I’ve just been thinking about matters afterlife of late, prompted by a journalist asking me what I think of mediums. I then realised, once again, that it’s not afterlife but life before death that really matters.
As you may know, I’ve trained as a medium myself. The years I spent in the weekly circle at the College of Psychic Studies were important and grounding, mostly because for the first time in my life I had some sort of structure and space to hone my sensitivity without having to defend myself or explain why I perceived the world in a certain way. However (and no offence to my wonderful teacher or class mates), mediumship never felt right to me. I never fully trusted it, nor did I understand the point. Why focus on entities and personalities when we’re all one, I thought.
I know many psychics and mediums, some of whom I count as close personal friends. I respect their chosen path tremendously and know their work can provide reassurance, forgiveness and healing to those of us who have experienced loss and bereavement. At its best a visit to a medium can help us let go.
But I still wouldn’t. Not because I judge what other people are doing, but because I believe loss is a part of the natural cycle of life. There is something inherently strange about the way the Western society deals with the inevitable. It’s not seen or heard of, it’s not talked about, it’s out of sight and hidden away in hospices, hospitals and morgues. We may see the obituaries in a newspaper but never pause to think what they actually mean. Then we’re surprised at the pain when it hits.
When someone is bereaved and grieving, we fail to allow the process look after itself and find ourselves lacking in skill to deal with something so profound. We ‘don’t want to impose’ and come up with good reasons (excuses, really) why the bereaved must be left alone to deal with their grief. We feel like we should find a solution or some sort of psychological painkiller to make it all go away, when actually all that is required is our presence. Nobody has a solution to grief, because it is a process that unfolds naturally.
So this is where mediumship often steps in. When the world around us doesn’t encourage loss to be a natural part of our lives from the start we aren’t prepared when it hits us for the first time. We panic. We get confused. We need reassurance. We find it impossible to forgive ourselves for not being there or for saying or doing the wrong thing and worry about whether the poor soul has found their way to a good place, whatever that means to us.
Don’t get me wrong, I know from personal experience we can never really prepare ourselves for loss, especially when it happens in a brutal or shocking way. However, seven years in South East Asia taught me a lot. When a friend (who was in his mid-30s) was shot to death, his whole family and community got involved. The deceased was resting in a coffin in the sitting room as we stood around it praying and laying his favourite food on the table beside him. Children were running around and paused to pay their respects. At the funeral we all sang songs and cried as we tried to make sense of what had just happened. He was gone, but we were still there.
We are so busy running our lives that we forget to tell people we love them or proudly hold on to grudges just to make a point. Byron Katie has asked one of the most important questions of our lifetime: ‘Would you rather be right or be free’? I think it’s an easy choice.
There’s something inherently beautiful about keeping the thought of death as a part of our spiritual practice. It’s a profound way to do a daily reality check: Am I living the life that is true to me, am I living true to myself today? What am I thankful for today?
I find the practice of honouring our ancestors and fellow human beings more in alignment with my world view. It’s very powerful to stop and think about those who have walked before us, paving the way. It’s reassuring to know life goes on. If it’s forgiveness we are looking for, let’s start with learning to forgive ourselves. If it’s reassurance we need, let’s look at how we can keep ourselves safe. And when someone is grieving, let’s be there. That’s all that is needed. We can’t make sense of something that feels senseless to our human-ness, but we can learn to accept it as a natural part of life.
After all, we’re still here and it’ll all be fine.