Of all the people I thought I’d meet, I never thought I’d meet myself. Growing up, I wasn’t aware meeting myself was a possibility. I didn’t give it a second thought. I went about my life, making friends with others, as one does. Imagine my surprise when I met myself on my 50th birthday.
Virtual Reality had been around since I was in my mid-20s. It was nothing new. I was well-versed and a little sceptical. What started as fun began to grow and grow. Since the discovery of the grand-unified theory of physics in 2026, increasing numbers of scientific studies discovered our minds react to VR just as we do the Quantum Hologram (“ordinary reality” pre-2026, of course).
Since the Quantum Hologram Revolution of 2027, VR took on a new edge. Knowing all of our reality is an illusion projected by the mind causes a mixture of joy, empowerment, fear, insecurity, and resistance. For the spiritually inclined, QHR was confirmation humans were microcosms of the creative cosmic force of evolution.
“If a man would be alone, let him look at the stars,” philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his 1836 essay, Nature. “The rays that come from those heavenly worlds, will separate between him and what he touches.” Emerson considered the stars, through their “perpetual presence of the sublime,” as portals to complete absorption with something greater than ourselves.
“If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years,” he adds, “how would men believe and adore and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.”
Humans have gazed at the night’s sky in fascination for millenia. Its vastness, humbling. Its enigmatic expanse, awesome. Ancient civilisations, from the Mayans to the Babylonians, were starstruck and enchanted by the cosmos. The ancient Egyptians even used the stars to accurately align the Great Pyramids with the Earth’s four cardinal points.
I wonder what Emerson would think of modern culture. Common gaze is downcast, transfixed by admonishing smartphones. The stars’ sparkle is second-best. We don’t notice the great lengths they travel to illuminate the night’s sky. But the ancients prized something we fail to recognise. Stargazing is free therapy. And the cosmos reveals our true nature.
Spiritual growth is an unlearning process. Awakening into the true nature of reality requires constant unlearning of false beliefs and a re-discovery of the direct experience of the present moment. Conceptual reality is a house of mirrors, a myriad of illusion. Of all illusions, psychological time is the trickiest to detect.
Seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, years… The passage of time is seemingly objective and compatible with experience. Events appear to unfold sequentially, superimposed onto the clock. But the past is a memory. The future is imagination. Life is eternally present, an infinite succession of Nows.
As Mark Twain said, “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” So much of our attention and energy is spent on holding on to days-gone-by or worrying about things that may never materialise. How does life change, once liberated from these opposing forces?
We are told to be aware, to pay attention, to create space. Yet conscious engagement with thoughts, with the intention to change them skillfully, has immense benefits. Although counterintuitive, it boosts the ability to be mindful and accelerates spiritual growth.
Maturing the ego and cultivating a skilled, self-serving intellect, is just as rewarding as the transcendental elements of spiritual practice. But the message in the West is often black-or-white; the ego is all bad, the solution to troubling thoughts is always being in the Now.
Living in the present is simple and impossibly hard. The complexity of mind distracts in a multitude of ways. Neglecting the quality of thoughts makes presence much harder; if your thoughts work against you, the task is greater. Yet it’s rare to see spiritual guidance on techniques adjusting the thinking mind.
My Nan died at 9pm last night. I wasn’t at her bedside as she drew her last breath. I wasn’t comforting, talking, stroking her hair, holding her hand. I wasn’t with my dad or my mum or my sister, herself facing fear to share this sacred moment. I wasn’t with my aunts or my uncle or my cousins.
My Nan loved in presence. She liked to sit back, to observe, to drink in the atmosphere of family gatherings as mindfully as she’d drink her (specially selected) glass of Cherry Brandy each Christmas. As my awareness grew, I saw this clearer and clearer — she loved her family, us, deeply. So much so, being surrounded by us was all she required to be content, to remain hydrated.
In her final moments, she was surrounded by us. And I’m certain she felt this familiar presence, from those there physically, and those separated by distance but there in spirit, as the Derisz constellation drifts, from Bristol, across the world, to Manchester, to Berlin, to Melbourne, and now the stars.
My family is close in our unique way, as all constellations are unique. Being away from home, awaiting a ping from a phone usually on silent, thousands of miles away, an hour ahead of time, I realised more than ever how close our bond is. We’ve stuck and stick together, we share the highs, we share the lows. Today, we share the grief.
The Realm Of Dreams
My Nan’s breaths slowly shallowed as she faded, peacefully, passing in her sleep, after some days spent in the realm of dreams. A hospice in New York interviewed 14,000 dying patients. The study found, as they drifted in and out of consciousness, from one world to the next, the majority had exceptionally lucid, vibrant visions.
In these states, they had detailed conversations with deceased family members. They reflected on their lives, sort unfinished business. My Nan would’ve lived forever, if she could, but I have no doubt she was finding peace with what was — her physical body, the container of her essence, shutting down.
“Instead of having this fear of death,” said Dr. Christopher Kerr, who documents the hospice study with his team, “it almost transcends the fear of death to something bigger.” Patients report these near-universal dreams are “more real” and different from anything experience before. They offer relief. They offer healing.
Make no mistake — my Nan was getting shit done. She would move on from the physical plane, yes, but only when totally ready. I can picture her now, rolling up her sleeves, telling her son, my uncle Colin — it’s time to get to work. In our lifetime we may never know the full nature of this work, but her fight, resilience, tenacity, and will to keep going will benefit missions of another realm immensely.
May You Be Happy, May You Be Well
All of us had time to process; days passed after the inevitable became clear. It was painful to be away. But I had my time on Wednesday evening. I drifted, in and out of sleep, dazed by lifelike hallucinations. The dream world was vying for my attention.
It’s unlike me to be awake at such an hour, but come 2am, I brewed a mint tea, journalled my reflections, and sat in meditation. Intuitively, I knew; I wasn’t choosing this time or this moment — this time and this moment was choosing me.
My intention was to send loving kindness, compassion, and healing to my Nan, beyond time and space, communicating with her in the place she was, where dreams are lived and shared.
As my mind stilled, an electrifying vision appeared in my mind’s eye, full of life, accompanied by presence, causing a shift in perception, awakening of a deeper intelligence. There you were; sat in your chair, smiling, knowingly. I recited phrases of loving kindness: “May you be happy, may you be well, may you be peaceful, may you be loved.”
I hadn’t cried that day. But then there was the look — you know how it feels, when someone looks at you, attentively. A look felt across distance. A look, in this context, orchestrating a symphony of chills. As my Nan looked at me, completely at ease, a bright white light filled the room; a room so familiar, now drenched in an ethereal, timeless quality of another dimension.
“May we be happy, may we be well, may we be peaceful, may we be loved.”
Opening Our Hearts Through Grief
In that moment, I knew she was okay. I knew she was loved and loving, peaceful, understanding, wise, more alive and vibrant than her physical body ever could be. Her divine spark, previously in one form, now moving towards the light.
As we locked eyes and hugged and shared and smiled and cried, I wasn’t sure who was reassuring who. In truth, maybe we were reassuring each other. That’s what families do.
In the past grief has hardened me, made me put up barriers. It’s taken some work to break open that shell, to move through the pain. But I now understand death has the potential to open our hearts to what is most meaningful.
I am humbled, and I look forward to being with my family — to grieve, appreciate, express the deepest expressions of what it means to be human. To be there.