Interview by Evelyn Einhaeuser
In your book ‘Dying to be me’ you write the following: “I worked on forgiveness therapy, and forgave everyone I knew—then forgave them again. I traveled through India and China, meeting Buddhist monks, Indian yogis, and enlightened masters, hoping that they’d help me find answers that would lead to healing. I tried being vegan, meditating on mountaintops, yoga, ayurveda, chakra balancing, Chinese herbal medicine, pranic healing, and Chi Gong. But despite all this, my cancer just kept getting worse.”
Why did the numerous healing methods not work for you?
I think something that is fundamentally missing from all our teaching is self-love, self-value, self respect. That is fundamentally the key ingredient and missing in so many teachings, whether it is religion or spirituality or new age thought. The fundamental thing is that if you don’t feel like you deserve to be healed, if you don’t feel that you matter, if you don’t feel that you have a passion or a desire or a purpose for living, then it is going to be a struggle for you to be healed. Because then what happens is that everything we do, everything we strive for in whatever modality, we are doing it from a place of fear. We are going after Chinese medicine or acupuncture or Ayurveda because we fear that illness and therefore there is this desperation. We are questioning ourselves: ‘What am I missing and have not yet uncovered? I am so scared of this illness, I have to beat this illness!’ So the driving force of our mind and actions is fear.
Instead we should ask ourselves: ‘How can I love myself more? What can I do from a place of passion? What can I do to support myself more? How can I feel more joy?’ Then when we are coming from a place of love it doesn’t matter whether we meditate on a mountaintop, pursue Ayurveda or whatever. It starts to work.
I often feel that people practice Yoga not because they actually really love it. I feel many people think that they have to have that discipline or some form of disciplined regimen in their life. There is some hardness to the practice as such. So even the way how we relate to these healing methods is more connected to strain than to a healing intention or aspect.
Exactly. It becomes more of a chore if I do it because I think it will make me a better person, or because I believe it makes me more enlightened. But it is not about going after a pursuit of an answer or enlightenment, it is really about realizing that the journey is the destination. Even being ill is part of the journey. And accepting the illness is in itself spirituality.
At some point in the book you say that the cancer was not a punishment for past karma, but that sickness is more like an unexpressed energy or potential of yourself that seeks an outlet. So by annihilating a part of yourself, the energy of expression finds other ways to express?
Yes, it is me not allowing myself to express myself. And so it is my own energy turned inwards and then expressed itself as cancer, because I would not allow myself to express the power, the magnificence of who I truly am.
Do you think that this is true for all disease or especially for cancer, that it turns inward and works against you. Or do you think this annihilation just expresses itself in different forms of disease?
I think the energy expresses itself differently for different people. In some people it expresses itself as violence or violent outbursts, in others as depression, or seizures. Or as having a midlife crisis. It comes out in all different ways when we keep bottling up who we really are. We bottle up our passion, we bottle up our true authenticity and we convince ourselves not to be frivolous, because we have to do this, we have to work, we have to pay the rent, we have to have kids, we have to put them through school, etc. And we convince ourselves that this is the life which we are supposed to have. If we deny who we actually came here to be, then it starts to show itself in all sorts of ways.
After your Near Death Experience you said „God isnt a being but a state of being“. Can you explain the feeling a bit more of what is God in your experience?
To me God is not a person. God is a state. When we die, we transcend religion, so it doesn’t matter whether you are Hindu, Muslim, Chistian or a Jew. Death transcends all religions. And every religion has their own belief in God. But when we actually die we can say all of them are true or none of them are true. Because it felt like I became everything. I became whatever I wanted to be. I understood that if I believed in Jesus, then Jesus would come before me, if I believed in Buddha then Buddha would come before me. I was the one that was connected to everything and I was the one that created. So in essence, I became God. We all do when we die. So God was not a being or a person, God is a state of being.
The unconditional love that you also became in that state, is not comparable to anything that we experience as normal emotions in our physical body, correct?
Yes, it is something far beyond that, because when we normally talk about love, we talk about conditional love. But actually that is not true love. Because if the person doesn’t behave a certain way or doesn’t do things, the love for them just starts to fade. And that is conditional. Unconditional love, which I have experienced in the other realm, is just a knowing that I was loved, I had a purpose. Even if I turned out to be a criminal and went to prison I was still loved when I died and would still be loved regardless of what I have done. It wasn’t dependent on certain behaviours or anything. Also I felt I was loved just because I existed. And that was such a relief because I had spent a lifetime working really hard towards trying to win people and get them to love me. And then when I recognized im loved anyway, I started to relax. Once I knew I was loved by universal energy I didn’t need humans to love me anymore. It was like there was a relaxation, a relief.
Do you think that this kind of unconditional love is also possible in the physical realm?
Yes it is possible, but it starts with loving ourselves first. Until we are taught that we need to love and value and respect who we are, then we can’t love others unconditionally. We believe that loving ourselves is selfish and we believe we are supposed to attain a state where we love all others, but until you love yourself it is not possible. Because each and everyone of us is a spark of God. We are each universal energy. Each and everyone of us is an extraction of the universal energy. If we don’t love ourselves, it means we are denying that aspect of God expressing itself through us. And until we allow that aspect of us to flow through, only then do we have the power to love all others unconditionally. And the only way to allow ourselves to be the channel of unconditional love, is to know that we are an expression of this and to let it express through us. And to know it makes you love and value yourself. How can you not value yourself if you are an expression of God?
You also describe that the state of pure consciousness exceeds time and space. You were able to see your brother sitting on the plane for example and you heard your husband talk to the doctor in another room. In the Yoga Sutras it is also described that you can transcend time and space in a state of pure consciousness while being in our bodies. Your example proves that we have a capacity to perceive outside of the confines of our senses in a near death experience. But do you think that is also possible when we are here in our physical form like the Yoga Sutras state?
I think it is possible to achieve it while we are here in our physical form. And I think when we are born and babies, we still have one foot in each realm. And we notice that babies and children, they are aware of things that we are not aware of. Intuitively they know what we are thinking and babies respond to their mothers without language. And they seem to be able to transcend time and space. Many young children and even pets have knowledge that transcends time and space. But as we grow up it gets conditioned out of us. So we were born knowing how to transcend time and space. What happens is that we spend 20 years with getting it conditioned out of us and then as adults we try to meditate and go to Yoga to relearn something that was actually natural to us from birth. It would be so much better if we nurtured it in children from the time they are born. Instead we have a society that conditions it out of you and then you realize later “Oh, this is missing, I better relearn it.’
Three of the Maori healers in New Zealand to whom i had the priviledge to talk to also said that in their tradition, the children are the elders. And that we can learn from them because they still have that link, just as you say. And that children in their tradition don’t learn words like anger and fear, because they don’t exist in their language. So children don’t learn these concepts and therefore don't carry so much burdens.
That is really beautiful. That is how it should be.
One topic you also talk about in your book is expectations of others and how we try to live up to them. I feel many people struggle with that and I feel we all often try living up to parents, bosses, partners, children, etc. It starts with going to birthdays or dinners even though you are stressed or aren’t really in the mood, eating things you don’t like because someone else cooked for you, etc. At one point in the book you said „I understood that I owed it to myself, to everyone i met and every other person who would ever come into my life and to life itself to be an expression of my own unique essence. Trying to be anything or anyone else didn’t make me better—it just deprived me of my true self! It kept others from experiencing me for who I am, and it deprived me of interacting authentically with them. Being inauthentic also deprives the universe of who I came here to be and what I came here to express”. How do you deal with expectations of others these days and do you sometimes still feel the pressure of trying to please?
You know the universe is funny. It always gives us that which for us appears most difficult. So that was always my biggest challenge, that I wanted to please people. Situations in which im tested are still happening, but now they are accompanied by an awareness and I know ‘I don’t have to please other people.’ But what happens again and again is that the universe will give me an even bigger challenge. And if you think about it, my biggest challenge before the cancer was being a people pleaser and always being what other people wanted me to be. And if you look at my life today, how many people I have to please or am most afraid of displeasing now! Just think of my audience that has read the book! So you see how the universe is playing this joke on me, as a challenge!
So it is something I am growing into every day, to be really authentic. In the beginning I was very scared when my book first came out. I was very scared of the reviews, but then luckily I got mostly good reviews. But I was very scared to be provocative or controversial. But over time I have become less and less afraid, because I keep remembering ‘Oh this is my purpose, this is why I came here’. There are people who need to hear this, even if it is provocative, I need to say it. And I have really learnt to trust my inner voice and to trust that this is the reason why I came back. I have to express my truth and my authenticity. And I have noticed that if I received some criticism it is okay because I found that there are more people who will actually thank me for saying things that they were thinking but did not dare to express. So I know that I always have to follow my heart.
And there is one other thing that I have learnt. As long as I am afraid to disappoint people, then I will always be under the control of the people who will criticize me. In other words: as long as I am afraid of the critics, I will always suppress myself and not say things for fear of the critics. Which means that I have given my power and my control over to the critics. They are not the people that I want to control me. I want to be there for the people who actually resonate with my message, who need to hear what I have to say. I realized as long as I focus on them, I can continue to be authentic.
One other thing that I found really interesting is that after your Near Death Experience you found it really difficult to connect to the everyday dramas that people are engaging in, as well as the money making lifestyles and the conventional topics that seemed to have lost significance to you. At the same time you felt you really wanted to be here now and wanted to be present in situations and with people. How do you deal with people going for values that you are not interested in anymore and at the same time feeling that you are not detached from this world?
That has been actually one of my biggest learning curves and experiences. Because I felt for my own sake and for my own survival, I had to stay detached from individual people’s dramas. Because I used to get sucked in to dramas a lot. So whatever people would ask from me, whether they would have relationship problems, financial problems, work problems, I was there for everybody to cry on my shoulder. And I felt after my Near Death Experience I couldn’t do that anymore. I realized that life is an absolute gift. I realized that if all these people knew that life was a gift and if only they knew that they had a purpose, they would not let their time be consumed by bad relationships or bad jobs or by being bullied by their bosses. If I am with these people that focus on their drama, I feel I get sucked back in, so the only way for me to be able to touch other people was to be detached from the drama. And that was a challenge for me. But as soon as I was able to do that, the universe presented all these opportunities for me. Today for example I find it really easy to address an audience of 4000 people and to speak to them, whereas I tend not to go into individual dramas on a one-and-one basis.
In other words: I realized by honoring who I am, I was allowing myself to be beneficial to a lot of people, whereas if I was my old self, I would be so afraid of displeasing people that I would allow myself to become drained with all these people who would come to me and give me their problems. And I would just become completely drained. I realized that by detaching myself from them and by not making myself available for all these people and their problems and their dramas and by not getting sucked into their dramas, I have the energy to speak, to write, to create and speak on stage and help a lot more people. And still feel energized.
It is hard to imagine what you could be or where your potentials lie because we operate only on the memories of what we know and have experienced and often we fall short in imagining what we could become. You described that also when you said “you can only see what your light is focused on, and only identify that which you already know. That is what physical life is like. We’re only aware of what we focus our senses on at any given time, and we can only understand what is already familiar.” You propagate an openness or allowing for things to come into our life that are unfamiliar and beyond our imagination, correct?
Yes. If I had to figure out what to do with my life after coming back from my Near Death Experience, I would never ever have imagined it would be like my life is today. If it was up to me to work it out, I could only think of things that are in my awareness. So I would have only worked out goals and how to achieve it according to what I already know. Whereas by allowing life to unfold and doing only what I came here to do, namely being myself and loving myself and expressing myself authentically, I knew that my life would unfold in a way that was truly mine. I would reach my highest potential only by doing those things. I would be allowing things to come into my life, which I wasn’t even aware at that point. If we are constantly focused on striving to achieve, how can we strive to achieve something that is beyond our conscious awareness at that time? So I say: "Don’t even worry about envisioning, because some things will come to you that are so far beyond your biggest dream, yet when it comes you will realize this is the most perfect thing for you. It is just so you!" My life today I could have not created myself if I had to structure it and create it and strive for it. And yet it is so perfect. It is exactly the life I want to live. I can't imagine doing anything else.
So you advice people to put their energy into things they really like doing?
Yes! Do things that you really enjoy doing. Do everything from a place of love, rather than from a place of fear. If you need to make money, make money doing things you love to do. Make money because you want to make money, not because you fear not having enough money. Because there are only two forces that drive our behavior. One is love, one is fear. Those are the only two forces. So even energies like joy or passion, they come all under love. Emotions like anger and so on, they all come under fear. So no matter what we do, we are only driven by those opposing energies. So ask yourself: “Am I in this job because I love my job, or am I in this job because of fear. Fear that I won't have money or fear that I won't get another job. Just ask yourself questions like that and be really honest. And once we start realizing that we need to make our choices based on love, the life that unfolds before us will be completely different. It will be our authentic life. It is unfortunate that most of us realize that so late, that most of us are already stuck in a job, or situation, or family or society that we don’t like because we made our choices based on fear. But the sooner we realize the better.
One of the big topics in your book is also that duality is mind-made. And that the concept of victims or perpetrators is an illusion. You write “This all meant that I was no longer able to view the world in terms of “us” and “them”—that is, victims and perpetrators. There’s no “them”; it’s all “us.” We’re all One, products of our own creation, of all our thoughts, actions, and beliefs. Even perpetrators are victims of their own self-hatred and pain.”
Most of us like to think in black and white, bad and good, victim and perpetrator. Now of course if something happens to a child then the adult is responsible for doing that. But my point is that we have to look at the bigger picture. How did the person that is the perpetrator come into being? Nobody is born in a vacuum, nobody is raised in a vacuum. We are all a part of a society and culture. And we are all a culmination of all our thoughts, decisions and actions from the time that we were born until this point. Every single person has reasons. They justify in their own mind why they are doing what they are doing. And the decision that they are making is the best decision that they know to make. If we all, everyone of us, learn to collaborate instead of always competing with each other, we would have a very different culture and society. If we all knew that we are all connected we would have a very different society. But everybody thinks that we are all separate and so we all have to compete and to compare with each other and we have to get ahead of other people. And this drives us to be competitive and to be fearful. I remember one time I received a letter from someone who was actually in prison. He had seen me on TV with Wayne Dyer and so he called his sister and asked her to buy my book and bring it next time she came to visit him. And he wrote this letter to me and said that he did something when he was twenty years old which was really terrible. But that he had fallen into bad company and that he has really regretted it. And it has been twenty years, he was 40 when he wrote me the letter. And he said in the last twenty years he has just been reading and studying and becoming more spiritually aware. And he said that he knows that it was a big mistake what he did at the age of 20. But he was so scared that because of this mistake (and he didn’t say what it was but I assume it was terrible if he was still in prison after 20 years), he believed that even after he died he would suffer in hell for everything that he has done. But he said my story and my book has brought him comfort, knowing that at least at his death he will be free. And this is what I feel. If people know better, they do better. That’s what I believe. And we all have an obligation to make people know better and do better. It is not just dependent on that one person.
But because I wrote when you die you don’t get judged, a lot of people also wrote to me and said: “How can you say that? I don’t believe that rapists don’t get judged.” And I wrote back and said: “No, they don’t. They get understood. They get compassion. They get empathy.” A lot of people don’t like to hear that. Now the reason why we have perpetrators is because they lack empathy. What we teach them is empathy. You can't eliminate crime by more crime, you eliminate it by empathy. And when we have a society where the crime rate is really high, the problem is not the criminals, the problem is the society as a whole. The whole society is sick, the whole society is lacking empathy and compassion. And everybody lacks the self-love. And only by having self love, you can have empathy. Because when you love yourself and you don’t want bad things to happen to yourself, you completely understand that you don’t want bad things to happen to other people, either.
I think self-love is simply not taught in our society, not by parents, not by the school system, not by other people. In your book you also describe that self-love is often seen as something negative, as something selfish. It is really difficult to change that parameter in peoples minds.
Yes a lot of people still have problems with that even though it is getting a lot better. I remember once when I was doing a speech about two years ago and I was talking about self love, this one lady who didn’t even put her hand up or anything, when I was talking how important it is to love ourself, this lady just stood up and said: “No. It is egotistical.” And I said: “Egotistical is when we don’t have enough self love and we overcompensate.” And she said: ”No, it is egotistical to love yourself.” And she stood up and left the room. So that is our conditioning.
You wrote “I went from an outside-in view of reality to an inside-out view. That is, I used to think that the external world was real and that I had to work within its confines. This is pretty much how most people think. With this view, I gave my power to the world outside, and external events had the ability to control me—my behavior, moods, and thinking. Emotional reactions and feelings weren’t considered real because they weren’t tangible. They’re thought to be merely reactions to external events. In that model, I was a victim of circumstances rather than the creator of my life. Even illness was an external event that just “happened” to me randomly. However, after my NDE, I began to see myself as a divine and integral part of the greater Whole.”
How do you define self-empowerment?
It’s knowing that we are divine. And we are creators of our lives. It also means knowing that there is a part of you that is more intelligent than your left brain thinking. Very often people misinterpret that. They think if I am the creator of my life I am going to decide what I want. And then again we shine our torch only on that which is known. What I say is that you are the creator of your life, but don’t worry about pursuing or creating. The only thing we have to do is love ourselves and allow what is truly ours to unfold. You don’t even have to worry what it is. Because what is truly yours will unfold. Just follow your joy, follow your passion. And all I have to do every day is just ask myself: “What would I do today if I did love myself? What would I do in this situation if I did love myself?” And really the situation or the life that unfolds before you is much greater or much more powerful than if I myself tried to create it as the creator of my life. I am the creator of my life, but I don’t actually consciously pursue or create it.
I allow it to be created.
Your perception of death also changed dramatically. For many people it is one of the biggest fears. Can u say something that helps people maybe shift their perception of death and have less fear of dying?
Death is actually very liberating, it frees you from the body. It is amazing and beautiful and a relief.
When we stop fearing death we stop fearing life. Death actually taught me how to live. When we can overcome the fear of death, our lives become so much richer. We stop fearing how we appear to other people, we stop trying to please other people, we stop wondering what other people think of us because we have overcome the greatest fear, which is the fear of death.
I imagine that for some people in the medical world and for the pharmaceutical industry it is very hard to accept that healing can take place without the help of pills and conventional medicine. You write “I recall the day I got the results. The doctor came into my room with a whole team of hospital personnel, looking concerned. Then he spoke: “We have the results of the bone-marrow biopsy, but it’s a little disturbing.” For the first time in days, I felt some anxiety. “Why? What’s the problem?” My family members were in the hospital room with me, and all of them looked worried. “We can’t find the cancer in your bone-marrow biopsy,” he said. “So how is that a problem?” Danny asked. “Doesn’t that just mean she doesn’t have cancer in her bone marrow?” “No, that’s not possible,” the doctor said. “She definitely has cancer in her body—it can’t just disappear so quickly like that. We simply have to find it; and until we do, it’s a problem, because I’m unable to determine her drug dose.”
How do you feel is the reaction to you from the medical world now after your book has come out?
I've been lucky in that it has been mostly positive. The healing happened to me in the hospital, so I have the medical records. Many doctors have come out and actually supported it. And then there are many doctors who completely believe me but will not say something publicly, because they are only endorsing what is acceptable in the medical model. But I have actually been quite moved by the number of doctors that have come to me. And even oncologists have said to me that they have recommended my book to all of their patients. So that has been really really positive for me. And I think if this would have happened 5 or 10 years ago that wouldn’t have been the case. I think the book has come out at really the right time.
My beliefs of course have completely changed. I don’t believe in the general idea of what people associate with cancer. It is not a random disease that just attacks you. And I also don’t believe that the cure of cancer can be found in medicine alone. I feel that all the billions of dollars that are spent on drug research are just flowing to keep an industry alive. I don’t think it is where the answer lies. I think it has a lot to do with our emotional state, it has partially to do with the changing diet of our time and culture today. And there are so many other factors involved in it. Our emotional state, our passion for live, all these kinds of things need to be considered. I also believe that when the doctor confirms and tells you that you have cancer, there is a fear attached to that diagnosis and that is what solidifies it in your body.
That reminds me of the episode in your book when you went to India and your Yoga teacher told you that you needn’t give the disease a name. And I have heard the same story from many people who have been diagnosed with a severe disease or mental problems. The minute they were told they have this and that, the fear became worse for them, not just because the disease suddenly had a name and therefore an identity, but also because of the stigmata that the family and everyone else created as a result of that. ‘Oh my son has this’ and ‘Oh we always knew there was something wrong with you! And now we have proof’. And for many people that makes it actually much worse, for giving it a name and attaching an identity of disease to it.
Exactly! And that is exactly what is happening to the cancer! Then everybody thinks ‘Oh my god that is a death sentence!’ and then you become obsessed of becoming rid of it. And it only becomes worse.
How would you want the cancer therapy to be changed and what do you feel is important?
First of all I would say: ‘Stop spending billions and billions of dollars on cancer research.' Instead, spend all the money on teaching people what it means to be healthy. What does it feel like, what does it look like. Our healthcare system doesn’t care about our health, our healthcare system actually focuses on illness. So if we could change that and shift all the money spending towards being healthy, that would be great. All these advertisements on TV that tell us to go to earlier and earlier detection. All these tests and all this equipment used to find cancer cells earlier and earlier - if all of that focus and money could be focused on teaching people how to love themselves, how to find their joy, that would make a huge difference. And if doctors on top of that could ask their patients: ‘Do you have people in your life who love you? Do you have people you love? Are you doing what you are passionate about? Are you following your passion? Do you love yourself?’ If doctors could ask questions like that and if all of these things came together and could change, then you would see much less cancer.