It has now been a little over a month since Shane’s death, and what a crazy month it has been. I still recall those first couple of weeks with incredible detail, as I struggled to move from the bed we shared and just couldn’t believe what was happening. I lost five pounds in a week because eating held no appeal for me. The day I almost passed out from lack of nourishment was the day my mom forced food down my throat. I showered only when absolutely necessary. And forget about sleeping. If I got one hour uninterrupted, I was lucky. I thought this was going to be my new reality. How was I ever going to get through this? How would I ever laugh or find joy in my life again?
While I consider myself a stronger person now than I used to be, what has truly allowed me to begin to find peace with this situation surprised me: spirituality.
But first, a little background. I was raised as a Catholic, went through baptism, communion and confirmation, attended weekly church and religious education classes, and even got married in a church after going through Pre Cana. And truth be told, I hated all of it. As soon as I didn’t have to go to church anymore, I stopped and haven’t looked back since. I don’t mind others who choose Christianity as their belief system, it’s just not for me. And that goes for all religions (except Buddhism). A lot of typical religious ideals do not line up with my personal values. However, I never stopped believing that there is some sort of higher power in the universe.
Since the age of about 24 I’ve struggled with my belief system. I so badly wanted to believe that something else was at play, but the skeptic in me would doubt any possibilities. As a result, I’ve feared death my entire life. I didn’t know what would happen after I died, and my ego didn’t like that very much. I wanted to live forever! But because spirituality wasn’t a big part of my life at that point anyway, for the next six years it sort of got pushed to the side. Plus, I didn’t want any beliefs to somehow tie me to a religion, even though I was the only person in charge of that. I basically became an agnostic, not really considering the subject of much importance in my daily life.
Which brings us to today. I feel that there is a portion of the population that doesn’t explore spirituality until a significant life event takes place, usually in the form of death or a near-death experience. Shane’s death is mine. All of a sudden, this topic that I ignored for years moved to the forefront of my mind, and it hasn’t left since. And it only came about because I missed him and the connection we had. I began talking to him as if he was there; sometimes crying to him, sometimes yelling at him, sometimes telling him something funny the cats did. I didn’t expect anything to come of this, but then some interesting things started happening that shifted my perspective…
Once I opened my eyes and became more mindful of my surroundings, I started to get signs and glimpses of him. I was dreaming of him constantly, even seeing his face next to mine for a millisecond upon waking up. He spoke to me through light, music, flowers, and even eclipse glasses. But the most powerful spiritual feeling I’ve experienced has been through meditation. My practice has changed so much in the last month, mainly because I’m no longer easily distracted. It has been life-changing to say the least.
The first time I felt him was in Savasana after a yoga practice a couple of weeks ago. I was so focused on him and asked him if he was there. Then I started to feel waves of cold and warm, tiny pinpricks of electric shock on parts of my body, morphing colors of blue and purple, and absolutely no concept of how much time had passed. It was intense, and I woke up wanting to cry and laugh at the same time, but ultimately with a pure sense of peace. It was an emotional rush like I’d never experienced before. I have to wonder if that’s a small taste of the feeling you get when you die. So I tried again the next day, and the same thing happened. Since then I’ve had about 75% success with reaching him, or some other power, during meditation. On the days I don’t reach him, I don’t get upset. It’s all a process.
My outlook on life has changed drastically from these meditations. I have never been more present to every part of my life before. I’m not dwelling on the past, nor worrying about the future. I’m not glancing at my phone every five seconds. I’m finding more compassion for people. I’m appreciating the beauty in everything. I’m not even thinking all that much about political stuff anymore (and my Facebook friends can attest to my lack of posting lately on this topic). And I’m not afraid of death anymore, which I never thought I’d be able to say at the age of 30. My connection to him has grown so strong that I can walk down the sidewalk and talk to him in my mind, and still feel that little electric shock. As someone who would have either not noticed this before, or dismissed it, I can admit it’s pretty wild.
So what does all of this make me? Hopefully crazy isn’t the first thing that pops into your mind. But what do you call someone who doesn’t believe in religion but feels a strong connection with the universe? Well, you can just call them spiritual, of course, but there is an actual term for this: theist. A theist is someone who believes in the existence of a god (or gods) as the creator and ruler of the universe. My therapist has helped me realize my spirituality and make sense of my endless questions. For example, evolution and free will can and do exist in the mind of a theist. But I believe there is also a divine order of things, and that experiences can serve as catalysts for our ultimate fate. The experiences we have are not coincidences.
While calling myself a theist, I do also believe in a lot of Buddhist teachings though. I don’t believe that this is our only life. I think we have the capacity to have multiple lives in various forms, and that each life is an opportunity for us to grow and do good. I believe that our sole purpose in any lifetime is to find our higher selves, and until we do, we keep trying throughout different lives. If we royally fuck up, we have to keep coming back in not-so-great ways to hopefully find one more inch of progression. And if we reach enlightenment in a lifetime, we find liberation from this cycle. I believe we are extensions of God and the universe, not separate, inferior beings. If we want to look at it from the Christian perspective of heaven and hell: heaven is the liberation of the soul, hell is having to come back as an ant…or a Trump supporter (sorry, couldn’t resist one fun political reference).
The funny thing is that if Shane were still alive, he’d either be laughing at this or arguing with me, as he was a very strong atheist and believed this was basically it as far as life goes. But I feel like I’m the one laughing now, because I know he’s still there. Your energy has to go somewhere when you die, it cannot be destroyed. But all laughing aside, our connection remains and, I hope, never goes away. This is not to say that I still don’t get upset that he’s gone, but rather that I have gained some comfort through this process. My strengthened spirituality through yoga and meditation has drawn me closer to the universe, to Shane and to myself. My goal now is to keep that going and see what I can make of this lifetime by letting things happen organically, not trying to control anything. Hopefully it’s enough to come back as something cool next time, like a well-fed cat. 😉