They say that when you die, that’s the end of your story.
They also say that when you die, you detach from your earthly body and rise up, stripped of your earthly identity. True, you remember who you are, but you no longer identify with it.
Personally, I’ve never died in this way and come back to tell the tale.
When I entertain the notion of oblivion at death, I think: I die, and everything about my life, with the exception of a legacy and some memories carried by others, evaporates in an instant.
When I entertain the notion of perpetuity at death, I think: my earthly body dies, but the essence of who and what I am endures and returns to the source of my creation and perpetuation.
Oblivion or perpetuity? There’s a most curious divide here, and for those who expect, even welcome, oblivion, there’s either a weary sense of resignation that goes with this expectation or else a point of pride to be made: I am a warrior; I am strong and savvy enough to face anything.
But the reality is quite different, according to those who have died clinically and come back, and the literature on what happens before, during, and after a so-called death keeps on growing …
The Usual Story of Life After Life
The classic tale of a so-called near-death experience is straightforward enough.
As the result of a disease, an accident, or a misadventure, your body and brain shut down and you find yourself hovering above your earthly body – even if your brain has flatlined.
You see and hear things with unusual clarity. If this is your first time, you feel more acutely aware of your surroundings than ever before. If you’ve been blind since birth, you can see.
If you’re in the presence of earthly others, you’re privy to their conversations and activities. You can even recount them with pinpoint accuracy when you return to earthly life.
Much to their amazement or embarrassment.
You’re drawn into a tunnel, or you traverse a dark space, or you pass through a portal, with or without one or more otherworldly guides by your side, after which you see a bright white light.
This is no ordinary light. In fact, it’s not really a light in the conventional sense, but an emanation – a warm and loving presence accompanied by beings both known and unknown.
You converse, get reacquainted – you might even pick up a family secret or two – and then, depending on your level of maturity and development, you’re either given a choice to stay or return, or you’re told in no uncertain terms that you must go back. Sometimes, you need a push to go back.
Upon returning to your compromised earthly body, you might wake up anywhere: the scene of your accident or misadventure, a bed, an elevator, a morgue, or in the middle of an autopsy.
Congratulations. You’ve just inherited a spread of aftereffects, some of which have been found to be quite beneficial (ref: Near-Death Experiences: The Rest of the Story, by P.M.H. Atwater).
If you’re lucky, you might even enjoy a miraculous and spontaneous healing – like the lady whose stage 4 cancer healed completely within four days of returning to the earthly realm – and if you’re prudent, like this lady, the healing is validated by a medical doctor and fully documented in the clinical records.
Here’s your evidence: with NDEs, you get verifiable details and validating effects that last.
Attempts at rational, logical, naturalistic explanation are weak at best. For every feeble attempt at explanation, there’s an even more compelling occurrence, incident, or discovery to explain.
Some Implications of Life After Life
Where does personal fulfillment fit into all of this?
Well, here’s the thing: if you’re persuaded that oblivion awaits you at death, then your sense of fulfillment will be at least a little different than if you’re persuaded that perpetuity awaits you.
If you think oblivion is your fate, then your life looks something like this: I grow up and I learn. I explore, develop, perform, improve, create, evolve, ascend. I live, I love, I laugh, and I cry.
And then I die. End of story.
If, however, you’re ready, willing, and able to entertain perpetuity as your fate, where you pass into The Great Beyond, undergo a review of your life, learn some more, explore some more, and then return to some manifest realm (probably earth, but not always) as a freshly minted incarnation, then the notion of personal fulfillment quite literally takes on a whole new dimension.
You might reserve the notion of personal fulfillment for this one earthly lifetime – the one you’re living now – and then speak of yet another kind of fulfillment (evolutionary fulfillment? kosmic fulfillment? the evolutionary fulfillment of a kosmic destiny?) to describe life beyond this one earthly lifetime.
Why would anyone want to do this?
For the simple reason that knowing about your kosmic destiny and your evolutionary fulfillment will inform, perhaps even inspire, your earthly destiny and your personal fulfillment.
Your Person Projects Your Soul
Your person – your name, title, roles, age, status, gender, religion, politics, sexuality – all make up a package called “me, myself, and I” – a projection of your soul in the manifest realm.
And the essence of your personality, your persona – cheerful? reserved? earnest? combative? – is your way of sharing and/or expressing and/or managing and/or directing this projection.
In the beginning, your soul was a raw energetic creation awaiting projection.
A baby soul is entirely raw; a seasoned soul is a conditioned soul with distinct advantages, or distinct disadvantages, depending on the quality of life in previous incarnations.
Personal fulfillment is all about fulfilling your life’s promise and purpose in this one lifetime.
Evolutionary fulfillment, on the other hand, stretches across many lifetimes, and is about fulfilling a kosmic destiny (what this means is something that I’m presently exploring in depth).
If you’ve ever felt caught between what you need to do and what you want to do, it might be because your soul is prompting you to do one thing while your person is pushing you to do another.
The earth is a mystery school, a testing ground for your soul to acquire mastery, where your soul is fated to experience a series of preset benchmarks as gauges to see how much you’ve learned and grown. Otherwise, your soul is pressured to apply itself to learning and growing as it sees fit.
If you ignore or dismiss the guidance of your soul, you risk going out of alignment with your promise and your purpose for being here on earth in this lifetime, bringing about a sense of unease.
Getting and staying in touch with your soul is almost a cliche, but the advice is sound. Essentially, it means getting and staying in touch with your sense of promise and purpose for being here.
When you stay in touch with your soul, the projections of your spirit feel good and right. They make sense. You feel alive. You can follow your bliss and go with the flow and enjoy your life.
When your person and your persona and your personality are aligned with your soul, your spirit can soar.
Just over a year ago, I touched on the nature of soul and spirit in One Soul, One Spirit.
In the weeks ahead, in light of this introductory post, I’ll draw on my ebook, Today, I Give Myself a Gift, to explore, examine, and expose the kosmic nature and essence of the soul.
I’ll be touching on such topics as the heart of your soul; the essence of soul, with its promise and its purpose; as well as your capacity for presence, which is even more fundamental than soul.
I’ll attempt to ground these heady abstractions to produce something meaningful and useful.
This is only a hunch, but I think the key to making this happen – to bringing soul and spirit down to earth, so to speak – lies in connecting notions of practice and performance with soul and spirit.
By the end of this series, you just might get a deeper sense of what it means to have a soul.
And why this is important for your health, happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.
Please note: I’ve added a new category to the sidebar called Essence to mark this series of posts for future reference.