Communing With the Dead, Fear of Dying, Post-Death Transitions

“The love that we have for somebody continues when that somebody is not visible to us, or we can’t reach out and touch them…Let’s keep loving them. Let’s keep having our consciousness available to commune with their consciousness.”

Thom Knoles

Episode Summary

Death and dying is the common thread of this, another Ask Me Anything episode.

Having already embraced the Vedic worldview as it relates to death, two of our listeners pose questions about relating with loved ones who are no longer in the body they knew them to have. 

Thom’s replies provide reassurance to all of us, and remind us that we already have the skills necessary to maintain relationships and cope with transitions that come about through the body death of those that we love.

And another listener, who has overcome a fear of her own death, questions Thom about fears relating to the process of dying, specifically any pain or suffering that might come with that. Thom delivers some comfort by taking us to the other end of the life journey, the process of birth.

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Episode Highlights


Q- How to Deepen Communication With the Deceased?



There is No World “Out There”



The Kittens Experiment



The Difference Between a Kitten Brain and Human Brain



Loving From a Distance



Not In the Body



Abstract Communing



A Little Quiet Conversation Inside



Using the Consciousness the Way It is Designed



Q- How Do I Address Fear of Pre-Death Pain and Suffering?



The Sensation Base Experienced By Mothers



Boons From Shri Krishna



A Boon For Krishna’s Mother



Q- Do We Know When a Loved One is Reincarnated?



Enjoyment vs Attachment





Jai Guru Deva


Communing With the Dead, Fear of Dying, Post-Death Transitions

[00:00:45] Q- How to Deepen Communication With the Deceased?

[00:00:45] Dear Thom, I’ve been listening to your podcast, Death is Not Real, and have really enjoyed it. In it, you explain the consciousness of people who have passed away, still exists, and experienced life in a different way, and that it’s up to us to be aware of it and to continue communicating with them. I would like to know how exactly I can be aware and deepen this communication. Also, how would this be different from just imagining it and creating it in my head?

[00:01:17] There is No World “Out There”

[00:01:17] Well, imagining it and creating it in your head should not be poo-pooed. We shouldn’t look at that and say, “Well, that’s a trivial thing.” We have imagined and created in our head the entire world around us. Our state of consciousness is what has created the world that you think you’re in.

[00:01:35] This is one of the areas in which Vedic psychologists and cognitive neuroscientists agree wholeheartedly. There’s no world “out there.” What you think is out there is actually a model that you’ve created in your consciousness. We can demonstrate this beyond any reasonable doubt.

[00:01:56] The Kittens Experiment

[00:01:56] For example, the famous kittens experiment. By the way, the kittens were not harmed, that’s my disclaimer before I tell you this thing.

[00:02:04] Littermate kittens, divided into two groups, one group of these littermates was raised for the first six weeks of their existence, in rooms where they were fed delicious food and cared for, but the room had in it no horizontal lines.

[00:02:21] Their littermates in another room being cared for sweetly, but in their room, the room had in it, no vertical lines.

[00:02:30] Kittens’ brains develop the interneuronal connections for sight and the building of models of where they are in the first six weeks.

[00:02:41] When these kittens, at the end of six weeks, were tested, the group of kittens who only had seen verticality, if you held a ruler in front of them in a horizontal position, they would walk into it. They literally couldn’t see it.

[00:02:55] Their littermates, if you held the ruler vertically in front of them, these were the horizontal kittens, they could only see horizontal things, so they couldn’t see a vertical ruler.

[00:03:07] The Difference Between a Kitten Brain and Human Brain

[00:03:07] Now the happy part of the story is, when mixed back in with the population of other kittens and allowed to live a normal cat life, their inter-neuronal connections became complete, and they were able to see all lines in all directions.

[00:03:20] But what this shows us, and the differences between a kitten brain and a human brain, I hate to tell you are not that great.

[00:03:29] What it shows us is one small example from which cognitive scientists and neuroscientists draw some conclusions, and there are many, many other experiments that bring us very solidly to this point of view, that the world that you think you live in is actually a construct of your consciousness state. Your brain has built a model that explains all of the things for which you’ve been regularly stimulated.

[00:03:55] That means all of the people that we know, all the loved ones, the way that we love them, the way they respond, very, very selective. Our consciousness state will select out things for which we’ve not regularly been stimulated, and our consciousness state will only allow into the model that we’ve created, those things for which we’ve been regularly stimulated.

[00:04:16] Loving From a Distance

[00:04:16] So this love that we have for somebody, “I have love for my uncle,” let’s say, I’m just using an example. And who was my uncle? “Well, Uncle was so sweet to me. We went camping. We did this. We laughed under the stars. We had certain shared experiences, and what a great uncle, what a wonderful uncle.” And then Uncle died, in my model.

[00:04:40] Uncle body vanished, and then I got into the Vedic Worldview, and I heard that Uncle consciousness is still there. How can I relate? Well, let’s think about how we related to the uncle when the uncle wasn’t sitting right in front of us.

[00:04:58] Nobody is really around us, 24 hours a day. I mean, someone might say they’re around you 24 hours a day, but do you ever go to the restroom, or the toilet, whatever you want to call it, and close the door? Well, then they’re not there, presumably. Or how about when you’re having a shower on your own? Or how about when you step outside for a moment?

[00:05:16] Not In the Body

[00:05:16] And so then in our consciousness construct, the love that we have for somebody continues when that somebody is not visible to us, or we can’t reach out and touch them. Uncle might be in Kansas, and I might be in Missouri.

[00:05:32] And so I can’t see Uncle, but as far as I know, Uncle is still in the body. And my love for Uncle continues. “I love Uncle. Uncle is so cool. Such a cool uncle. Love, love, love. I feel myself inside communing with Uncle.” Then I learn Uncle left the body. Why should I then change that love that I was able to have when uncle was in the body?

[00:05:58] Uncle in the body, Uncle not in the body. Why should I kill off love for my uncle just because uncle purportedly is no longer in the body?

[00:06:09] “I was having love for Uncle when I couldn’t see Uncle over there in Kansas and me and Missouri. I couldn’t see Uncle. I was loving Uncle like crazy. Now, Uncle’s not in the body.” Why should I change that format?

[00:06:21] Abstract Communing

[00:06:21] So how do we commune when somebody’s not in the body? We commune in the same way that we were communing when they were in their body. Most of the love that we experience, most of the communing that we had, was happening remotely anyway. It was happening remotely, for almost anybody.

[00:06:41] So let’s continue to enjoy the love, the communing, the feeling, and visit it regularly. Let’s not kill off the visitation of our consciousness on that model of whomever it is that was our loved one, simply because their body’s not locatable anymore. Let’s continue to enjoy whatever we enjoyed while they were in their body.

[00:07:05] Now, it has to be confessed that occasional updates, when you take your body somewhere and it’s in the same room as another person’s body, and, you’re communing with them that way, you’re getting updates on their consciousness. I’m putting it to you that if you continue the abstract communing, that you’ll also get the same updates.

[00:07:26] You will find that you’re being informed, from inside, about the experience being had of the person that you enjoyed love with when they were in their body. So let’s not kill people whose bodies simply have died. Let’s not kill off our communing with them. Let’s continue to commune with them.

[00:07:47] A Little Quiet Conversation Inside

[00:07:47] And if communing for you, if that’s obedient to your model, that you like to converse, then have a little quiet conversation inside. You don’t have to get spooky about it or anything like that. We don’t have to involve others who might, from their consciousness state, trivialize what we’re doing.

[00:08:03] This is a very personal thing that we’re doing, very personal, very private. We just quietly privately commune with whomever we wish, whether they’re in a body or not in a body.

[00:08:14] So our consciousness has the right and the capability to do this. We know this because we were doing it when they were in their body. They weren’t there in the room with us, and yet we were loving them.

[00:08:26] Let’s keep loving them. Let’s keep having our consciousness available to commune with their consciousness.

[00:08:32] If it assists you or aids you to have a very nice depiction, like a photograph of that person nearby where you can look at them occasionally, share a little wink or something like that, that might help too. But let’s not get stuck on the idea that all they ever were was a body to us.

[00:08:52] Using the Consciousness the Way It is Designed

[00:08:52] “If all you ever were was a body to me, and now your body’s gone, so I’m going to use the D-word, you’re dead.” Well, all that means is that all anybody was, was a body to us, and that body was their entire reality. That’s an unbearable thought, I would put it, even to an atheist. I would put it that that’s an unbearable thought to have, that somebody was only a body.

[00:09:14] So let’s use our consciousness the way our consciousness already is designed. We don’t really need to learn any new thing. We just have to awaken to what we already know and stop ignoring it.

[00:09:24] Q- How Do I Address Fear of Pre-Death Pain and Suffering?

[00:09:24] I was interested to hear you speak about fear of death as being a core fear for humans. While not technically a near-death experience as defined medically, I have had a non-medical near-death experience and, as a result of that experience, I no longer feel afraid of death. I do fear, however, some pre-death pain and suffering, and wondering if you have any thoughts on this.

[00:09:46] The Sensation Base Experienced By Mothers

[00:09:46] Yes, it’s not that bad. You know, we, the fear that we have in advance of a bunch of sensations often is worse, and has a greater binding effect on us, than the actual sensations themselves. It’s not possible to exit a body without there being some sensations and, if there’s a sudden exit from the body, then there’s a lot of sensations all at once, but those sensations also are transitory.

[00:10:18] And I would like now to acknowledge, with great love and great warmth, the sensation base experienced by all the mothers on earth when they lent their body to the process of our own birthing.

[00:10:33] The billions of people on the earth today all were able to come into that individuation, and into their bodies, by the loving-kindness of a mother who allowed her body to be used in that way, to bring forth a newborn child, which is you, all of us, everyone who’s listening.

[00:10:53] And so let’s tip our head and our hat in the direction of our mothers at this moment. It’s so interesting that mothers so frequently, though, they go through extremely excessive sensations in the process of birthing still, looking back on it, most of them will say, “I would do it again.”

[00:11:14] Boons From Shri Krishna

[00:11:14] There’s a wonderful story of the mother of Krishna. Shri Krishna was a being who existed around about 5,000 years ago, according to Indian mythos. And at the end of his career as a great guru, Krishna was delighted to say to those who are very close to him, “I’ll happily give you the fulfillment of a boon.”

[00:11:38] A boon is an old Victorian word from English. It means a wish. A boon means a wish that you would like to have granted.

[00:11:46] “So please come.” And one person came and said he was a simple farmer. He said, “I would like to have lots of cows.” And Krishna said, “Done.” And when the farmer returned to his village, there were a thousand cows there.

[00:12:01] The next person in line thought, “Hmm. Maybe I’ll ask for something more than that.” And he said, “I would love to have a beautiful abode in which to spend my elder years.” “Done,” says Krishna. And when he returned to his area, there was a beautifully designed and, according to his own simplicity, a kind of mud brick but beautiful little house, a dwelling with which he was very happy.

[00:12:25] Then came someone and said, “Hmm. So it seems like I can have anything. I would like to have immortality.” Krishna said, “Even, I don’t have that, but there’s an element of your consciousness that is already that. Ask me for something else.” He said, “Well, then I’d like to have long, long life.” “Done,” says Krishna. And he says, “And I’m adding one more thing to this long life. Excellent health. Excellent health and long life.”

[00:12:51] A Boon For Krishna’s Mother

[00:12:51] The last in line was Krishna’s own mother. And she approached, and she said, “I’m saddened.” And he said, “Why?” “Because I don’t think that you’re going to give me what it is I ask for.” He said, “Mother, I’ll give you anything you ask for.”

[00:13:03] She said, “Some people have said they wanted to ask you for enlightenment, and I know you could grant that, but I don’t want enlightenment because I’ve heard that if I gain enlightenment, I can’t return. I won’t reincarnate.” He said, “This is true.” And she said, “So I’m asking you to keep me in just enough ignorance that I’ll never reincarnate, because if ever you wish to be born on the earth again Krishna, I want to be reincarnated to be your mother.”

[00:13:33] And so he granted that. Enough ignorance for her not to be able to be free of the cycle of birth and death, just so that she could come back to be his mother again.

[00:13:45] This is what we think of when we think of our mothers. So your mother went through a lot more than you’re going to go through whenever it’s time for you to exit this physical body.

[00:13:55] Don’t worry about it. Talk to your mom. She’ll tell you what it was like getting you onto the earth, and you’ll have some percentage of that when it’s time for you to get off the earth. It’ll all be all right. Yes.

[00:14:10] Q- Do We Know When a Loved One is Reincarnated?

[00:14:10] My name is Kate, and I live in Armadale in regional New South Wales. My question is in relation to letting go of attachment. My husband passed suddenly and unexpectedly earlier this year, at the age of 53.

[00:14:25] Since his passing, I have found that the Vedic worldview, through listening to your podcasts and others, really resonates with me, as if now I know how to describe my philosophy on life.

[00:14:36] I am not grief stricken, in fact, I am embracing the opportunities the sudden and traumatic change in my life has presented me, not the least of which is discovering the Vedic worldview.

[00:14:46] However, while I have let go of my husband’s physical presence, I realize that I continue to be attached to his spiritual presence. I talk to him in my thoughts. I often feel as though he is around.

[00:14:58] I find myself uneasy, if I am honest, at the thought that one day I won’t feel his presence when he is reincarnated. Do we know when a loved one gets reincarnated? Does their presence leave us when this happens? Thank you and Jai Guru Deva.

[00:15:12] Enjoyment vs Attachment

[00:15:12] Thank you for your very detailed question and also for your comments. And I’d like to laud you for having embraced, so enthusiastically, the ideas that come out of our tradition regarding transitions. I think, you’re going to find that the ease of transition that you’ve described to me will continue to be the theme.

[00:15:35] Let’s not think so much of your being attached to your husband in spirit. Let’s think more in terms of you simply enjoying it. Enjoyment has not always attachment. If I have my awareness grounded in the field of Being, I’m not always attached if I’m experiencing the joy of the thing.

[00:15:56] Adaptation

[00:15:56] In fact, one of the hallmarks of the first stage of enlightenment, Cosmic Consciousness, is that while enjoying grounded-ness and being, and there’s an element of oneself that is non-attached, all of the relative elements of one’s life are still enjoying the complete experience, and the full spectrum of experience of the relative world.

[00:16:20] And so I think that the smoothness and ease, and equanimity that you’ve expressed through this transition, not only in the life of your husband, but also in your own life, will continue to be the mark of how things will go.

[00:16:40] And, we can also lose some kind of attachment to one more thing, and that is letting go of the need to know how it’s all going to happen. Sometimes we like to know the details of what’s going to happen in advance, and probably best just to fill ourselves with all of the adaptation energy that comes from our regular twice-daily practice [of Vedic Meditation], and trust that in the larger picture, when time comes to make yet another adaptation, we will be adaptive. And I trust that you will.

[00:17:14] Jai Guru Deva.

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