I am dealing with stage 4 triple negative breast cancer. I switched oncologists because my last one gave me a very dismal prognosis. It’s true that I am sensitive to chemo and oftentimes I have to take a lower dose and skip weeks. I’m on my 2nd line of treatment and recent scans showed the cancer is growing. If we are doing all we can, how much control do we really have when we make the final exit from this incarnation? How do we know if our mission is soon to be fulfilled?
—Anonymous, United States
Our blessings and prayers go out to you in this current health challenge. Yogananda’s teachings do offer important spiritual direction for you. The end of life is a critical stage in our spiritual growth, and we must approach it with the highest possible consciousness. This means to see no limitation to God’s power in our lives, to see ourselves whole and well in God. The consciousness with which we leave the body strongly influences the consciousness with which we enter our next incarnation.
Karma incurred from past lives in turn has a strong influence on what experiences and challenges come to us in this current incarnation. God gives us a ‘lesson plan’ for our life which brings to us just what we need to overcome limitations to reaching our highest potential-realizing oneness with God. We need to be seeking constantly to purify our consciousness throughout life so that we complete this lesson plan and ‘graduate’ to the next level. An incarnation is complete when we have gone as far as we can with the lesson — something only God can determine.
To address your first question, “If we are doing all we can, how much control do we really have when we make the final exit from this incarnation?” We really cannot control which karmic challenges come into our lives and when it is time to make a final exit. But we can control how we work with them. Do we lift our consciousness up seeking to attune to Divine will, energy and love? Or do we sink into a reactive place of anger, denial, depression, fear, and regret? It is natural when facing a major challenge for people to experience some of these emotions, but for the devotee, it is important to find ways to uplift and expand consciousness beyond these emotions — to reach up to meet and conquer the challenge. This helps us to avoid incurring further karma around this issue.
We must trust that God will not give us a test that is greater than our ability to meet it, but also we can expect that God will give us tests that stretch and strengthen us as devotees. One way to meet such tests is to find creative ways to put out energy. It might be exploring new healing avenues or finding ways to share positive energy and love with others, or seeking out and repairing some misunderstandings from the past, or seeking spiritual support from others. There are so many ways. This helps us exit with the highest possible consciousness. The thought might come when suffering seems intense to shorten life via some artificial means. This is no solution because suicide is just a rejection of God’s plan rather than a willingness to work with the lesson. It will take many incarnations to return to the same level of learning. God does not let us skip steps!
How do we know if our mission is soon to be fulfilled? We often don’t! God is in charge of that one. There are so many stories of people who seemed close to death with incurable medical conditions — whom doctors had given up on — turning around and returning to health, vitality, and many more years to live. In some of these stories people share how their attitude toward life was fundamentally changed as a result, and they became powerfully aware of a Divine hand guiding them. They lived the rest of their lives sharing their inspiration and encouraging others.
Yogi Berra, the pro baseball player, coach, and manager, said “It ain’t over ’til it’s over”. In fact, as devotees, we know that it isn’t even ‘over’ when we shed the body. The soul cannot die. We continue our soul’s journey in the astral world until ready for another material plane incarnation to make progress that can only be accomplished here. The soul continues to incarnate on material, astral or causal planes until the consciousness becomes so refined that only pure awareness of God remains. At that point, the soul permanently merges back into oneness with God. Then the soul is free of further incarnations and rests in union with God. This freedom is our real mission! All of our incarnations are to reach this goal.
So I encourage you to embrace this time as your next stage in spiritual growth, to put out positive energy, and to use as many tools to uplift your consciousness as you feel attuned to. Spiritual study and practice including meditation can be very helpful. Feel free to reach out to Ananda’s Healing Prayer ministry for prayers for yourself which can really give you a boost and may shift the karmic pattern. You can request healing prayers from Ananda here.
Often God does not reveal His entire plan for us when we are in the midst of the experience. Sometimes it takes much time to reflect back and realize, ‘oh that was what was going on.’ Trust in God and putting out energy are the keys. Many blessings on this stage of your journey.