Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Four Common Types of Spiritual Experiences

By: Shaye Hudson MA, Psychotherapist & Clinical Hypnotherapist 

In this blog, we will be discussing some of the type’s experiences and encounters that clients have shared with me in the previous blog. Many of us have read in bestselling books of those who have died and came back to life in the near death experiences, others having out of body experiences gaining an expanded sense of identity, after-death encounters with loved ones who have crossed over and other peak experiences. There are a multitude of other variations of transpersonal experiences but in this continuation of we will cover some of the more commonly reported experiences.

Near-death experiences (NDEs)

According to the The International Association For Near Death Studies (IANDS),“An NDE may begin with an out-of-body experience—a very clear perception of being somehow separate from one’s physical body, possibly even hovering nearby and watching events going on around the body. An NDE typically includes a sense of moving, often at great speed and usually through a dark space, into a fantastic landscape and encountering beings that may be perceived as sacred figures, deceased family members or friends, or unknown entities. A pinpoint of indescribable light may grow to surround the person in brilliant but not painful radiance; unlike physical light, it is not merely visual but is sensed as being an all-loving presence that many people define as the Supreme Being of their religious faith. “

Clients have reported the positive effects from their Near Death experience to include an expanded spiritual perspective, a reduced fear of death and a sense of deep meaning in their lives. Many report a certainty of life after death and how our loved ones are more than okay, and the lesson is to learn to be more loving.

On the other hand, I have heard stories of interpersonal, relationship, and intrapsychic problems. I have found that my response as the therapist can have a critical influence for those with the NDE experience. If their experience is validated it can lessen negative emotional resistance and is generally more easily integrated in a healthy way.

A counselor, coach or spiritual director with training in spiritual and religious problems can help in situations with family members that have that they have a difficult time adjusting to the new beliefs and attitudes. There are times where marriages are strained and even divorce can occur. The NDE-experiencer can also undergo anger, depression, withdrawl from the experience and other attitudes that can affect their psychosocial functioning. In situations like this, it may be necessary that the experiencer receive outside help to adjust to their new way of being and the ripple effects it may cause in some or the majority of areas in their life.

Out-of-body experiences (OBEs)

The Monroe Institute (TMI) is a nonprofit education and research organization which focuses on the exploration of human consciousness. This organization has residential and outreach programs as well as an International Local Chapter Network(ILCN) where participants experience altered states of consciousness through a patented sound technology called “Hemi Sync”. Many have reported having the Out of Body” (OBE) and other transcendent experiences. Both TMI researchers and participants report that the “OBE” is an experience that usually involves a subjective sensation or experience of being outside one's body.

In my therapy practice, I have listened to clients share having experiences where they experiencing a paralysis, a buzzing sensation, lifting out and even seeing their own physical body. Some have reported that the “OBE” experience had a profound impact on reducing their fear of death as well as changes in their identity since they have come to experience themselves as more than the physical body.

Past-life experiences

As a part of my Hypnotherapy practice, I facilitate both - individual and group Past Life Regression sessions. I have had clients report amazing stories of how they lived in places and times that they did not expect. Some clients report having an experience of remembering during waking states or having a direct experience of a past life through hypnosis, dreams or other non-ordinary states. Past lives are associated with the idea of reincarnation, which is the religious or philosophical concept that the consciousness or spirit can (after physical death) return to another life in a new body. This doctrine is an integral part of various ancient and modern religions.

On occasion, clients report being the opposite gender, which is very amusing and even sometimes unsettling. Some shared that they were with people who they knew were people in their present day lives. In many cases the client can gain insight on their present day issues and relationships and use the experience to empower themselves for positive change.

After-death communications (ADCs)

These are experiences where a person has communication with a physically deceased person. This can generally happen during waking states, meditative, and dream states. ADC's often include sensing a presence, hearing voice, feeling a touch and other physical phenomena, smelling a fragrance, and visual encounters.

I have shared my personal experience ADC experience in my earlier blog and have also listened to a multitude of clients share their stories of contact with deceased loved ones with numerous combinations of the states of consciousness well as the sensory types. I have found that these ADC type experiences can be very healing to those who are experiencing grief and loss.

Shaye Hudson, MA, CH.t is a Psychotherapist and Clinical Hypnotherapist in Atlanta, GA with a Transpersonal orientation and training, who specializes in Spiritually Transformative Experiences. He is also a Reviewer for the Journal of Exceptional Experiences and Psychology. Shaye hosts spiritual groups at Tru Integrative Health & Wellness. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

A Therapist Supports Client Encounters with Loved Ones Who have Passed

BY: Shaye Hudson, MA, Psychotherapist & Clinical Hypnotherapist

There can be nothing more devastating in our lives as human beings than losing family members and loved ones. As a Psychotherapist and Hypnotherapist with a Holistic and Transpersonal (Spiritual) orientation, I often support clients who have experienced losing someone closest to them.

I had often wondered how a spiritual encounter with a deceased loved one would affect the grieving process. I wondered “What would you say or ask if you got one last chance to see and talk with them?” The day came when I would learn first-hand, the answer to my question  and then come to listen to the answers of those with similar stories.

People experience and cope with grief in their own unique ways and time. While some can cope with their loss and recover with the support of those around them, others experience deep and profound grief that can be debilitating. It can have a profound effect on their psychosocial functioning in multiple areas of their lives such as mental and physical health, personal relationships, work, and can even challenge or reaffirm their personal religious faith.

Some of the clients that I have worked with reported connecting with loved ones who have passed on from this life and possibly existing in the next. The term After Death Communication was coined by Bill and Judy Guggenheim, authors and researchers on this subject of communication with those who have died.  Some of the typical reports from their research have included dream visitations, sensing loved ones at the foot of the bed, hearing a voice, feeling a touch, smelling fragrances, and seeing signs that were meaningful and significant.

I have listened to family members, friends, therapy clients, and others share some profound stories of emotional healing. I will share two stories, one helping a woman coming to terms with the end of her life and another where the experience has served one in healing grief.

Janet's Dream Visitations in Hospice
I was providing care for a hospice patient named Janet. She was a mentally sharp woman in her late 80s, but her body was slowing succumbing to cancer. On one of my visits, Janet shared that she had been sleeping quite a bit due to the cancer.

This was my opportunity to ask her about her dreams. She said “I would tell you but you may think I am crazy”. I reassured her that I have a very open mind. Janet shared, “Well my deceased daughter and parents are visiting me in numerous dreams and preparing me to cross over to the other side.” I then asked, “Do you think this is just your brain processing emotion or is this a real spiritual experience?” She replied, “A real spiritual experience.” 

As a clinician working in hospice, one of my primary goals in end of life care was to ensure that she was comfortable both mentally and emotionally, so I asked did this affect your fears around death. Janet replied “absolutely, I have no fear of death now.” Imagine if her Clinician did not share such an open mind and chose not to validate her feelings. I am thankful to have been there and able to support her through a very difficult stage of her life.

Kayla's Agreement with Grandmaw
I was supporting a client by the name of Kayla who had been making trips back and forth from Atlanta to her family’s hometown a few states away.  She was visiting her dying grandmother who she affectionately called her “Grandmaw”, (Kayla would pronounce it long and drawn out with a thick country accent. She shared that her Grandmaw would say it would sound similar to an ambulance if I was wining enough). Kayla had been sharing over a course of our sessions that she had anxiety around the loss of her grandmother and felt guilty for living so far away from family.

Kayla was home one weekend visiting her Grandmaw in home hospice. While there her Grandmaw shared that she had a near death experience, where she went through a tunnel and went to a place of love, met other family members on the other side, and was told it was not quite her time. 

During their time together Kayla and her grandmother made an agreement that when she passed she would visit her somehow to let her know she was okay. 

Kayla is generally a skeptical person when it comes to things outside of the logical realm and she and her Grandmaw were often at odds about this topic, with Kayla often joking about her grandmother’s persistence in the existence of the afterlife.

Weeks later Kayla got another phone call asking her to come and see her Grandmaw and was told “It was getting close to that time.” Kayla went as soon as she could but she missed her grandmothers passing by just a few hours. She felt immensely guilty about the fact that she wasn’t able to see her grandmother again, especially since her logical mind told her Grandmaw’s fire, that spirit had ceased to exist.  Kayla’s very existence was broken by it.

She went to bed the night after her grandmother had passed and she couldn’t sleep well. She tossed and turned until finally she fell asleep from exhaustion. Then she started dreaming. In the dream, Kayla saw her grandmother with bright red hair. She knew how upset her grandmother was when her hair had been shaved due to the chemo so when she saw the bright red hair she knew something wasn’t quite right. Kayla has had lucid dreaming experiences before and noticed that this was a dream. However, this dream was different than the others.

She reported that it was very vivid and full of clarity and mindfulness. Her grandmother didn’t speak but did relay messages to her telepathically. She smiled with her bright read hair, red lipstick, and a rose in her hair. The whole time Grandma was relaying her messages she never stopped smiling. Kayla grabbed her tightly and looked her right in the eyes, knowing that this experience was the one they had discussed previous to her passing. Kayla mentally sent a message to the effect of “Are you okay? Are you in heaven? Someplace after death? Somewhere happy that you are happy?” Then a wave of confirmation hit Kayla and she knew the answer was yes. Kayla then asked something like “Do you still love me? Can you still actively participate/see my living my life? Are you still going to be around?” And another wave of confirmation hit her and this time it was filled with the overwhelming sense of unconditional love. Kayla let go of her grandmother’s shoulders and took her wondrous glare away from her grandmother’s eyes to hug and kiss her. 

That hug and kiss felt like an everlasting impression of emotional comfort that Kayla shared she can still feel every day and knows that she will have for the rest of her life. Kayla found a deep healing in knowing her “Grandmaw” was okay and at the same time creating a new spiritual opening and curiosity about life.

I have listened to these and other stories of those who had one last chance to see their loved ones, asked final questions, and got tell them that they love them. In many cases the one who passed on were coming to let them know that they were okay. 

Their experiences and their stories can have a profound healing effect on those who are grieving the loss of family, friends and loved ones. Experiencers also report that their fear related to death has diminished and I have personally seen how it helped those who may be in the end stages of life to accept their time of transition with more peace. 

It is my hope that regardless of what perspective that we both individually and collectively we take on these experiences, we can find the compassion and healing value in validating these very significant encounters for those who are grieving.

Shaye Hudson, MA, CH.t is a Psychotherapist and Clinical Hypnotherapist in Atlanta, GA with a Transpersonal orientation and training, who specializes in Spiritually Transformative Experiences. He is also a Reviewer for the Journal of Exceptional Experiences and Psychology.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

A Therapist's Personal Spiritual Experience

BY: Shaye Hudson, MA, Psychotherapist and Clinical Hypnotherapist

Many people often have experiences that we, in the psychology community call ‘transpersonal’, 'spiritual' or ‘exceptional experiences of consciousness.’ Exceptional psychology is a field that studies these experiences and phenomena which are traditionally related to parapsychology. Some examples of these type of experiences may include extra sensory perception, survival after death, out of body experiences, and after death communications.  Depending on the nature of the experience and the individual, one can find it to be very healing and positively transformative.

Unfortunately, some refrain from sharing with friends, family members, and “professionals” (such as clergy and mental health professionals,) due to ridicule, invalidation, judgement or even been labeled as a “brick short of a full load.” There is a prevalent lack of openness and understanding in regards to these exceptional experiences. I am a little different than many of my peers in the field of Mental Health. I approach my clients and others with a different perspective--one of a fellow experiencer, and one educated in transpersonal or “spiritual” psychology, as well as a Psychotherapist.

I have been present for many peers and clients while they have shared their accounts in transcendent realms, communications with deceased loved ones, and more. These accounts can be very powerful, but there are few words to fully describe the impact when you personally have one of these experiences. I listen, empathize, understand, and validate these extraordinary subjective experiences, because I too have had similar exceptional experiences and life changing encounters with loved ones who have passed.

Here is my story: I was raised in the south in a small college town called Milledgeville, GA. Almost every Sunday, my parents would take me and my brother to go see our Granny, Annie Dean Garner, after church. She had a quaint little house, with pictures of all the family members on the walls, and a turquoise blue couch that I often played on in her living room. She was a very sweet woman with long, brown and gray hair that she kept braided on top of her head. She always wore her glasses, and was warm and loving. I would spend the day hanging out with her playing and helping around the house.

Later on, during my early college years, we discovered that Granny had been diagnosed with colon cancer. This was devastating to our family. I remember my mom calling me and telling me “you’d better go visit your Granny.” I went to the local hospital to visit her, and I remember seeing her in the hospital bed. Although she was sick, she was smiling and very appreciative that I came to see her. That would be the last time I would see my Granny alive.

A few days later, my mom and dad were notified by the hospital that Granny was in a coma. I received a call and rushed to the hospital. I ran into my father in the parking lot. He had a very concerned look on his face, and, without saying a word to me, kept walking towards his car. I quickly went inside, up the elevator and to the floor where my Granny's room was located. I found my mother sitting there crying. My mom explained that she was holding Granny's hand when she took her last breath. My Dad could not stand to be there to watch her pass.

Years later, I had an experience that transformed my life in a deep and profound way. One Sunday afternoon I was feeling tired, so I chose to sit and meditate on my couch. I started to move into a deeper state of meditation and began to feel my body less and less as I rested with my eyes closed. I observed my thoughts, watching them subside. As I was meditating deeper and deeper, I felt my head nod. The third time I nodded, my head jerked. I opened my eyes and just happened to look down at my couch. Something strange was happening. My couch was normally beige, but now it was turquoise blue! When I looked around, my vision seemed cloudy, but I could sense someone sitting across from me. 

I heard a familiar voice in my head say "focus.” I decided to focus and my vision cleared and I saw someone sitting across from me in the room. It was my deceased Granny sitting in her chair and smiling at me! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing!

I thought to myself, “I am making this up.” My vision became cloudy again and I heard the voice say “It’s your own fear and doubt getting in the way. You need to focus.”

I focused on the figure in front of me and my vision instantly cleared. I saw my Granny sitting only a few feet away from me—she smiled and stared at me. Her brown and gray hair was still neatly braided and she wore her beautiful white gown.

I decided to go along with the experience and told her "I miss you Granny, and I love you."

She replied, “I love you too.”

I asked, "How am I doing spiritually?"

Granny replied, "You are doing well, but you should stay away from the theological debates." (At the time, I had been having a rather strong religious debate with a friend of mine.)

I acknowledged Granny “I understand it is not my place to tell anyone their beliefs are wrong.”

She said "I love you. Take care of your father if he ever gets sick.”

I acknowledged Granny “I understand it is not my place to tell anyone their beliefs are wrong.”

She said "I love you. Take care of your father if he ever gets sick.”

I said "Granny, I need you to give me validation that this experience is real and true.”

She said, “Okay,” and led me into the kitchen where she showed me squash and onions cooking on the stove.

She said, "Ask your mother about the squash and onions she cooked today."

I said “I will Granny and I love you." I then felt myself coming out of my deep meditation and back to my waking awareness.

When I opened my eyes, the first thing I thought was that I needed to call my parents to see if what my Granny told me was true. My heart was beating fast with excitement as my dad answered the phone.

I asked "Dad, did you eat squash with onions today?”

He said "Yes. What are you doing, some kind of mind reading?”

I replied "No, but you wouldn't believe me if I told you." Dad put my mother on the phone and I asked her the same thing.

She said: "Yes, I cooked squash and onions today and your aunt did too." She asked me, “how did you know?”

I told her, "I saw Granny and she told me what you did today. Granny also told me to take care of dad if he ever gets sick."

I am thankful to have seen my Granny again after her passing, in a non-ordinary or altered state of consciousness and having what I believe was a face-to-face encounter. This experience had a powerful transformative effect on my life--I no longer feared death. For me, I now have certainty that there is an afterlife, and our loved ones are continuing their lives in another way. The knowing she gave me in this encounter is what parapsychologists and other researchers call “vertical evidence.” My Granny shared corroborating information that I could then check, by telling me what my mom cooked that day.

My Granny did not come back to give me the secrets of the universe or share the “right” religious beliefs. If anything, she urged me to stay away from religious debates, and instead, guided me in another spiritual direction. She came back to give me the simple message of taking care of her son --my dad. It was a simple message of love.

This profound experience helped me reconcile my emotions with not only the loss of my Granny, but also with the passing of other family members and friends. While the encounter has never taken away the initial grief of saying goodbye, it has had the lasting effect of creating a stronger ability within myself to understand and better cope with the eventual passing of others close to me.

This experience served as a significant catalyst for my evolution, both personally and professionally. My biggest concern was no longer whether or not I was going to ‘continue existing’ at the end of my life, but now, how can I live to my fullest potential? If I were to live to my fullest potential, I knew that my inner spiritual life needed to be congruent with my outer life. My previous corporate positions were not a good match for my newly-evolving spiritual life. I realized that I had to follow my heart now, and move into a healing profession.

My values shifted. No longer was I concerned primarily with achievement and financial success. I was now more focused on serving and helping others heal, grow, and transform in a deeper, more heart-centered way. This life changing experience awakened a deep spiritual need inside of me to become a Psychotherapist and Clinical Hypnotherapist, with a specialty in religious, spiritual, and transpersonal issues and experiences. I am now gratefully providing individual and group mental, emotional and spiritual support for those with similar exceptional experiences.

I send a very special thank you and I love you to my Granny, Annie Dean Garner. 

Shaye Hudson, MA, CH.t is a Psychotherapist and Clinical Hypnotherapist in Atlanta, GA with a Transpersonal orientation and training, who specializes in Spiritually Transformative Experiences. He is also a Reviewer for the Journal of Exceptional Experiences and Psychology.