Anita Moorjani: To Heaven and Back

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Porch Light People: Individuals who are fully themselves. They’re not influenced by “shoulds” from the culture or other people. They instead live by their inner light.moth_edited-2

Anita Moorjani is the logical person to begin my Porch Light Profile series with. What I learned from her book, Dying to Be Me, changed my life. On the surface we have little in common, but at our core we’re the same. As children, each of us was trained to put other people’s wishes before our own. We were taught to look outside ourselves for answers. Reading Anita’s book opened my eyes to the importance of self-love. As a result, I made a concerted effort to stop the negative self-talk and to trust my intuition. Yet, I wasn’t where I wanted to be. Interviewing her would be a chance to get more clarity for my journey. 

I emailed an interview request along with the premise behind my Porch Light Profiles. Surprisingly, I received a response a couple of hours later. Anita was in.

The next day when we spoke, I felt an immediate connection. For me, reading Anita’s book was akin to being lead through the door to freedom. In Dying to Be Me, she details her spontaneous healing from stage four lymphoma after a near-death experience (NDE). When she crossed over, she was informed from loved ones on the other side that it wasn’t her time. There was still work for her to do on Earth. If she stayed in Heaven she would miss out on many gifts that awaited her in the physical realm. Anita understood that when she returned to her body she would no longer have cancer. She was to go back and to live her life fearlessly. That meant to be fully herself and to love who she was unconditionally. 

“I came back knowing that just about everything that I believed or thought was a myth. It was scary to realize this whole world is built on false beliefs. I comprehended that truth is anything that is liberating and freeing, basically not fear. We were never meant to suppress who we are. Being our true selves is why we are here. Plants and flowers grow toward the sun. We grow toward our passion. We forfeit our power when we allow any religious, medical, or educational system to control us.”

Before Anita’s NDE she didn’t live by her inner light. She was disconnected from that source. She had no idea who she was. Raised in Hong Kong by Indian parents, she learned to deny her true self at an early age. She grew up pleasing people to fit in. By the time she was diagnosed with cancer, she was at an all-time low. She was so used to taking care of others, she thought, “Good. Now I have a reason to take care of myself.”

Anita assured me that if we all listened to our intuition, our lives would unfold better than we could ever imagine. In Anita’s case, writing about her NDE on an internet forum lead to renowned author, Wayne Dyer, discovering her. Through him she was given a publishing contract. After her book, Dying to Be Me, was released it quickly hit the New York Times bestseller list. It has since been translated into over 45 languages and has sold over a million copies worldwide. A full-length feature film of her memoir is now in production. Sharing what she learned in the afterlife has become her life’s work.

Anita believes that we are all born connected to an inner guidance system, but we are taught from an early age not to listen to it. “Our lives are regulated by outside rules. Because we are constantly trying to be what other people want us to be we end up not living our own lives.”

Anita’s experience in the other realm set her free from all of that. When she came back, to remain healthy all she had to do was be true to herself and follow her joy.

“I soon learned that when you live like that it doesn’t mean you no longer have any challenges. The problems you attract from following your heart are like a check and balance system. They put you back on course. Once resolved, they take you to the next level of your deepest self.”

Anita’s message is a radical one for many of us. To some extent we’ve all been indoctrinated by the cultural dos and don’ts. It’s common for women to base their course of action on outside expectations. “Am I being nice?” “Will it make them angry?” “Is it a sin?” All these questions are no longer given any credence in Anita’s world.

“Not listening to our hearts is a kind of spiritual crisis. It can lead to conditions like depression, addiction or in my case cancer. We all come here with a destiny, but many of us lose our way. Our only purpose in life is to shine our light. When we do that our highest potential unfolds before us. Loving ourselves allows life to draw in gifts and solutions that we never dreamed existed.”

At first, coming from within felt risky to me. As time went on it felt risky not to. Trading in my authentic self for other people’s “shoulds” is no longer an option. Day by day, my life confirms the truth of what Anita learned on the other side. Following my instincts instead of my fears has given me a newfound freedom. I’ve gotten to know and accept the person I was born to be. For years my heart longed to be loved for itself. Today I know that love must come from me.

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*Coming up next: Profile of author/watercolorist, Susan Branch

Text and images © Sue Shanahan. All rights reserved. www.sueshanahan.com

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Falling Leaves and Letting Go

“When I was willing to let go of what I wanted, I received what was truly mine. I’ve  realized the latter is always the greater gift. – Anita Moorjani

Autumn is here, my favorite time of year. I love how the leaves burn with color and the bite of Canadian air. Listen closely and you can almost hear the laughter of fairies twirling in leaves carried by the wind. In one week, I fly from Chicago to visit my daughter in Vermont. Since girlhood I’ve dreamt of seeing the changing colors of fall in New England. A dream I cling to so tightly, I’m filled with anxiety. What if I miss it like I did three years ago? On that visit the leaves had barely begun to change and rain dumped gloom on every day. For the last two weeks, I’ve been panicking as I watch the foliage in my neighborhood become more colorful each day. What if all the leaves have blown off the trees by the time I get out East? That’s when the thought, “frustration comes from thinking things should be different when they’re already perfect,” hit me. It stopped me in my tracks. The only way to see that perfection is to loosen my grip and be in the now. By worrying about how the trees are going to look next week, I miss how they look right now, in my own back yard.

I’m reminded of the new PC I bought ten years ago, which I thought was a disaster at the time. After having to call customer service over ten times in three weeks, about one malfunction after another, I was certain I had a lemon. I wanted a new computer but was told I only had a two week warranty. What? I couldn’t believe it. To add to my frustration customer service was in a different part of the world. Each time I called I talked to a different operator who had no real authority to help me. With persistence I finally was able to connect with someone in management who agreed to allow me to return my computer. I shipped it back that day. After that the only thing for me to do was buy a Mac, something I had resisted for years. I vaguely knew my way around Windows and the thought of learning a new operating system overwhelmed me. As it turns out the way my brain and a Mac works are simpatico. Purchasing that dysfunctional PC turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me in my career as an artist. All the support and guidance I’ve gotten from the trainers at the Apple Store opened up my world and the floodgates of creativity. What seemed like a tragedy, in reality, was perfection unfolding.

It’s safe to trust the flow of life. Circumstances may not always seem ideal. Be open to perfect looking different than you imagined. Incidentally, my previously wash-out trip to Vermont held tons of beauty. I suspect I would have been aware of so much more if I hadn’t been so attached to my agenda and resistant to the flow of life. And as American mythologist Joseph Campbell pointed out, “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.” And what lies in wait is always a gift.

The models who helped bring the above illustration to life. We had so much fun that day.

The models I photographed who helped bring the above illustration to life. We had so much fun that day.

A photo from my previous trip to Vermont. I was so sure the fall colors were a bust.

A shot from my previous trip to Vermont. I was so sure the autumn colors were a complete bust but my photograph tells a different story.

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All text and images © Sue Shanahan. All rights reserved.

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Gently the Snowflakes Fall…

When I am willing to step into the realm of uncertainty and ambiguity I open myself up to infinite possibilities.  – Anita Moorjani

Make plans but be loose with them. Inflexibility can block wonder from unfolding. Be willing to be surprised.

The story behind the making of the above painting illustrates this perfectly. The two little fairies are my nieces Madi and Emma. Originally, I hadn’t planned on the younger one being in the picture. At her age, I didn’t think there was any way Emma would cooperate. While photographing Madi, to her mother’s dismay, Emma jumped in to have some fun with her big sister’s skirt. Luckily, I had my camera in hand to freeze that fleeting moment. Seriously, there is no way I could have orchestrated that event. By staying out of my own way and signaling for their mother to let Emma be, I was able to capture a twinkling of joy. In my world, it doesn’t get better than that.

Trust the flow. It’s the same wave that transports snowflakes dreamily to the ground. Airy, yet with purpose. Even if a gust of wind blows them off course, they still sparkle where they land.

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Emma being Emma.

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Madi practicing her bubble blowing skills.

Emma and her big sister Maddie

Emma and Madi.

All text and images © Sue Shanahan. All rights reserved.