Do you look forward to Mondays? If you're like most people, probably not. I counted myself in that camp just a few short years ago, too. On one Monday, though, everything I understood about the nature of reality flipped upside down. After a horrible cycling accident, I died on the operating table during a surgery to repair my shattered spine. Obviously since I’m writing this you know I wasn’t gone permanently, but I was dead long enough to prompt a complete shift in the way I view and experience life and the afterlife.

A successful science and technical writer, I was a geologist by training which for me meant that if I couldn’t measure something with a ruler or study it in the lab, it didn’t exist, including anything spiritual. For me, death meant the end: no afterlife, no heaven, and definitely nothing remotely resembling “God.”

My personal experience of dying turned out to be the most powerfully transformative event of my life. Almost overnight, it changed me from an atheistic scientist into an open-minded, curious believer and spiritual seeker. Not only did I meet a Divine, loving presence that you might call God, but during my time on “the other side,” angelic guides gave me lessons meant to improve my own earthly life and to share with others. A few of those profound lessons that I learned might help you, too:

  • There is a very real spiritual realm and it isn’t a separate place you go to when you die. It’s a shift in energy or “state” that, in part, exists alongside the physical world. The spiritual realm, which I also call heaven, holds incredible beauty, peace, love, learning, service, connection, and pure consciousness. At a soul level, that realm is more real than this physical world your body calls home.
  • Divine love and consciousness form the core of everything, both spiritual and physical. The huge, loving Divine presence connects everyone and everything across all time, space, and levels of energy. It supports you just as the oceans support earth’s astounding variety of marine life. Think about how creatures as different as the beautiful tubeworms at the mid-ocean ridges and sea otters playing in kelp beds at the surface are linked by the ocean’s salt water. That’s how Divine presence works. It supports and connects us all. You can bring Divine love into your life in very tangible ways through understanding love as a verb – by extending compassion, kindness, and love to those around you.
  • Through your spiritual connections to God, you are intimately connected to all other people in ways that defy human logic. As one of my heavenly guides said, “If humanity understood the magnitude of connections that exist just among your kind, you would never raise a hand in violence against each other again.” In other words, whatever you do to someone else, you also do to yourself.
  • You absolutely can create a personal version of heaven on earth through spiritual practices such as prayer, meditation, focused awareness, releasing attachments, following your inner wisdom, and being of service. Start by choosing one practice and commit to doing it daily for at least three weeks. Does it help you, even in a small way? If it does, make it a regular part of your day. If not, find another to try.
  • Heartfelt gratitude is another form of love. Don’t underestimate the incredible value of feeling grateful for the life you have, and learning to love yourself, warts and all. How do you learn to love yourself? You can start by feeling a little bit of gratitude for the health you have, for your feet touching the floor when you get out of bed in the morning, or for the arms that allow you to hug your kids. Gratitude helps you learn to change your focus to the good in yourself and your life, and away from the things that aren’t going so well.
  • Don’t fear the challenges that sometimes come along as part of life on this planet. Challenges help your growth both as a human and spiritual being. Life isn’t always a smooth road but each bump or obstacle can also hold a gift. Take a mental and emotional step back from the challenge. What can you learn from this situation? Practice finding positive lessons to take away from your obstacles, then say blessings of gratitude for what you learned.

Perhaps most important of all, know that heaven doesn’t want our lives to be all about seriousness and striving. Enjoy and savor your life as much as possible.

You only have one chance to live as the human being you are right now…make the most of it! Hug your kids. Say “I love you” more often. Build sand castles on the beach. Laugh. Enjoy the wildflowers in a meadow. Marvel at a hummingbird sipping from a flower. Taste the sweet nectar of life with all of your senses, and pass on that way of living to others.

And remember that Mondays are a beautiful blessing.

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