Going Home

What does it feel like to die? By Anita Moorjani

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Oh my God, I feel incredible! I’m so free and light! How come I’m not feeling any more pain in my body? Where has it all gone? Hey, why does it seem like my surroundings are moving away from me? But I’m not scared! Why am I not scared? Where has my fear gone? Oh wow, I can’t find the fear anymore!

These were some of my thoughts as I was being rushed to the hospital. The world around me started to appear surreal and dreamlike, and I could feel myself slip farther and farther away from consciousness and into a coma. My organs were beginning to shut down as I succumbed to the cancer that had ravaged—no, devoured—my body for the past four years.

It was February 2, 2006, a day that will be etched in my memory forever as the day I “died.”

Although in a coma, I was acutely aware of everything that was happening around me, including the sense of urgency and emotional frenzy of my family as they rushed me to the hospital. When we arrived, the moment the oncologist saw me, her face filled with shock.

“Your wife’s heart may still be beating,” she told my husband, Danny, “but, she’s not really in there. It’s too late to save her.”Who is the doctor talking about? I wondered. I’ve never felt better in my life! And why do Mum and Danny look so frightened and worried? Mum, please don’t cry. What’s wrong? Are you crying because of me? Don’t cry! I’m fine, really, dear Mama, I am! I thought I was speaking those words aloud, but nothing came out. I had no voice.

I wanted to hug my mother, comfort her and tell her that I was fine, and I couldn’t comprehend why I was unable to do so. Why was my physical body not cooperating? Why was I just lying there, lifeless and limp, when all I wanted to do was to hug my beloved husband and mother, assuring them that I was fine and no longer in pain?

Look, Danny—I can move around without my wheelchair. This feels so amazing! And I’m not connected to the oxygen tank anymore. Oh wow, my breathing is no longer labored, and my skin lesions are gone! They’re no longer weeping and painful. After four agonizing years, I’m finally healed!

I was in a state of pure joy and jubilation. Finally, I was free from the pain caused by the cancer that had ravaged my body. I wanted them to be happy for me. Why weren’t they happy that my struggle was finally over, that their struggle was over? Why weren’t they sharing my jubilation? Couldn’t they see the joy I was feeling?

“Please, there must be something you can do,” Danny and my mother pleaded with the doctor.“It’s only a matter of hours for her,” the oncologist argued. “Why didn’t your other doctors send her to us earlier? Her organs are already shutting down, and that’s why she has slipped into a coma. She won’t even make it through the night. You’re asking for the impossible. Whatever we administer at this stage could prove too toxic and fatal for her body, as her organs aren’t even functioning!” “Well, maybe,” Danny insisted, “but I’m not giving up on her!”

My husband held my limp hand tightly as I lay there, and I was aware of the combination of anguish and helplessness in his voice. I wanted more than anything to relieve him of his suffering. I wanted him to know how wonderful I was feeling, but I felt helpless in trying to convey it.

Don’t listen to the doctor, Danny; please don’t listen to her! Why is she saying that? I’m still here, and I’m fine. Better than fine—in fact, I feel great!

I couldn’t understand why, but I experienced what everyone was going through—both my family members as well as the doctor. I could actually feel their fear, anxiety, helplessness, and despair. It was as though their emotions were mine. It was as though I became them.

I’m feeling your pain, darling—I can feel all your emotions. Please don’t cry for me, and tell Mum not to cry for me, either. Please tell her!

But as soon as I started to get emotionally attached to the drama taking place around me, I also felt myself being simultaneously pulled away, as though there were a bigger picture, a grander plan that was unfolding. I could feel my attachment to the scene receding as I began to realize that everything was perfect and going according to plan in the greater tapestry.

It was then that the realization truly set in that I was actually dying.
Ohh . . . I’m dying! Is this what it feels like? It’s nothing like I ever imagined. I feel so beautifully peaceful and calm . . . and I feel healed at last!I then understood that even if my physical body stopped, everything is still perfect in the greater tapestry of life, for we never truly die.

I was still acutely aware of every detail unfolding before me as I observed the medical team wheeling my near-lifeless body to the intensive care unit. They were surrounding me in an emotional frenzy, hooking me up to machines while poking and prodding with needles and tubes.

I felt no attachment to my limp body as it lay there on the hospital bed. It didn’t feel as though it were mine. It looked far too small and insignificant to house what I was experiencing. I felt free, liberated, and magnificent! Every pain, ache, sadness, and sorrow was gone. I was completely unencumbered, and I couldn’t recall feeling this way before—not ever.

I then had a sense of being encompassed by something that I can only describe as pure, unconditional love, but even the word love doesn’t do it justice. It was the deepest kind of caring, and I’d never experienced it before. It was beyond any physical form of affection that we can imagine, and it was unconditional—this was mine, regardless of what I’d ever done. I didn’t have to do anything or behave a certain way to deserve it. This love was for me, no matter what!

I felt completely bathed and renewed in this energy, and it made me feel as though I belonged, as though I’d finally arrived after all those years of struggle, pain, anxiety, and fear.

I had finally come home!

Only a Flashlight

How do you see reality?

By Anita Moorjani

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Although I try to share my near-death experience, there are no words that can come close to describing its depth and the amount of knowledge that came flooding through. So the best way to express it is through the use of metaphors and analogies. Hopefully, they capture a part of the essence of what I’m trying to convey at least in some small way.

Imagine, if you will, a huge, dark warehouse. You live there with only one flashlight to see by. Everything you know about what’s contained within this enormous space is what you’ve seen by the beam of one small flashlight. Whenever you want to look for something, you may or may not find it, but that doesn’t mean the thing doesn’t exist. It’s there, but you just haven’t shone your light on it. And even when you do, the object you see may be difficult to make out. You may get a fairly clear idea of it, but often you’re left wondering. You can only see what your light is focused on, and only identify that which you already know.

That is what physical life is like. We’re only aware of what we focus our senses on at any given time, and we can only understand what is already familiar.

Next, imagine that one day, someone flicks on a switch. There for the first time, in a sudden burst of brilliance and sound and color, you can see the entire warehouse, and it’s nothing like anything you’d ever imagined. Lights are blinking, flashing, glowing, and shooting sparks of red, yellow, blue, and green. You see colors you don’t recognize, ones you’ve never seen before. Music floods the room with fantastic, kaleidoscopic, surround-sound melodies you’ve never heard before.

Neon signs pulse and boogie in rainbow strobes of cherry, lemon, vermillion, grape, lavender, and gold. Electric toys run on tracks up, down, and around shelves stacked with indescribable colored boxes, packages, papers, pencils, paints, inks, cans of food, packages of multihued candies, bottles of effervescent sodas, chocolates of every possible variety, champagne, and wines from every corner of the world. Skyrockets suddenly explode in starbursts, setting off sparkling flowers, cascades of cold fire, whistling embers, and animations of light.

The vastness, complexity, depth, and breadth of everything going on around you is almost overwhelming. You can’t see all the way to the end of the space, and you know there’s more to it than what you can take in from this torrent that’s tantalizing your senses and emotions. But you do get a strong feeling that you’re actually part of something alive, infinite, and altogether fantastic, that you are part of a large and unfolding tapestry that goes beyond sight and sound.

You understand that what you used to think was your reality was, in fact, hardly a speck within the vast wonder that surrounds you. You can see how all the various parts are interrelated, how they all play off each other, how everything fits. You notice just how many different things there are in the warehouse that you’d never seen, never even dreamed of existing in such splendor and glory of color, sound, and texture—but here they are, along with everything you already knew. And even the objects you were aware of have an entirely new context so that they, too, seem completely new and strangely superreal.

Even when the switch goes back off, nothing can take away your understanding and clarity, the wonder and beauty, or the fabulous aliveness of the experience. Nothing can ever cancel your knowledge of all that exists in the warehouse. You’re now far more aware of what’s there, how to access it, and what’s possible than you ever were with your little flashlight. And you’re left with a sense of awe over everything you experienced in those blindingly lucid moments. Life has taken on a different meaning, and your new experiences moving forward are created from this awareness.

My Most Meaningful Lesson: Love yourself before all the rest.

By Anita Moorjani

We cannot give others what we ourselves do not have.
We cannot give others what we ourselves do not have.

“How could I have said something so stupid??”

“That was so dumb of me!! I should have known better!”

“I will never get it right! Why am I even bothering to try??”

“I wish I wasn’t so clumsy! Why can’t I be more elegant and graceful, like Janet?”

Does any of that sound familiar to you? That was my inner voice, several years ago. That was the voice in my head, constantly nagging, putting myself down, wishing I was different, better, smarter, stronger, more spiritual. Wishing I was anyone but who I am.

The most meaningful lesson I learned from being at death’s door is that unless I love myself, nothing else in my life can function at its best. The amount of depth, meaning, and joy I experience in my life is in direct proportion to how much love I have for myself. The amount of love, kindness, patience I have for others is also directly proportional to how much love, patience and kindness I have for myself, because we cannot give others what we ourselves do not have. And, unsurprisingly, the amount of love, respect, support, and compassion I receive from others is also in direct proportion to how much of the same I have for myself.

Many of us are taught from a young age to “love our neighbors as we love ourselves”. But what if we don’t love ourselves? What if we are our own worst enemy, and our own harshest critic? If we treat others as we treat ourselves, then are we judging everyone else with the same harsh brush that we are using to paint ourselves? Is this why there are more people on our planet obsessed with trying to condemn anyone who is different, instead of learning to embrace everyone who shares our earth, and rejoice in our differences?

Learning to love others begins with learning to love ourselves unconditionally first. This seems to be a well-kept secret, which no one taught me as I was growing up. On the contrary, I was encouraged from a young age to put myself last, that it is selfish to love ourselves, or put ourselves first.  In fact, I used to give and give of myself, without tending to my own needs, to the point that I became so drained it started to affect my health. Continuing in this vein, I constantly believed that I needed to work on myself because I wasn’t good enough as I am. So I continued to work on being “better”, kinder, more “loving”, more “spiritual”. I was always judging myself because I never felt I made the mark.

And then I got cancer.  In fact, I didn’t just get cancer, I nearly died from cancer! But my cancer was the greatest gift I could ever have. Nearly dying taught me how to live. My cancer taught me the importance of loving and valuing myself unconditionally for who I am – a perfect being of the Universe, who is worthy and deserving of love, without needing to prove myself, better myself or change myself in any way. I became aware that I am someone who has a right to express my uniqueness with abandon.

I now also understand that I don’t have to work at being spiritual. Being spiritual is who we are, at our core, whether we realize it or not. It is our true nature, so we cannot NOT be spiritual! Being yourself and being spiritual are one and the same thing.

Because of my experience, I will never forsake myself ever again. I will never let myself down, treat myself like a doormat, or make myself small so others can feel big. I have learned that this is the biggest gift that I give not only to myself, but also to the planet, because I paint others with the same brush as I use on myself.

My life is much more joyful and meaningful now, and I have much more love to share with others than I ever did before, which I do unconditionally, and without draining myself. But most important, I now understand that if I do not express my authenticity, the Universe will be deprived of who I came here to be.

You Are Magnificent

magnificence-swanA question that keeps coming up from readers is “Why are we not born already knowing our magnificence? Why do we have to spend a lifetime struggling to discovery our greatness?”

In response to this, here an excerpt of an audio interview with me from several months ago, conducted by Alan Steinfeld:

Anita Moorjani: I believe that we are actually born aware of who we are; I mean, we are born knowing how magnificent we are. I feel we are not meant to lose it. We come into this world with the intention of holding onto it, and many of us come with dreams of changing the world and make it a better place for everyone. But somehow things fall by the wayside, things get in the way, our fear gets in the way, our egos get in the way. All sorts of things get in the way. That’s what it feels like to me. I was sure that I had come into this world (as a baby) with my magnificence intact, but I have been conditioned to forget it along the way. If we all remembered who we truly are, our lives would be very, very different.

Alan Steinfeld: If we look at children, I guess they do have a sense of their curiosity and wonder and then it is not so much their ego, it is what comes from outside of them that puts them in these little boxes; puts us, all of us in these boxes.

Anita Moorjani: That is exactly it. When we look at little children, they know that they are special. They are full of joy. When you know that you are loved and special, you don’t become all selfish and egotistical; which is what the popular perception is. In fact it is the contrary, you become full of joy – the way you see little children who laugh so easily. That is actually what happens, you become like a child. You laugh easily, you don’t take things seriously and you become a joy to be around. Actually you become much more giving. The more that you love yourself and the more you realize how powerful you are, you actually become much more generous because you can afford to be. You’re not afraid. You’re not afraid of keeping things close to your chest, or competing, or fighting. You know that you’ll get what is yours. So you become very generous, giving, joyful and popular. People love people like that, self-actualized people.

Alan Steinfeld: How would you raise a child, teaching them? You would restructure the whole system wouldn’t you?

Anita Moorjani: Oh, how I wish I could restructure the whole system! I would create things so differently! If it were up to me, our focus, as a race and society, would be more on achieving joy, love and health, with much less emphasis on the pursuit of money for the sake of money! I give credit to those who choose to home school their children. It is hard work because our society does not support it. It supports something completely opposite. So on the one hand, it feels like you are swimming upstream, going against the flow, while on the other hand, I keep telling people you are supposed to be going with the flow. But the flow that we have created within our society is the kind that goes against who we really are and that’s the problem. So in our society, we find ourselves amidst a lot of contradictions, with a lot of things to work against, in order to be authentic to who we truly are. But what I would do regardless, even if I had to send my children through the regular system that currently exists; I would still tell my child every single day that they are loved unconditionally. It does not mean that I will not reprimand, or tell them things that they have done that are hurtful, or point things out to them. But here is one thing that we seem to do pretty much universally, we like to instill fear in children to discipline them. And we think that fear keeps our children well behaved and keeps them safe and so on. I don’t agree with that, I think we need to instill self-love and self-respect into our children. The more a person loves themselves, the more likely they are to keep themselves safe. What keeps you safe is love and not fear.

Alan Steinfeld: Just that understanding would change everything about how we raise our children.

Anita Moorjani: That is what I believe. It is so simple and I don’t understand why our entire system is built on fear.

Alan Steinfeld: How would you teach love to children?

Anita Moorjani: I would tell children that it is ok to be different. You are not supposed to all be the same. I was bullied as a child because I was different. I grew up in a culture that was not my own culture. So I was a different race, religion, color, everything and I felt different. I felt like I never belonged. I felt like I had to work really hard to fit in. And I was completely unaware that everybody around me was unaware that it was ok to be different. So I spent my entire life feeling like there was something wrong with me. If it were up to me, I would want every single child to know that they are meant to be unique. They are meant to share their uniqueness. I would teach children to embrace their uniqueness and embrace everybody else’s uniqueness. I would also eliminate competition in schools. It only encourages us to compete, but competition at that age causes fear. It causes us to fear failing, to fear not being good enough, and needing to feel good by being better than the people around us. We don’t need that. Life is a journey, not a zero sum game. You don’t have to have losers in order to feel like a winner. You can feel like a winner and everybody can feel like a winner.

Alan Steinfeld: You know, going back to what you said before. I always felt that I was different; not because I looked different. I just always felt outside of the culture somehow and I always loved that about myself even though I felt like I never fit in. I still feel different from everyone else in some way.

Anita Moorjani: But see, that is beautiful. It’s beautiful to be different. I only embraced the value of being different after my near death experience. It took that for me realize, “Oh, I was meant to be this way. I’m not supposed to try and contort myself to make myself fit in, or make myself small, or make myself someone else. This is who I am and it is amazing and it is a gift.” And that is what kids need to know.

Alan Steinfeld: I like what you said about no competition, one ego against another. But what other real radical things would you do in education?

Anita Moorjani: I would love for kids to learn to view their bodies and health differently from the way we currently view ourselves. I would let kids know that they have the resources within them to heal. I think kids need to know from a young age that their bodies have this amazing, magical ability. A lot of kids today are getting the message for example that their bodies are unable to heal, or even grow strong, without our constant intervention; so they are becoming more and more sensitive. We are becoming extremely fearful about things like illnesses and we are passing this fear on to our kids. We are telling them: don’t do this or that, don’t play there, don’t eat that, we tell them that they must follow strict hygiene rules, and we are obsessive about cleanliness, and so on; and I think sometimes that we go over the top. You look at Western culture, we are drugging up our kids from a very young age for everything. Whereas, if you go to a third world country, kids are eating the dirt off the streets and they’re still surviving and growing up to be really strong, working laboriously long hours doing manual and physical labor. Our bodies are physically very resilient and kids need to know that. This is the reason why so many of us think that everything is going to make us sick. That is the other thing I would change with kids. I would really like them to know that they are physically much stronger than what they currently believe they are.

You can listen to the whole interview here