Oprah sits down with New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Bond, first-time novelist of the newest selection from Oprah’s Book Club 2.0, “Ruby,” to explore this deeply soulful and redemptive novel as well as Cynthia’s personal story of hope and healing. The book follows the story of Ruby Bell, a beautiful girl born from tragedy who suffers horrors and fights against her personal demons in Liberty Township, TX. Oprah and Cynthia also discuss Cynthia’s years teaching writing to homeless and at-risk youth throughout Los Angeles, her triumphs as a first time author and the book’s core belief that it is possible to heal from nearly anything.
Eckhart is a spiritual teacher and author who was born in Germany and educated at the Universities of London and Cambridge. At the age of 29, a profound inner transformation radically changed the course of his life. The next few years were devoted to understanding, integrating and deepening that transformation, which marked the beginning of an intense inward journey. Later, he began to work in London with individuals and small groups as a counselor and spiritual teacher. Since 1995 he has lived in Vancouver, Canada. Eckhart Tolle is the author of the #1 New York Timesbestseller The Power of Now (translated into 33 languages) and the highly acclaimed follow-up A New Earth, which are widely regarded as two of the most influential spiritual books of our time.
Making strong connections to people, places, your spirituality, new learning, as well as your purpose and mission in life is a critical coping strategy. It makes the difference between living with life’s ups and downs or being inundated emotionally and physically when big changes occur. Significantly, there are numerous studies that prove the efficacy of connection, yet many mourners overlook the obvious.
Acting on the concept of connecting is an extremely powerful determinant in how one grieves any death and adapts to life without the physical presence of the loved one. Connecting is not limited to interpersonal relationships. Nature, storytelling, beauty, art, music, even specific objects owned by the deceased, or previously given to the mourner by the beloved, can serve as effective transitional bridges to strength and comfort. They can also play a key role in the opportunity for personal transformation that is always present when experiencing loss and change.
On the other hand, disconnection is the root cause of all unnecessary suffering. It leads, among other things, to isolation, boredom, increased loneliness, lowered self-esteem, and ultimately an increase in reactive depression. Neglect connecting on a variety of levels and you invite illness and more stress, not to mention emotional turmoil.
Most important, you lose the positive feelings toward the self (an essential force in meeting the new conditions of life) generated by continually choosing connections. This is not to deny the need to unplug from others periodically in solitude, in order to think through big questions and potential problems.
Here are some of the disconnections to avoid that block progress in doing one’s grief work.
1. Extended periods of being alone. As mentioned above we all need time alone. However, the tendency to stay isolated and allow the feeling of victimization to pervade our thinking is a dangerous practice. Yes, thoughts of self-pity are normal and you can give them short attention. Then it is critical to make a move. Do something to reorder your train of thought by focusing attention elsewhere. Planning specific connections for each day is the way through self-imposed isolation. This means we must reach out and not wait for others to reach out to us.
2. Refusing to try new behaviors and establish new routines. No one likes to accept the fact that without the presence of our loved one life becomes a new and different existence. We want our old life back. Without planning new activities, accepting some changes in old routines while building new ones, and reaching out to reestablish our feelings of worth, we inadvertently are building fences to keep the world out. Somehow it becomes necessary for us to find the space within to love the self and not only our beloved.
3. Turning down invitations by neighbors, co-workers, friends, or family. If you believe that socializing when mourning is disrespectful to the memory of the deceased, remember what your loved one would want you to do in this regard. Certainly not to have time in the safe and secure surrounding of people who care about and love you. Become aware that openness to being helped is one of the most positive coping responses to adopt. We need each other.
4. Hiding your feelings from others. It is normal to feel sad, exhausted, lose meaning about life, feel guilty, angry or depressed even though those feelings may seem utterly abnormal. When you find someone you trust let those feelings come to the surface. Share them. Perhaps one of the connections to consider is a mentor. Hiding feelings clearly results in more stress. Strong feelings that remain unexpressed leads to increased physical complaints since for every thought and emotion there is a corresponding cellular response within the body.
5. Not providing enough caring attention to your health. Eating well, trying to rest and sleep, taking a daily stress break, and doing some daily exercise are essential connections to work on. I see numerous mourners who are dehydrated, which culminates in more pain and interferes with sound thinking. Find the best foods to eat and examine the myths to debunk (like you have to drink eight glasses of water each day) as part of establishing a strong connection to maintaining good health.
6. Omitting nurturing connections to deceased loved ones. You will always have a connection to the loved one you are mourning and all loved ones who have passed. Never buy into the false advice that you have to let him/her go in order to get on with your life. That is untrue.
I tell every mourner I work with that it’s okay to talk to your deceased loved one. In fact, it is healthy to have conversations and to learn to love in separation. Ask a question and see what pops into your mind. Or imagine what your loved one would say to you. My mother died 30 years ago and I still talk to her. Make every effort to keep the memories alive as they will support and provide opportunities to talk about the loved one at appropriate times.
Finally, create the mindset that reprogramming is an ongoing part of life. We only intensify and prolong the pain of great loss by not committing to reinvesting in life through making the changes that our new circumstances demand. We have no control over the past but we can influence the way we deal with forming the present. Use the inevitable lifelong need to deal with change and the new circumstances presented as tools for personal growth. Make a commitment to increase patience, humility, and gentleness because these three are indispensible to making connections and avoiding disconnections in the process.
Dr. LaGrand is a grief counselor and the author of eight books, the most recent, the popular Love Lives On: Learning from the Extraordinary Encounters of the Bereaved. He is known world-wide for his research on the Extraordinary Experiences of the bereaved (after-death communication phenomena) and is one of the founders of Hospice of the St. Lawrence Valley, Inc. His free monthly ezine website is http://www.extraordinarygriefexperiences.com
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So often, when something “bad” happens to us, it appears to be purposeless suffering. But what if our most difficult experiences are actually rich with hidden purpose – purpose that we ourselves planned before we were born? Could it be that we choose our life’s circumstances, relationships, and events?
In my research for my book Your Soul’s Plan: Discovering the Real Meaning of the Life You Planned Before You Were Born, I found that the answer to this question is a definite yes. Working with four of the most gifted mediums and channels in the country, including one who is able both to see and to hear our pre-birth planning sessions, I’ve examined the pre-birth plans of dozens of people. These people planned such challenges as physical illness, having handicapped children, deafness, blindness, drug addiction, alcoholism, losing a loved one, and severe accidents. Courageously, they planned these challenges for purposes of spiritual growth.
Of the many people with whom I’ve spoken, there was only one who did not plan his challenge before birth. Yet, like everyone else, he did choose it. In Bob’s case, he made his choice shortly after birth, when an accident occurred in the hospital. The following comes directly from Bob’s session with the medium (Staci):
“The [spirit] guides were immediately by Bob’s incubator side, waiting for him to slip out of body and into that state of consciousness where the spirit or astral body is released. They knew it was going to happen quickly.
“My spirit guide wants us to start with the chessboard, the planning board. It’s a chart on which the steps of growth and development are plotted through one’s life, so that the soul has a visual reference. This board is like a flow chart. A flow chart is a question. If the answer is yes, you take one path. If the answer is no, you take a different path.
“When this accident happened to Bob in the incubator . . . the phrase I’m hearing is ‘back to the drawing board.’ Bob and two of his spirit guides got together and went back into the room with the planning board to diagram the alternate path that would be taken to still achieve the soul’s goals for this lifetime.
“They’re showing me the instant he [Bob] found himself back in spirit in the planning place…..very disoriented by this rapid and huge change and surprised to find himself there. He did not realize what was happening to the infant body. He recognizes his guides, trusts them implicitly, and is totally willing to be guided.
“I’m hearing one of the two guides, who is speaking for both of them, telling Bob that there has been a mishap in a procedure and that Bob’s brain has received too much oxygen. Bob appears to be in a state of shock about this—quiet, eyes wide, pupils dilated, numb and glum.
Spirit guide: The nurse involved in the operation of the tubes attached to your crib, where your physical body is even now, has made an error and has allowed too much of the elemental oxygen to flow through. This has elevated the oxygen levels in your brain, and damage is occurring.
“I see them showing Bob his eyes, the baby’s eyes. Bob’s spirit, while attached to the baby’s body, is out of the body. As they speak to him through telepathic thought, his mind’s eye sees those eyes. They show him the damage and how the eyes will look as he proceeds through childhood and into adulthood.
Spirit Guide: There is no damage to the brain; it is to the eyes. There is an increase in your intelligence. Though it is a minor increase, it will serve you well. You now have the option to reevaluate your plan for your life to see if these changes will serve your purposes. If you so desire, you may withdraw from this body, return to us, reevaluate a new host family, and draw up new plans.
“Bob fires off a lot of questions rapidly to his guides. He asks about his ability to walk. He wants to be reassured that his body will still be able to function as he expects. They assure him that it will. Then he asks:
Bob: What about my work?
Spirit Guide: This will be accomplished.
Bob: Will this handicap impede my evolutionary process in this lifetime?
Second Spirit Guide: Let’s see.
“Between the guides and Bob, in the middle of the air, is the planning board for his old life on the bottom, a transitional planning board above that, and above that the board for Bob’s life as it will be after this change. These boards are like a hologram—filmy in appearance, not solid. Their thoughts create these boards and draw lines on them. Lines represent the process of growth.
“A diagram forms. There are little branches along the way. Some of them are houses. For example, the home his family occupies at the time of his birth, the home they move to, and the places he occupies in adulthood, even college, are mapped out on this board. It all happens very quickly.
“With their thoughts, they move elements from one board to another. The first thing they take from the original planning board to the transitional board is his mother.
Spirit Guide: Let’s begin with your mother. She will remain in this life with you and will continue to be your mother.
Bob: That’s good.
“Bob looks reassured. He takes a deep breath and lets out a sigh [of relief].
Spirit Guide: Your father . . .
“They move him from the original board to the middle board.
Spirit Guide: He will still be with you.
“Very quickly other elements are moved—family pets, relatives, things like that. They all go to the transitional board. As the guides move these elements to the transitional board, they also appear on the top board.
Spirit Guide: These elements are unchanging and will remain a steady influence, focus, and force in your life. But your teachers will change. This school [points to a school element on the lower board] is no longer relevant because of your condition. You will now be going to this school [points to a school element that suddenly appears on the transitional board]. This school will serve your needs best and will give you the guidance you need to live in the world under these conditions. Next, let’s take your friends.
As Bob’s session with Staci continued, we heard he and his spirit guides do a great deal more planning regarding many different aspects of his life. In the end, Bob decided to accept the additional life challenge of blindness rather than return to spirit to plan a new life.
I believe that an awareness of how we plan our life challenges can completely change the way we view them. Wisdom may be acquired in a more conscious manner; negative feelings are replaced by acceptance, forgiveness, peace, and gratitude.
Ultimately, regardless of our challenges, we deepen our appreciation of life as a soul-expanding, evolutionary process.
Robert Schwartz is the author of Your Soul’s Plan: Discovering the Real Meaning of the Life You Planned Before You Were Born. A free PDF with a large sample of the book is available on Mr. Schwartz’s web site at www.yoursoulsplan.com. The book may be ordered on that web site and on Amazon. It is also available through your local bookstores and libraries.
In a personal session with a medium in 2003, author Robert Schwartz was astonished to speak with nonphysical beings who knew everything about him – not just what he had done in life, but also what he had thought and felt. They told him that he had planned many of his most difficult experiences before he was born. Realizing that a knowledge of pre-birth planning would bring great healing to people and allow them to understand the deeper purpose of their life challenges, he devoted the next three years to studying the pre-birth plans of dozens of individuals. The extraordinary insights that emerged speak to our heartfelt, universal yearning to know . . . why.