they might access Divine Love and bring it into the world for others so that they might understand.
In my dancing and stumbling ways, I am one of the ones who looks up at the sky, goes to nature for more light, and brings what light I can into the world. I am trying. My efforts might be small at times, but I am one of the ants looking outward, hoping to bless others with the love I sense from the other side. Sometimes, I am toppled by fear, by grief, and by cruelty, but I continue on because to live is to continue. As long as we have breath, we can be of use to others to help them remember the beauty of this journey.
Dad seemed to be disappointed that a large part of the world is largely unconcerned with spiritual realities. He likes his place in a universe of connectedness and understanding, far beyond this one. He wishes more people took an interest in all that is possible beyond what is right in front of their hands.
Divine Love: I’m a fan of how Billy describes Divine Love. Divine Love was one of the most exciting parts to cover in writing my story of my NDE.
Billy explains the experience of being surrounded by Divine Love as Bliss. He goes on to say, “Bliss is like being in love multiplied by a thousand, but it has nothing to do with anyone else. It’s fulfilling in and of itself. On earth you usually need someone to give you a reason to feel love, and that feeling usually has its ups and downs. With bliss, there’s no downside—and you don’t need a reason for it. As your soul floats through this dimension, it’s just natural to feel bliss.”
Many NDErs miss that feeling of bliss if they get a taste of it. I miss it, and yet nothing has changed my life more than to realize that this Bliss/Divine Love exists. Love like that puts everything on earth in perspective. People often live their lives as fractured parts of a whole, and many do not even know that they are part of a whole. They believe only in the splintered part that they observe daily, obsessively comparing themselves with others. Comparison is not what the Divine Light gives us. It gives us complete acceptance, complete love, and complete safety.
Billy’s character goes on to address disappointment in a broader sense. “Disappointment is part of the pattern on earth. But things change. I know you’ve heard this a million times, but it is a secret. Things change. When you die, you realize how much and you realize there are immortal things, things you take with you, and they change too. The Eastern concept of Maya, or illusion, what does this mean? It means temporary. It means our lives are temporary.”
Divine Love vs. Romantic Love: Life is indeed a quick journey and not nearly as long as we think it is when viewed from the other side. Divine Love is an amazing experience, and hard to translate and experience while in human form. You almost need the freedom of not having a body to fully understand it. As Billy Finger’s character says, “After you die, you spend a lot of time, solo time, exploring yourself as a Universe….You are the Universe. But society teaches you different. Society teaches limitation, (but)…everything you ever need is already inside you. And who you really are is far beyond your comprehension. That’s why living squeezed into the human experience can be painful at times.”
While in form, we long for that picture perfect life to show to the world to bolster our ego and say, “Here is my soulmate/twin flame, my family, my great job, my perfect kids, and my white picket fence/condo/home in the country.” That life rarely exists, and if it does for a while, it changes anyway. On the other side, I wanted to see that I returned to a picture perfect life, but the message from the Divine was only that I must remind others of their light and souls. I wasn’t promised a perfect life. I was only told that I must remind others of their light. As I wrote about relationships before and after my NDE, I channeled a passage and a healing statement about the search for soulmates and the occasional pain of romantic relationships.
Excerpt from Healed, “We are all looking for a missing part of souls in another person and not realizing that our own souls are the true source of happiness. I knew this on the other side. No one accompanied me there, but I was whole and the light was both me and larger than me. The source was all I needed. I didn’t need a soulmate there. I was my own soulmate. God was my soulmate. God inside every living being was my soulmate. I was part of the divine, and the divine was more forgiving and loving than anything I had ever experienced. I didn’t feel alone for a second. The presence of angels were a great blessing, and the presence of others in our lives should be viewed the same way—as a blessing. When we forget our connection to source, we are sometimes reminded of this spark of the divine in another and hold on desperately as if God were only in that one specific person, but God is everywhere, especially inside of us.”
Occasionally, I am given a healing statement for others. In connection to this topic, here is the statement I was given. Many people on a spiritual path are sensitive, and the loss of friendships, relationships, and others can be a painful part of the jouney. It doesn’t have to be. The pain ends so much quicker with more self-love and more faith in the workings of a loving energy larger than ourselves. Billy Finger’s life appeared to be one of great pain on this earth, but it prepared him to be freer than some souls and merge with a universe after death. Not every soul chooses that path. The point of viewing his story is to learn not to judge others or yourself. Love yourself more through every part of your journey.
Healing Statement: You are loved. Don’t forget how much the divine light delights in you. You waste resources and time trying to be seen and loved when you are already loved. You need do nothing. You can give that love away and feel immediately in touch with the universal flow of love.
Relationships (of all kinds) are sometimes fractured and split because we have so much to learn and release. We must free ourselves on a vibrational level when it becomes difficult (sometimes very painful) to stay with another. Sometimes, people around you are not changing or evolving in the ways you are changing.
Don’t beat yourself up for anything. Just center yourself. Quiet yourself. Listen to what you need. You need to remember that you are already loved and safe. There is nothing you are gaining or losing from another. You are only sharing along the way. If a person stops sharing, then you move on and share with others. It isn’t complex. We create a lot of judgement around issues that need no judgement. If love is flowing between people, all will work out. If it isn’t, they move on, especially if they are aware of their own connection to source and love. Why lose out on a connection to source and love that is already exists because another doesn’t want you to have love or be love? Why stay with someone who wants you to have less, be less, and experience less than you know you can find through a connection to source? You stay with someone who shows you how to have more, be more, and experience more because of their presence. You stay with someone who really knows how to love and whose presence makes you feel stronger, freer, and happier.
**I realize this level of detachment and freedom is not easy for many people. NDErs tend to love and accept others often without the usual attachments and conditions society expects. I only know that I’ve observed a lot of needless drama in people around the ending of relationships and marriages. In the news, we see husbands and wives who take that drama to sociopathic lengths and kill their spouses. They forget that time is a great healer and time is relative. There is a way to speed healing up. Meditation, a change of perspective, and enlightened moments can take us far away from our circumstances and change our perspectives. If we eventually get over something, why not envision what getting over something feels like and bring it into the present moment quicker? In The Afterlife of Billy Fingers, Billy learned how not to take his life or perspective seriously the farther he got away from his situation. Like Billy, NDErs know that our lives look very different from a far-away perspective and that perspective is wonderful. Distance and a new perspective is healing for everyone.
The Afterlife of Billy Fingers Continued….This book has been so enjoyable that I must address other topics such as Higher Beings/Angels, recovery from addiction, and the healing power of nature in another post.
“Creeds and schools in abeyance, / Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten, / I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard, / Nature without check with original energy.” — Song of Myself, Walt Whitman
Musicians are known for mixing genres and influences and describing their sound as indie rock, post-punk revival, dance-rock. Some musicians even coin terms that describe their music in creative ways like psychobilly—a fusion genre of rock that mixes punk rock, rock and roll, and rockabilly. Some amazing bands like Alabama Shakes have a sound classified as blues rock, southern rock, and soul music, yet some of their songs defy classification.
If musicians can genre-mix in order to stretch their identities, why can’t people on a spiritual path do the same? They can, and do, of course. The Pew Research Center details the variety of beliefs and connections American make between religions and practices. Great meditation teachers and spiritual teachers mix beliefs and ideas from various practices and religions.
Over the years, I’ve met people who refer to themselves as a Gnostic Shaman, a Buddhist Jew, a Christo-Pagan or a Hindu who attends services at Unitarian Universalist Church. In Austin, I ran into professors at the Unitarian Universalist church who loved to discuss everything from a poem by Rumi to the story of Hanuman. Many people in new age communities simply say they are spiritual and discuss the various teachers they have followed over the years. Beliefs overlap throughout religions, so it makes sense that people who search for their spiritual identity are often inspired more by beliefs than religions. Teachings that bring people greater inner peace, healing, and contentment are highly valued. Teachings about charity, kindness, and love appeal to spiritual seekers and to most people in general.
My beliefs after the NDE: It is certainly easier to say I am spiritual than to come up with a term that reflects my specific interests and beliefs. If pressed, I would say that I am spiritual with a specialized focus on healing myself and others. Over the years, I have been deeply inspired by beliefs and teachings from Buddhism, Christianity, Shamanism, and various New Age/Spiritual teachers. However, the aspects of these beliefs and practices that are healing are the aspects that interest me the most. During my NDE, I clearly heard the words, “Love is all that matters.” Though this statement can be interpreted in many ways, I interpret it as love should be the basis of any belief or spiritual practice. Love should be the guiding force in all areas of life.
Contradictions and Healing Connections
Buddhism: I realize that the beliefs, practices, and religions which interest me the most contradict one another in a few ways. Some Buddhist traditions are not compatible with shamanistic practices while others are more open. Monks in Tibet occasionally perform activities associated with shamanism. What I personally love about Buddhism is meditation. Mediation in any Buddhist tradition is healing for the brain and nervous system. Every person on earth could most likely benefit from twenty minutes a day of meditation. Some of my most memorable meditations occurred in temples at the top of mountains in South Korea. Sometimes, I was the only person in a temple breathing the incense while the rest of the crowded country bustled about in the valleys below the temples. I hope this practice grows not diminishes through time.
Though I admire the idea of putting generosity, discipline, patience, exertion, meditation, and transcendental knowledge first in an effort to liberate beings, the Bodhisattva vow never formally called to me. I prefer to stay open. There might be a more direct and better way for me to help all beings than by taking this vow. I like Thich Nhat Hahn’s explanation of Buddhism. He says, “There is a misconception that Buddhism is a religion, and that you worship Buddha. Buddhism is a practice, like yoga. You can be a Christian and practice Buddhism. I met a Catholic priest who lives in a Buddhist monastery in France. He told me that Buddhism makes him a better Christian.” I agree with Thich Nhat Hahn and take what I like from Buddhism, continuing on my merry way.
Christianity: Many Christians in the Bible belt would probably assert that I should get everything I need from the Bible and a Christian Church, but I don’t and I never have. Since I live in the U.S. and Christianity is a large part of our history and my upbringing, I honor that tradition in many ways and enjoy parts of the Bible. I love certain saints and novenas, even though I was not raised as a Catholic. I’m drawn to sacred sites. The healing cathedral El Santurio de Chimayo’s energy is powerful and has proven miraculous in healing emotional and physical pain for me on the three occasions I have visited.
Shamanism: Native American ancestors have come to me in dreams and meditations, asking me not to forget them or their teachings. I haven’t, and shamans and shamanistic teachings have informed my life since my near death experience. Practiced shamans with the intent to connect with compassionate beings for the good of our lives can bring marvelous healing, especially for those of us who have experienced trauma (from shock, grief, injury, violation, betrayal, abandonment), stress (from relationships, jobs, PTSD), and recovery (from divorce, surgery, trauma, addiction). Beyond healing, I love the experimentation that the study has brought into my life. In dreams and meditations, I’ve practiced out of body experiences, connecting with my power animal, shapeshifting, and lucid dreaming. On occasion, I’ve entered the dreams of others and verified these dream details later.
I’ve considered completing the training to become a shaman, but I prefer to have a wingspan made up of many different colors of feathers from many different parts of the world. It is not out of the question that I will complete the training, but it will only be a part of my journey. I value freedom more than a prescribed path. I could coin a term and say that I am a Budo-Christo-Shaman-Healer, but that term could change in five years or ten years. I’m a spiritual renegade and always free to fly away when these traditions do not seem to fit our current times.
The Light: What never changes is that I have complete faith in the light and angels I met on the other side of this life during my NDE. I know that I am guided by and will be greeted by deeply intelligent, compassionate, graceful beings at the end of my journey. I know that getting a glimpse at the next part of the journey has made me more of a believer in the magic of transformation more than anything else. All paths, beliefs, and religions attempt to lead us to the light. I want to align more with the light in any way that I can while on the earth. I don’t want to be distracted by anything that isn’t a direct link to the light, love, and compassion I encountered during my NDE.
Healing: Being an extra-sensitive soul and experiencing great pain and suffering in my life has allowed me to understand the experiences of many people. The answers to pain are spiritual in nature but usually not evident in the moment. In the moment of trauma or moments afterwards, people are often filled with various emotions. The best thing any of us can do for a person in pain is to deeply listen to them and open our hearts, sometimes offering sound pieces of advice which usually focus on how that person might take better care of themselves through a difficult time.
Wounded healers are good at listening, but they often ignore their own wounds and lose themselves in the beauty and meaning of helping others. There were times in my life when I certainly fit into this category, but that way of life is not enough for me now. My path is a path of greater healing for myself, so that I might show not only compassion for others but a greater light, a greater way of living and being for those who are suffering. Compassion is not enough. Loving ourselves is the first key to healing the planet.
When we give ourselves the love we have been searching for, life brightens and expands. There is no more searching, only being on a bright path that is our own path.
May your path be filled with great mixes of music and beliefs that carry you safely and happily through your life and home.