What do you think, or hope, happens after we die? Say we knew with 100% certainty what will occur, what would change for you here/now? While I don’t think that’s going to happen, I am convinced talking and sharing about death will make us less afraid, less anxious, and more loving now. While thinking about four main beliefs regarding what happens after our last breath, it occurred to me each offers a gift to better our quality of life here and now.
Before diving in, I’ll mention this is the sixth blog in a series to get us talking about death in all its forms. “Death” meaning any loss, change, or transition, whether it’s graduating, breaking up, changing/losing jobs, moving, injury, illness, changing beliefs, breathing your last breath, or what have you. While this blog stands alone, you can check out the first one here: https://gracenpeaceyoga.com/2019/05/17/how-the-way-we-approach-death-is-killing-us-lets-talk-about-death-part-1/
Unlike the previous blogs in the series, today in talking about “death” I will predominately be meaning and focusing solely on when this life ends. That said, I plan to keep the relevance and application firmly in the here and now.
When it comes to beliefs about the afterlife, it seems to me there are four primary categories: (1) Nothing, (2) I don’t know, (3) Resurrection, and (4) Reincarnation. While I personally believe in resurrection, what I’d like to propose here is each view on our post-death fate has a gift that will enrich our lives now. Plus, just thinking and talking about death in a positive manner makes us less fearful, more aware, and more alive, because there’s something magical that happens when we share and discuss things openly. With that said, let’s talk about death.
What if when we die the “screen” goes black and it’s all over? Given the evidence we have, the limits of science, and the “great unknown” nature of death, it seems to me this is a legit and understandable stance. Honestly, I think living as if death is the end is super-helpful, in that it propels us to action. Not only does it make every hug, shared story, and moment of intimacy all the more precious and potent, thinking (or at least acting like) death is the end motivates us to get off our butts and do the greatest good for the most people here and now!
If the last time our eyes shut on this side is the end, it infuses every moment of thislife with gravity and importance, but the gift of this mentality doesn’t do so in a burdensome way. The gift, then, I think believing nothing happens after we die gives us here/now is Love. The more we give and receive kindness, care, and compassion, the more beautiful your “world” becomes here and now, because this view reminds us the present is where the life is at!
“I don’t know” what happens after death is another stance I get, because who of us truly knows with certainty? The honesty and humility of not being sure and not needingto have the answer, invites us to the gift of faith, trusting somehow and someway ALL will be well … here and now, as well as “there” and later.
Believing in an eventual post-death resurrection, another great view, has many different flavors and nuisances, yet, in a general sense this belief says in the “end” we’ll all go before the judgment seat of God, and those who Love the Divine will be given new, eternal bodies. As I transition, let me just say please forgive me for leaving lots out in this section in the interest of time. While I was deathly afraid of Divine judgment when I was young, in my 40’s I’ve come to understand it as a wonderful thing.
My studies and experiences show me the judgment of God (now andlater) is nothing more or less than a restorative revealing and healing, if we choose it. What I mean by that is during judgment the Divine Light shines onto/into us, reveals what’s been done by/to/through us, let’s us feel any weight (good and bad) of those things we haven’t previously experienced, and will heal/restore us into wholeness … ifwe opt “in”, and not without growing pains (as anyone who has done therapy knows!).
The gift to us here/now of the belief in resurrection is hope. Hope Love will indeed win, healing is happening, and Light will make us whole, united (with God, others, and creation), peace-filled, and joyous.
The final category I’d like to briefly hit on is reincarnation. This, there “might” be a theme here :), makes sense too because one of the laws of physics is the conservation of matter, meaning nothing is truly destroyed, all things continue in one form or another. In this view we are perpetually reborn, ascending or descending the evolutionary ladder based on the karma of our last life, until we achieve enlightenment and are reunited with the Divine (again, please forgive me if I’m being too simplistic or getting it a bit wrong). Grace, it seems to me, is the gift of this viewpoint to us, because reincarnation graciously assumes we’re all at different places on our raindrop-like journey and path to fall from the clouds into the ocean of God’s goodness. “Listening” to this belief helps us understand how each person’s story and experiences shaped who and how she/he is today.
What do you think happens after we die? What do you make of the idea that, regardless what our #1 belief is, leaning into the goodness of all four will gift us with greater love, faith, hope, and grace? I plan to do one more blog in this series, but first, I’ll offer you this:
Anam ċarais an old Gaelic term meaning “soul-love”, an intimate relationship in which you share your innermost self, fully revealing your mind and heart. In such a vulnerable and authentic friendship, all parties are fullyseen and totallybelong. Irish poet and priest John O’Donohue said in an anam ċara relationship, “You are joined in an ancient and eternal way with the ‘friend of your soul.’ The soul is a divine light that flows into you and into your Other. This art of belonging awakened and fostered a deep and special friendship. … this bond between friends is indissoluble: ‘This, I say, is what is broken by no chances, what no interval of time or space can sever or destroy, and what even death itself cannot part.’”
While we don’t know for sure what happens when we die, at the least our spirit lives on with/in/thru the friends, family, and others we’ve impacted with our Light and Love.
Grace and peace,