Many people are coming forward with incredible tales after near-fatal accidents or life threatening heart attacks, strokes and serious illness. While doctors and machines are trying to restore body and mind, they are reporting remarkable near-death experiences. Almost universally they find when the mind stops their awareness continues. They are quite surprised to find themselves looking down upon their bodies as their awareness spreads and spreads through walls, buildings, across country into other realms. They are in wonder with what is happening. The mind is not the source, the beginning and end of existence. There is a larger universe. Another world opens to them. There is a vast space. They share stark stories of leaving their everyday reality and going into a great light. Once there, their whole life appears in front of them for review. Meanwhile an experience of other worldly peace, a very intimate love, an unconditional acceptance beyond words surrounds them. Near-death experiences are full of reports of brilliant light, angels, Christ, wise beings beyond description in our earthly terms. They report having a body although they have no body. They find a deep understanding with no words being shared. Everything is complete and whole. There is a universe of unity and harmony for at least as long as the experience continues.
Near-death experiences have seemingly no time, no limit until it is understood the person must return. Suddenly they open their eyes and are back to their normal reality. These experiences change their lives, their priorities, their relationships, almost everything which they previously thought were true. Almost universally people who have had near-death experiences begin choosing a life of joy. There are no excuses, no substitutions for joy as the measurement for a good life.
The experience of meditation is very similar to these reports of near-death experience.
When we meditate we discover when our thoughts and feelings recede, our awareness continues. When our mind stops there is much more. As we go deeper inside, our awareness finds a great presence. Our small "I" finds a much larger "I am" that is spreading into a vast space. We are much more than our thoughts and feelings. Awareness is found to be without limit, without boundaries. Meditation takes us beyond our daily world to a non material realm, which is not easy to describe or explain to anyone who believes strongly in only this physical world.
After finding our awareness free of thought and feeling, meditation continues exploring this space which seems to grow beyond our body, beyond the room we are in, growing indefinitely out from our heart. Like a tunnel from darkness to light, as we meditate we find the narrow world of our thought and feeling expanding. There is a space of increasing peace. This peace deepens as we enter into the river of our awareness. Before we know it, the river becomes an ocean of being. We find more and more lightness of being. Our mind is recognized as not the source of who we are. In fact our mind is a filter limiting our experience of something greater.
When we slow down and sit in meditation we cannot help but review our thoughts and feelings. We see clearly the story ruling our life. But in the big sky of awareness, the clouds of thought and feeling are not so important. There is a whole sky and universe to explore. We feel pulled to move on into a realm of expansiveness, gentleness, silence where the only sound is one of being, sacredness.
Two questions stand out. What about people who have a near-death experience and do not find a great love but much darker realms? Many people who meditate also do not find a vastness of love but instead find themselves stuck in mental realms of worry, depression, and inner struggle. For both it is eventually small steps towards love, light, forgiveness which eventually free them. Meditation, receiving qualities of heart, softens the conflicts of our personality. Something greater is found in the simple act of sitting in peace and feeling the presence of one's heart. And why is it that near-death experiences appear to be so much more vivid and real than most encounters with meditation? When people almost die their minds are nearly or completely shut down. The filter that limits awareness is literally turned off. At best when we meditate, the filter of our ego is turned down and the inner silence of our heart is turned up. With meditation it is a gradual process as the heaviness of thought and feeling is thinned by the magnitude of the gentle emptiness and quietude that is discovered. Heavenly peace and love unfold the less mental and more heart full our meditation.
Our heart is the living room to explore. Many meditators have an experience of finally coming home. We have found our true home which is very different from anything our daily world can offer. As we let go into an inner peace, a realm of greater peace is present. We may see or feel gardens of love where each flower is alive, breathing an immense fragrance of life and joy. There is a ground of being discovered in meditation. The ground of our awareness can be described to be made of brilliant light, goldenness or a sky of stars and diamonds. This light and jewels are the essence of our true awareness. There is a ground of being of pure treasure in each of us. In meditation this Heavenly essence and much more is found in our awareness. I and me are understood to be we, all, and everything. All of life is interwoven and interconnected. There is no separation, no judgment, nor possible failing. In meditation we enjoy a natural innocence, trust, and completeness.
As with those who have near-death experiences, scientists and other thinkers will say these experiences are only fantasy, our imagination. But for meditators we can feel the difference. We are not making up these experiences as one makes up a fantasy. These experiences are like lucid dreams but they are not dreams. In meditation we are leaving known parts of our awareness and finding something else present. Our awareness includes both the human and the divine.
We can escape the relatively heavy and darker world of ordinary life and receive a vast lightness every time we unplug, take a break, and go into the stillness and beauty within. Like people who have a near-death experience a bell rings. We must come back. There is a daily life to lead. But our meditation experience has changed us. We feel more connected to the essence of life. We find more simplicity, humility, compassion, and of course joy. Life is precious. There is chocolate and there is a place of perfect love. It is not an idea, a belief, but an actual experience. Every time we feel the presence of our hearts we are brother and sister to everyone who has had a near-death experience. We are a brother and sister to everyone.
We invite you to join us in a sanctuary of silence, nature, and heartfulness meditation at Silent Stay near Napa, California and Assisi, Italy.
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