Transition Blanket

by | Oct 20, 2016 | Article, Teaching Stories

I created a Transition Blanket in preparation for my father’s imminent death. To this day, this sacred object continues to bestow life-altering blessings on my entire family. I’m convinced that this divinely inspired gift is meant to reach far beyond my own family after witnessing what this blanket did not only for my father, but also for all who experienced its healing power. This is the story of how the first Transition Blanket came into being, and the remarkable impact it had on everyone it touched.

When my father died, he died with an expression of horror frozen on his face. His eyes bulged; a mask of stark terror twisted his visage as his final breath escaped—a deeply distressing image that haunted all of us who witnessed his passage. My stepmother instantly succumbed to a wrenching fear that something awful had just happened to her beloved husband on the Other Side and that he was now trapped in a terrible place, for eternity. She was inconsolably distraught.

In my own heart, I knew how much my father had always dreaded death and his ultimate passage into unknown realms. Once this inevitable moment was upon him, it was impossible for Dad to conceal his terror any longer. I felt certain what we’d seen on my father’s face was simply a lifetime of fear at last releasing itself; though realizing this brought little solace. I, too, felt overwhelmed at that moment, imagining what the future would be like as I struggled to make peace with this final horrific scene and somehow bring comfort to my family in the days and years ahead.

The Transition Blanket proved to be the generous purveyor of the strength and comfort we all needed to find. Its miraculous powers soon transformed our family’s experience from one of tragedy and suffering into an experience of profound healing and peaceful acceptance. Yet this miracle, like this very special blanket, took a while to unfold. Our ultimate opening to the inevitable death process may represent one of life’s richest experiences. In fact, ancient Tibetan traditions teach that death is life’s most important event. One’s own impending death, or the death of a loved one, holds great potential for shifting priorities and re-framing relationships more profoundly than any other earthly event. Renewed and reshaped perceptions have the power to alter both physical and non-physical realities in surprising ways that can contribute enormously toward an aware and awakened life. Yet the looming sense of loss and finality that fills the heart and mind as death approaches can precipitate either great healing or emotionally devastating results. Death becomes the Master Teacher during such deeply transformational times. And so it was for my family.

I have spent my entire adult life in a career of service, helping people in difficult life situations. As a licensed psychologist, I’ve worked with thousands of individuals over the years. I am a seasoned alternative healer as well, primarily in shamanic practices, having received formal training and intense individual instruction from powerful medicine people. I teach shamanic classes on death and dying. Yet none of this extensive experience had fully prepared me for this time when I would be called to usher my own family member through the gates.
I felt an overwhelming personal sorrow about soon losing all physical connection with my dying father. We lived thousands of miles apart. Knowing I could help him in so many ways if we lived closer left me frustrated and longing for deeper connection. I called upon the spirits and other compassionate energies for assistance, as is my shamanic way.

A Personal Belief System

It is impossible to fully explain the spiritual beliefs I hold, or the nature of my personal interactions with the divine realm, in the scope of this brief article, yet I must offer at least a little background so one might better understand the constant sources of my inspiration and how the Transition Blanket eventually came to be. Whether we’re aware of it or not, an unfathomable resource of wisdom and love, in many forms, exists just beyond what we know as our reality. This other universe is commonly called non-ordinary reality. In this parallel realm, all is possible. Non-ordinary reality is the place to which a shaman journeys in an altered state to obtain information from the spirit helpers.

Keenly aware of my human limitations, I often journey out to ask my wise spirit helpers for advice and assistance. I asked the spirits to teach me how I might best serve my father in spite of the physical distance between us. During this astounding journey, not only did my trusted allies show me powerful ways to support my elder, but they also tended my own grieving heart in the most loving and intimate way. I emerged with a clear sense of purpose and renewed confidence that all would be well as soon as I followed the detailed guidance I was given. The spirits were certainly answering my urgent needs, but it also felt like they were using me to “birth” yet another powerful healing method into ordinary reality, a method I would soon feel compelled to share with others. They were teaching me how to create a beautiful transition experience for my father, which included something I didn’t yet understand—a Transition Blanket.

The first task my spirit helpers assigned me was to examine and define what I personally believed about the death process. They wanted me to review how my Western culture had prepared me, or not prepared me, for the eventuality of a loved one’s death. I was shocked by what I discovered. While my own usual path of exploration and learning provided me with powerful beliefs and intricate road maps for navigating through the end-of-life experience, it appeared to me that Western culture, in general, essentially ignores this entire “uncomfortable” subject. Fixated on perpetual youth and feel-good-now pursuits, Western culture seems to act as if death will never come.
It became painfully clear how ill informed and ill prepared our society is for the ineffable end-of-life event that will surely touch us all. In this fast-moving culture where elders are often pushed aside, viewed as burdens rather than precious reservoirs of wisdom, the ancient rituals and ceremonies that truly honor aging and the sacred transition to the afterlife have all but disappeared. Is it really any wonder we feel shocked, lost, and utterly terrified when Death’s hard knuckles finally rap upon our door?

My own father was one of these lost and terrified people, facing the most profound, unknown experience of his life. Like so many others, Dad’s natural fear of the unknown was magnified because he had so little real knowledge about where he was going or how he was supposed to get there.

In my many years of counseling and death work, I’ve noticed that those who’ve led an essentially “unexamined life” seem to experience far greater anxiety and suffering as death approaches. They find themselves without any meaningful way to relate to the life they’ve lived or to the great mystery that now unfolds before them. Their end-of-life struggle and confusion creates great emotional distress, and their exit, which could be and should be an elegantly peaceful process, is severely hampered. What a terrible travesty this is.

Unfortunately, religious doctrine may often preempt personal questioning and introspection and for me such a limitation can never substitute for a gentle, truly meaningful, and deeply explored experience when the end of life draws near. Unsupported by ancient beliefs, the powerful death rituals and ceremonies that once safely guided our forbears into the afterlife, how might we better prepare our “modern” selves for this inevitable end-of-life experience? What can we expect and what should we believe? Where is our road map? Perhaps the Transition Blanket had come to show me the way.

Long aware that our beliefs ultimately create our reality, it was time for me to carefully review my own beliefs about the death process. I needed to recognize which of “my beliefs” were actually borrowed, and which were authentically mine. This would help me discover and discard any old, outmoded beliefs that now stood in my way. It was a daunting but necessary task if I hoped to offer my father a peaceful transition.

My head swirled with endless questions. Even with “freshly cleaned” beliefs, even if I were allowed to unravel the death mystery for myself, would my personal discoveries really translate to help others with very different beliefs? Could my intense desire to help my father, along with some kind of “mystery blanket,” actually bridge the huge gap between our personal beliefs about death and the afterlife? Could a Transition Blanket somehow bring both ends of my father’s life circle gracefully back together again? Was there still enough time to find out?

The Making of the Blanket

In my father’s final moments, did I need to visualize my version of what the afterlife promised, or his? What exactly did my father believe about death anyway? The only thing we had discussed was his philosophy on judgment day. We seemed miles apart in our beliefs. How could I ever construct a proper Transition Blanket for him or create a ceremony that would truly support his transition experience, while being so different? Floundering in an endless sea of questions, I decided to seek more guidance from my trusted spirit helpers.

As I journeyed this time, a strange calm came over me and a plan suddenly emerged. A whole tapestry of death transition teachings already existed for me, threads of clarity woven throughout the various faiths of the world. I could look there for my answers. I was already familiar with Christian doctrine from my childhood and my current belief system is steeped in the Lakota traditions. I began researching the death transition practices from other cultures of the world.

The common thread unifying all these variant versions of the death transition always led the soul into a new existence. However, in these other traditions, without exception, each individual was carefully prepared in advance, receiving clearly defined information about the precise actions necessary to achieve a successful transition to the afterlife.

I concluded that believing is the important part and that the “details” of what we believe don’t matter as much. In the final analysis, could it be that the generic power of believing supplies all the energy the human consciousness needs to escape the physical body and fuel the soul’s journey to the afterlife? Propelled by the loving support of others who genuinely care about us, no matter what their personal beliefs, could this extra fuel ease and speed our death transition process? My new understanding indicated that no particular spiritual belief system is superior to any other. It also suggested that we might very well continue to follow our own truth, whatever it is, even after we die.

Hungry for even deeper understanding, I journeyed again and again. With each journey, I discussed another layer of my feelings and my intense desire to provide powerful transition support for my father. My spirit helpers were eager to actively participate in this process. They confirmed that there is, indeed, a sacred preparation for each soul, to help it on its way. I learned that proper care of the soul is essential for well being both here on the earth plane and in the afterlife. To my delight, the spirits were now willing to teach me this transition preparation.

My spirit helpers told me to buy blanket material and to sew small objects on the blanket, objects that I would imbue with power in shamanic terms. I bought some gorgeous woolen blanket material at the Pendleton Woolen Store and sewed a rich binding around the borders. I made it a manageable size so a sick person could easily carry it to cover himself as he lay in bed, rested in a chair, or stretched out on a couch in front of the TV.
With each step of construction, I journeyed again, asking for additional detail about the objects I should use for my father’s blanket. I was given several options and decided to make four red prayer tie bundles in the Lakota way. My spirit helpers told me that each bundle was to hold different information—power objects, spiritual helpers, and mystical symbols. Each time I was given new information, I brought this information back from non-ordinary reality into ordinary reality by holding my intention and then literally blowing this energy into the individual prayer bundles as I finished my journey.

Blanket 016Once imbued with power, the bundles now containing the specific prayers, spiritual helpers, symbols, etc. was tied onto the blanket. Even though the imbuing process seemed to be directed toward the bundles, the entire blanket soon became imbued with love and healing power. The spirits explained that when the dying individual lies under the Transition Blanket, the prayers and spirits contained in the bundles instantly become activated and perform particular tasks.

With my father’s Transition Blanket, the first spirits to take form and action were the Spirits of Extraction. They entered the first bundle I made. These particular spirits activate a clearing process, remove any foreign energy that might intrude into a person’s natural (authentic) energy system. Such intrusive energies are harmful to a person, causing hardship because of their low vibratory frequency. These harmful energies include fear, doubt, anxiety, worry, sadness, and other low frequency emotions. The extraction process allows a person’s energy system to quickly return to a higher vibration closer to its pure radiant, magnificent nature. This instantly begins to restore balance to the person on an energetic level, a profound blessing for someone whose body is gravely ill.
The second bundle attached to my father’s blanket contained the Spirits of Soul Retrieval. These spirits bring back lost soul parts or any divine essence a person may have lost throughout his lifetime. Soul retrieval restores the person in the most sacred way, so that when the soul begins its next journey outside of the body it will do so in its most intact and complete form. The qualities of calmness, serenity, peace, joy, trust, and knowingness will also begin to return, for these are the natural feelings of wholeness every intact soul enjoys.

I then imbued the third bundle with the Master Healers, opening the channels to the Universal Life Force of unconditional love. Several of these particular spirits will also help with pain reduction and inspire feelings of well-being no matter how difficult the last physical days may become.

The final bundle held the spirit helpers of Transition and Psycho Pomp (a Greek word for taking souls to the light). These spirits activate what I call the death angels of transition. These angels escort the soul after it lifts from the body. They midwife the soul to the other side, to heaven or the equivalent realm, according to that individual’s personal beliefs.

2. DSC_0434Many other small objects could be used on a blanket to hold spiritual power. One might sew on strips of cloth, feathers, beads, ribbons, or pictures of power allies drawn on fabric. Shamanic journeys and information from one’s allies will offer the best guidance about this. The spirits are always eager to help their human relatives.

The Transition Blanket, now fully imbued with spirit helpers, will protect the individual both in this world and the next. As an individual lies under the blanket, all the spirit helpers will be activated and work with the individual energetically (except the transition helpers, which will activate only once, at the actual moment of death). The feelings and energies that an individual receives from the blanket should be exceptional.

Employing the Blanket

I tried the blanket myself before I mailed it off to my father and I loved it. I could feel the power pouring from it. When Dad received his Transition Blanket, he was in stage four of esophageal cancer. He experienced immediate reduction in his pain level whenever he placed the blanket over himself. I spoke almost daily with him by phone. After he received the blanket he often mentioned the effects it had on him. He said, “I feel so much better. I have less pain. It makes me feel good. I feel your love. I feel more at peace. It calms me.” In fact my step-mom soon refused to leave Dad alone in the house unless he had his special blanket nearby, because she knew if things got bad while she was gone, he’d have it as a ready resource for instant help and pain management.

Since my Dad had no prior experience with energetic healing of any kind, his words couldn’t really reflect what was happening to him energetically. The balancing (I feel better), the extraction of fear (it brings me peace), the soul pieces returning to him (I feel love, it makes me feel better) were all clear signs that the healing spirits and energies were working powerfully with him. What I took for granted and knew to be happening on an energetic level, my father was expressing in his own beautifully simple way.

I earnestly believe the Transition Blanket prepared my father well for his transition. During his illness, he managed his fear and showed amazing life vitality. He barely seemed ill just a week before he died. His voice, color, and personality were strong almost to the end. I believe this was all a gift from the blanket. When Dad’s time finally came, he crossed over quickly. I remain convinced that the final horror that swept over his face in those last moments was just the dread he felt about his “Judgment Day.” Perhaps we would all tremble a bit if we believed it’s our turn to have every “shortcoming” pointed out, one by one?

I was instructed by the spirits to keep the Transition Blanket over someone for four hours after death. For a person to “die in a good way” the time after passing shouldn’t be rushed. I wondered why the spirits selected four hours and appeased myself with knowledge of past teachings. Four is a sacred number to the Lakota and this amount of time gives the soul time to transition. The number four reflects the four elements of earth, fire, air and water, and the four seasons of winter, spring, summer and fall. The four elements of earth, fire, air and water contained in the physical body must also transition. This, too, takes time.

If prayer ties are used on a Transition Blanket these ties should be removed from the blanket so they can be burned or buried with the body once the death process is complete releasing the various spirits. The blanket can then become a family heirloom, perhaps to be used again and reactivated when other family members are ready to transition. The spirit helpers will reunite them quickly with loved ones on the Other Side.

At the time of my father’s death, all that I had been taught by the helping spirits proved true. His Transition Blanket was pulled over his body and face, where it remained for the next four hours. We all breathed a sigh of relief when the blanket mercifully concealed Dad’s horrified expression. After the designated amount of time, my father was uncovered. As the blanket was pulled back, we were shocked by what we saw. Dad’s face was now completely serene, relaxed and peaceful with a slight smile on his lips. My stepmother fell to the floor in weeping gratitude.
This sacred blanket served us all miraculously and still brings daily strength and comfort to my stepmother. With the blanket nearby, my step-mom feels strongly connected to my Dad and well protected by the spirits. In fact, she sleeps with it every night. My intuitive guess is that a Transition Blanket will likely yield different experiences for each person it serves.

Since the creation of the transition blanket I have had numerous testimonials from individuals that have heard about the blanket and made similar blankets for their loved ones. My favorite testimonial was from a hospice hospital where one of their staff members decided to make blankets or have blankets available for family members while their loved ones were in hospice. The blanket was well received and served the purpose of energetic healing for the dying person as well as giving the family a tangible way that they could focus their attention, love, prayers and compassion into an object that was then received by their loved one. This outreach with the transition blanket continues to spread; other hospice hospitals have incorporated it into their services and the intent of the blanket carries widespread healing. I often smile while contemplating the magnitude of grace that can be achieved when incorporating the powers of our loving spiritual allies. Compassionate spirits know precisely what to do in every situation. Quite literally, we can trust them with our lives.

About the Author

Jan Engels-Smith MEd, PhD is an author, a Licensed Professional Counselor, a Chemical Dependency Specialist, a Hypnotherapist, a Shamanic Practitioner and an Usui, Tibetan and Karuna Reiki Master.
Jan founded LightSong School of 21st Century Shamanism and LightSong Healing Center in1995. Jan has authored two books, Through the Rabbit Hole: Explore and Experience the Shamanic Journey and Energy Medicine January 2015. Jan’s book Becoming Yourself: The Journey from Head to Heart, won the Reader’s Choice Award from iUniverse. She is a diamond level author with Ezine Articles and writes a monthly article for Sedona Journal of Emergence. Jan also authored two CDs: Take Your Body With You a shamanic drumming CD and Awaken~Unburden~Create a meditation CD package of shamanic principles.
Contact Jan: www.lightsong.net

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