Season of the Afterlife
The Reason for the Season
It’s almost Halloween, and we’re all decorating with spooks and pumpkins, orange lights and gold and yellow garlands. We’re picking out costumes for our kids or ourselves, and indulging in candy corn, not because we like the taste, but because that’s what you do at this time of year. But for me, there’s so much more to the season of the final harvest. It’s truly all about that horror we think of as death and what lies beyond it. Last week I took five of the grandkids to see The Book of Life, an animated film. It depicted the afterlife as seen by some, as The Land of the Remembered, and as a place where families were having the most fun ever, where the parties never ended, where laughter and fun were constant, and where you could eat all the churros you want! When the story’s hero went there, he wasn’t sad, he was overjoyed. And when he came back again, his family wasn’t sad, because they knew he would return when it was his time, and they could just pick up where they left off. It has such a positive depiction of the afterlife that it can’t help but sooth children who’ve lost a family member, or even a pet!
Fiesta de la Muerta
The Day of the Dead is observed on November 1st. The living honor their beloved dead with gifts and candles and food, and mostly, with remembrances. They “feel” the presence of those loved ones, and celebrate with them the night through.
Samhain and Hallowe’en
Halloween, October 31st, is about costumes and tricks and treats of course, but it’s based on the very sacred Celtic holiday of Samhain (Sow’-en) which is very similar to the Mexican Day of the Dead.
The Celts believed the Veil Between the Worlds was at its thinnest on Samhain, and so they could visit with their loved ones most easily at this time. One custom was the Dumb Supper, a meal eaten in silence with a place set for the beloved dead. The silence was observed in order to better feel their presence. Samhain is the exact halfway point between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice, falling this year on November 7th when the sun reaches 15 degrees in the sign of Scorpio.
What is the Afterlife Like?
It’s fitting that cultures all around the world have such similar celebrations in time with the transition from Autumn to Winter, from life to apparent death. But for me, it inspires a thousand questions. What is the afterlife really like? What does it look like? Does it feel physical? What will we do there? And so on. Answers abound, in films like Robin Williams’ What Dreams May Come, the current hit Heaven is for Real, and The Book of Life mentioned above. They come from those who’ve had Near Death Experiences and returned to tell us what they saw, like Dr. Ebon Alexander in his book, Proof of Heaven, and The Afterlife of Billy Fingers, a book by Annie Kagan that is the most comforting experience I can imagine for anyone who is grieving the loss of a loved one. Some of the things we hear most often is that the afterlife is not only real, but so much more real than this current one, that once we’re there, this feels as if it was like a dream. Many state emphatically that heaven is “Just like here, only MORE.” More vivid, more colorful, more joyous, and utterly without any sort pain. I dreamed of the afterlife once, and saw colors that didn’t exist. I remember looking at these colors and thinking, “that’s a color I’ve never seen before. There’s no color like that in the whole world.” And there was a voice telling me, “You can’t see all the colors when you’re physical. But here, you can see the full spectrum, and it’s more than you ever imagined.” When I woke, I remembered seeing colors I could not identify, but for the life of me, I couldn’t recreate them in my mind’s eye. One thing we know about the other side; we’re all going there. We’re all going to find out what it’s like. This physical experience is a very tiny blip in the endless existence of our spirit, which is eternal. I wish we could make peace with that, and start seeing the other side as the next part of an endless journey, rather than an ending. I wish we could celebrate life, and mourn death a little bit less, taking comfort in knowing it’s only a very brief separation, and that we’ll be reunited soon.
How to Talk to the Dead
Not only that, I wish we could realize that it’s not a true separation at all. We cannot experience our loved ones with our five physical senses because they are no longer physical. But we experience all sorts of things in our dreams–we see things, hear things, feel things in the dream state, without using our physical senses at all. This is the very same way we can experience spirit. We have to suspend our skepticism, and be open to and expectant of communication from them. You know how sometimes you see something, and think, Oh Gosh, Bob would love that! (Exchange “Bob” for the name of your loved one on the other side.) And in your mind’s eye you can see “Bob’s” reaction to whatever it is. The smile, the wink, the grin. You can hear his laugh. You can even imagine the smart-ass comment he’d make in response to it. When that happens to you, stop for a second, and open yourself up to the possibility that it actually IS Bob, reacting and smiling and making snarky comments to you. You call it imagination. Because you’re experiencing physical things (seeing Bob’s face and hearing Bob’s voice) in a non-physical way. But that is precisely how we must experience spirit. In fact, it’s the only way we can.
But isn’t that Just Imagination?
Dreams, Imagination, Intuition, Inspiration, and the Experience of Spirit are all taking place in the very same way within us. These things reach us on a non-physical level, a purely vibrational level, that our minds then translate into physical things so that we can perceive them while residing here in our physical bodies. We aren’t really seeing Bob’s smile, because Bob no longer has a body or a face with which to smile, and because our eyes aren’t remotely involved in what we’re seeing. But we’re feeling his amusement, and we know exactly the expression he would use to convey that precise kind of amusement to us, and so that’s what we see in our mind’s eye. We are, in fact, experiencing Bob from the realm of spirit. This takes some getting used to, but if you play with it and mull on it, and especially begin to practice it, you’ll find that your loved ones aren’t as out of reach as you might have thought they were. Talking to the dead isn’t about spooky seances or rocking tables. It’s about having a conversation as if they are sitting right there beside you. Talk to them, hear and see them responding to you in your mind, and believe and accept that it’s real. It’s not physical. But it is real. Heaven isn’t physical either, not in the way we’re accustomed to. But it too is real.
When it Doesn’t Work
The only caveat is this. When you are grieving and missing someone, when your heart is filled with sadness and mourning, you cannot easily experience the presence of your loved ones. They have moved into an existence that is purely positive, and the Law of Attraction (which is like the Law of Gravity) says that like attracts like. A person who is sad and grieving can only experience things that match that sad, negative vibration. To experience the pure positive energy of spirit, you have to find a way to be joyful, despite missing them. You have to release the grief, and accept that it was their time, and not yours. That your journey, your purpose, remains here on earth, or you wouldn’t still be here, and that everything is unfolding exactly the way it’s supposed to. Finding a new purpose, searching for your reason for being still here, will help pull you above the sadness and feelings of loss, and that will, in turn, allow you to experience the opposite of loss; It will allow you to experience the presence of and connection with your beloved that never truly went away. I want to leave you with the most beautiful thoughts I’ve ever heard expressed by Zen Buddhist Monk Tich Nhat Hanh when Oprah Winfrey asked him what happens when we die.
“It is like a cloud in the sky. When the cloud is no longer in the sky, it doesn’t mean the cloud has died. The cloud is continued in other forms…like rain or snow or ice. So you can recognize your cloud in new forms. If you are very fond of a beautiful cloud, and if your cloud is no longer there, you should not be sad. Your beloved cloud might have become the rain, calling on you. ‘Darling, darling, don’t you see me in my new form?’ And then you will not be stuck with grief and despair.Your beloved one continues always. Meditation helps you to recognize her continued presence in new forms.”
What Do YOU Think Happens When We Die?
I want to know. Leave a note in comments and let’s discuss!
The Afterlife of Billy Fingers by Annie Kagan
Proof of Heaven by Dr. Eben Alexander
Peace of Mind by Tich Nhat Hanh
Talking to Heaven by James Van Praagh
Halloween by Silver Ravenwolf