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.

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