Some people believe spirits are particularly active in our world during Halloween. They see the transition from autumn to winter as a time when boundaries are thinner.
Christian tradition honors saints and those who have recently died during this part of the year.
Daylight becomes shorter and temperatures drop, and our minds turn to deeper thoughts.
As the world around us seems to be going dormant we consider our own mortality. We remember those who have gone before us and have shaped our lives. It becomes more common for us to have conversations beyond the grave.
We remember people we have lost and the guidance and direction they gave us. Some of them serve as examples we want to follow, some as examples we hope to avoid.
While it may sound like they would be one sided conversations, we do not do all the talking. As we listen to sacred stillness the voices of people we have lost come back to us. As I spend time walking and reflecting I can hear them whether I want to or not.
I have conversations beyond the grave which inspire me, and those which remind me of my regrets. Some take me back to people and places I still miss to this day. Others focus on things I wish I had to do over.
Many of my conversations beyond the grave are with family and close friends. I also converse with people I never met in person. Some people who lived centuries before me, whose words I have read, are excellent conversationalists.
Spirits fill the world around us. While we may not be able to see them, we can talk with them at any time. Conversations beyond the grave can be more fruitful than those limited to people who are still here.
Some people think it is challenging to have conversations beyond the grave. They may think it says something about how stable they are emotionally. It is hard for them to talk with someone they do not believe is there.
Other people have conversations beyond the grave all the time. Some of us pray to gods we cannot see or touch. Others continue relationships with their loved ones even after they have died. They know them intimately enough to feel close to them even after death.
The fact someone is not here physically does not mean they are not here at all.
It can be easier to listen to someone else in conversations beyond the grave. We do not expect them to respond immediately and they are less likely to argue with us. Our need to get to a resolution is less urgent. We can be more patient listeners when we do not have someone staring us in the face.
I am more open to periods of stillness without talking in conversations beyond the grave. We can take a walk or sit watching a fire without needing to fill every moment with talking. It helps both of us take deep breaths, listen well, and reflect more.
In conversations beyond the grave I am more interested in what I can hear than what I can say.
Our memories have wisdom for us if we are paying attention.
The voices of the past all around us, and within us, draw us into conversations beyond the grave.
Listening well, there is no reason for us to limit our attention.
Many of the conversations beyond the grave I have are about forgiveness.
Some of them focus on my asking people to forgive things I have done. As I reflect about how I have treated people, I realize I need to be forgiven.
Sometimes I did or said things without thinking, in the heat of the moment. There have been opinions I have held which have changed over time. Looking back, it is difficult for me to understand how I could have treated anyone that way.
The fact that someone from whom I need forgiveness has died should not stop me from asking.
Other conversations beyond the grave happen because I need to forgive someone else.
It is often not easy for me to forgive people. My family taught me life is personal and to take things personally. This is an area in which I am growing. I tell people when I forgive them, even when they have died.
I am learning I can forgive people even when they do not ask for my forgiveness.
These conversations often show me I need to forgive myself as well as other people.
The deepest lessons I learn from conversations beyond the grave are about forgiveness.
Listening to Sacred Stillness
Many of our conversations beyond the grave are also beyond words. The deepest truths, the most sacred lessons, do not need words to explain them.
We carry our most intimate memories around with us. Where we go or how we travel does not change our conversations beyond the grave. They are not limited by time or distance, do not require anyone else’s participation.
Some people have better conversations when they walk in cemeteries. For other people it helps to go to familiar places where we might have talked in life.
There are some conversations for which I need to take a long walk. Others begin without my really realizing it.
I spend time each day listening to sacred stillness. The stillness itself does not spark many conversations for me while it is happening. The conversations beyond the grave come later.
Someone comes to mind and I realize I need to talk with them, or they need to talk with me. We take a walk and have a nice, long talk.
When was your most recent, or most memorable, conversation beyond the grave?
How will your conversations beyond the grave begin today?
[Image by anne philipson]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and leadership coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and university professor, and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com, and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.