Omega: You have described your near-death experience as a “realm of clarity and expansiveness.” Can you tell us what it was like?
Anita: I felt total clarity and a sense of awakening. It was as if everything I believed and bought into about myself disappeared. It didn't matter how many degrees I had, or what my race, religion, or cultural background were—it all disappeared. There was no need for labels.
I didn’t realize how much I had limited myself in my life, but in this state I felt something so much more. I was powerful and amazing, and it wasn’t just me. We are all limitless beings, and we can bring that sense of infinity back here.
Omega: You have described heaven as a state, not a place. Can you explain what you mean by that?
Anita: Heaven is not a specific place, but it can be whatever you want. I had the sense that I could make heaven into lush, green fields and beautiful blue skies, or I could go back in time to my childhood or be anywhere, really. All of time exists at once. It’s a timeless and spaceless realm.
I also learned heaven is a state that I can recreate here in my life. I can attain that state when I’m alone, in nature, listening to music, etc. Many of us live in a state of fear, and I think we have been conditioned to be powerless. I learned that we have nothing to fear, and we can create heaven here.
Omega: You’ve said that the most meaningful lesson from facing death was to focus on love. What guidance did you receive about love?
Anita: The biggest lesson I learned is that I never, ever truly loved myself. I believed it was selfish to love myself. Many women, and particularly Asian women, are raised to think this way. We are taught to give, give, give to everyone else and we never give to ourselves. We then resent giving so much to others and getting so little in return. We are not giving from a place of true love.
When your well is full and you take care of yourself, you naturally want to give to others. It’s not selfish at all to give to yourself. We are so afraid of being labeled selfish or being seen as “full of ourselves,” but being selfish is really being full and being selfless actually leaves a hole that needs to be filled.
Omega: What advice do you have for others who are struggling to love themselves?
Anita: Begin by asking yourself, “Am I making this decision out of love or fear?” Before I got cancer, I was eating really healthy. But it was mostly because I feared getting sick, not because I loved the foods I was eating. Observe this pattern in your own life. Just bringing awareness helps a lot.
You can apply this same logic to everything. When you attend events, do you really want to go? Are you getting married because you love this person or because you feel a sense of obligation?
If you struggle with the idea of giving to yourself, just pretend you already love yourself and ask, “What would I be doing if I did love myself?” “What brings me joy?” “What makes me laugh?”
Omega: How can someone live more fearlessly, especially when they feel stuck by the circumstances or obligations of their life, like taking care of a family?
Anita: Your kids learn from who you are. If you are making choices and sacrificing yourself, that’s what your kids will learn to do. Do you want to teach them that? Kids don't need money; they need love. They need parents who care about them and parents who follow their dreams so kids know it’s okay to follow their dreams, too.
Yes, we all have financial obligations and need to pay the bills. But here’s the thing—you can take the safest route in life and still fail at paying the bills. You can get laid off from your safe job. So why not just do what you love?
Omega: What makes you laugh?
Anita: My husband! He has the weirdest sense of humor, which I love. I also love kids—they definitely make me laugh.
Omega: Who inspires you the most in your life today and what do they inspire in you?
Anita: I’m inspired by our unsung heroes. The people who have no agenda or fame, but they still go out and do good things for other people. I just love these invisible acts of kindness. They serve as a reminder that life is not about being popular or selling books or having a following. Anyone can go out and help others.
Omega: What advice do you have for those who are currently dealing with cancer?
Anita: I am very sensitive when I speak to those with cancer. I tell them not to focus on the cancer. I talk to people about who they are. I tell them to find a joy and live from there—find a reason to get up each morning.
Cancer can serve as a wake-up call to help you focus more on your life and your passion. I hate the word remission. I like to say instead, “Remember your mission.”
Omega: What would you say is the meaning of life?
Anita: Life is what you make it. I think we come here to experience the physical. We all choose to come here and have the experience of a physical body. We can feel the wind in our face. We can experience love with a partner. Over there, you only experience unconditional love. But here we get to experience a range of emotions from happiness to anger to excitement.
Omega: What do you want your legacy to be?
Anita: I want people to know that they are far greater than their physical bodies and that they can make all choices from love instead of fear.
© 2016 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies