When I was born into this world
The only things I knew were to love, laugh, and shine my light brightly.
Then as I grew, people told me to stop laughing.
“Take life seriously,” they said,
“If you want to get ahead in this world.”
So I stopped laughing.
People told me, “Be careful who you love
If you don’t want your heart broken.”
So I stopped loving.
They said, “Don’t shine your light so bright
As it draws too much attention onto you.”
So I stopped shining
And became small
Only to learn upon death
That all that matters in life
Is to love, laugh, and shine our light brightly!
What if you were suddenly to realize that this is heaven (or nirvana)—this physical life we are living right now? I know it sounds crazy, and I can sense some of you thinking, “If this is heaven, then why does it feel like hell to me?” And I hear you. It sure felt like that to me when I was being bullied as a child; taunted and discriminated against for the color of my skin and my family origin—things I had no control over. And it certainly felt like hell again when I was going through cancer, being in constant pain and fear for all those years. But play along with me for a bit.
What if the reason my life felt like hell all that time was because I didn’t know how powerful I was, or what I was capable of doing? After all, no one ever taught me how life worked, and we aren’t born with an instruction manual. Life truly was a struggle for me, and I lived in immense fear well into adulthood. I believed that life happens to us and that I was a victim, so I was always reacting to my life circumstances instead of creating them. Who would create a childhood of bullying and discrimination that would leave her with such horrible low self-esteem? Who would choose to be born as a woman into a culture that still believes women are inferior to men? Who would create cancer in her own body—cancer that would nearly kill her? Of course, I was a victim of my circumstances, or so I thought—until I died.
The Day I Died
Much of my life story and my near death experience is chronicled in my first book, Dying to Be Me. One of the most striking insights my near-death-experience (NDE) gave me was that this life—the life we are all living now on Earth—could become a heaven for us if we simply understood how it worked and what we needed to do to create that heaven as our reality.
A major reason why I chose to return to this life during my NDE was because I understood that heaven is a state and not a place, and I wanted to experience, firsthand, the heaven that this life could actually be. I wanted to live out the amazing truth of this reality and transform the life of fear and dread and heartache that I had previously experienced. I wanted to live in heaven, here and now. When I was in the NDE state, this all seemed so clear, so easy.
But as I tried to integrate my newly realized insights and apply them to my life after my NDE, I kept running into roadblocks, particularly when I tried to connect or interact with other people. The response to my book was overwhelming, but no matter how many people I spoke to, how many letters I answered, it was never enough. There were always more that I couldn’t respond to. I was feeling both people’s suffering and, at the same time, my own pain for not being able to help them all.
I always felt that answers came to me whenever I was in nature, whether those answers came through the whispers of the wind, the sound of the water, or the rustle of the tree branches and leaves. So as I sat there on the sand one day, looking out toward the sea and the sky, I spoke silently to the universe.
“I came back from death,” I said. “Now what? This is heartbreaking for me. How am I supposed to be of help to all these people—and to myself—from the perspective of my puny physical being? If I had stayed in the NDE realm, maybe I could have helped a greater number of people. But all I feel is heartache for every person I can’t help!”
Tears streamed down my face as I surrendered to the universe, questioning why I had come back. Why was I having to endure this heartache? And why was our world filled with so much of that pain? Then, out of nowhere, I heard a whisper—not a real voice, but one that seemed to come from the sound of the waves in the sea, a sound that resonated in my heart.
“What was the main message you learned from your near-death experience,” the whisper asked, “the message you wrote about in your first book?”
“To love myself unconditionally,” I answered. “And to be as much myself as I can be. To shine my light as brightly as I can.”
“And that is all you need to do or be. Nothing more. Just love yourself unconditionally, always, and be who you are.”
“But we live in a world that does not support thinking or feeling this way. It’s as though this world is much more a hell than a heaven,” I challenged the invisible voice as I watched the waves crashing against the rocks at the far end of the beach. “People all around me are facing so many challenges every day, and I don’t know how I can help them by loving myself!”
“When you love yourself and know your true worth, there is nothing you cannot do or heal. You yourself learned this when you defied all medical knowledge and healed end-stage cancer. The cancer healed when you became aware of your worth.”
This was absolutely true. Until I got lymphoma, I had lived a life filled with fear, but learning to love myself saved my life. It sounded so simple, yet why was it so difficult to convey this to others who were struggling? And why had it been so easy for me to lose this understanding once I attained it?
“Remember, your only work is to love yourself, value yourself, and embody this truth of self-worth and self-love so that you can be love in action. That is true service, to yourself and to those who surround you. Realizing how loved and valued you are is what healed your cancer. This same knowledge is what will help you to create a life of heaven here on Earth. You are serving no one when you get lost in the problems of the world. So the only question you need to ask yourself when you are feeling defeated or lost is, Where am I not loving myself? How can I value myself more?”
Returning to the Truth
Although this was exactly what I had learned in my NDE, and it was indeed what had healed me, it seemed that I had forgotten. I had lost myself in everyone else’s pain, and now I was dumbstruck by the intensity of what had just happened. This experience clearly revealed how easy it is for us to lose focus on our true purpose and to get caught up in the web of dramas we weave, in order to justify our existence. I now understood that this is what happens to us once we immerse ourselves in the dominant beliefs of our surrounding culture.
I believe we are born knowing the truth of who we are. But we reject this knowledge as we grow up and try to fit in and conform to society, conditioning ourselves to its norms. We learn to look outside ourselves for guidance, and in doing so, we take on other people’s expectations for us. Then when we can’t live up to all these external expectations, we feel inadequate and flawed.
This means that as we navigate through life, the beliefs making up the very foundation that our personal values are based on are all untrue! So no matter how many self-development workshops we take or how many self-help books we read, we still keep going outside ourselves for answers. Not only does this not serve us, it also actually holds us back! Nothing can change these destructive patterns until we break open the myths and reveal the lies that have been informing our thoughts and beliefs. There are ten common myths and most of us have accepted these as truths. We need instead to consider a more universal truth.
Myth 1: You Get What You Deserve
Consider these truths instead: No matter what people think or say about each other, we are all worthy of being loved unconditionally, just for being who we are. We don’t have to earn love—it is our birthright. In the other realm, each of us is recognized as a beautiful, magnificent, and powerful creation of the universe—unique, special, and valued in every way.
Myth 2: Loving Yourself is Selfish
Consider these truths instead: Because we cannot give what we do not have, loving ourselves is absolutely necessary before we can truly love anyone else. (For example, we cannot love our neighbor as ourselves if we do not first love ourselves.)
The more we love ourselves, the more love we will have to give others because love grows exponentially (we can’t use up the love we feel). If we are all expressions of God/Universal Energy/Creation, then not loving ourselves would be the same as saying that God/Universal Energy/Creation is not worth loving.
Myth 3: Real Love Means Anything Goes
Consider these truths instead: You can’t love another unconditionally until you love yourself unconditionally, and when you truly do achieve that, you will never allow anyone to use you or abuse you. A relationship that does not involve pure acceptance for both people, by both people, cannot benefit either person. Authentic unconditional love means wanting for another what that person wants for themselves and allowing that person to be who they truly are—even if it requires setting them free—instead of expecting them to change to fit our ideas of who we want them to be. Relationships based on unconditional love are freeing because those couples choose to be together, rather than stay together because they feel trapped by fear, obligation, or manipulation.
Myth 4: I’m Not Okay, You’re Not Okay
Consider these truths instead: We are born perfect in every way. We are already everything that we are trying to become. Although we may have temporarily forgotten who we are, we are not broken in any way! The challenges in our lives are not an indication that there’s anything wrong with us; instead, they’re merely part of the journey back to ourselves.
Myth 5: Health Care Cares for Our Health
Doctors and other health-care professionals can give us information about our physical condition and what our options are, but we are responsible for accessing our guidance and deciding on the best course of action. Poor health is not only a medical issue; the causes can also be rooted in our mental, emotional, or spiritual state—as well as in our environment. We are not victims of illness because illness and disease do not happen in a vacuum; we can do much to improve our health on many levels. Illness is a teacher—and often a wake-up call—that shows us a better path. It’s not an evil that must be destroyed, the consequence of bad karma, or the result of negative thinking. Even death itself is not our enemy. Choosing to see the gifts or messages in illness, instead of viewing illness as a curse, empowers us (and may very well improve the outcome of an illness).
Myth 6: It’s Just a Coincidence
Consider these possible truths instead: We are part of one big, cosmic whole, intricately connected in ways we can’t see and can’t even imagine in the physical realms. If we are all connected, then whatever harms another also harms us, and whatever helps another also helps us. If we could see this physical world from that connected state of non-duality, we would see that everything that happens is perfect just as it is, even if it doesn’t seem that way from our more limited earthly perspective.
Myth 7: We Pay for Our Sins at Death
Consider these possible truths instead: In the other realm, only unconditional love and compassion for each of us exists, with no judgment or punishment for what we did or didn’t do on Earth. (This includes those who have committed what are considered in the world of duality to be egregious acts, including suicide or even murder.) Our infinite selves—who we are on the other side—are completely devoid of any part of our physical-world identity (such as our race, gender, culture, or religion). We do not take those elements with us, nor would we want to! When we are in the other realm, we feel no pain, anger, guilt, fear, or judgment. We feel only total understanding, complete acceptance, unconditional love, and the joyous ecstasy of union with the divine nature of all that is.
Myth 8: Spiritual People Don’t Have Egos
Consider these possible truths: The ego is not our enemy, and we don’t need to overcome it; the ego is necessary for survival in the physical world. We choose to come into the physical realm to experience separation and duality with all the rich, contrasting qualities that make up reality here; without the ego, this experience would be impossible. We are born predisposed to have both a healthy ego and a healthy sense of conscious awareness. Loving ourselves is not being egotistical; it’s absolutely vital to our optimal health and happiness. The more we love ourselves and embrace our ego, the easier it becomes for us to see ourselves beyond our ego and to become aware of our infinite selves.
Myth 9: Women are the Weaker Sex
Consider these possible truths: Neither gender is superior to or inferior to the other—each has important qualities that are needed to make a complete and balanced whole. That whole is not only much greater than the sum of its individual parts but much grander than we can possibly comprehend. In the spirit realm, we have no physical bodies and so gender does not exist. We are all equal, and we are all equally powerful.
Myth 10: We Must Always be Positive
Consider these possible truths: We can’t control having negative thoughts, so trying to push them away doesn’t make them disappear; at most, this just buries them temporarily. It’s okay to feel pain, anger, sadness, frustration, fear, and so on. They’re a natural part of who we are as human beings.
Experiencing so-called negative emotions does not mean that we have failed or that we are not spiritual enough. Embracing pain gives us an opportunity to see its gifts (which can only appear once we arrive on the other side of the pain). Negative thoughts don’t make us sick; not loving ourselves for who we truly are has a much greater effect on our health.
One day, we will all transcend this physical plane into the infinite realm of the afterlife, and while many fear what lies beyond, crossing over is actually the easy part. Let me assure you that there is nothing to fear beyond the veil. Our true challenge is in trying to live a life of expansion, liberation, love, and joy here on the physical plane.
This article is an edited excerpt from Anita Moorjani’s book, What If This Is Heaven? published by Hay House, reprinted here with permission.