Before my near-death experience, I thought there was no afterlife and, consequently, no continuation of consciousness. In my view, death was total, complete, and utterly final.
Much to my surprise and joy, after my near-death experience the notion of continuation of consciousness became an unshakable reality. It was not an abstract idea or a passage in a book but an experience of the fabulous riches of total peace and belonging that eased my concerns about death. Actually, more than easing my concerns, my fear of death left and has not returned.
Finding Peace in a Conscious Death
Part of my work as a healer includes being called by families to the bedside of their dying loved ones. Odd as it may sound, helping someone find peace through prayer and meditation as they enter the afterlife is profoundly intense and strangely joyful.
Staying centered in the hope of a conscious, good death is a valuable endeavor for anyone, and conversations with a counselor, pastor, or family member can be quite helpful. The closer death comes, the more the universal experience of being welcomed to the other side increases. Materialism, status, and defended beliefs drop away. We enter the world naked, and we leave our body without credentials, bank accounts, or designer jeans.
The Process of Leaving the Physical Body
The process of leaving the physical body has been well described in writings such as Sherwin B. Nuland’s How We Die: Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter and Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s On Death and Dying. Many religions describe the soul leaving the body and hold different beliefs about intermediate states of being, journeys down tunnels, across rivers, on paths in the jungle, and out cross an expanse of emptiness. My own experiences at the bedside are not gauged by a particular belief system but are offered here from personal observation.
When a patient is in a coma, with all of their vital signs still functioning, and their soul departs, the feeling in the room changes. The person looks different in a manner difficult to describe. Usually the final signs of death — heart stopped and no respiration — occur within ten to thirty minutes after the mysterious departure of the soul. The person’s consciousness may remain near the body for some time, but frequently, and especially with preparation, the soul takes immediate flight to the safety of the beyond: Heaven, Heart of God, Universe, Creator, or luminous emptiness — however you may think of the afterlife.
Two general principles have emerged from my work with people approaching and completing this transition between the physical and spiritual realms:
The fear of death reduces the fullness of life
and holds part of us captive.
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When we face and overcome our fear of death,
we can live in a new dimension of ease, clarity, and vitality.
Overcoming the Fear of Death
Let me illustrate my understanding of the bridge that overcomes the fear of death, allows a new appreciation and fullness of life, and can support us in our own death or help us to compassionately assist others at their time of crossing over.
One of the key elements of training for indigenous healers in remote (or not-so-remote, anymore) parts of the world is personally facing death. The intent is to conquer this ultimate fear and then be able to walk between the worlds of physical and purely spiritual realities. Most of these training events are overwhelmingly fearsome.
In Bali, an aspiring healer may be taken by the teacher to a specific temple situated on an oceanside rocky outcrop of land that is accessible only during low tide. The initiate is left there to spend the night without shelter, food, or water. Alone in the open air, as the tide slips around the temple perched on rock, night settles in with unabated inky darkness. The waves crash all around the initiate and cobras emerge from their underground dens to investigate the intruder. The only way to survive this ordeal is to sit in the stillness of meditation with no fear. Perhaps you can imagine my gratitude that my tests, arduous enough for me, did not include this particular one.
If the healer is alive and sane when the tidal waters recede, the initiation is considered complete and successful. Is there any doubt why shamans and indigenous healers are so respected in their communities?
Crossing the Chasm Between Heaven & Earth
My ten years of study, during six trips to Bali, provided me with an understanding of the value of carefully crossing the chasm between heaven and earth — and between meditative states of consciousness and ordinary perception.
The wisdom of Jero Mangku Sri Kandi, my Balinese teacher and mentor, transcended cultural rituals and beliefs. She was a master healer with great skill in linking dimensions of consciousness. Over a decade of experiencing her rigorous tests, her implacable demeanor, and her profoundly loving spiritual connection, she taught me to safely and reliable embrace a greater reality beyond the material world.
This article is excerpted with permission from the book:
Cell-Level Healing: The Bridge from Soul to Cell
by Joyce Whiteley Hawkes, PhD
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Beyond Words, an imprint of Atria Book/Simon & Schuster. ©2006. www.beyondword.com.
About the Author
Joyce Hawkes, Ph.D., a respected biophysicist for over 15 years, received her doctorate in 1971. She was elected a Fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science for her scientific contributions in the field of ultra high-speed laser effects on cells, and the effect of environmental pollution on cells. Following a near-death experience, she changed careers in 1984 and embarked on an extensive exploration of spiritual and healing traditions. During three months living in the Philippines working with a native healer and a month-long stay in South India and six trips to Bali to work intensively with two native Hindu priests/shamans, she explored the previously uncharted borderlands that divide biology from spirituality – and discovered that emotional, mental, and spiritual feelings can have a profound impact on our bodies at the cellular level. Along with her speaking, writing, and teaching schedule, Dr. Hawkes is the founder of Healing Arts Associates in Seattle, Washington, and keeps a busy private practice at her office in Seattle and via telephone from her retreat center at the edge of the Mt. Baker wilderness in northern Washington State.