Thursday, June 2, 2016

Why We Love Unicorns

“Of all the legendary animals of art, folklore and literature, the Unicorn is the one with the greatest hold on our imaginations.” –– Nancy Hathaway, The Unicorn

Strong yet gentle, innocent yet wise, beautiful beyond imagination, unicorns have fascinated us since the dawn of time. Prehistoric artists painted them on cave walls 15,000 years ago. Alexander the Great claimed to have ridden one. England’s Queen Elizabeth I owned two of their horns, worth about $20 million in today’s money. What is it about these mysterious and magical creatures that continues to captivate people around the world, even after all these years?

The Unicorn’s Mystique

We’ve always admired unicorns’ power and majesty. These awe-inspiring creatures might lay their heads in the laps of young ladies and allow children to pat them, yet they retain their properties of strength, intelligence, intuition, and independence. No human can trap a unicorn unless the beast allows it to happen. Its wildness and freedom are part of what entices us; we may be just a bit envious of the unicorn’s ability to exist beyond the limitations of our humdrum, everyday world.

Unicorns represent peace and harmony and a compassionate way of living. They teach us that those who possess true power, self-confidence, and wisdom tread gently in the world and care for the innocent and vulnerable. If necessary, unicorns will defend themselves and their kind––but they never do so unless they’re attacked first.

Nor do unicorns stoop to lies, chicanery, or stupidity. Instead, they possess the traits of all great heroes: honesty, devotion, respect, inner strength, wisdom, and courage. They can’t be bought or manipulated. What’s more, they go about their business with genuine modesty, even though they know that they are the most exquisite creatures ever to set foot on Planet Earth.

In short, they give us hope. If we let them, they’ll guide us toward a more enlightened existence. What’s not to love?

The Genesis of the Unicorn

One creation tale, recounted in De Historia et Veritate Unicornis, says that the unicorn descended to earth on a cloud. The first-born creature, he was called Asallam. His role was that of the light-bearer and guide, the one who would drive away darkness from the face of the earth, for his horn itself was a beacon formed of spiraling light. With that laser-like horn he speared a rock and brought forth life-giving water to produce the most magnificent garden ever known.

Soon after, the Holy One breathed man into the garden. The unicorn was the first animal the man beheld. At first sight, the unicorn loved the man and knelt before him––and from that day forth, Fate has bound the two beings together for eternity. 

The Unicorn’s Magical Horn

Undoubtedly its most distinctive feature, the unicorn’s horn is also its most magical. The spiral shape symbolizes the spiraling pattern of life energy, what yogis refer to as the kundalini. Spiritually, the spiral signifies movement from the secret depths of your center outward into the world at large and back again. It also suggests the soul’s movement from earthly existence upward toward the higher levels of consciousness. We see the symbol echoed in Native American petroglyphs, Celtic art, and Zen gardens.

The unicorn can plunge his long spiraled horn into poisoned waters and cleanse them, so that all earth’s creatures can drink safely and be nourished. His purity is so profound that it affects whatever he touches––no taint or corruption or illness or evil can stand up to the unicorn’s righteousness. Like the Christ (with whom Christian mythology links the unicorn), the unicorn’s purity neutralizes the poisons that afflict the world.

During the medieval period in Europe, as the unicorn myth was gaining popularity among the aristocracy, so was poisoning as a way to rid oneself of one’s enemies. In reaction to the widespread intrigue and murderousness of the times, the unicorn’s horn became recognized as an antidote to evil. The royal classes––and anyone else who could afford to do so––purchased cups supposedly made of unicorn horn, which they believed would safeguard them against the omnipresent threat of poisoning. Most of the “unicorn” horns, however, were actually the spiral-shaped tusks of small Arctic whales known as narwhals.

The noted seventeenth-century English herbalist Nicholas Culpeper, in his Complete Herbal, recommended using unicorn horn in cordials to promote health and healing. As late as 1741, London’s apothecaries sold a powdered form of the horn to sprinkle in your drink for medicinal purposes.

The Lady and the Unicorn 

According to mythology, only a virgin can enchant the unicorn. Medieval troubadours, Renaissance painters, and modern-day novelists incorporated this theme into art and literature. Christianity even chose the unicorn as a symbol for Christ and the virgin as his mother, Mary.

Around the end of the eleventh century or so, the unicorn became linked with the concept of Amour courtois or courtly love. This highly structured, formalized code of behavior stated that a male suitor must worship and serve his lady––a woman who, by the way, was usually not his wife. At the time, marriages among the royalty and nobility were arranged for political reasons, and love rarely factored into these matches. Therefore, a man’s passion and erotic love were diverted to another source: a lady of the court whom he promised to honor, obey, and pledge himself. Such idealized romances, however, weren’t supposed to be consummated, as the church considered infidelity a mortal sin. Poets, musicians, and artists began linking the courtly lover with the unicorn and his lady with the virgin to whom the beast is drawn.

A series of tapestries known as “The Unicorn Tapestries” provide the most famous depictions of the myth. Believed to have been woven in Bruges, Belgium between 1495 and 1505, they now hang in the Cloisters of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art––a gift from John D. Rockefeller Jr. in 1937. Some sources suggest that the tapestries were originally commissioned to mark the wedding of Anne of Brittany to Louis XII, the king of France. The seven ornate panels––twelve feet wide and up to fourteen feet high––depict men hunting the unicorn, much as European aristocrats might have hunted deer in real life, and contain allegorical imagery from both pagan and Christian mythology.

Denaturing the Unicorn 

Today, however, the unicorn has been stripped of its wild, independent, and sometimes fierce nature. Its form has become cutsified, so that it looks like a darling little horse with big eyes and a colorful horn that couldn’t pierce butter. Its animalistic nature has disappeared, along with the lion’s tail and goatish beard it sported in earlier times. Although the unicorns of yesteryear were usually male, females seem to have cornered today’s toy market (even though folklore tells us female unicorns don’t have horns). In short, the unicorn has been tamed––not by legendary virgins, but by the likes of Hasbro and Disney.

The 1940 landmark animated film Fantasia gave us the model for modern-day unicorns. Disney’s adorable creatures frolic across the screen, decked out in bright yellow horns and coats of pink, blue, and lavender. The toy manufacturer Hasbro helped create a huge market for darling little unicorns via its My Little Pony series, plush toys, games, play stations, TV shows, and more.

 Yet the mystical unicorn continues to be a most enchanting and beloved entity in the minds of young and old alike. We still love unicorns, and even though they no longer represent power and independence, we value their purity, beauty, and gentleness. Little girls who may know nothing of the old story of the virgin winning over the wild, freedom-loving beast are still drawn to the unicorn, perhaps because, as Nina Shen Rastogi proposed in an article for National Public Radio’s website, “I think for many young girls, there’s a fantasy that someday you will be recognized as the secretly beautiful, magical thing that you are. The unicorn will be attracted to something ineffable about you, secret from the rest of the world.” And as Terry Brooks points out in The Black Unicorn, “After all there has to be some belief in magic––however small––for any world to survive.”

Adapted from Skye Alexander’s book Unicorns: The Myths, Legends, & Lore. Skye is the author of more than 30 fiction and nonfiction books, many on metaphysical subjects. Visit her website

Monday, March 28, 2016

Twin-Tailed Mermaids: Lusty Ladies of the Deep

What’s sexy about a fishtail? The mermaid’s tail is one of her most obvious and intriguing symbols, one that’s rich with implications. In The Republic of Love, Carol Shields describes it as “a sealed vessel enclosing either sexual temptation or sexual virtue, or some paradoxical and potent mixture of the two.” In fact, part of the mermaid’s appeal may be her sexual unattainability—we always want what we can’t have. She’s the ultimate tease––a gorgeous babe with the breasts of a Playboy bunny, the face of an angel, and the long, flowing hair of a supermodel. But no man can consummate a relationship with her because her tail prevents access to her “lady parts.”
However, the mermaid’s tail didn’t always look the way it does now. She wasn’t always so constrained. Medieval depictions of mermaids often showed them with two tails or a tail split down the middle, suggesting that these aquatic beauties could take on human lovers after all. Dating back to ancient times, dual-tailed mermaids turn up in the art and mythology of many countries, and recall the old matriarchal belief systems that predated the patriarchal religions of today.

The split-tailed siren is a cross between the early Celtic fertility goddess Sheila-na-gig, who squats and suggestively shows off her feminine secrets, and the more typical mermaid. This sexy seductress blatantly separates her fishtail into two parts, revealing her genitalia as a symbol of feminine power and creativity.

Starbucks’ Twin-Tailed Temptress
Back in 1971, when Starbucks started selling coffee beans in Seattle, Washington, the company chose a mermaid for its logo. That half-naked beauty was of the two-tailed variety and she provocatively parted her tails, holding them up on either side of her bare torso, enticing customers with her charms.

Over time, Starbucks modified the mermaid to make her less naughty. In 1987, logo designers covered up her breasts with her long, wavy hair. When Starbucks became a publicly traded company in 1992, the logo underwent yet another change, this time obscuring the mermaid’s lower body so that only a hint of her split-tail remained in the stylized, sanitized version. To commemorate its fortieth anniversary in 2011, Starbucks refined the logo once again, eliminating the familiar lifesaver-like circle around the mermaid.

Sexy Spiritual Sirens
Despite her blatant sexuality, the two-tailed seductress decorates medieval churches and cathedrals throughout Europe, the British Isles, and Ireland. Often rendered in wood, stone, or mosaic, she graces the French churches Notre Dame de Cunault, the Basilique St. Julien de Brioude, St. Pierre de la Bouisse, and St. Pierre Bessu√©jouls. She also turns up in Italian churches, including San Pietro in Ciel d’Oro, Pavia, Santa Croce in Parma, and Cattedrale di Santa Maria Annunciata in Puglia. England, too, has twin-tailed mermaids in the Church of St. George in Hertfordshire and Lancashire’s Cartmel Priory Church.
Mermaids of the usual, single-tailed variety also appear in plenty of churches in Europe and the British Isles. In times when most of the populace was illiterate, pictures conveyed themes and taught morals to the pious. Christianity connected fish with Jesus, the “fisher of men,” and with Christians in general. Mermaids symbolized the sins of vanity and lust. When churchgoers saw mermaids swimming with schools of fish on the walls of their chapels, they recognized it as a message to avoid temptation that would lead them to fall into the treacherous mermaid’s clutches.
Of course, the church fathers played up stories of the mermaid’s penchant for bashing sailors’ ships onto rocks during storms, drowning men who succumbed to her wiles. Nevertheless, these sexy sirens served as artful adornments that may have distracted or delighted many a bored parishioner over the centuries.
One of the most intriguing examples of double-tailed mermaid sculpture dominates the Piazza Nettuno in Bologna, Italy. This erotic fountain features mermaids suggestively spreading their tails while enticingly squeezing water from the nipples of their shapely breasts. Commissioned to celebrate Pope Pius IV’s election in 1559 and sculpted by artist Giambologna, the bronze Fontana di Nettuno—which also depicts Neptune in all his naked glory—raised a good deal of controversy when it was unveiled. But the Pope gave the fountain his blessing, saying, “For Bologna it is alright.”
            Nothing stays the same forever, and that goes for the mermaid’s image as well. Today’s mermaids are fun-loving and friendly––lighthearted playmates who delight little girls instead of driving men mad with desire. The blatantly bawdy and awe-inspiring sirens of the past have been ousted. In the process, the split-tailed seductress has vanished, her connection with the powerful, early fertility goddesses erased by cocooning her lower body in a chaste, single tail.

Adapted from my book Mermaids: The Myths, Legends, & Lore. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Four Stages of Life

We’re accustomed to dividing our lives into stages based on chronology: youth, maturity, and old age. But I’ve found it interesting to look at the stages of life in another way: body, mind, heart, and soul. At various periods in earthly existence, I’ve found that we focus our attention in one or another of these areas and learn lessons accordingly. However, we’re not usually aware that we’re doing this. Nor do we all progress through the same stages at the same ages, or even consciously choose a particular one at a particular time.
Some people focus on the body stage during childhood and the teen years, as they grow rapidly, play sports, worry about how they look, explore their sexuality, etc. During this stage, you learn through doing things that engage or affect your body, and by testing your physical capabilities. Others may go through the body stage as elders, when illnesses or infirmity challenge them physically, and they must find new ways to cope with their bodies’ needs or limitations.
The mind stage often coincides with our school years, when we learn many things rapidly. However, your mind stage could occur as you advance in your career. You develop your mental capabilities through interacting with colleagues and competitors, and strive to gain as much knowledge as possible. Some people don’t enter the mind stage until late in life, when they no long need to focus on financial and family responsibilities, and finally have a chance to pursue a line of study or a special interest.

Like the other stages, the heart stage can occur at any time in your chronological life. During this period, we learn by opening our hearts to joy and pain. Some of us fall in love at an early age, and romantic relationships are a priority. In our younger years, we often let our emotions rule us––we’re guided by our hearts, not our minds. Others may not meet their soul mates, or experience “true love” until middle age or later. It’s not unusual for people to have second marriages that are more loving and fulfilling than their first ones were. However, happiness isn’t necessarily the key indicator of being in the heart stage. In fact, the heart stage is frequently difficult, because the challenges you face affect you at such a deep emotional level: the death of a mate, a painful divorce, caring for a loved one through an illness, etc. In some cases, you learn the lessons of the heart stage through a relationship with someone who pushes your emotional buttons.

The soul stage can be the hardest one to recognize. Although it’s common to turn to things of a spiritual nature toward the end of life, it doesn’t always happen that way. Some of us go through a period of soul-searching, of seeking meaning beyond the mundane, of looking for guidance and wisdom outside the material world, when we’re quite young, perhaps as a result of a life crisis. In some cases, meeting a person who awakens your awareness of your connection with something greater or shepherds you along “the path” can bring you into the soul stage.

The length of time you spend in each of the stages can vary widely. One may last a year, another may continue for twenty years or more. Often there’s some overlap, as you gradually transition from one stage to another, although occasionally it’s like switching on a light. You may not experience all four stages. It might be interesting to look back over your lifetime and see if you recognize the periods when you were in one stage or another. How and what did you learn at each stage? What people were in your life then and how did you interact with them? How did you perceive the world and your role in it? Where are you now?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Spirit Guides and Angels

In my book Angels Among Us, I mention a poll done by the Washington Post in 2008, in which 36,000 people of various faiths (or none) were asked if they believed angels actively participate in our lives. The majority answered yes. That same year, in a poll by Baylor University Institute for Studies of Religion of 1,700 Americans, 55 percent reported that their angels had protected them from harm.

Many people think that when we die we become angels. But according to Billy Graham’s website that’s incorrect––we become something greater. The Compelling Truth’s website says: "Humans are physical beings with a spiritual soul" whereas "Angels are spiritual beings . . . who can only become physical if God ordains that their work requires it.”

As I understand it, we won’t become angels, but we may evolve into spirit guides at some time. During my visits to the spirit realm, I observed souls as colored orbs of brilliant light. Their colors indicated their level of wisdom and experience (see my post “What Color Is Your Soul?” for more). Blue and purple souls were the masters, who guided beings on earth. These masters once existed as humans, but have now reached an advanced level and no longer need incarnate––though they may, if they choose. Less advanced souls––especially those from our own soul groups––may also assist us throughout our earthly lives. (See my post “Soul Groups in the Spirit World” for more.) I suspect that these entities are the ones who watch out for us, and that we sometimes mistake them for angels.

After my long-time companion, Ron Conroy, left his physical form in 2013, I asked him about this. He replied, “When people ‘die’ they don’t become gods or angels, they’re still themselves, just not physical.” He also explained that our core natures remain the same after we leave our bodies––we’re still playful, quiet, serious, adventurous, artistic, etc. Our fundamental purposes and interests stay with us, too. (See my post “Soul Roles: What’s Your Life Purpose?” for more.) Our egos fall away, however, leaving us “kinder and gentler” than we were as humans.

Psychic and medium Francine Clausen, “The Angel Lady” of Gloucester, Massachusetts, told me each of us has at least seven angels around us all the time––and we can call upon more for assistance when we need it. I think it’s possible that both spirit guides and guardian angels offer us protection and aid. Furthermore, I think it’s likely that we knew some of these spirits on earth––as I knew Ron for many years––but we may never have encountered some of them in physical life. (Nature spirits, fairies, and other ethereal entities also exist among us, but that’s a topic for another post. You can also read more in my book Fairies: The Myths, Legends, and Lore.)

In his book Journey of Souls, Michael Newton, PhD writes, “Most of my subjects report the first person they see in the spirit world is their personal guide.” Even if other entities that the newly deceased person knew on earth are present, the individual’s main spirit guide stands nearby, ready to escort the soul into the spirit realm. This guide, it seems, remains with us throughout all our earthly incarnations as well as during our time out of the body––teaching, protecting, and steering us through life with great love and compassion.

Children often speak of seeing their spirit guides, although adults usually discount these claims, labeling the spirits “imaginary friends” or “alter egos.” 

You may meet your spirit guides through meditation, trance states, dreams, hypnosis, moments of illness or trauma––they may even appear to you during your everyday, waking life. People sometimes describe them as light forms in the shape of a human being, as angels with wings, or as faint ghostly images. Others see them as glowing orbs, as I did in my journeys to the spirit realm. Even if you don’t actually see them, you may sense their presence, perhaps as warmth or coolness, a slight breeze or movement, a tingling sensation on your skin, or something else entirely. Once, while I was giving Reiki to a woman, I felt her guide standing behind me, laying its hands over mine to provide healing energy through me to the woman.

Trust your experiences, whether you see, hear, sense, smell, or otherwise become aware of your spirit’s presence. If you keep an open your mind, you have a good chance of making contact with your spirit guide and benefiting from what it has to share with you.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Do You Choose Your Death?

In the New Testament of the Christian Bible, Matthew 24 warns that no one knows the day or hour of his death. But some spiritual teachers and researchers who study reincarnation tell us that we choose our lifetimes on earth as well as the conditions of our physical existences. We also choose when and how we depart from earth, to return to our true home in the spirit world.

Although many of us fear and dread physical death, everything I’ve witnessed and read indicates that we have nothing to worry about. People who’ve had near-death experiences generally say the same thing. In fact, life outside the human body seems to be a whole lot better than it is here on earth. Brian L. Weiss, MD, in his book Many Lives, Many Masters, writes, “ ‘To be in physical state is abnormal. When you are in spiritual state, that is natural to you.’ ”

If you’re someone who can communicate with spirits in the nonphysical realm, you’ve likely heard them say that they’re happy where they are now. In his book Journey of Souls, Michael Newton, PhD, reports that clients he has regressed through their prior deaths usually say something like: “ ‘Oh, wonderful, I’m home in this beautiful place again’ ” or “ ‘I’m relieved to be away from Earth.’ ” My long-time partner, Ron Conroy, who left his body in 2013, tells me often how much happier and more peaceful he is now. “What we call the ‘other world’ is the real one,” he explains, “earth is an illusion.”

Some might interpret this as a reason for suicide, even though some religions insist that suicide is a sin. As I understand it, however, our teachers, guides, and spirits don’t judge or punish us––they welcome everyone, including suicides, back home. But people who decide to end their physical lives early will still have to complete the lessons they skipped out on, during another earthly incarnation.

After his physical death, Ron told me that even if we go quickly (as he did, from a stroke) we’ve actually made the decision much earlier. “We leave in stages, gradually detaching from the physical world,” he explained. Nine months before he passed, he told a mutual friend of ours that he wanted to die of a stroke before his seventieth birthday––which is exactly what happened. He picked the moment and method for his departure, not through suicide, but through intention.

Why, then, would anyone choose a painful or gruesome death? When I asked Ron this question, he replied that some accept terminal illnesses, such as cancer, to give doctors a chance to study the disease and learn ways to help other people. In some instances, souls decide that their host bodies will die in traumatic ways in order to raise awareness of a situation or to inspire interest in a particular cause. This may be true of warrior souls who die in battle. Undoubtedly, numerous other reasons exist, perhaps as many as the individuals involved.

If it’s any comfort, Dr. Newton writes in Destiny of Souls that “souls often leave their bodies seconds before a violent death.” And if we really do reincarnate on earth many, many times, then we’ve all gone through numerous deaths––and survived.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Why Did You Choose This Life?

Past-life researchers and people who believe in reincarnation propose that we choose our lifetimes on earth for specific purposes. We select our parents/families, the physical bodies we’ll inhabit, the cultures in which we will live, the timeframes during which we’ll exist, and the challenges we’ll face. Astrologers say that we also look at celestial configurations to determine what cosmic of energies will offer us the best potential for achieving our life goals. I’ve read that although the individual soul gets to make the final decision, our spirit guides and teachers offer suggestions and assist us in making these important choices.

If that’s so, you may ask, why would anyone choose a lifetime of hardship, pain, illness, poverty, or suffering? The usual answer is: to learn, and some things must be learned the hard way. Another theory states that we take on onerous conditions in a particular incarnation in order to atone for past misdeeds. It seems to me that as evolving souls who will eventually become spirit guides ourselves, overseeing the human race, we may need to experience everything that morals undergo, so we can understand and assist them in their earthly journey. If you’ve never suffered the loss of a loved one, for instance, you might not know how to ease another’s grief.

In my earlier posts, I’ve suggested that we incarnate for other reasons, too: to be with members of our soul group who’ve already entered human forms; to work on relationships or projects that we began in previous lifetimes; to create in the manifest world; to inspire or implement changes on Planet Earth; and most importantly, to bring love from our divine “home” into the physical realm.

As I wrote in my post “Soul Roles: What’s Your Life Purpose?” your lifetimes are based on certain fundamental themes. Soul roles fall into various categories, such as teacher, healer, warrior, leader, etc. Therefore, you’ll integrate your soul’s primary purpose into each incarnation, even though the details will differ. If you’re a warrior soul, for example, you might have been a gladiator in Ancient Rome, a soldier during the French Revolution, and a professional football player today.

My post “What Color Is Your Soul” discusses soul colors as indicators of spiritual knowledge and development. During my visits to the spirit world, I saw multitudes of white souls (beginners), but very few purple ones (masters). This idea is reiterated in the books of Michael Newton, PhD, Journey of Souls and Destiny of Souls. As my partner, Ron Conroy, who left the physical world in 2013, explained it to me, the younger white souls often enter lifetimes where they can learn basic survival skills and practice adapting to the requirements of earthly embodiment. These souls may not have spent many lives on this planet and must develop their “earth legs” before they can help others. People who live relatively primitive or very simple existences, in which they have few responsibilities other than sustaining themselves, may fall into this group.

Souls who’ve graduated to higher levels (yellow, gold, green), perhaps through many lifetimes on earth, face a different set of challenges and opportunities. They may choose incarnations in which they must consider and/or take care of others as well as themselves. Perhaps they’ll share what they’ve learned with other beings. Or, they may assume responsibility for other humans, animals, plants, etc., protecting or guiding these entities in their own growth. More developed souls may bring knowledge to earth’s inhabitants, provide support/jobs to others, create products that make physical existence easier, defend communities in times of crisis, and so on.

Eventually, we accomplish our earth “lessons” and reach a high enough level of spiritual development where we no longer need to incarnate. As blue or purple souls, we may choose to operate from a nonphysical realm instead of taking on human bodies. I suspect levels far beyond this exist, but I can’t speak to that––yet. Perhaps you’ll share your own experiences and ideas, or direct readers toward other sources of information beyond these humble posts.

Communicating with Spirits

Has someone you knew on earth contacted you from the “other side”? If so, you’re not alone. According to Canadian sociology professor Ian Currie, “contact with the dead is not rare. It is, in fact, commonplace.” In his book You Cannot Die, Dr. Currie reports numerous studies of people who say they’ve been in touch with deceased loved ones. In one, psychologist Dr. Robert Kastenbaum at Wayne State University in Detroit asked 140 people if they’d experienced this type of otherworldly communication; 45 percent answered yes. In another study in Wales, Dr. W.D. Rees asked 300 widows and widowers the same thing––and got a similar response: 47 percent said their departed spouses had contacted them.

Rather than being scared, most people welcome such “visits” and feel comforted knowing that their loved ones aren’t really gone. Soon after my life partner, Ron Conroy, left his physical body in April 2013, he began talking to me, reassuring me that he was all right and happy now that he’d returned “home.” Since then, he has continued to share fascinating information with me daily about other worlds of experience, what happens in the life of a soul, the purpose of incarnation on earth, and much more.

Spirits contact us for a variety of reasons. Often, disembodied beings want to console the people they loved on earth and let us know they’re okay. They also show up to assure us that they still love us, they are with us all the time, and that we can talk to them whenever we choose. In some instances, these soul entities come to take care of unfinished business, or to bring messages to us from the world beyond. They may offer guidance and protection to mortals, and help us in our own journeys during this lifetime. One reason Ron stays in constant contact with me is to collaborate on our forthcoming book, The Three Wounds of Wisdom (which I plan to publish in 2015). We both hope that the book––and these posts about the afterlife––will ease the grief experienced by people like me whose loved ones have entered the spirit world, and diminish the fear of death that causes suffering for so many humans.

According to many researchers, beings on the “other side” really want to talk to us––and they go to great lengths to get us to pay attention to them. Often we meet our loved ones in dreams, because when we’re asleep we’re more receptive to the spirit realm. They also contact us through epiphanies and coincidences. Sometimes they present themselves as scents or sounds, such as tinkling bells, familiar perfumes, or music. They may even communicate through meaningful symbols. Once Ron placed a tumbled piece of rose quartz at my feet––a crystal that represents love and emotional peace. But spirits also may move objects, make noises, or even show themselves to us.

In the summer of 2013, several friends and I visited Massachusetts and stayed in a house built in 1690. An elderly lady who’d live in the house and died a few years earlier at the age of 102 visited us. She called my name clearly, nudged one of my friends several times, crossed the bedroom of another in a ghostly form, and looked down upon another friend while she lay in bed. I often heard unexplained footsteps on the floor above my head, when no other human being but me was in the house. Even a workman doing renovations on the house sensed the former resident’s spirit. I felt she wanted to make certain it was okay for us to be there and that we weren’t harming her house.

How can you communicate with spirits? Talk to them, just as you would if they were still embodied. Send thoughts to them. Offer them prayers. Pay attention to your dreams. Meditate. A tarot reading or even a Ouija board may provide insights. The holiday Samhain Eve (October 31) honors those who’ve gone on to other places. This is an ideal time to try to connect with loved ones in the soul world, for the veil between the physical and nonphysical realms is thinnest on this day. Light candles in memory of those you wish to contact. Then be still and listen.