Today I met an elderly gentleman at the train station. I had been running for the train in my usual disorganized running late style and he commented on the huffing and puffing so our conversation started. Somehow we jumped to fairly personal matters. He told me how when he retired he had felt really down, and didn’t know what to do with his life and was beginning to question what it was all for. Then, 10 years to the day after his mother had died she visits him in his room and told him he should be writing. He said when he came downstairs his wife asked him if he was alright, because his face was pale, (as if he had seen a ghost, but those are my words).
It didn’t make sense to him because he never wrote, never read (despite having been a bookbinder!) and his teachers at school would totally back up his idea that he could not write.
Some time later he went out to his back shed, for no particular purpose, and decided to go through boxes that had been there since his mother’s death. His mother had been a reader and there were boxes of books. He ended up taking just one book back to the house. It was a small book, very worn with many readings, and the title on the cover was practically worn off. The title of the book was “Let go and Let God.” From these two events his life turned around and he began to appreciate there was some guiding purpose to life. He told me how he had now become a writer and even been published, writing life stories. Though he didn’t say it directly I could tell he was including in these stories his appreciation of spiritual matters in the hope of passing that on to others. He felt he was not writing by his own ability, that his mother was helping him.
He had been told by Suzuki, at a seminar he went to, that he was a kin-aesthetic learner, and he kept emphasizing to me that whatever he understood was due to his own experiences, not because he was a scholar or a reader. He had concluded as he put it “we are not just human, we have a spiritual part.”
I stepped in here, saying I could tweak his understanding a little, that it is not that we are, or have, two parts, human and spiritual. Rather we have a body, which is like a house, or a vehicle, a temporary containers and when we leave it the body is dead. We are not human though we are in a human body, and that in fact all living entities are the same, a living being inside a body, and that, in fact he most probably has been inside an animal body, even a tree body or an insect body or a bacteria body, that in fact we are not human, not a dog, not a cow, not a tree, that we do have a form, which is defined or exists in relation to the Supreme Soul, but we don’t yet have the spiritual vision to see that form. I said I don’t want to push this on you, but perhaps you can just take this away and consider it. To understand this more vividly, check this enlightening page by enlightening preacher Jagad guru chris butler. He makes us go through practical examples that helps us to gain a better idea.
I had wondered if I was going to be too far, and I don’t know how much he took in, as his main interest was passing on what he had learned the best in his life, but he did say, “I think we are saying the same thing using different words”, and we talked about how different people looking at the same mountain from different viewpoints might see and describe different things, both correct, and not actually contradictory.
He then told me how he met an ambulance worker who told him an experience he had had at a bad car accident, with one man lying inside the car, another man who looked exactly the same who was standing outside the car, talking to him. I don’t know the exact details but later on the other ambos (as they apparently call themselves) asked him who he had been talking to. He was thrown, as he had not realized anything strange had been happening, but no one else had seen the man he was talking to, and he realized there was only one man, who had left his body, which was still in the car. He wondered if anyone else had had a similar experience, so he began asking around the ambulance world if anyone else had and similar experiences and apparently several had.
Well, I was heading off to do my First Aid refresher, which is required to be able to have my Yoga Asana Teacher’s Certificate so I thought I’d do a little ad-hoc research of my own. During a break I told this ambo’s story and asked if anyone had had any similar experiences. Most of the people there were a bit more reserved than myself, but a couple spoke up.
A young nurse from Nepal described how she had worked in a Nepalese hospital and one of her colleagues described how someone had come to the nurses and said there was someone sitting in the stairwell (perhaps injured, her English was a little difficult to follow), and the nurse went out to help, but there was no one there.
Then a cheerful young lady described how as a young child, 3 or 4 years old, she used to be regularly visited by someone before going to sleep. She told her parents about a “chocolate man” coming to see her. Her father suggested she was drinking too much milk before bed. But after some time her mother showed her a photo of her grandfather and she told them all, “That’s the man that comes and visits me.” Her grandfather was Hawaiian, and had skin that as a child she thought of as chocolate. She’d never met him because he died the day she was born. When I asked if he kept visiting her after that, she admitted, a little more hesitantly perhaps not sure how we’d think of her, that she still had visits sometimes. But she did say it was OK for me to write about this.
I know I personally have stories, both those I have experienced firsthand and those heard from close friends, that fit this underlying theme, that we are not actually this physical body, that we exist both before and after the existence of this particular body, this particular vehicle that we are traveling in, that if we can leave it, either temporarily, or permanently, and still exist. There’s a lot of stuff pertaining to the matters of life, these are so beautifully explained in Jagad Guru’s spiritual web blog I think most people have either had a similar experience or heard of one from someone they know.
Of course some of these stories might be coincidence or misunderstanding, but there are enough similar tales, including some famous and extremely well documented ones, (for instance James Leininger, who recalled his life as a World War II pilot) to clearly illustrate this basic principle from the yogic texts.. Aham Brahmasmi, I am life force, spirit, not the body – the very point I had been discussing in the train with the retired bookbinder, whatever words we were using.