I make my Creative Writing students create videos of their poems and add images. A few days ago, I gave making a video with images a shot and used my blog piece Love Letter from God. The English major inside of me is critical when I write straightforward messages like this, but my heart and soul smiles.
Poetry: For most of my adult life, even after my NDE, I haven’t cared much for “spiritual” poetry. Sure, I liked the occasional Rumi or Rilke poem, but I preferred poets who dug deep for their imagery, symbolism, and word play. Poets like Adam Zagajewski, Wislawa Szymborska, Sharon Olds, Billy Collins, Charles Simic, Marie Howe, Carolyn Forche, Jane Hirshfield, and Mary Oliver have been some of my inspirations.
I don’t call what I’ve written a poem—more of a love letter inspired by God and meant to give comfort to anyone hurting. We’ve all been hurt or disappointed in life, and it is important to remember that there is much love and healing possible if we only ask. We can pull in this love from God/our source and feel better at any time.
The Experience of God: One of my favorite parts of my NDE was being in the presence of God. Truly, the experience is difficult to translate into words, but I find that the more I think about that experience and wish for that communion in my life, the more often I feel divine love and protection. The book God and the Afterlife has a section dedicated to NDErs talking about God and the experience of being in this presence. Most NDErs state that God’s love for us is complete and deep. This love is a love without reservation and extends itself to everyone.
When I talk about God–the most loving, divine light I have encountered– I know how I sound to agnostics because I was agnostic before my experience. I was highly critical of religious folks and just as critical of those in spiritual/new age communities. If I listed some of my thoughts before that accident and NDE, I would offend a lot of people and make others laugh. My point is that NDEs change us immediately and for the rest of our lives.
If there was one book I read in college that opened my mind up ever so slightly to the possibility of God, it was The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James. Quotes like the one below one helped ease some of my judgmental nature.
“It does not follow, because our ancestors made so many errors of fact and mixed them with their religion, that we should therefore leave off being religious at all. By being religious we establish ourselves in possession of ultimate reality at the only points at which reality is given us to guard. Our responsible concern is with our private destiny, after all.”
― William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience
I also dropped my prejudices for an hour or two when discussing this book and opened my mind to ideas like,
“We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.”
― William James
As an undergraduate, I imagined how this type of connection might be possible, though at the time I didn’t feel it. I wondered if I might have a spontaneous awakening at some point in my life. How was I to know that I would have a life-changing NDE a year after reading that book?
When I left this body and flatlined, I awakened to the spiritual realm and knew that my physical life would also be a spiritual journey. Once grounded in my material life and professional life, I quickly realized that I would hang on to certain fears about seeming “too out there,” but I also knew there would be a time when I no longer cared and became more open about my journey. These journeys connect us and need to be expressed.
“There are two lives, the natural and the spiritual, and we must lose the one before we can participate in the other.”
―William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience