Saturday, September 20, 2008

Sacred Life Sunday: What Happens When We Die....

For some reason, I have never experienced anything remotely close to fear of death. Sure, I have feared lingering illness, but not transition itself. It never occurred to me to be afraid.

Yet I couldn't have provided a picture of what the afterlife looked like, if challenged. I just knew there was one. It didn't concern me much. There was something at the inner core that knew when it was time, when I was done here, it would be time to go back where I came from.

In fact, honestly, I've never felt as though I belong here. Of course I do.. or I wouldn't be here.. but that's my way of saying that I feel like an observer more than a participant. The antics of Samsara often leave me feeling very odd - like watching a movie in a foreign language with poorly-written subtitles. The veil between the spirit world and this one is apparently fairly thin for me.

Last night I listened to a radio show about the afterlife. The man who was being interviewed has written a book claiming to provide scientific evidence that an afterlife exists. Clearly, in my opinion, he was trying to appeal to western minds that prefer scientific evidence of everything - but this is something that can't be proven. It's a matter of faith.

I believe we go somewhere familiar, that we have a complete understanding of what earthly (and otherworldly) life is all about, why we are here, the significance of this incarnation and the purpose of the next one. I do believe in a multiverse, that there is life that may or may not be similar to ours in other dimensions.

It just makes sense.

For a long time, I didn't believe we would recognize people from the past. The idea seemed rather absurd. It just makes no sense. While I try to keep an open mind, it's a hard one to grasp. It doesn't fit in with the process of reincarnation. If reincarnation exists, then those souls we know who have passed on have also moved on to other incarnations.

However, now I do believe that spirits can manifest as they choose and might imitate people known to us so that the newly arriving spirit won't be frightened. Remember that scene in the movie "Contact", as an example? For those who didn't believe or never thought about it, the whole process of transition would likely be rather frightening.

Some spirits don't realize they're dead and continue hanging around on earth for a while. Those are people who have died suddenly, violently or by suicide. That would explain poltergeists and other apparitions. Sometimes they don't know where to go. They need to be guided.

I believe we can be visited by spirits from the Other Side. In fact, I've had a visitation as I wrote about here some time back. My father visited me after his suicide. I don't believe he'd completely crossed over at that point but was looking for a way.

The purpose of all this rambling is to say that I believe death is just as sacred as life. It's not something to fear. It is a homecoming, a resolution and a completion. It's a graduation from one state of being to another.

I'd be interested in reading what you believe about the afterlife.



heartinsanfrancisco said...

I have never feared death itself either, although I hasten to add that I am not ready to end this incarnation yet. I do fear a painful process, though.

My beliefs are similar to yours. I have also been unmistakably visited from beyond more than once, and have questioned the apparent conflict between seeing loved ones from the recently departed lifetime and my belief in reincarnation.

Walt Whitman said, "I am large. I contain multitudes." While I respect science, I prefer poetry, and I think he was saying that our souls are able to exist on many levels simultaneously: Moving into a new body while also retaining the essence of the old to welcome loved ones. This is probably not as miraculous as the fact that we are here at all, over and over.

This was a wonderful Sunday post about a subject that has always occupied a huge portion of my thoughts.

Olivia said...

Hi, Chani,

I believe that we exist on in some way after death, and that death itself is not to be feared.

However, I greatly fear death. I think that we have to be truly spiritual NOT to fear death, and this is something I long to achieve.

I also think that death is a mystery. There is much we will never understand about it.

Love to you today, O

FranIAm said...

What a thought provoking post.

I do believe that we go somewhere after here- this is a soul thing, I don't think of it as a physical plane. It would be described as heaven my others of my faith and I will call it that too.

I have had vivid dreams that I think are part of some form of communication from the other side. Sometimes a certain scent, a thought, in intuition will clue me into a presence of some sort.

And whenever I see a blue jay I know that is my mother.

I do not fear death, but as the first commenter said - I am in no rush to get to it either.

Thank you Chani.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

I agree that death is sacred and not to be feared. I don't personally believe in incarnation, but I don't argue with people who do. I just don't know enough about what the afterlife is to debate the question. I believe we live on after deat, and I believe we will meet God, and the choices we make now somehow impact what the eternal future will be. I trust God to take care of the rest.

Border Explorer said...

I thank you for this post and for the story of the visit you had from your father after his death. It's a sacred story, indeed.

I have always had a tremendous grief around death and loss issues. I'm not sure why that pain is so keen for me.

As I age, I'm more peaceful about my own death. Attachment/Detachment are two sides of the same coin. I'm learning to let go and trust.

SUEB0B said...

One time when I was in the hospital, I thought I was going to die within the minute and I was NOT peaceful. I started screaming my freaking head off. So even though I would like to say I am not afraid of death, I have direct evidence to the contrary.

My sister was in a facility for people with mobility problems where everyone was in a wheelchair. During a meditation, she "saw" a young man standing behind a woman with his hands resting on the woman's shoulders, seemingly comforting her. My sister thought this was strange, because everyone in the room was in chairs. She asked the woman about who the man was in plaid pants behind her. She described the man. The woman said that my sis had perfectly described her son, who had recently died and was buried in his favorite plaid pants.

womaninawindow said...

Tonight over dinner we were discussing the merits of my homemade gravy and then the debate kinda started because my late FIL made great gravy, too. My daughter said, "But not now, it'd only be ashen gravy." And somehow quickly our conversation evolved into perhaps he's a vampire and the whole cremation was a ruse. We talk about death like it has possibilities, even as stupid as vampirism. (Sorry to all of your supportive vampires.) Maybe he's soaring, maybe he's in the woods somewhere, maybe he's peaking up outta a swamp, maybe making ashen gravy or maybe sucking blood. The point for us is that we do not know. Nobody KNOWS. But one thing is clear. Energy is neither created nor destroyed, so we emerge from this state of energy into another. Let's just live our lives well while we're in these fleshy suits. Let's learn how to make kick-ass gravy and let's learn how to enjoy it and rub our full bellies after. We're so damned lucky!

You ask the best questions!

Suki said...

There's only one thing I can say about the afterlife - I wish I believed. I don't know what will happen after I die, but I do know life will move on. And that it's my responsibility to myself to do as much as I can towards love and peace while I have the capacity. Maybe I'm not doing a great job, but I try.

Sienna said...

I don't understand how it all works, but I do believe in afterlife and spirits/souls that never leave us.

I love how you have written this:

"I believe death is just as sacred as life. It's not something to fear. It is a homecoming, a resolution and a completion. It's a graduation from one state of being to another."


starrlife said...

I appreciate this post. I was never afraid of death before I was a parent (that's 42 years) and now, with a young one who I'd miss terribly- I kinda am afraid! Maybe it's the turning 50 and menopause combo too. I don't fear actual passing, it's more the grief, that I'm too familiar with, the absence that I fear for on my daughter's behalf. It's about what I might miss watching her grow up, that she only just entered my life and I'm reluctant to let go. I put on my seat belts (never did), grip the steering wheel or the passenger door (never did), worry re: illnesses. Sigh.... it's seems silly to me but there it is..

Julie Pippert said...

I've had all sorts of different ideas over time. Right now, I just don't know. Maybe you find what you reach out for, maybe something is handed to you. Maybe something is nothing after all. I have known some people and when they died, I found myself firmly needing there to be NO CHANCE of ghosts in that way, outside the cobwebs of our own minds, and I hope that whatever comes after life, I never run into them. As such, I like to believe in afterlife, and I like to believe we have some control over it, and who we might encounter there--unlike here and now. I don't mean to sound so morbid but i also know I do want to believe in an afterlife that is very Heavenish. Peace.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

The afterlife is by far, by far my biggest area of confusion. On some levels, I guess I believe we just become part of the "oneness" that is the universe when we die. I'm not sure how I feel about reincarnation - it's my major sticking point with Buddhism. I definitely don't believe in a physical Heaven or Hell, and I always felt that having the afterlife held out as a carrot was cruel and wrong.

I guess this is one of the many things I'm still puzzling out.

I thought your wrote a very articulate post on a very muddled subject.

MsLittlePea said...

I don't know what I believe anymore. I'm still searching. I don't really have belief just a hope. It's funny that you posted about this because I've been thinking about my (dead) grandparents lately and have been having so many sad but happy at the same dreams of them. Especially my Grandpa. I can't think about the afterlife without thinking of them because losing them is something I've never really gotten over. I can't imagine existing in any kind of world where they are not. And I'll just tell the truth right now--death scares me. But like I said, I'm still searching.

painted maypole said...

i am also not afraid of death, but I do worry about it from the perspective of being a mother and leaving behind my child

Mariposa said...

Like, I have never feared death, yet, uncertainties on what awaits beyond it makes me think. Discussions like this fascinates me, as I am keeping myself open to different ideas on what is beyond this world...I would like to think, I will be in another another form...but I can't seem to have an organized thought to discuss it.

Ian Lidster said...

I want to believe as you do, and sometimes I can. Other times I am filled with doubt. My greatest fear of death has nothing to do with pain per se, but has everything to do with loss. I don't want to give up those whom I love.

afeatheradrift said...

hmmmm, death is not a subject I do well with. I believe that there is an afterlife, though what it is is beyond me. I hope it's not white robes and ambrosia, that sounds distincting boring. I like the Urantia take a bit more, we just are on a learning cycle with greater and greater responsibilities. Great exploration. I'd like to travel the universe and enjoy other planets for a lifetime, a decade, and then move on to another. Sounds most interesing. lol. But then the doubt creeps in and I wonder if it all comes down to just the end. But then I return to faith, and almost feel God conforting and reassuring me. :)

hele said...

I am keeping an open mind about death as life has often turned out so differently than my expectations.

Defiantmuse said...

I've thought about this a lot. Especially since having my daughter b/c it won't be long before she's asking about it. I don't really know though. None of us do. I figured my answer to the question "where do we go when we die" would be: we go back to where we came from when we were born. But where is that? I don't know. The collective energy that exists on this planet?

citizen of the world said...

I do not fear death or whatever it is that comes after. I fear prolonged suffering or pain before death, but not death itself. That said, I am reluctant to die yet because I very mcuh want to see my children to adulthood. Other than that, I could go with no regrets.

Angela said...

The only thing I believe for sure about the "afterlife" is that there is one. That term really doesn't fit, though, because I see it as an energy transformation. We are energy and energy doesn't die. I love what Echart says, "Life is not the opposite of death; birth is the opposite of death." So I believe the body dies, but we don't. I no longer even try to figure out exactly what that would look like. Thanks, as always, Chani, for a post that allows people to search their souls and minds.

Janet said...

I don't fear death, in and of itself, because it's the people I leave behind who will be suffering through the grieving process. I fear dying prematurely, though, because of all that I will miss.

I don't know what waits for us in the afterlife. I think of heaven as more a state of mind than a place. I think that if we live our lives with purpose and we are satisfied with our legacy at the end, then we die at peace.

Under there... said...

Thank you Chani! What a refreshing,thought-provoking post to encounter and what a delightful discussion in these comments. Your blog is like getting lost in a glass of fine wine---I love to savor it!

Thailand Private Investigator said...

I like to think that our loved ones still "live" somewhere! Maybe in our harts!