Right to Die Victimology: An International Journal, V.4, No.4, 1979
The Meaning of Life and Death, Part I Whole Life News, January 1994
The Meaning of Life and Death, Part II Whole Life News, February 1994
On the Path... Whole Life News, April 1994
On the Path... - InnerSelf, August 1994
Planning Ahead InnerSelf, September 1994
Honoring Your Spirit InnerSelf, December 1994
In 1979, I was going to college, working part time and raising three teenagers by myself, but I also found time to do some volunteer work at nursing homes. I wrote this letter to Victimology: An International Journal and they published it in their Open Forum section in Volume 4, Number 4, 1979.
The Right to Die
To the Editors
I'm a student of psychology and have spent some time talking to elderly patients in convalescent homes. This letter is a compilation of many conversations about how they look at their lives and their deaths. I've written it as one of them might write a letter to her doctor.
Granted there is a growing number of senior citizens who find there is life after 65, but there is a greater number hidden away in these homes who see no reason to go on living. Many of them are confined to their beds-- alone and totally at the mercy of unfeeling attendants-- merely breathing until they die. The question they raise (Why won't they put me to sleep?) is controversial and brings up thoughts of "Soylent Green"-- but it's coming from them and I feel it needs to be talked about.
Dear Doctor . . .
Instead of all these medicines and treatments, why don't you just give me that pill? The one that will put me to sleep and take away all my pain. Why do you insist on keeping me alive and suffering? What did I do to deserve this punishment?
I raised my children the best way I knew how and I'm proud of them and of myself as a parent. I loved my husband the best I could and we had a good life. I was proud of my singing voice, but I felt I was imposing myself on others with it. I never felt I deserved success so I used my talent to help others. I helped raise a lot of money to help a lot of people. I didn't do it for money, I did it for the joy it brought me-- and now my voice is all but gone. Gone, just like everything else I once had-- my family, my friends, my home, my legs ...
Your medicine can't help me anymore. There is no cure around the corner for what's wrong with me. I'm weary and I want to rest. My children have their own lives. I know they love me, but they don't need me anymore and there isn't anything I could do for them if they did. I'm more in their way and they're left feeling guilty because they don't make more time for me-- yet, when they do come to visit, what is there to say? Why all this heartache? Better they should hold on to the memory of me as a thinking, loving, active person than as a complaining old lady of a vegetable attached to a tube. My body is of little use to me anymore. I never even considered I might someday become paralyzed, confined to a wheelchair. I never thought about being old, only getting old. Now I dread the thought that my mind will soon go, too. It's part of the reality we learn to face here. I know soon that what I see happening to the others in this home where people wait to die will start happening to me. I'll lose control of what they do to me, of what they take from me, of how they treat me.
These "homes" profit by keeping us barely alive. They exist because of our children's guilt and because of society's maniacal belief that a human being must be kept alive at all costs. All our lives we're told to take responsibility for ourselves, yet when it comes to our own death, that responsibility is taken away.
The amount of money it would cost to keep me alive for another year, I would gladly give them today to take away my pain. Let them study what went wrong with my brain, my muscles, my glands, with the hope it will keep someone else from suffering as I am. Give me a chance to do one last good deed. Keeping me alive is no help to anyone. I want to die with my dignity still in tact.
Even my children won't let me go. I gave them their freedom when they wanted it, but they won't give me mine. They're not being kind by forcing me to hang on no matter how bare the thread. I'm the one who's in pain. I feel it's cruel to keep me living with it. I don't deserve this.
Has anyone ever asked the aged how we feel about the right to die? You can't ask the ones who have already lapsed into a state of living death whether or not they want to be kept alive, but you can ask those of us who exist just the other side of oblivion. Are you saying we're not capable of making that decision for ourselves after all the experience we've had making decisions? The aged were once considered wise, now we're doddering old fools who are senile and don't know what we're talking about. How can anyone make that judgment for someone else? You haven't experienced what I've experienced ... you don't feel the pain and the loneliness I feel.
Have you ever walked down the corridors in one of these homes and listened to us? "Help me ... please, someone help me ... get me out of here ...mamamamamamamamamamama ... please don't hurt me ..." Did you ever look into our eyes and see the pleading? We reach out and grab onto your hand and beg you to help ... and you turn away, embarrassed.
There are so few nurses, aides and orderlies who actually care about us. Most are callous and bitter, for good reasons I'm sure-- but what gives them the right to take it out on us? They can get away with almost anything-- who's going to take the word of a deluded old woman against a nurse (who secretly harbors a dual personality behind her patronizing smile)? They take their frustrations out on their helpless charges, and their anger out on those of us brave enough to protest their unfair treatment. We can't win-- sooner or later we lose control because we lose our minds.
The administration raises the cost to the patient and cuts down on services to the patient in order to meet rising costs. To cut costs they hire people who can't speak English or who don't know how to handle paralyzed, incapacitated, senile and, above all, lonely human beings. They pay them as little as possible and give them as much work as possible-- and they get back as little as possible from them. Why? Because they have too many problems of their own trying to make ends meet to have any compassion left over for us. I complain and they make promises-- but nothing changes.
Society allows this to happen to us by closing its eyes and pretending we don't exist-- but it won't let us go when we want to. Which is the greater cruelty?
My biggest regret is that I never did anything just for me. I kept putting it off thinking there'd be time. I never thought I'd end up here ... left with nothing but another day of pain to look forward to. There's one thing left I can do for me-- but no one will let me do it. There's no one willing to care for me. I pay for it, yet I don't feel cared for, merely maintained. Well, doctor, I don't want to be maintained anymore. I'm at peace and I look forward to my death, whatever that means. I want to rest now ... I want that pill.
Long Beach, California
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Whole Life Times, January 1994
The Meaning of Life and Death, Part I
As a near death experiencer and a student of spiritual philosophy, I've become interested in the interpretations of death and the after-life by near death experiencers throughout recorded history and the affect on the population of the Time.
Six thousand years ago, in Ancient Egypt, a candidate who was to become Pharaoh, was "initiated" by the high priests by being enclosed in a sarcophagus in order to have a near death experience. This experience, if he survived, allowed him a journey into higher realms and returned him with universal knowledge and compassion to become the spiritual leader of the people. The interpretation of the Pharaoh's vision led to a culture of people who, basically, did nothing but prepare themselves for the afterlife
Two thousand years ago, in the Middle East, the people conquered by the Greeks and Romans were homeless, hungry, and stripped of human dignity, by a warrior-class with no human values or concern for human life. Everyday people, who had near death experiences, reported visions of a place where there is only love and peace, from which a messiah would come to take them out of their terrible situation to paradise-- offering hope to desperate people. Out of this hardship came a man who went off to the desert for 40 days to have a near death experience and came back to teach the people that love and compassion toward others and the worship of the One God would lead them to "Heaven." He told them God is all-loving and forgives them their human frailties, and, to make it easier for them to understand, he told them simply to believe in his vision and they would be "saved" from Hell. And ever since, these believers have been running around trying to get everybody to convert to this Truth and prepare for his return to take those who believe to paradise.
Another group of people around the same time period, didn't accept this mystic's vision. To this day, they continue to believe that life is suffering in the service of a vengeful, wrathful, jealous, demanding god, based on a book written by people who thought the water around them, the stretch of land they lived on and the sky above was all there was; and this God, who lived in that patch of sky, created it and them. How else could it be explained? They interpreted their near death experience visions to mean, if they follow the Ten Commandments, they get to go to Heaven; if not, they go to Hell.
The concept of "Hell" comes from the near death experiencers who experienced their own fears in the forms of frightening mental apparitions. Artistic interpretations of their fears were expressed in grotesque forms of monsters and demons. Satan has been given many names, faces and forms, and they have been prominently displayed throughout history in public places to remind people that severe punishment awaits those who "sin."
As for Judgment, how else could writers of Biblical times portray a near death experiencer's description of a life review than, God passes judgment on us and punishes us for our evil doing? They thought all human beings were born sinners and the only way to keep them in line was with the threat of punishment by a fearsome power, who could, at any time, throw them into the pit of hell.
The visions of the monks of Eastern traditions interpreted judgment impersonally, in terms of "karma"-- the Law of Compensation. You get back what you give out. Only a life of good works, service, and meditation leads to eternal bliss. Their lives revolve around turning prayer wheels to keep this endless, predetermined cycle going and constant prayers to break the cycle of life, death and rebirth for themselves.
The predictions of "End Times" are easy to understand when you look back into the mind set of people who didn't know the extent of the earth, much less the physical universe. A flood, earthquake, volcano or tidal wave could wipe out an entire civilization. So could a plague or a war. They feared extinction from unknown forces as much as each other. Those who had near death experiences had visions related to the destruction they observed in their world and became convinced that if they didn't obey, they'd be destroyed. Some cultures sacrificed their best and brightest to appease the angry gods they imagined controlled their destiny.
So what does all this mean to human beings in the light of modern times? Next month, I'll discuss my interpretations of contemporary near death experiencers' visions and the affect on us.
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Whole Life Times, February 1994
The Meaning of Life and Death, Part II
Last month, I wrote about some of the interpretations of near death experiencers' visions of death and the afterlife during Ancient Times and the affects on the populations of those Times. This month, I'll attempt to interpret the visions I and other contemporary near death experiencers, have described. The affects on today's population are yet to be realized; however, with the speed of communication and the higher level of consciousness of humanity today, World Peace may be just around the corner.
Peacefulness, Love and Joy are nearly universal emotions described by recent near death experiencers, along with complete understanding of life and death as a perfectly natural process. We returned to our bodies with the knowledge that there is no separation from this Oneness called God, except by our own egos, and that Love is all that really matters, whether we are in a physical body or a less dense, etheric form.
It may take a quantum leap in consciousness for one to think of oneself as a spiritual being having a human experience, instead of the reverse, but this leap is taking place as more people are breaking away from the control of religions. People are honoring their Spirit rather than arbitrarily submitting to human authority figures. Rather than becoming perverted degenerates without consciences, as religious leaders feared everyone would without their dogma to keep us in line, this spiritual awakening is bringing us together in loving ways, which religion failed to do with its hell, fire and brimstone threats.
Near death experiencers today are bringing their vision of the powerful Love of God back to earth for all people, not just a chosen few. We are all children of a loving and forgiving God and we will all return to God when we've learned whatever it is we came here to learn, no matter how many lifetimes it takes us.
The life review process contemporary near death experiencers report allows them to reexamine their lives from a higher perspective to help them understand the meaning of expressing God's love in their lives. The lessons, which we experience as our lives, are to teach us to become more loving and compassionate toward all others. Some people are given this opportunity to change the course of their lives in this lifetime, others may have to wait for their next incarnation, or the next... Those of us who came back from the brink of death, change the way we live and who we are because we are not the same anymore. We see and feel everything differently. Being touched by the profound sense of unconditional love and acceptance we felt upon leaving our bodies, freed us to become more loving and peaceful within, upon our return. We see the Light before us at all times and would no more deliberately hurt someone than kill a fly. As much as we know we are One with God, we know everyone and everything else is also, and we honor their Spirit, as well as our own. Namaste.
Today's near death experiencers come back to spread this message to all people, through our words and our relationships, with loving acts of kindness and giving. All those differences between us, the ones we keep fighting about and going to war over, are irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. They are merely reference points in our process of discovering what life in the physical dimension is teaching us about expressing God's Love through a physical being. Each lifetime offers us the opportunity to experience different aspects of being, enhance our understanding and balance our cosmic energy.
Near death experiencers' descriptions of the environment and activities of beings in spiritual dimensions are remarkedly similar to life here on earth, except they are more perfected. Colors are brighter and nature more brilliant. Travel is by thought. Structures appear translucent, glowing from within. Loved ones are recognized by an inner knowingness rather than physical features. Communication is telepathic and emotions are transferred by vibrations. Daily life involves service to those in the physical dimension and learning about living in the spiritual dimension. In this timeless state, one may leave home in the morning, experience a normal physical lifetime (75 years) on planet earth, and be home by the end of the day. A stretch of the imagination? Not once you realize you are truly a spiritual being on a journey through the Universe that is God.
Whether life on earth continues or not, and even if the planet ceases to exist, our journey will continue on other worlds because as spiritual beings, we are not limited to one planet in this infinite physical universe. With this expanded reality, humanity moves toward a peaceful, loving, diverse society where resources are shared equally, everyone is busy developing their creative potential, and all people live in joyful harmony with nature and each other.
This is one near death experiencer's interpretation of the meaning of life and death according to modern visionaries. Are you ready to make the leap?
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Whole Life News, April 1994
On the Path...
One of the lessons I learned during my Near Death Experience was that most of the things in life that I thought were important, aren't. When I was caught up in my life's little dramas, I didn't see it that way. You can't see the picture when you're in the frame! I thought that was life because that's how I was brought up and that's how everyone around me lived. What I realized after my exposure to higher consciousness is that "life," as most people live it, is meaningless and without purpose. No wonder so many people secretly think that!
What I mean by meaningless is, the pursuit of money, power and/or sex for selfish reasons, which in the grand scheme of things only bring emptiness at the end of life. There are no rewards in the spiritual realms for accumulating gold, becoming king, or having a long list of sexual conquests during one's lifetime. Those, in and of themselves, mean nothing. It is the time and energy we waste serving our insatiable egos that keeps us from serving our spirit and enjoying the real riches of life. Our spirit doesn't mean that it's wrong or evil to have great wealth and live a luxurious lifestyle, or to be in a powerful social or economic position, nor to have an active sex life. It is our need to have them that throws us off our "Spiritual Path." Our spirit only asks that we do everything with love. When we live from our heart center, instead of our egos, we receive spiritual gifts more valuable than gold, both in this life and beyond.
A soul has four main reasons for projecting its image into the physical world. One is to experience physical sensations. Its human self is limited to the five physical senses, which are limited to the physical world. If you take our vision as an example, and look at the entire spectrum of light from infrared to ultraviolet and x-ray, our sight is limited to a narrow band of visible light. All the colors of the rainbow; no more, no less. Our vision allows our soul to "see" objects that make up the physical world, but we can't perceive the spiritual world with our physical eyes. Also, in the physical body, we can touch and feel things and each other. In the spiritual world, our souls are love; in the physical world, we are able to express love in physical ways and be loving towards other physical beings. So there is nothing wrong with having sexual relationships or expressing love in many different ways. It is the soul's desire for its human self to experience physical and emotional love.
The soul is also interested in learning all about the physical environment through its human child. We have amazing, strong bodies with wonderful, dexterous hands. We have minds that can think and reason and create. And we exist in a beautiful world where we can live and learn and enjoy its pleasures. Everything we learn, everything we experience in it, teaches our soul what it needs to know about existence in the physical dimension. The soul experiences the beauty of nature and the wonder of being human through us and rejoices when we are happy. So there's nothing wrong with having a good job, making lots of money and living well. It is our soul's desire that we have fun with our life and learn everything we can.
Our soul gives each of us a unique personality and a unique talent to express in the world, but that does not make us separate from each other. We are part of a greater whole; just as every cell in our body is a unique part of a greater whole. We and the Universe are One. We are part of a process, if you will, to maintain the expansion of the physical universe. At the same time, we are spirits on our path back to the Godhead/Universal Consciousness.
Our Spiritual Path includes learning everything there is to know about all dimensions of the Universe/God. The Spirit projects souls into lower dimensions to learn about certain levels of existence, and souls project into the physical dimension as human beings to learn all about being human. We come into being with specific talents, characteristics, attributes and circumstances from our soul's vast reservoir of Self to learn certain lessons for our soul's growth. We have a creative potential within us just waiting for us to activate it. The snag is that we don't know that, and that we have the Free Will to do anything we darn well please, including not paying any attention to our soul's pleas for recognition. Our ignorance of who and what we actually are, and our denial of our spiritual nature, create Karma (the Law of Compensation), which turn into lessons we have to learn while experiencing human life. Our confusion and denial are usually so great that our soul must continue to project its image into the physical world until one of its human beings figures it out, balances accumulated Karma, and gets back on the Path. It is our soul's desire that we become fully-realized, both human and divine.
The fourth reason for our soul coming into human form, which is actually the first, for without it, the previous are insignificant, is, basically, to love God. Now, that's been distorted over the last few thousand years, so let's explore it from a higher consciousness perspective. Instead of projecting ourselves full-grown and stark naked, with full-knowledge of who we are and why we're here, in the middle of Main Street one day, our soul activates the process of cellular development at conception that results in the birth of a human baby that doesn't have a clue what it is or why. The highest purpose of its life is to remember that it is, not has, a soul, existing, temporarily, as a human being, in order to learn certain things for its soul's growth, not just to satisfy its human ego, through experiences in the physical world with other physical manifestations of soul.
It is our ego desires that separate us from God, but when we awaken to our soul-selves, expressing love becomes more important than satisfying our selfish needs... and life becomes more joy-filled. When we recognize our unique creative abilities and acknowledge the same in others, and begin to share our talents with the rest of the world, we have more power than any king, but we don't use it to climb over others or for our own self-aggrandizement. Love is real power and reflects our soul's greatest desire for us.
Once a person opens up to their spiritual nature and purpose for being, they reconnect with their soul's love energy and the love of God comes through them. As this process unfolds, we express that love in every thing we do. When we have sex, we are sharing God's love with our partner, not simply satisfying a need we think we have. When we go to our job or whatever we do on a daily basis, we do it with joy and the goal of helping others, rather than trying to be better than others or get more for ourselves. We have greater respect for the environment and all life on earth. We realize everything is interconnected and mutually interdependent, and live in harmony with it all. When we interact with other people, we do it with compassion, knowing that they too are on their Spiritual Path. In these ways, we express the love of God within us as our soul desires us to do.
The next time you are caught up in your personal dramas, your soap opera life that seems so very urgent and important, take time to go within and ask what it is trying to teach you about expressing God's love in the world. The drama is not what's important to you or your soul, the lesson is.
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InnerSelf, August 1994
On the Path...
Twenty-three years ago, I was a skeptic, an agnostic, and didn't really care whether God existed. I was too busy just trying to get through life. All my life, Id seen misery, poverty and suffering wherever I looked. I thought What kind of God would allow his children to go through this? And so, by the time I was 30, I had just dismissed the concept, stopped going to church and tried to find happiness by living through others-- particularly, my husband and children. But happiness didn't come, and I could not figure out why or, mostly, what was wrong with me... I had everything. And then, at the height of my confusion, I drowned in a white water river accident and awakened to the spiritual world. As I looked down at the earth below, I suddenly realized that I never was my body and everything I thought important, wasn't! We are souls with bodies, not bodies with souls; and it is our thinking that we are the latter that separates us from God and joins us to dogma and the scientific method. I realized that this planet is our soul's playground, which, we, as human beings, have turned into a living hell for ourselves-- all because we think that we and the physical world are the only reality and that we have only one lifetime to live, so we try to get all while we can. If we had known we would be coming back again and again, would we have left our home (planet) in such a mess?
Old Perceptions Changed
If I hadn't had a Near Death Experience (NDE) in 1971, I would have continued to live-- unconsciously-- a life filled with mundane melodramas and emotional upsets. Probably to this day I would be wondering why I am living at all. I might have turned out to be like many people today who are only able to accept the evidence of hard science, or the teachings of their churches, to define reality for them. I might have stayed closed-minded and submissive to authority figures, who insist that they have all the right answers for the rest of us. I probably would have become more sad and unhappy as the years went by and ended up depressed and in ill-health, like many of my contemporaries. I was stubborn and definitely headed down a destructive path until I awakened to my spiritual nature. The NDE transformed my life and perhaps was the only way to get me on the right path. I wasn't able to accept, on faith, a belief in a world that this so-called God seemingly abandoned. I had to "see" God for myself to believe... and God isn't an old bearded white guy sitting on a throne dishing out judgments and hurling lighting bolts at a sinful humanity! It was certainly a shock to me to suddenly become consciously aware of the multi-dimensionality of the Universe, which is God, and yet, it was like I knew it all along. There's no going back, no more denial. Reincarnation and karma also suddenly made perfect sense. Previously, I had considered them mumbo-jumbo from a naïve past. It was as if I suddenly had total knowledge and complete understanding of everything. And once consciousness expands, it never returns to the same dimensions. Yet, if I had come back into my body with this full awareness, it would have been too overwhelming to live with. Most likely, I would have ended up in a locked ward under heavy sedation, as do many people who experience spiritual awakenings and run around trying to tell others. I remembered some of what I experienced and when I tried to tell others, it was often dismissed as deliriousness. I quickly stopped talking about it. I couldn't find words to express the realizations and knowledge about the Oneness of being I had experienced and I quickly lost those memories. They would, however, come back to me over the years as I studied in greater depth and developed the ability to conceptualize my perceptions. These perceptions were complied into a book entitled, Through the Tunnel, which helps others overcome their fear of death.
The good news is that you don't have to nearly die to experience your spiritual nature. You just need to have unlimited patience, perseverance and persistence, and be willing to practice, practice, practice. Hey, if it were easy, we would all be enlightened! Until you feel the divine inside you, you are only trying to believe. You just need to open yourself to the process and go within. Going "out" to find God creates a separateness, a duality, which only exists in the mind. We are not separate from God, we are One with God. Meditate to learn to still your mind and listen to the sound of silence. Affirm that you have a body, but you are not your body; that your are in this world, but not of it. Focus your attention on your spiritual nature and the kingdom of God within you, no matter what else you are doing in your daily life. It is in the process of seeking that you will find your joy and your connection to your Higher Power. If you are patient with yourself and persistent in overcoming your carnal (lower chakra) desires, no matter what karma you have to resolve along the way, you will experience a transformation in your life on all levels, as you grow closer to your God-Self. You will find yourself letting go of people and things you thought were important, but, in truth, were harmful. As you come to love and accept yourself, you will become more tolerant of and loving towards others. Your thinking will become more clear and you will put things in better perspective, neither blowing things out of proportion nor becoming anyone's victim. You will begin to stand up for yourself and the rights of others without becoming self-righteous. You will find it hard to continue living materialistically and change your lifestyle to include doing more of what you love to do, instead of acquiring material things and pursuing the emptiness of self-gratification.
NOTE: After getting this far retyping, I find I don't have a copy of the rest of this article. The magazine is likely in a box in storage and hopefully I will come across it some day and get the rest of it up here.
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InnerSelf, December 1994
Living in the now doesn't mean ignoring the future, because, before you know it, the future is now. The future event we think about the least is death. We seem to believe that if we don't think about death, it won't happen to us or our loved ones. Subsequently, when it does happen, everyone goes into shock. He was so young. It happened so quickly. I just talked to her yesterday. We played golf last week and he was fine.
I've been given three lessons about how quickly life can end. The first occurred when I was ten. One minute my younger sister was happily playing with her friends-- the next minute she was dead. Then my third child, at six months old, developed a high fever. She went onto convulsions, stopped breathing and began turning blue before the paramedics arrived and eventually brought her back. The third lesson came to me in a river. One minute we were all having a good time, the next, I was floating above the rapids watching myself drowning. I learned the very next moment could be out last and that it is better in so many ways if we have prepared for it. Better for ourselves and better for those we leave behind.
I think those who survive a near death experience give further evidence, though not scientific proof, of life after death. Their stories give greater credence to the existence of a soul or consciousness beyond the body, and of a spiritual dimension, where conscious life continues to exist in a more peaceful, less dense environment. Just because we have forgotten and may vigorously deny that information, doesn't mean it isn't true. But the paradigm shift that is occurring in the world is changing the meaning of everything, and we are beginning to recognize that we are spiritual beings having a human experience, not the reverse.
When we recognize that we are part and process of a Universal Oneness, we can perceive physical birth and death as part of the soul's developmental process of involution and evolution. Just as each birth and lifetime we experience on a planet is important to our growth, so is each rebirth and lifetime in spiritual realms important to us. And just as we benefit when there is joy and love around us when we enter this world, we would benefit from having joy and love around us when we take our last breath and leave it. This is why it is important to prepare yourself and your loved ones ahead of time for your departure, as you would for any other trip.
Plan For It
Many more people today have prearranged their funeral and burial or cremation, have written their will, and signed a living will; but there is more we can do for ourselves and our loved ones, depending on the circumstances of one's death, to make it a peaceful and meaningful experience.
On the personal level, if you start with the premise that life goes on after death, becoming a more loving and compassionate person is the first step. Some mental and emotional housecleaning is probably involved: getting rid of anger, hate, bitterness, resentment, blame, jealousy, greed, vengefulness and perverted thoughts; forgiving yourself and others for perceived hurts and wrongs; changing your attitudes; letting go of fear, dropping your judgments; bringing in the Light to purify your consciousness; and beginning to live in ways that spread the Light to those whose lives you touch. It is the love you carry within you when you leave your body which enhances your spiritual growth.
Living in the now with joy prepares you for death whenever it comes. Your dying experience will be peaceful and your life in the spiritual realms, long and blissful. If you decide to come back to the physical world, it will be a pleasant lifetime. Those who believe life ends at death can see no reason to preserve the earth or share resources or be kind to others, as they live only for themselves. They want to control everything. They don't care about or value anyone's life besides their own. For those who live in denial and die with hate in their hearts, their transition will be unpleasant. They will reincarnate quickly with harder lives and lessons to learn until they turn to a spiritual path.
When we know we are prepared to die at any time and believe our consciousness survives death, we are free from the fear of extinction and are able to plan ahead for the journey.
I recently attended a conference where a speaker asked a group of Hospice workers whether they would prefer to die quickly or slowly. Most raised their hands for quickly, but a few said, slowly. Slowly to get my things in order, to make plans, to say my good-byes, were their comments. Yet, even those who go slowly put things off and sometimes nothing gets done before their deaths.
When you are free of the fear and make death part of your life, you can plan for it like any other event or process, as we do for becoming a teenager, graduating from school, getting married, taking a vacation, having children, buying a home, changing careers or retirement.
What Can You Do?
You may be unable to plan the time or circumstance of your death, but you can write down what you want in any case. If you die unexpectedly, it will help your family to know what you wanted instead of having to guess while dealing with their grief over losing you. Make your desires about organ donation and funeral arrangement known to them; and if they could gather together and read a letter from you, written in the event of sudden death, it would give them closure and help them get on with their lives.
If you suffer an accident or illness that renders you comatose or unable to communicate, it would help you family make decisions if you have pre-written your wants for resuscitation, life-prolonging measures, active treatment, invasive procedures, etc. It is not enough, legally, to just talk about these things. It is important to put them in writing. Otherwise, strangers, perhaps emergency personnel, will be making those decisions for you and your family.
If you have a terminal illness, you have the right to decide when to stop treatment, and you have the time to plan for your transition. People who don't fear death aren't necessarily anxious to leave their lives behind, but they're more realistic about when to let go.
There comes a time when the pain and suffering one has to endure to try another treatment is too much. Medical science does not have all the answers. It is better to be able to welcome a peaceful, serene death at home surrounded by loved ones than to spend your last hours hooked up to machines and tubes, surrounded by strangers poking things into your body. Why suffer from the treatment to live a few more days, then die anyway? There's nothing wrong with hoping for a miracle, but we need to be prepared in case it isn't to be.
With lucid time before you die, you can buy cards to be given to loved ones on special occasions in their futures. You can write or take an oral history of your life and family to be passed down to future generations. You can plan your own deathbed ceremony or ritual and your memorial service the way you want it to be. You might want to plan your birthday remembrance or death anniversary event for your family and promise you will be there, in spirit.
The important message is that we, as a society, need to get out of our death denial and talk more about the process of dying and how to prepare ourselves for it, so it becomes a joyful part of our lives, not a dreadful end.
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InnerSelf, September 1994
Honoring Your Spirit
Being on a Spiritual Path is not an easy thing. Many are called, but few stick with it. For, while joyful, it is also a painful experience, until one finally and consistently lets go and lets God. Much of the pain results from staying stuck in old belief systems such as, we are bodies with souls. The higher truth is that we are souls with bodies - I Am That I AM. Until we honor the Spirit that we are, we will continue to experience emotional pain and emptiness.
Life is a journey of self discovery. It is through experiencing emotional pain that we eventually discover our true spiritual heritage-- pain is the message to us that our Spirit is in distress. Do you listen when your Spirit is speaking to you? Are you even aware that your Spirit speaks to you?
Listening to Spirit
It is your Spirit whispering to you when something is going on that doesn't feel quite right to you. Your feelings are messages from your Spirit, prompting you to speak up for yourself or others. Emotional pain or hurt feelings are messages from your Spirit that you're not taking care of it. You're settling for something less than you deserve in life because you don't feel lovable and your Spirit suffers from lack of love.
Your "job" is to take care of and nurture your Spirit, but how can you do that if you've been brought up to believe that you're not worthwhile or that you're bad or you'll never amount to anything? You tend to accept whatever abuse is heaped upon you or put up with the status quo because that's what you're used to. If you don't make self-respect your highest priority in life right now, you'll end up selling out for success, love, money or power to fill that emptiness inside.
When you stay in an abusive relationship, or a job where you and others are not treated with dignity and respect without standing up for yourself or others, you are not honoring your Spirit. When you begin to speak up on its behalf, take a stand for what you know is right, refuse to allow indignities to continue, you will begin to live ethically and take back control of your life.
Listen to the messages of your Spirit. The whisper is the first twinge you feel when something isn't right... the ethnic joke, the sexual innuendo, the racial slur, the misdirected anger, the patronizing remark, the little lie or indiscretion, the first slap in the face. If you let them pass without expressing the discomfort you feel, the abuse will escalate and you will feel more pain, humiliation, rejection. Your Spirit cries out louder. And yet you do not listen. You let it go on, thinking you can make it better if you can just be a better person, work harder, do a better job. After all, you were raised to be a pleaser and are used to selling out for approval. You will deny that there is a problem, that you are in pain, that you deserve better.
Will you hit bottom before you listen to your Spirit? Will you have a nervous breakdown? Develop an illness? Drive your car into a brick wall? Overdose on drugs or alcohol in an attempt to stop the pain? Your Spirit is screaming at you to drop your denial and wake up! Do what is right for your Spirit... do it with respect and caring, be compassionate and fair. Honor the Spirit of the other as well, but stand up for your rights as a human being.
The sooner one "gets" this, the sooner one can get on with their life and spiritual path. Learn this lesson and move on to the next. What are the signs that you have sold out and are not honoring your Spirit?
- Feelings of resentment about the way you are being treated.
- Complaints about meaningless things and the inability to see the real problem (denial).
- No enthusiasm for the things you used to enjoy.
- Feeling sad and alone even though you have a family and friends around you.
If you relate to these signs, your Spirit isn't happy with something that's going on in your life. If you are totally in the dark as to the cause of your inability to feel lovable, I suggest some inner child work. You need to be able to accept yourself as lovable and worthwhile. But, sooner or later, you're going to have to get out of your denial, forgive and let go of the past, and do the right thing for your Spirit.
Just Do It!
Ask yourself, "What will it take for me to respect myself, to be proud of myself today?" Ask your Spirit to guide you. In your heart, even now, you know what the right thing is to do. Confront the person, blow the whistle, tell everyone the emperor has no clothes, do whatever you have to do to make it right. Just do it! Peace be with you.
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