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Home » Anita Moorjani on Dying To Be Me at TEDxBayArea (Full Transcript)

Anita Moorjani on Dying To Be Me at TEDxBayArea (Full Transcript)

Anita Moorjani

New York Times best-selling author Anita Moorjani speaks on Dying To Be Me at TEDxBayArea. Below is the full transcript.

Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Dying to be me! Anita Moorjani at TEDxBayArea


It’s such a thrill for me to be here. And I’m so happy to see all of you.

You know, one of the biggest reasons that I’m happy to be here is because I shouldn’t be alive today. I should have died on February 2, 2006. That was supposed to be my last day here, in this physical life, because on that day, the doctors had told my husband and my family that I only had a few more hours to live.

I was dying from end-stage lymphoma, which is a form of cancer of the lymph nodes. I had struggled with cancer for four years up to that point. For four years, this disease had devoured my body. It had traveled through my lymphatic system. It started with a lump in my neck, and then, it spread throughout my lymphatic system and by that point, by the end of four years, I had tumors, some of them the size of lemons that had spread from the base of my skull all around my neck, down into my chest, under my arms, and all the way to my abdomen.

By that point also, even before I had gone into the coma, my lungs had been filled with fluid, and every time I would lie down, I would choke on my own fluid. My muscles had completely deteriorated so I weighed about 85 pounds. I looked like just a skeleton with skin on.

I had these big gaping-opened skin lesions where the toxins were oozing out of my body. I wasn’t able to digest any food. I had a persistent low grade fever, I couldn’t walk, because my muscles had been deteriorated, so I was constantly just lying down or being taken around in a wheel chair. I was connected to an oxygen tank all the time. I couldn’t breathe without the aid of oxygen.

And on that morning, on February 2, 2006, I went into a coma. The doctors had said these were my final hours because now my organs had shut down, my organs were failing. So my family were told that if there was anybody that had to see me before I died, this was the time.

Unbeknownst to everyone around me though, even though it appeared that I was in a coma, and my eyes were closed, I was aware of everything that was going on all around me. I was aware of my husband who was distressed, but he was by my side holding my hand. I was aware of everything the doctors were doing: they were putting tubes in me, they were removing fluid from my lungs so that I could breathe easier. I was aware of every single thing that was happening.

It felt as though I had a 360-degree peripheral vision. I could see everything happening all around my body. But not just in the room where my body was, but even beyond. And it was as if I had expanded out of my body. I was aware of my physical body, I could see it, lying there on that hospital bed, but I was no longer attached to that body. It felt as though I could be everywhere at the same time.

It was like wherever I put my awareness, there I was. I was aware of my brother, who was in India. My body, I was in Hong Kong. This was happening to me in Hong Kong. My brother was in India and was rushing to get on a plane to come and see me. He wanted to see me before I took my last breath. And I was aware of that. I felt as though I was with him. I saw him on the plane.

And then I also became aware of my father and my best friend, both of whom I had lost. Both of them had crossed over, had died. But I became aware of their presence with me, as though they were guiding me and communicating with me.

One thing that I felt in this amazing expansive state, I felt I was in like a realm of clarity, where I understood everything. I understood why I had cancer. I understood that I was much greater, in fact all of us are much greater and more powerful than we realize when we’re in our physical bodies.

I also felt as if I was connected to everybody, like all the doctors that were treating me, the nurses, my husband, my mother, my brother, and everybody, I felt as though we all shared the same consciousness. I felt as though I could feel what they were feeling, I could feel the distress they were feeling, I could feel the resignation of the doctors.

But at the same time, I didn’t get emotionally sucked into the drama, but yet, I understood what they were feeling. It’s like we all share the same consciousness, it’s like when we’re not expressing in our physical bodies, you, and I, and all of us, we’re all expressions of the same consciousness. That’s what it felt like.

I felt as though my father was trying to communicate with me that it wasn’t my time, that I needed to go back into my body. At first, I didn’t want to go back, because I still felt as though I had a choice, whether to come back or not. So at first, I absolutely did not want to go back into my body because I couldn’t see a single good reason to go back into this sick and dying body. I was a burden on my family, I was suffering, there was no good reason. So I didn’t want to go back.

But in the next instant, it felt as if I completely understood that now that I knew what I knew, and because I understood what caused the cancer, I knew that if I chose to go back to my body, my body would heal very, very quickly. And so, in that moment, I made the decision to go back, and I heard as though my father and my best friend said to me, “Now that you know the truth of who you really are, go back and live your life fearlessly.”

And it was in those moments that I woke up from the coma. And my family was so relieved to see me. And the doctors, they couldn’t explain it. The doctors were there, and they were surprised, but they were being very, very cautious, because there was no way of knowing; I was still so weak. There was no way for anyone to know whether I was going to stay out of the coma, or heal, or go back.

But I knew I was going to be fine, and I was telling my whole family, “I’m going to be fine, I know I’m going to be fine. It’s not my time.”

Within five days, the tumors in my body had shrunk by 70%. After five weeks, I was released from the hospital to go home. I was completely cancer free.

Now, what has happened is that I’ve had to pick up my life from that point, and as you can imagine, my life feels completely different. It changed my view of the world. That experience changed my view of our physical bodies, of my physical body, of illness, and how I perceive the world. I found it very difficult to integrate back into life again, after that experience.

And the best way I can think of to explain what it feels like would be to use metaphors. And a metaphor that I like to use is one of a warehouse. I’d like you to imagine, if you will, that we are in a totally darkened warehouse that’s pitch black. Just imagine that right now, you’re in a warehouse that’s completely pitch black, and you can’t see anything because it’s so dark. You can’t see anything in front of you, anywhere.

But imagine that in your hand, you hold a little flashlight. Just a little flashlight. And you switch on that flashlight, and with that flashlight, you navigate your way through the dark. And you use just the beam of that little flashlight to navigate your way in the dark. And everything that you see in the warehouse is only what you can see with the beam of that flashlight.

Now imagine if the beam is shining over there, all you see is what’s over there. Everything else is in darkness. You shine the beam over there, and all you see is that spot there. Everything else is in darkness except for the light of the beam.

Now imagine one day big floodlights go on so the whole warehouse is illuminated, and you realize this warehouse is huge. It’s bigger than you’ve ever imagined it to be. And it’s lined with shelves, and shelves, and shelves of all kinds of different things. Every kind of thing you can imagine, and things you can’t even imagine, all exist on these shelves, side by side by side. Some of these things are beautiful, some not so beautiful, some large, some small, some things in colors you’ve never ever seen before, colors you’ve never imagined to exist, and some things that are strange and funny looking, all exist side by side. And you’ve seen some of them before with your flashlight, but many of them you’ve never seen before because your flashlight had never shone on them.

Now imagine if the lights go back off again, and you’re back to one flashlight. Now, even though all of you can see is what you see with the one flashlight, the beam of one flashlight, at least you now know there is so much more that exists simultaneously and alongside the things that you can’t see. You now know that just because you cannot see them, you cannot experience it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. You now know that because you’ve had that experience. That’s what it feels like to me.

It feels like so much more exists than what we believe, so much more exists than what we have experienced. It’s just beyond our flashlight.

And just to help you understand that a little bit better, I’d like to try a little game, a little experiment with you. I want you to look around the room and find everything you can that is shades of red, everything from red to burgundy. Just look around and commit it to your memory, as many as possible commit it to your memory. Because I’m going to ask you to recall it.

Close your eyes, face to front. Now how many things can you recall that are blue in color? Almost none. Think about it, almost none.

Now open your eyes and look around. See how many blue things there were that exist alongside the red, but you didn’t even notice it, you didn’t see it. Why? Because you weren’t aware of it. The beam of that flashlight, what is that? That is your awareness. That beam is your awareness. When you flash your awareness on something, it becomes your reality, it becomes what you experience. There can be something else that’s right under your nose, but if your flashlight is not shining on it, you won’t even notice it; you won’t even be aware of it.

Think about this, think about all the billions of dollars we’re spending on cancer awareness. Think about all the cancer awareness campaigns. Imagine if we put that much money, energy, and effort into wellness awareness what a different world we would have. Imagine if we put all our effort into peace instead in into fighting and wars, we would have a very different world if we changed our awareness.

To bring it down onto a more personal level, I want to share with you the five biggest lessons I learned from this experience.

Number one, the most important thing that I learned, the most important thing we have here, to focus our awareness on, is love. That is number one. And when I say love, it’s very easy to say, or for us to say, “We need to love other people.” But one of the things I learned is that, one of the reasons I got cancer is because I didn’t love myself. That’s hugely important.

When we love ourselves, we value ourselves. When we value ourselves, we teach people how to treat us. When you love yourself, you find no need to control or bully other people nor do you allow other people to control or bully you. So loving yourself is as important as loving everybody else. And the more you love yourself, the more love you have to give other people.

Number two, the next biggest lesson I learned, was to live life fearlessly. Most of us are brought up on a diet of fear. We’re taught to fear everything. I used to fear everything, I used to fear cancer, I used to fear eating the wrong foods, I used to fear displeasing people. I feared just about everything. I feared failing, and most of us are brought up fearing everything. And people think that fear keeps you safe; that’s actually not true. Love keeps you safe.

When you love yourself, and when you love other people, you make sure that you keep yourself safe and that you keep other people out of danger’s way. Love keeps you much safer than fear does.

The third thing I learned that is so important is humor, and laughter, and joy. We’re born knowing this stuff. We’re born knowing that it’s important to laugh because that’s what kids do all the time. We’re born knowing love and fearlessness, but it gets conditioned out of us as we grow up.

Laughter is so important, and humor, and finding your joy in life. It’s more important than any other spiritual activity that you can think of. If we had more laughter, in fact, if even our politicians learn to laugh, we’d have a very different world. And if we had more laughter, you would have less people with illness, you’d need less hospitals, and you’d need less prisons as well.

The fourth thing I learned is that life is a gift. It really is. Most of us live our lives as though life is a chore, but it shouldn’t be that way. And it’s unfortunate that only when we lose something that we value do we really realize the true value of it. And it took me losing my life to realize the value of my life. And I don’t want other people to make the same mistake which is why I’m standing here sharing my message. Because I don’t want people to realize when it’s too late the value of their life. And your life is a gift. Even the challenges that come to you are a gift.

When I had cancer, that was the biggest challenge I could ever have, but today when I look back on it, I feel it’s the biggest gift I could have had. People think that the cancer, or even I thought, the cancer was killing me, but actually I was killing myself before I got cancer. The cancer saved my life.

All your challenges are gifts. In the end, you will always find that your challenges are a gift. And if you’re really challenged, and it doesn’t feel like a gift yet, it means you haven’t got to the end yet.

The fifth and final thing which is so important that I learned is that the most important thing for you is to always be yourself. Be as you as you can be. Shine your light as brightly as you can. Embrace your uniqueness. Just realize who you are, get to know who you are, love yourself unconditionally, and just be yourself.

And with those five things, I invite you to go and live your life fearlessly.

Thank you very much.


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