Never before has there been such a fascination with life after death.
Each week, millions of people across America tune into programs on television, including “Hollywood Medium with Tyler Henry” or “Project Afterlife.” When a famous celebrity makes their transition, the world is glued to days of news coverage.
Why this captivation? I believe it’s because death unites us. No matter your ethnicity or where you live in the world, we all share one common experience; at some point in our lives, we’ve lost someone close to us. For me, it was my 24-year old brother; Michael.
Sometimes the loss can cut so deep it changes our lives forever.
But the big question still remains; where do we go? One man says he has the answer.
James Van Praagh, one of the most respected mediums on the planet, has spent close to four decades teaching the public to “communicate with the dead.”
His legendary work has been featured on a number of programs including Oprah, Dr. Phil and 48 Hours.
Van Praagh is a New York Times best selling author of a dozen books including his latest book, “The Power of Love.”
He says the most important thing about life that he’s learned from communicating with spirits, “They say everything is made from love. Love is the greatest healing force in the universe.”
I sat down with James Van Praagh at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York where he was teaching a class on mediumship. He spoke with me about what he believes happens to us after we finish our journey here on earth.
Q: What is the difference between a psychic and a medium’s abilities?
Van Praagh: Every medium is a psychic not every psychic is a medium.
A medium is somebody who has a very strong foundation of a psychic ability but they are also able then to bring up a power or energy in the mind.
The spirit world live in a dimension which is much faster than our three dimensional world and what happens is a medium brings their awareness to a certain level up and the spirit people drop down theirs and they meet half way, in the middle, i.e. medium. The medium is able to feel and connect with messages from the spirit world at that high vibration but they are also able to sustain that high frequency, so that is the difference.
Q: What is the most important thing about life that you've learned by communicating with spirits?
Van Praagh: They say that everything is real, thoughts are real. You have to be responsible for your thoughts; what you think becomes a reality. Treat another person as you want to be treated.
All your actions, all those people you wronged in your life will be the first ones you meet when you pass over. That teaches responsibility; responsibility for thoughts, words and deeds.
They say everything is made from love. Love is the greatest healing force in this universe.
When you interact with another person try to be the bigger person. Try to use love, try to change the energy field, make them feel love. You are only given a very short time on this earth, so they say please make the most of every single moment. I translate that to being mindful of every moment. Being mindful of what your thoughts create, being mindful how you feel, how you treat another person.
Q: Here on earth, just living takes time. We eat, we sleep, we commute.
If the spirits don't have to do these things, what are our loved ones doing on the other side?
Van Praagh: One of the first things spirit people say when they pass over is thank God I don’t have to shower or eat or do all those mundane physical things, although some have an awareness, a memory of doing those things and they enjoyed them.
But eventually that memory will burn out. They don’t need it anymore on that level.
On that level your soul does your souls work. Some souls will be drawn to missionary work, helping people who pass over. Some people pass over of a drug addiction; they will find that they will help other people that have passed over in that condition.
We also tend to be guides of our loved ones. Many people think guides are these beings, which are beyond us.
No. They can also be family members that have passed over. It may be a mother who doesn’t feel she did enough for you when she was alive on earth and now it’s her opportunity to help you from the other side.
There are many schools and learning centers over there; great museums and great arts, so we can be artists over there. If in this life we always wanted to play the piano but were never given the chance, over there you can learn to play the piano.
You do everything on the spirit side of life that your heart desires.
That’s why it’s called heaven.
Q: Could you give me a couple of examples of how your work as a medium has helped those that are grieving?
Van Praagh: There so many different ways of healing and helping people move on.
When someone loses a child perhaps and they think that their lives are over. When they have a message come through from their child saying, “Daddy you have my favorite t-shirt underneath the pillow,” and there are these evidential details that prove life after death, the people that thought their lives were over when their child passed away realize there is no death, that their son is still with them. It helps to bring back their life.
People say, “Can they hear me?” Yes. They hear our thoughts.
In a way, my mediumship goes one step farther. Now that we know there is no death and that your loved ones are around you, you now have to start taking responsibly for your life. So it also teaches responsibility.
It does help people to realize their nature, which is that you are a soul having a human experience, but you are first and foremost a soul.
Finally, to realize we are all the same, no one is different.
Q: Every death is sad. However parents that lose a child to suicide often experience extreme guilt because they believe they could have done something to prevent it.
Talk to me about suicide. How is the soul’s journey crossing over different than say, losing a grandparent from old age and what message would you give to grieving parents?
Van Praagh: To me, the soul can never be harmed. Whether it’s suicide, a plane crash, heart attack, a murder, it doesn’t matter how that soul leaves the body because we know number one, there is no pain in leaving the body. We know that because we’ve had a lot of near death experience people; I am one of those as well, who mentioned you lose consciousness for a little bit.
People who have completed suicide often describe I didn’t feel anything. I went out of the body and I didn’t even know it.
I often say the best thing a loved one can do for a suicide is to send them love because they hear your loving thoughts.
I don’t know all the answers on suicide but the most important thing to realize is that it’s not your fault. That soul has a choice within, they have a knowingness. The parents shouldn’t blame themselves, they really shouldn’t. I find that all the time.
This came through probably five, six years ago. It is very, very hard for me as a medium sometimes on stage to say something because we have to respect people. We have their lives in our hands and we have to really empower them and not disable them.
A spirit boy said to his mom and dad, and it was a suicide, he said, “Mom and dad, I see you. I lived for 24 years. I lived 23 great, great years, but you’re obsessing about the last day of my life. That’s all you’re looking at. Mom, I died once, don’t make me die every day with your thoughts.” They see our thoughts.
Q: Many people report meeting with their loved ones in dreams, how do you distinguish if it's a dream or an actual visitation?
Van Praagh: Every night we go to sleep, I believe the soul leaves the body.
Everyone has had the experience where they are just about to fall asleep and they shake and come back in. I believe its because the soul is not leaving in the correct access of the body so it comes back in to start again.
The soul will go to another level of consciousness, the spiritual dimension where you meet your loves ones.
There are details. You are with them, you are young again, there is a sense of life, there is a connection and it’s like, “Wow this is so real, I want to be here forever.”
That’s a cross over. Your soul is visiting them. You can see your loved ones, your teachers, your guides.
In my audience I ask them how many have had dreams of their loved ones and ninety percent of their hands go up. The other ten, they don’t remember.
Q: Nearly eighty percent of people report experiences of Déjà vu, the French word for already seen. From your experience how would you explain this phenomena?
Van Praagh: [During a dream] If you go on the other side, you may be involved in a situation or scenario that will be happening in the future and you see it and then you come back.
Several months later you have an experience and say I knew this was going to happen; this is Déjà vu.
Q: How can you tell when a loved one is sending physical signs as opposed to everyday occurrences?
Van Praagh: The spirit world is all around us all the time. Just like in the movie “Ghost” with Patrick Swayze, the first thing he wanted to do was tell his girlfriend he is around, “I’m not dead, I am alive,” he said.
Every single being who leaves their body will want their loved ones to know they are fine and they will try that with thoughts. They will stand next to their loved ones and say, “I’m not dead”, because they don’t know yet how to communicate.
Just because someone passes out of the physical body doesn’t mean they are experts at communication right away. They have to kind of learn the ropes of how to communicate effectively with the living.
Many people will drive in the car and they all of a sudden will have a thought of their dad and they never thought the dad is sitting next to them projecting a thought, an image, a feeling into their mind, and that is exactly what is happening.
They will also get through with inspiration. Inspiration means “in spirit”.
Many people think that their loved ones are butterflies or dragonflies or birds.
Is it mom, the butterfly? Yes and no. I think what happens is mom is next to you; you see a butterfly and then she sends a thought of herself and you are associating the thought of that butterfly with your mother.
Spirit can also come through in other ways. Like when you see someone who reminds you of your loved one. They can manifest coins to drop. Nickels, pennies, even feathers; things that happen in the strangest ways.
Many people call it coincidence. I don’t believe in coincidence. I think coincidence is God’s way or remaining anonymous.
They also can effect things electronically. So the lights blinking on and off, the radio, the computer going on and off, cell phones.
Photographs. They will very often come through in orbs. I always tell people if you have a manifestation of any kind, stop, close your eyes and ask them to give you a thought right away. That’s a great way of communication.
Q: How do you know what they are trying to tell you?
Van Praagh: It’s a difficult communicating because they have to go though the human and it’s hard to get through that egotistic self; EGO edging god out.
Many of us want so much control that we don’t want to surrender our minds to let the spirit in.
When you can quiet the mind and get to that surrendering state, you’ll begin to feel and hear your soul speak and you’ll receive impressions, almost like whispers.
The hardest part of mediumship is opening up you heart and feeling it in the heart. You have to discern between what is coming from your own mind, your ego, and what is separate of you.
Q: In your line of work I imagine you run into many skeptics. How do you respond to non-believers?
Van Praagh: I was an open-minded skeptic myself and I think people need to be open minded skeptics. I don’t think you just take everything in because you have to take some responsibility with it.
When someone says they are a medium, I check them out because there has got to be integrity.
What anyone thinks of us is none of our business. So what anyone thinks of you is none of your business.
So many people get caught up on what people think of them. It doesn’t matter what people think of you because no one can love you more than you can love yourself, because nobody knows you more than you know yourself. Everybody has their own journey and what I do is, I present an ability. I just present it to everyone and say, “If it works for you take it in. If it doesn’t resonate with you then don’t take it in.”
And that is true with every line of work. Just because someone is a leader doesn’t mean they have all the answers.
Q: How do you find somebody, whether it is a psychic, a medium or a Reiki healer? How do you know if they are trustworthy?
Van Praagh: Go by referral. If someone has had a very, very good mediumship experience or psychic then that is someone you should go to.
What are they charging? Is it exorbitant? If it’s just crazy and not realistic, bye, bye.
If you have a connection, whether it is a psychic reading or mediumistic, you need to pay attention to details, specific details. Not “your grandmother gives you a lot of love.”
Well what was grandmothers name or where did she live? What was her death condition? Do you have a piece of her jewelry? They should give as much specifics as they can. It can be some general things; they give you a lot of love, but its got to be backed up with strong evidential details.
Q: If someone is having difficulty clearing their mind to meditate what techniques would you suggest to them?
Van Praagh: Set some time aside. Maybe its when you get home after work and no one is around, so you are not in a rush. All you have to do is be still. What I do is close my eyes and work with the breath and I image the breath is this beautiful beam of light coming into the body; coming into the heart and opening up the body. And when I exhale out of my mouth I let go all of those things that I am holding on to, whether its fear, anxiety or other people’s energy. And just with my thoughts, I say “come in love and light and let go of the old”. As I close my eyes and breath in, I just say the words “be still, be still, be still”, and before you know it, you will be still.
When you sit in that space of quiet, it becomes very loud. You allow yourself to hear your souls voice and really expand on that sense of intuition.
Q: You teach classes here at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York and all over the world. Can anyone learn to be a medium?
Van Praagh: Every single person is psychic from one degree to another; which means we are all intuitive. Intuition means into the soul. We have all had experiences where we think of something, and five minutes later the phone rings it’s that person. That is usually your intuition. The more you pay attention to that little voice within, the stronger it becomes. Choices in life can be made easier.
I would say often its like learning to play the piano. Everyone has the ability to play the piano but not everybody is a concert pianist. So you can develop to a certain level but you have to be born with a higher level, just like a concert pianist.
Q: One piece of advice for someone trying to develop his or her skills as a medium?
Van Praagh: Just because someone takes one class as a psychic or a mediumship class doesn’t mean they can go out and start doing readings professionally. That is why I really insist that they learn to touch that ability when they take the class. But then they have to develop the sensitivity, develop the integrity, develop the responsibility.
People that study law or medicine they go for at least eight years to learn. Same thing with mediumship they need to develop further and further.
I wanted to get to know the man behind the medium, so I asked James Van Praagh, quick “In the Moment” questions.
Q: Biggest misconception about death?
Van Praagh: That it doesn’t exist. There is no such thing as death. It’s energy, you can’t kill energy. We have within us this soul. We are a soul having a human experience not the other way around.
Q: Biggest illusion about life?
Van Praagh: The two biggest illusions we have in this three-dimensional world are; one, there is no death and second, separateness.
We feel separate from one another, when in reality we are all the same energy. We may come from different places in the world, have different skin color, different traditions, different backgrounds but we are all made from that same energy.
Q: If you could have any job other than a medium what would choose?
Van Praagh: Landscape architect. I love the garden and the landscape and I can tend to see the beauty in a lot of things, even in houses. If I go to a house that doesn’t have a great space I envision how to make it better, bring color and light into it. I am a really good with that.
Q: What book are you reading right now?
Van Praagh: My own “Power of Love.” I am reading it over and over again because I have to go talk about it.
I am also reading a book, which is pretty funny you will find this really weird.
It’s called the cockpit, and it’s about what you don’t know about flying. And since I fly almost every day it would be nice to know how the plane works.
Q: Favorite Music?
Van Praagh: Bruce Springsteen. I’m putting it out to the universe that I want to meet him.
I love his kindness. I see the heart, I see the soul. When someone has integrity and they are getting something out, whether its art, or story telling to change the human condition in a better way, I really honor that.
Q: One item you collect?
Van Praagh: Hearts. Years and years ago people started giving me glass hearts and ceramic hearts so now I have over 3000 hearts.
Q: If you could be any animal what would you choose?
Van Praagh: A dog. I have two babies at home and I love dogs. They are wonderful teachers of unconditional love. In Chinese astrology I am a dog so I relate well with dogs.
Q: If you could have any super power what would it be?
Van Praagh: To have a magic wand and to open up people’s minds and take away fear and replace it with complete love and understanding and let people see that God is the diversity in everything.
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