by Andrea Chilcote
The following post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger. This summer, followers of this blog will enjoy bi-weekly archived posts that have appeared on The Spirited Woman but never before on this site.
I think I may be on to something.
Last week I wrote of my commitment to remain present in the moment and look only ahead. I am officially finished looking back over my life and analyzing small things and large, because doing so usually involves some form of regret, guilt or fear of recreating what I had never intended in the first place. Oh, perhaps it’s harmless and can even be helpful to look back over times of great accomplishment. But let’s be honest. Past successes are not usually the things we spend time obsessing over, and there can be danger in wistfully reminiscing about good times long gone.
So back to my big Aha. This new commitment to diligently managing my thoughts has led to a re-emergence of a twenty or so year pursuit, my quest to learn where we go when we die.
My first memory of research into the matter was in 1991. I made a trip to the public library and came home with a load of books on everything from Hinduism and reincarnation, to accounts of Near Death Experiences. I was fascinated by Raymond Moody’s classic true stories of NDEs and still find them captivating, just having finished Mary C. Neal M.D.’s To Heaven and Back and Proof of Heaven, Eben Alexander III M.D.’s riveting account.
While raised in a Christian tradition, it’s concept of heaven and hell never resonated with me. And, no one I read about who came back after near death spoke of hell. They spoke of only love and light.
During my early searching period, I saw a film that very closely depicted my belief system. “What Dreams May Come,” starring Robin Williams, was about as close as it gets to defining what I believed happens when we die. So one day several months ago, I rented the movie and watched it again.
Somehow, I had forgotten about the “hell” scene. Briefly, the main character Chris, played by Williams, died tragically. Following a deep depression brought on her husband’s and children’s’ accidental deaths (for which she blamed herself), his wife and soul mate Annie committed suicide. In the movie, Chris went to heaven and Annie to hell. Of course, Hollywood uses drama to sell movies, and in fact in the movie Annie got a “do over,” because the great love she shared with Chris prevailed. Still, I could not abide this portrayal. What was this hell to which she went and nearly remained?
I asked my friend to watch the 1998 movie and tell me what I had missed. She did, and caught a simple line that made all the difference. It helped me understand, in a powerful way, why looking back is the fuel of suffering, plain and simple.
“Good people end up in hell because they can’t forgive themselves.” Chris’ “tour guide” in heaven offered this piece of wisdom in an effort to explain that Annie’s profound feelings of guilt were what kept her stuck there.
Aha! Hell is where we go here on earth when we can’t forgive ourselves. I don’t know about you, but guilt and regret feel very hellish.
I love the fact that the movie ends with Chris and Annie being reborn into a new life together. What if we too could have a “do over?”
We can. Each and every moment.