Monday

Staying Open to the Flipside With Sherman Alexie

It sounds so simple.

Just stay open.

Just let go.

Don't hang onto the past.  Don't anticipate the future.  Just experience now.

A sunset is the last chorus before the new symphony begins.

These concepts are usually associated with eastern philosophy - but they are often repeated in between life sessions, by people who've had a near death experience, or by people who are able to meditate whenever they want.

I've been going down another path entirely.

My father designed this addition to this home.
Believe it or not, looking at it I can "feel his presence" in the design.
Am I seeing a ghost? Or the energy of my father's creative mind?

I've realized that people are much more connected to the Flipside than they think they are.

We hear it often when people talk about a loved one who's passed away.  I'll ask, so have you had any kind of visitation from your loved one?  And they think I'm asking if they've "seen" their loved one appear before them.

That's really rare.  

It happens.  I have a close friend whose mom saw her husband show up in his PJ's one night - she said he just "walked in like he used to" then walked to his familiar side of the bed, then climbed in.  He looked at her and said "I just wanted you to know I'm okay." 

My aunt told me that the night her husband passed away, he appeared to her at the end of the bed and said "I'm okay. I love you" and then disappeared as the phone rang to tell her that he had passed.  I told this story to her daughter and she said "Bullshit." (not something she wanted to hear or comprehend.  That's okay too.)

Recently author Sherman Alexie had to cancel his book tour because his mother was showing up in his dreams and bothering him.  Showing up in a variety of ways that disturbed him.


Sherman Alexie, author and friend of KUOW, posted this letter to his Facebook page on Thursday.

"If you're reading this open letter then you're probably aware that I recently published a memoir, “You Don't Have to Say You Love Me.” 
Author and filmmaker Sherman Alexie waits with dancers backstage for his turn on stage as the keynote speaker at a celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day Monday, Oct. 10, 2016, at Seattle's City Hall. AP PHOTO/ELAINE THOMPSON

"The memoir is mostly about my relationship with my late mother, Lillian Alexie. She was a complicated and difficult person. She was sometimes cruel and often cold. I loved her, yes, but I sometimes hated her, too. She was brilliant, funny, beautiful, generous, vindictive, deceitful, tender, manipulative, abusive, loving, and intimidating. She was one of the last fluent speakers of our tribal language. The language is being taught again. And that's wonderful and life-giving. But when my mother died, she took with her so many words, stories, and songs that will never be heard again. Lillian was a storyteller in Spokane and English. She was also a quilter, an amazing artisan and artist. She was industrious and visionary. 

And, after writing this memoir, I am able to proudly admit that I inherited many of my mother's best qualities and ruefully confess that I also inherited many of her worst. 

I am my mother's son.

Lillian haunted me when she was alive. And she has haunted me since her death in July, 2015."

(RM: OBJECTION! You're honor I find the word "haunting" to be unduly influential, and a pejorative.  If he used the word "showing up" or "in my subconscious mind" it would be more palatable, but I digress.)

"And she has haunted me in spectacular ways since I published my memoir a month ago. She has followed me from city to city during my promotional book tour. On three consecutive nights, in three different cities, police and ambulance sirens rang out as I told the story about the moment I learned of my mother's death.

In another city, in a hotel whose decor can best be described as Bram Stroker's Ikea, I stepped out of the elevator to see a handmade quilt hanging on the wall. Why was such a quaint piece of Americana being displayed in such a trendy hotel?

"Hello, Mom," I said to that quilt each time I walked by it.

Last night, as I returned to Seattle, I stepped off my plane to see an airport valet waiting with a wheelchair for one of my fellow passengers. That valet held a sign with a familiar name—a name that made me laugh. That valet was waiting to ferry somebody named Lillian. 

As I write in the memoir, I don't believe in ghosts, but I see them all the time.

(RM: "Believe" "don't believe." These are judgmental terms. One can say I've looked at the consistent reports and must say that it's never happened to me.  But those who have experienced these events obviously had an experience that I have not."  But I digress)

As I also write in the memoir, I don't believe in magic, but I believe in interpreting coincidence exactly the way you want to. I don't believe in the afterlife as a reality, but I believe in the afterlife as metaphor. And my mother, from the afterlife, is metaphorically kicking my ass.

(RM: People ask me all the time if I "believe in the afterlife." And I say "I don't believe in anything. I look at the evidence, which is consistent and replicable of those who claim they can access their loved ones on the flipside.  I prefer to keep my "beliefs" separate from eyewitness reports.  You can call it a belief - but it's like describing jumping into a pool to someone who has never done it.  "Yes, I believe if I jump in that liquid over there, I will survive, I will not disappear, and in fact I will feel refreshed."  The other person can say "I don't believe it."  And even after you jump out of the pool, they can argue "Well you really were never in the pool. Because you're out of the pool now."  It's semantics. But I digress)

"Two weeks ago, during a private academic event, I was speaking to a man from another country. The room was crowded and busy and loud. That man and I had to raise our voices in order to hear each other. I loudly told him about my memoir. I loudly told him about my tribe. I loudly told him about my mother. I loudly told him that she was a ghost who haunted me.

And then, suddenly, all of the conversations in the room stopped. The silence was abrupt and surprising. Thirty strangers were acutely aware of this awkward silence. Thirty strangers laughed together.  "Sherman," the man from another country said to me. "In my culture, when those kind of silences happen, we say that God just passed by." "That's beautiful," I said.

The man talked about his tribe. Then he asked me more about my tribe, "Sherman," he said. "Your tribe's name, Spokane, what does it mean?" I said, "It means 'Children of the Sun.'"

At that moment, the gray summer clouds parted and a bolt of sunlight shot through a small window and illuminated me. I narrowed my eyes against the glare. But my new friend, the man from another country, looked at the light and said, "Ah, Sherman, I think your mother just arrived. It is good to meet her."

I laughed. But I wanted to sob. I did sob later that night. I have been sobbing many times a day during this book tour. I have sobbed in private and I have sobbed onstage.

(RM: If I may - from Lillian's pov it must be really frustrating. She's kicking his ass all right, getting the sun to shine in his face, getting everyone to be silent for a moment - and still, he can't listen!  I can't imagine how annoying that must be for her! But I digress.)

"I have been rebreaking my heart night after night. I have, to use recovery vocabulary, been retraumatizing myself. Last week, I fell ill with a terrible head cold and had to cancel events in Tulsa and Missoula. But I also fell ill with depression. I medicated my head cold. I quickly healed from that simple malady. But I couldn't medicate my sadness—my complicated grief.

I sobbed and sobbed, and then I got on another airplane and continued my book tour. But then, in the fifteenth or twentieth hotel room of this summer, I dreamed.

In this dream, I entered the movie, Smoke Signals, and became Victor Joseph as he ran through the night to save a woman injured in a car wreck. I ran through the desert night. I ran through fire and the memory of fire. I ran until my feet bled. I ran until dawn. I ran until I collapsed exhausted to the road.

In the movie, the collapsed Victor Joseph reaches toward a vision of his dead father. But it is a hallucination. Victor is actually reaching toward a highway construction worker.

In my dream, I am the one fallen to the road. And I reach toward a vision of my dead mother. But she is also the highway construction worker. And she is holding a sign that says STOP.

I think the meaning of that dream is obvious.

It means I am supposed to stop this book tour. Because of the short notice, I'll still perform at my gigs in San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco this month. But I am cancelling all of my events in August and I will be cancelling many, but not all, of my events for the rest of the year.

Dear readers and booksellers and friends and family, I am sorry to disappoint you. I am sorry that I will not be traveling to your cities to tell you my stories in person. But I will be writing.  When I told Diane, my wife, about my mother's ghost and about my plans to cancel so many events, she said, "Maybe it's your mother taking care of you from Heaven." "Maybe," I said. "But I think it's probably your subconscious taking care of the rest of you. I think it's probably you being a good mother to yourself. You are mothering you."

So here I am—the son and the mother combined—who needs to take a big step back and do most of my grieving in private. My memoir is still out there for you to read. And, when I am strong enough, I will return to the road. I will return to the memoir. And I know I will have new stories to tell about my mother and her ghost. I will have more stories to tell about grief. And about forgiveness.

But for now, I can only apologize again for my unexpected retreat. And I thank you, over and over again, for your time, energy, and understanding."


RM: I read this note and wrote something that reflected my research in the field.

Not "heart breaking." Hilarious. When faced with continuous (consistent) nudges from the flipside it's up to us how to react. Disbelief, anger, fear, grief. Or.. amusement, joy, appreciation, gratitude. Only you know the feeling of a loved one's touch, voice or sense of humor. "Stop" can mean a lot of things in a dream. ("Stop ignoring me, denying I still exist, wallowing in memory, avoiding opening your heart." Or "Book tour.") The most direct method is to ask. Whether it's your loved one or your subconscious answering depends upon your path. Either way you miss a possible solution if you don't ask. Publicist should hire me. In an hour I'd have him talking directly to his mom and back on tour - bringing her to life for his audience. First question I'd ask him; "So why did you choose her as your mom?" And repeat it until he answers the simple yet cogent question.

Not trying to mitigate the guy's pain - but when your mom is jumping up and down on the flipside saying "hey! wake up! I'm here!" and your reaction (and I'm sure his doc's) is "well maybe you need to rest and maybe some take medication, you're depressed and in grief." 

Well, there's that - and then there's the idea that it's hard for them to reach out to us, and if we're constantly avoiding acknowledging their attempts to say hello, trying to tell us "i'm still here! I'm ok!" or to tell us "your point of view of our relationship - our journey together, is missing the element that you asked me to play this role before we even got to the planet...because you knew it would inspire you to creativity" well - that's a reframe in any language. 

Obviously she's still rattling him. Which is a good thing.

Would you take advice from this guy?

So I wrote to Sherman via his agent, via his publicist, via his FB page.

I can help you.

On one hand people fear the idea that their loved ones may still exist.

"Oh God no!  They're going to haunt me!!!"  Or worse. "They're going to stand behind me when I overindulge!"  Or worse. "Do they bother me when I'm in bed having sex?"

I had a friend the other day reveal something pretty profound.  

He's not a "believer" in the flipside, per se.  But he has had a number of unusual experiences, and has always had an open mind.

He said he was in bed with his wife, and suddenly, his father who had passed away recently seemed to show up in the room.  And my friend said "and he joined in with me.  I mean, I could feel him enter my body while I was making love to my wife."

Think of a cemetery as an old Ma Bell telephone booth.

I said "Did that freak you out?"  He said "Well, yes, but no.  I actually felt like - Dad! It's you! You want to join in with me? Okay! Sure!"

I mentioned that I had a similar experience many years ago - a close friend who was paralyzed had died, and a few days later, heard this person say "Can I join you for a walk?" and I felt myself saying "Sure."  

And this person stepped into - at least it felt like that - stepped in to my body while I was walking.  (Didn't replace me, didn't become some kind of walking dead spirit - those things don't exist, the only way another entity can show up with us is if we know them intimately, love them, and invite them to participate with us.) I heard my friend's voice in my head say "Oh thank you. It's been a long time since I had the sensation of walking. It's great."

I know how controversial this sounds.  

I certainly am not broadcasting, writing about, or talking about these events.  In fact, I share them because I know that some people will read this sentence and say "Okay, that's it, I'm out of here!"  Which is okay too.  

Anyone who knows me or my work knows that I'm trying to get to a deeper truth, a higher reality.  To examine and explore the nature of reality in all its forms and all its foibles.

So I said to my friend "Did he ask permission first? And did you grant it?" He said "I didn't think about it, but when you asked the question I realized there was a split second when I said "Sure!"
Divine Light in St. Pete's? Or an afternoon in Roma?

It's a little bit like Dracula or any old vampire showing up at your door.  They have to be invited in (or so said Bram Stoker in his original novel.)  Can't come in unless you're invited.  You can say "No! That's freaky! That would freak me out!"  But if it's a loved one - why not?  They've got plenty of other things to do than hang around and watch you all day.

Which takes me back to the point of this post.

What's it like for your loved ones to reach out to you?

Well, they say (and this is based on my interviews with people under hypnosis, interviews with mediums who I believe are connected and speaking to people on the flipside) that for them - it's a process to reach out to you.

Whether in a dream, whether through sound, whether through a visual - whatever sense that they feel they can reach you.
Light at the end of the tunnel... or my kids playing.

So when I ask "Have you been visited by your loved one since they passed?" I'm asking "dream" or "smell" or "vision" or "touch" or "sensation" or a "feeling."  Having them "step into your body while you're in it" is a bit extreme - but I mention it because it appears to be something that's possible to do.

Again - no one has entities shows up willy nilly, after a couple of cocktails and take over our bodies turning us into zombies.  It's just not in the research.  What is in the research is that people have loved ones who show up - they might be loved ones from a previous lifetime, they may be old chums that you haven't seen in this life but they show up to hang out with you - in the previous post I mention the fellow from 1861 - Will Collins - who shows up to hang out with his brother.

Will Collins is already reincarnated and living in Spain as a person that this medium is going to run into in the future (or so he said.)  But some part of Will Collins - after all, we don't use all of our energy while here on the planet, only about a third, so that leaves plenty of other energy from the original Will Collins to perform other amazing feats, like showing up in his brother's room at the age of 8.  (It's possible that Will Collins wasn't incarnated when his brother in this life was seeing him at the age of 8 - I'm just illustrating my point.)

What is my point?

That its hard for them to reach out to us.

That when we're stressed they can't really get us to focus our energy.

That when we're angry, grieving, crying, upset, it's hard for them to reach out to us.

Am I in the mirror or in the restaurant?  Both.
But in Sherman's case - he actually saw his mother with a "STOP' sign.

It could mean she was saying "stop the book tour."

But it could mean she was saying "Stop! Look! Listen! I'm here! I'm still alive! I'm trying to reach out to you Sherman! I'm trying to say hello!  You're doing everything to avoid talking to me!!!"

Which is understandable - as Sherman points out, he's stated that he didn't get along with her for a variety of reasons in this lifetime.

But what he doesn't see, or hasn't seen yet consciously, was the life planning session when he decided that she would play the role of his angry difficult mom - because, well, he asked her to.  He asked her to be the difficult mom so that he could use that grit, that sand in the oyster, to create the pearl that is his art.

I'm not suggesting this is the case.  I'm reporting this is the case.  I've examined hundreds of cases just like it - where we think the biggest stone in our path is insurmountable, until it isn't - and we realize it was the diamond in our life.

Be the diamond in someone else's life.

Just let go.

Just open your heart.


My two cents for you Sherman. The Shaman.

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