I'm known for having had the [mis]fortune of surviving multiple "near-death experiences," and as a result I (unintentionally) find myself absolutely certain that there's a spiritual reality that underlies, informs, and precipitates all of this success-seeking, bill-paying, precaution-taking material existence. It's a function of what the Hindus call Maya, the illusion of Life. While being hit on the head three times very hard may exclude me from what's normally considered as "sanity," I think it was what I personally really needed. I needed experiences that painfully proved the existence of a reality that's magically extra-dimensional in every sense – physically, spiritually, and conceptually. Realizations that I suppose are more commonly known as faith.
Thankfully a lot of us acquire this understanding in easier ways, from our parents, or from religion, or just in the course of coping with the slings and arrows that life throws our way. Apparently being challenged by hardship does help to make us realize that there's a reliable order alive in the universe we can turn to, especially when things get tough. Naturally, I certainly can't recommend near-death as a means to bridging that elusive gap between the harsh realities of "material" life and a more grace-filled "spiritual" life, but I can offer you a few very practical bridges into that living magic that makes everything so much more enjoyable – grounded in this fundamental concept: We are spiritual beings learning through physical experience; we are designed to overcome the mental and physical barriers presented by human sensory experiences and realize our spiritual nature. There are bridges – invisible spiritual mechanisms (choices) – built into this physical experience that afford us passages to our spiritual evolution.
Here are a few solid bridges that help us cross that dimensional divide:
Unconditional Kindness is the most available (and enjoyable) mechanism that engages us with our spiritual life by giving us an immediate heartfelt identification with others – the [proactive] warmth and support that we respond to ourselves, when it's unconditionally shown to us. Being unconditionally kind to others is being kind to ourselves, because we find we can easily forgive others for just being human, and realize that applies to us too. We give everyone a break, because life is tough for everyone. As part of that, Unconditional Kindness obliges there be no exploitation, manipulation, or participation in doing harm of any kind in our actions, so we end up being forthright, friendly vegetarians who work at something that contributes to Life in a meaningful, productive way. (We even get to forgive those who can't understand our approach to Life)
Hindus call this Karma Yoga, and it instantly connects us to an unseen dimension of profound compassion and generosity that we may have never known was alive everywhere in the world. We make, and find others who are making, good karma.
Honesty in all our relationships and dealings, and in what you might think of as a variation of confession—owning up to our mistakes, not always needing to be right—is really a visible invisible bridge. We all know how it simplifies our life, since being honest gives us fewer of life's complications to fear, because you're simply never adding to them. Your motives remain those of a seeker of fairness, truth, and wisdom. You become seen and known as a person who is resolutely trustworthy, whose intentions are of the highest order...that sounds pretty spiritual, doesn't it? It's a kind of intellectual vigilance that Hindus call Gnana Yoga.
Giving, simply put, may be the single most important bridge, particularly to an agnostic that isn't interested in "extra-dimensions" but does want to live with a more graceful connection to Life. What we might call Compassionate Consciousness (altruistic effort like charity and volunteerism) – often referred to simply as service (like responsible parenthood, being a good friend, etc.) – is the most reliable bridge to a working spirituality. It's simply the singular most effective means to overcoming the sense of separateness we develop while sitting and thinking about ourselves and our own life situations – that selfishness that paints us into our own little corner, only using the color fear.
In selfless service—with no regard for reward or recognition—we're immediately attached to a greater universal intelligence by the lightest of all yokes: the engagement created by contributing to the cycle of well-being. We almost immediately escape the harsh realities dictated by our ego, and instantly begin to lighten and align our karma. (Karma Yoga, again)
Humility – not as a form of self-deprecatory ineffectiveness, but instead as a subtle, powerful sense of reality and connection; as an extraordinary underlying energy that filters all of your Life experiences, and provides an intuitive ideal to live by with purpose and grace. We've all experienced this powerful kind of humility as a truth-bearing, holistic force in Life, often demonstrated by the people we really respect the most. Nobody is really that important—even if they are; and often people who don't act important but just show up with open-hearted willingness are the most important of all.
"Conscious Contact with Source Energy" is what all these bridges lead us to, actually. A personal attachment and conscious surrender into the energy and intelligence alive in the Universe, regardless of whether we personify that power in popular traditional ways, or form our own concept of it as "The Field of Love," or other force. In this way we surrender—as a strategy—into the power that energizes and directs our being, recognizing the true control that our choices give us over our lives. You become aware of all kinds of beauty, the inherent divinity in nature; and realize that your actions in Life can be devoted to this undeniable Source of Creation – to "God," to Life, to one another, to Love. The Hindus call this devotional, or Bhakti Yoga.
I don't pretend to know the designs of the Universe, only to have experienced the effectiveness of these visible (invisible) mechanisms in my own life and in the lives of those I'm close to; but I do know this:
You do deserve the life that you have – with most of your biggest difficulties defined by whether you willingly cross these bridges towards "the spiritual," or stay stuck (and frustrated) on this side of the river, avoiding the magical extra-dimension of Life.
How to Get to Heaven (Without Really Dying), Wisdom From a Near-Death Survivor from Llewellyn Worldwideavailable direct on this page, or online. The first book: How to Survive Life (and Death), A Guide To Happiness In This World and Beyond is available the same ways – but ask for it it at your local bookstore!