Today I am at the monthly meeting of the Cincinnati IANDS group (International Association for Near-Death Studies). It’s the first Sunday of the month and our Helping Parents Heal meeting is tonight. I haven’t had an NDE, but going to the group allows me to hear stories that help in the transformation I am trying to make.

During the meeting, someone mentions a book I’d like to read, so I pull out my iPhone and take a note.  As I’m driving home, I glance at my phone as I’m turning on the directions to get home and the Notes app is up.  I see the headline of a note I took a few weeks ago.  It was a reminder to myself for a blog post idea.  The post was about how I was taught that if you don’t like something change it. The title of the note was simply “If you don’t like something, change it.”.  I keep seeing that title over and over again as I open my Notes app and each time I think “Yeah.  But, what if you can’t change it?” It’s just a quick, almost subliminal thought.

I shut down the Notes app and the next screen I see is my Facebook page.  My friend Alison has just posted a quote by Maya Angelou “If you don’t like something, change it.”  Hey, that’s literally the exact words I was just looking at in my note. I haven’t heard this Maya Angelou quote before, but that’s not a sentence that’s only been uttered once in history. So, it’s not exactly a miracle.  There’s more to the quote, though. It continues: “If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”.

Then it dawns on me this is what I have been doing.  Tywana and I were discussing this morning a Swedenborg Podcast that I just listened to on gratitude. It’s hard to find things to be grateful for when your daughter has just passed.  Yeah, I could be grateful for health, but I’d give up my health to have her back. I could be grateful for life, but this life is a prison without her.  I try to practice gratitude, but it’s easier said than done right now. If I think of this life as all there is, gratitude is difficult to come by- nigh impossible. What helps me is this, though.  If I shift my perspective and think of this life as an opportunity to learn, a temporary “school” that will be over in a relative blink of an eye, I can change my attitude about the bad things that come in this life. Shayna’s passing can never be fixed in the context of my physical existence on this planet. It’s impossible for me to be grateful for it as long as I stay in this paradigm of a material world. When I step outside of looking at this body as Brian and this life as all there is and look at this body as a vehicle I occupy for a short time and Brian as that soul that will benefit from these experiences, I can begin to practice gratitude. If I can even begin to trust that every experience serves some greater benefit, no matter how it might seem today, I can begin to say “I don’t understand this now, but I believe I will understand it one day. ”  I listen to the people who have had NDEs who see their lives looking backward and from a higher perspective and say “Wow. Of course. That makes sense now.  How could I have forgotten?”  I can be grateful that even though I don’t have that perspective yet, I have faith that one day I will.  And, I can give thanks for the fact that while I may be miserable today, I know that trouble don’t last always.  While I cannot change this circumstance, I can change my attitude. And that will have to be enough.

I’m all into Emmanual Swedenborg now. I’ve been powering through the YouTube videos that break his enormous volumes of work into digestible chunks. If you had told me I would ever follow an 18th-century Swedish philosopher and mystic, I would have said to you that you are crazy.

So, as I’m walking with my buddy, he asks me what I’ve been reading lately and what resonates with me.  I’m reading Gary Zukav’s The Seat of The Soul which is also blowing my mind wide open and the parallels with Swedenborg are just reinforcing everything I’m learning.  Swedenborg had a couple of decades of amazing Out Of Body experiences (similar to Near Death Experiences without the physically dying).  He even got to have the experience of dying so that he could write about it from a first-hand account. I don’t necessarily agree with all of his theology, even though it’s tough to argue with a guy who literally went into heaven and talked to angels.

My buddy is more a traditional Christian than I am (who isn’t?)  He’s been offering me books to read, most of which I’ve already read back in my more fundamentalist days.  I try to find opportunities to share with him what I’ve been learning. As we’re walking this path through the woods, the rain has stopped, the clouds are breaking up, and the sun is coming down through the trees.  He comments on the beauty of the light streaming through the trees which reminds me of Swedenborg who is all about “correspondences”.  In Swedenborg, everything on Earth mirrors a higher spiritual truth. As above, so below. Trees, water, the human body, the human mind, all of it is reflective of greater spiritual things.  For example, a tree could be seen as a human being.  The leaves gather light which comes from the heavens, from God, our guides, our angels. The truth and wisdom water us and we produce fruit which is our good works.  So, I relate this little story to my friend and how I’m looking at nature differently after studying a bit of Swedenborg.  I give him a quick synopsis of the episode on Adam and Eve which makes total sense to me.

Swedenborg did exegesis on pretty much the entire “Old Testament”.  Many progressive Christians and people who have progressed beyond Christianity struggle with the “Old Testament”. It’s full of murder, rape, genocide, slavery, misogyny, you name it- and that’s the stuff done in the name of God.  God supposedly banishes people from a perfect paradise because they ate fruit he put there.  God throws a temper tantrum and kills every man, woman, child and beast on the Earth except Noah and his family.  It’s crazy stuff. Taken literally it’s not just nonsensical; it’s evil.

Many of us have just shut the book.  But, the explanation Swedenborg did of the Adam and Eve story is beautiful. And I think it’s the way the story was meant to be understood. I know it’s the way Jews today understand it. They don’t take that or many of the stories literally. Christians (and maybe Muslims) are the only people who do.  Swedenborg claims the power of these stories is significantly underestimated because they’re written in such symbolic language that we miss the deeper meanings.  Supposedly, even people in religious communities in heaven still study our scriptures and even angels take deeper meaning from it. There’s great stuff hiding in there, hiding right in plain sight.

So, today I listen to the 7 Days of Creation as told by Emmanuel Swedenborg.  It’s brilliant stuff. Taking the story as a metaphorical and metaphysical tale changes it entirely. Creation isn’t something that happened billions or 6,000 years ago.  It’s about spiritual awakening. The first day, when God says “Let there be Light”, the Light is our individual (and collective) first stirring when we realize there is something greater than ourselves that we should be aligning ourselves with.  And the story goes on from there.

I think to myself. “Ahhh.. this is something I can share with my buddy.”  The metaphorical and metaphysical understanding of it doesn’t challenge the literal interpretation. I guess if you still want to cling to a talking snake and a six-day creation you can. But, what else is the story telling us?  So, I fire off a message to him with a link to the YouTube video. I’m hoping he’s going to like it.

This is what I get back.  “Got your podcast on Genesis creation. What resonated with you about it? It is interesting, but seems to be a mystic take on the Jewish prose it was written as. Not that those metaphors can’t have value, but I don’t think one can assert with scholarship that was the original intent of the author.”

Hmmm…  OK.  I’m not sure how looking at the deeper meaning goes contrary to the original intent of the author. And if we look at the Bible as a book that is supposed to reveal spiritual truths, shouldn’t we be looking for the deeper meaning? Isn’t that the original intent of the author. And speaking of scholarship- talking snakes, God screwing up creation by not knowing what was going to happen?  Why did He put that tree in the Garden?

Ah well…  I’m not going to argue. Still loving my Swedenborg. I listened to an episode this morning on how the physics of this world mirror the reality of the spiritual world. There is so much hidden in plain sight if we can merely open up that third eye and see it.