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Several nights ago, while tucking my two children, Riley and Hadley, into bed we wrapped up our day with our bedtime ritual, words of gratitude. Riley began and they proceeded to alternate on and off until we were complete. Their thoughts were of their Aunt Sue, thousands of miles away, fighting cancer lying on a bed in Boston. Their words of gratitude turned towards prayers as they asked for my Aunt Sue’s spirit to freely pass on to heaven and for my dad’s heart, their “Poppa”, to be comforted and surrounded with love for his dying sister.
As the three of us reflected on their thoughts, the conversation eventually turned to Hadley asking questions about heaven. Where does your body go when you go to heaven? Riley was quick to answer. “Hadley, every body has a soul and that soul lives in heaven before it enters a body when you are born. Then, after years of life, your soul will leave your body and return to heaven only to be born again. You see, your soul never dies and you can come back in a different life, in a different body.”
I was amazed at what Riley shared with his younger sister. In a moment, I witnessed how generational beliefs and philosophies are passed down and how children not only listen and emulate their parent’s beliefs but how kind and pure-hearted they are at their core.
I have no recollection of being in heaven myself. And, I answered that way when Hadley asked me what it’s like. Instead, I shared an experience I had of leaving my body to provide an explanation for what I imagine heaven to be.
It was twenty years ago when I was apprenticing with a healer, studying intuitive development and dreams, leading vision quests and researching ancient therapies, mystics and modalities of body, mind and soul. During one of my own healing sessions, I had one of the most profound experiences of my life. What took place was so life-altering that my children have clearly picked up on the impact it had on me years later.
Lying on a couch in a small room, in a deep meditative and semi-conscious state, receiving healing on my right knee, I left my body. I will never forget it. I was in the presence of the most intense feeling of love I ever have felt. I was bathed in light and could hear a distinct angelic melody that brought tears to my eyes. I literally can recall this melody twenty-five years later. I saw my body lying on the table in the room, but I was not my body, I was the one watching and verbalizing what I saw. There were two people in the room with me during this experience – my teacher and another apprentice, were scribing the entire thing, so I have written record of every word I spoke in this altered state. As I hovered above my body, I was acutely aware of my own awareness. “I” was this being that was experiencing, receiving, and bathing in warm, tender and intense love. I felt heat all around and a deep sense of connection to all living things. I felt a part of something so much greater than myself. Tears streamed down my eyes in awe of my expanded awareness and the intense presence of unconditional love.
This was the first time that I really understood for myself that, “I have a body but I am not my body. I have a mind but I am not my mind. I am a soul – the formless essence of spirit that takes form through thought, physical expression, and human form.” I had never felt such penetrating love and peace. I was bathed in light – inside and out – and remained in this blissful state of altered awareness for at least two hours. I would never be the same again. It was and remains to be one of the most powerful and transformative experiences of my life.
The year was 1997, right around my 19th birthday. I had read about other’s near-death experiences, which were so similiar to my experience that day. During that time accountings like these seemed rare, crazy, and weird. People just didn’t talk about these things. In 2016, stories like these are more common to hear about – as evidenced by Anita Moorjani's moving Ted Talk or Dr. Eben Alexander story in his book, Proof of Heaven or so many others shared on Amazon. And yet, even now as I write this, I feel intensely vulnerable sharing this experience – an experience that I can only say changed me forever. I wonder, “What will people think of me? Will I be judged? Will I be believed?”
I have learned that I cannot control what others think of me and my commitment is to be as authentic as possible, even when it’s scary. And so you may believe my experience, or you may doubt it, that is for you to decide and I respect your viewpoints. What I can say is that the way I viewed everything changed. The way I connected to others shifted. The way I experienced heaven - as a state of being, a place of expanded consciousness infused with unconditional love - broadened my awareness of self, others and life. And it is this context that informed my children’s exchange about my Aunt’s transition. Whether you believe in this hypothesis of what heaven is like, is not the point. The point is that, no matter what you believe, we are so much more than we are led to believe. What if we could access this state of awareness and connection while being in our bodies - awake and alive each day? What would it be like to bring this state of unconditional love to the ourselves, eachother and the planet? What would our world be like if we brought heaven to earth?
As I write this, my Aunt Sue, an infectious disease doctor and professor at Tufts Medical School, is now in heaven herself. She died yesterday of pancreatic cancer at age 65.
I can only hope she experiences what I experienced. I can only hope that you learn what I’ve learned:
We are so much more than we’ve been led to believe.
We have a body but we are not our body.
We have a mind but we are not our thoughts.
We have a soul and that formless existence is boundless and timeless.
We come from love, are surrounded by love, and are made up of love.
We are on this planet for a very short period of time and there is much work to be done. We are called to take our boundless souls and turn them into positive action, here and now.