Dying to be Me
Hay House 2012
Anita Moorjani writes about her experience of cancer and a crisis admission to hospital when her organs were failing. As her family gathered, mourning her imminent death, she found herself watching from a peaceful place in the loving presence of her father, who had died some time before. She saw her husband and mother weeping, her brother boarding a plane in Hong Kong to come to see her, her doctors consulting in corridors and performing emergency procedures. She wanted to tell them that it was all exactly as it should be, to comfort them, but her ill, emaciated body was in a coma.
Anita Moorjani grew up in Hong Kong in a traditional Hindu family, in a Chinese culture, attending a British Catholic school. Her life was ruled by constant anxiety about getting the social rules right and the feeling that her real self was unacceptable in so many ways. Her cancer diagnosis was a shock and she tried all kinds of conventional and alternative methods of healing, including six months in an ashram in India where she did well, but relapsed on returning to her life in Hong Kong.
She describes her near death experience with a telling image:
Imagine, if you will, a huge, dark warehouse. You live there with only one flashlight to see by. Everything you know about what's contained within this enormous space is what you've seen by the beam of one small flashlight. Whenever you want to look for something, you may or may not find it, but that doesn't mean the thing doesn't exist... Next, imagine that one day, someone flicks on a switch. There, for the first time, in a sudden burst of brilliance and sound and color, you can see the entire warehouse, and it's nothing like anything you'd ever imagined. ...the vastness, complexity, depth and breadth of everything going on around you is almost overwhelming...Even when the switch goes back off, nothing can take away your understanding and clarity, the wonder and the beauty, or the fabulous aliveness of the experience. Nothing can ever cancel your knowledge of all that exists in the warehouse.
Reluctantly, with her father's encouragement, Anita returned to her body and began a rapid and remarkable recovery. She describes her doctor's and others' amazement as within a few days the tumours shrank and disappeared, she began to eat and regain her strength. She wrote a blog about her experience to share it with others and has lived since in the knowledge that life is unfolding as it should, that she and everyone else are perfect just the way they are. She writes and speaks to share her experience for the benefit of others.
Her account is clear and genuine in tone. I have no doubt she had a profound experience and it has given light to the rest her life. A friend tells me about a similar experience when she was ten years old, in hospital and expected to die. Now, sixty years later, she says softly, 'I think such an experience changes you forever.' In what way? 'I became less anxious about everyone's needs.'
How to use Anita's message? Without personal experience of the light coming on in the warehouse, it's much harder to take in her message second hand. She seems to be saying that anxiety about who she should be caused her cancer, that she had a choice from the other realm about whether to live or die, that the universe is unfolding as it should and we do not need to be concerned about the details.
For myself, I am blessed with robust good health in spite of my anxieties about the world and my place in it. I have not had to choose between life and death. I would like to think that we are all as we are meant to be, but there is much about the way the human species treats each other and the natural world that I find very hard to accept. I feel sad and helpless when I hear about acts of cruelty and destruction.
In the end, all I can say is that Anita Moorjani had a deep and moving experience which enlightened her life and gave her clarity. She generously wants to share that with as many people as possible and hopes we can find some of the peace and self-acceptance it brought her. I like that: her generosity, the message of hope, the reminder that I am good enough as I am and don't need to be anxious about fixing myself. But I still wish for the the world to be a better place and for all beings to have peace and safety and I hope to do my bit towards that, however I can.