‘I have always been interested in engines and vehicles’ says sixty-five-year old retired Royal Naval Artificer Colin Gilbert, who is also fascinated by energy lines, Spirit and life force energy and has been a practicing dowser for many years. Until recently, he was an avid member of the Silver Ring Choir in Bath and believes that the purest sound that your body can be subjected to is the sound of your own voice. For the past decade he has been on an increasingly profound inner journey following a diagnosis for prostate cancer which he calls his ‘little tissue issue.’ Colin speaks candidly about how his spiritual beliefs have helped him overcome his fear of death and how this has deepened his understanding of the transition that awaits us all. I first met Colin when he took part in a zoom death café that I facilitated.
Sue: Welcome Colin. And, thank you for being so willing to talk about the journey you are on and how this has changed your understanding of what living consciously for a better world means to you.
Colin: My spiritual journey started ten years before my diagnosis, after I was divorced in 2000. Once everything settled down, I remember walking up a road in Bath and hearing my heart speak to me for the first time. It said: ‘Sing’. ‘Toxins.’ and ‘Release your stuff’. That’s when I began to open up to a completely different understanding of who I was.
My singing took me to New Zealand, where I visited a Maori Museum in Rotorua. As soon as I walked in, the place just came alive. Being a dowser, I could feel this incredible energy, which led me to the carved gable end of one of the old Wharenui (Maori Meeting House), The museum curator told me that the energy I was feeling through my hands was called ‘mauri’ which is the Maori word for life force. The carver apparently put his life force as a gift into the carving for everybody who passes under it to receive. I wanted to know more about this life force, so when I came back to the UK, I looked it up on the internet. Coincidentally, I found a week-long workshop down in Devon studying, amongst other things, life force so I just signed up and that’s when I started to collect what I term my ‘Life Tools’ that were laid out for me: meditation tools, chakra and energy tools, tools of sound and chanting, tools of food and juicing, tools of mind body and spirit. All of these have played such an important part of the journey I am now on.
Sue: I imagine it must have been such a shock to receive your diagnosis.
Colin: I was told, ‘You’ve got an adenocarcinoma on your prostate.’ After I worked out what that actually meant, I found myself thinking, ‘Shit, I’m doomed.’ But, I’m an ex-Royal Navy man, so I’ve learned to think sideways. I sat down and thought, ‘Okay, let’s take stock’. By then I was ten years into my spiritual journey, and I had learned a lot about taking ownership and responsibility of my life. So that’s what I did for my little tissue issue.
During the energy workshop in Devon, I had been introduced to Brandon Bays’ shamanic journeywork, so I contacted a facilitator in Bath who could lead me on one of these journeys. During the first day of my journeywork, I had the surreal experienced of my tumour communicating with me (or rather my sub-conscious). It told me, ‘I am not here to take you. I am here to teach you to tie your life-experiences into a three-strand strong rope and move on!’ It was a phenomenal experience because on Day One, I was told I had a tumour and Day Two, my tumour was telling me I can survive’. Wow! Let’s go for it! But, what do I do now? How do I actually do this?
I realised the first thing I had to do was to ask myself, ‘Who am I? What am I?’ This led me down the path of realising that I am not made of stuff. I am made of energy. Everything I project is an energetic transmission and everything I receive is also an energetic transmission. For me, the answer to my question ‘Who am I’ is that I am a soul and I have a body, and my body will stop at some point in the future. But, I won’t. I’m just going to step aside and move on. I also began to deal with the physical and spiritual toxins I was carrying inside me and how they affected my body. This opened me up to look at the concepts of love, joy and peace on my cancer journey.
Sue: Were you getting different forms of help with this understanding?
Colin: I was told about the Penny Brohn Cancer Care Centre. They do not deal with the disease, they show folks how to ‘live well with cancer.’ This also flows onto a spiritual level, if the patient is receptive to this. So my journey continued and I added to my toolbox.
Sue: Do you feel that these tools you speak about have actually extended your life?
Colin: That’s interesting. A lot of people have said, ‘You should have gone years ago!’ But I look at it as being on a soul journey and my soul is experiencing all the different elements that it is due to experience. I can’t say that juicing organic carrots and consuming lots of vitamins has extended my life, but I can say juicing a standard tasteless supermarket carrot does me less good than buying an organic carrot. My oncologist and urologist were fascinated by these concepts because they are not apparently used to going down those paths.
Sue: Do you find this lack of holistic approach in traditional medicine frustrating or are you okay with it?
Colin: I started off being very frustrated until I realised there was an awful lot I could do myself. I can get Colloidal Gold, Colloidal Silver and Sea Buckthorn oil and masses of Vitamin C. I show them to my oncologist, and she smiles and says, ‘That’s good!’ She knows I’ve got the incentive to do the research and take ownership of my own body and my life. That concept is really important as it apparently shows a drive to survive. She likes that.
Sue: So, she’s really supporting you doing your own work with this.
Sue: You mentioned in the death cafe that life is relatively short for you now. What do you mean by that?
Colin: All I know is that the cancer has moved up now from my prostate into the bone of my scapula and there’s nothing anybody can do about it. I’ve been offered chemo and I said, ‘Well what’s the point because the chemo won’t touch it?’ I am aware of my body changing and changing fast now but I’ve learned to observe what happening in a non-judgmental way. I can see the changes and observe bits are getting sore. I did an arm stretch the other day and I felt a ligament go in my shoulder with a bit of a snap twang! All these signs tell me I’m moving on with my journey.
Sue: How do you feel about that?
Colin: Excited! Before the lockdown, I used to say, ‘You lot have Brexit to deal with, but I’m going on holiday!’ In fact, I’m on a race with myself to see if I can get my pension next year!
Sue: So, death isn’t a fearful thing for you?
Colin: No. But what I do feel is fear from other people. This fear is because our culture does not do death. Soaps like East Enders will do a funeral and the grief bit, but they don’t do mortality. Nobody talks about what might happen after death – what’s on the other side. But this is a subject which has fascinated me for over forty years.
I walked a section of the Ridgeway fifteen years ago, visiting Celtic burial chambers. I begin to realise the importance of honouring death and the dead. I am aware that there are many kinds of deaths where you leave this third dimension and go into a sort of ‘no man’s land’, which is not quite at the level of the astral planes. I hear that you meet your ancestors and you have a kind of ‘life review’ there.
People who have dynamic, horrible, or unexpected deaths can have a real problem because one minute they were alive and suddenly they aren’t. I understand that these souls get stuck, and they need humans to release them through honouring rituals. I am fascinated by all this and as I have continued to learn about it, it’s has helped to released any fear of death for me.
Sue: With your beliefs and the journey you are on, I am curious to know what it’s like for you to be in your body.
Colin: I’m bouncing in and out of being here – and it’s a really strange feeling! I feel as if somebody’s unscrewed the holding down nuts of my engine of life. It’s a bit of a rough ride I’m on these days. My engine is bouncing about and I feel as if it’s likely to bounce off its mountings at some point and I will leave my body. Actually, I feel as if I’m on a sort of higher plane most of the time now – mundane tasks like cooking are a bit of a burden. I want to just sit in the garden; I seem to be more sensitive to the beings of nature. I do balance this however, with the medical line that the treatment has many strange side effects.
Sue: Is the act of doing really challenging for you now?
Colin: Yes, very.
Sue: Your soul is calling you to sit and be?
Colin: Yes, I am consciously letting go.
Sue: Do you ever feel lonely or feel a sense of separation?
Colin: We’ve just had lockdown for over fourteen weeks. The time has gone in a flash. I found it the most precious, gentle time of going deeply inside – a time for meditation. Time just went and I don’t know where it went. All I did was a little shopping and cooking.
Sue: Because you have to, I guess.
Colin: Yes. But when I am standing in the queue outside the supermarket, what I see behind all these masks is fear in people’s eyes. They all seem to be saying, ‘Come any closer, and I am going to die.’ But for me, Covid is part of the ecosystem and it’s cleansing the planet. Covid is her way of doing this. I like the concept that the Covid virus was already here which means it is part of Creation.
Sue: Are you saying that you are getting to the point where you feel you are done with life?
Colin. It’s really interesting because the work I’ve been involved with for the last ten years is about soul release, and I’ve been deeply reflecting on this. For example, last night I was thinking about my ancestral lines and those family members who didn’t make it. Last week I was thinking about the slaves who died on slave ships off the coast of England. This was triggered by the recent events in Bristol. Some of those folks had horrible deaths. This is what I am concerning myself with – so this isn’t about mundane shopping lists or where to go on holiday – it’s far more mystical work.
Sue: Do you feel that life is superfluous then? I mean, when you look at life at the stage you are at now, what do you feel about it?
Colin: Every one of us is on a soul journey and every one of us is going to die at exactly the right time on our soul journey – be it with Covid or be it with cancer, it doesn’t matter. Up until the point I die, I’m on that journey. So, my body is the vehicle to give me, the soul, these experiences. I’m doing my best to give back to the Universe.
Sue: So, it’s about getting things into perspective, and what really matters for you?
Colin: I call it the shiny things in the room. If you left anything shiny anywhere on a Royal Naval warship, it would tend to disappear because somebody saw it and said, ‘That’s a shiny thing –I want it.‘ The same concept is throughout society, ‘I want… a new car, an iPhone, or a new railway system’. It’s this process of taking, taking, taking resources from Mother Earth that matters to me.
Sue: What does that feel like to you?
Colin: I look on the planet as perhaps saying, ‘Okay humans, I’ve given you a couple of warnings. You are hurting me. You have the ability to change your path, but if you don’t, then things are going to change for you and you’re not going to like it.’
Sue: Do you think you would be looking at life like this if you didn’t have a terminal diagnosis?
Colin: No! I would be getting a new car and planning a new holiday. But that doesn’t matter now – that’s all three-dimensional stuff. I have come up to the higher level. Every day I say, ‘Yes! Another day.’
Sue: How does this impact on the way you want to live the rest of your life?
Colin: My motto in life is that I live to give. Pay it forward, don’t pay it back. There are nineteen ladies living in this road, so I bought nineteen bunches of flowers for them as I wasn’t allowed to give them a hug. It made their day in the middle of lockdown. That’s what I am doing for as long as I can.
Sue: What a wonderful thing to do! Giving back like this is so important. Do you have any sense of how much longer you may be here?
Colin: It really is very difficult to know. I live for the moment – for today – so am not really focused on the timescale. But I’m thinking, ‘Well, I’m not losing weight. I’m not losing my appetite and I’m not losing interest. Yet, the body is sore. The body is failing, and it doesn’t matter.
I’ve spent a lot of time working on my fears and asking myself what fear is. The biggest one for me is the fear of death. My way of dealing with this has been to look at my perception of the phrase ‘I believe’. I am not too sure that I like that phrase, so I now ask myself, ‘Am I comfortable with how I am feeling about this?’ I apply this to some of the concepts surrounding death. So, if you were to ask me, do I believe I’m going to meet my ancestors when I die, I don’t know. But, am I comfortable that I’m going to meet my ancestors? Yes! I am comfortable with that.
I was also very moved and inspired when I heard Anita Moorjani speak in Bristol about her near death experience. Do I believe her? I don’t know. But am I comfortable with what she is saying? Yes. She speaks from her heart and I can run with that.
Sue: Do you feel as if you have made peace with your life?
Colin: For the past of two or three days I’ve been writing down a little list of words, phrases people and places. It’s actually the storyboard of my life and it’s making me think about which areas of my life I have struggled with. What areas of life did I not get to the bottom of?
To me it’s the whole thing of karma. I don’t have any great life anguishes or great hurt but there has been trauma. So, this is about trying to bring any split off parts of my soul back together again as an honouring of myself and my life.
This process has included memory healing with my two girls. To go through a memory that potentially could have caused them pain and to wash that pain with love and to ask for their forgiveness was really important for me. Part of my journey has also been to heal my relationship with my ex-wife. The marriage failed in part because I hadn’t learnt to honour her as a person and her needs. So, I said to myself, ‘Well I can do something about that now.’ During our communications I started to open that up, and, you know, we went full circle and we’re back to the position where we were when we first fell in love. We have chosen to be close friends parenting these two wonderful young ladies. Now I am honouring my future death and how my friends and family will feel. I’m working through that.
Sue: When you look at death – that transition – what happens for you?
Colin: Excitement! It’s like planning the best holiday you possibly could ever imagine and more so. I have just written a wee book about my grandfather and his experiences in the Great War. He wasn’t honoured too much during his life, so I wrote this book for him. I have this concept that when I go through that door, he’ll be there with my book under his arm. And, it really doesn’t matter if it happens or not!
Sue: Do you feel death is calling to you?
Colin: Well, I have a perception that there’s a metaphorical door in front of me and it’s cracked open – and there’s this most beautiful Golden Light spilling out of it. I hear a little voice saying, ‘It’s almost time to come home, my child.’ It’s a wonderful picture and it’s with me all the time. I don’t know when this is going happen. I don’t think I’m dying yet. I’m feeling fine but small things are changing. I’ve stopped driving now as I feel rather spaced out and the long walks are not so adventurous any more.
Sue: Does the pain frighten you?
Colin: No, because I can rationalise it. But the pain has gone to the next level now. I know this journey is likely to be a wee bit sore so when it increases, it means increasing pain relief. And, I have been writing my advance care plan, so all this is in place.
Sue: Do you want to die at home?
Colin: I would rather not die at home because it would mean, ‘Oh, this is the room that Dad died in’. So, I’d rather go to the hospice if I can. I don’t really want to die in hospital. The other day I asked Spirit, ‘How will I know when it’s time?’ Spirit said to me, ‘The Ravens will let you know!’
I really don’t know when it’s going to happen. And, I don’t mind how it’s going to happen. But I do have this wonderful feeling. Actually, I was lying in bed thinking, I will know when I have died cause my tinnitus will stop!(This caused us both considerable laughter.) The pain thing doesn’t worry me. I know that I’ll be kept comfortable and at the end it will probably get a bit sore, but that’s okay. I can live with that.
Sue: If you were to give a piece of advice to anybody who is facing death, or who’s just been diagnosed with cancer or who maybe struggles with life, what would that be?
Colin: Listen to your heart. Your heart is your intuition and it doesn’t matter whether you are religious or spiritual or not. The heart will tell you what you need to know. Everyone’s journey is so different.
Sue: A lot of people struggle with knowing what to say to someone who has cancer because they feel so awkward. But you are so open about what’s happening. So, what would you say to them.
Colin: When I was diagnosed, I had to very quickly think whether or not I was going to tell people about this cancer journey, because everyone tends to close up in alarm. But I knew that friendship would be vital, so I opened those doors. The support I got was amazing.
As I said, I feel that it’s only my body that’s going to stop, not me. That’s my perception. For my friends and family, they will see the persona stopping on the bed. But for me, the important thing is that I will carry on. It is a journey, it’s my journey, my soul journey.
Sue: Do you think we need to change our language around death and dying?
Colin: I prefer to use the language of honouring. The trouble with death is that our ‘death language’ has come out of Victorian times. It’s all black and dark. I asked the funeral director if she had any brighter colours available that they could wear [at his funeral]. Coloured bow ties and top hats will be worn!
Whichever viewpoint people take, all views are valid. That’s the deep realisation I have come to and this validity has got to be brought into the heart of how we change our relationship with death. But I do believe doors are beginning to open, and conversation are taking place. The hospice used the mantra ‘Make Death part of Life’.
Sue: It’s essential isn’t it.
Colin: Absolutely. It’s about having the courage to talk about this. We will go to that door, and it’s important how we approach it. I can’t justify why I am so light-hearted about it, but maybe I’ve had a glimpse through and seen how wonderful that place really is. I also see the futility of the human journey we are going through right now. It makes me think, ‘Why are we doing this?’ It doesn’t matter if it’s climate change or Covid. For me, the real journey of life has been about discovering and appreciating the meaning of honouring, in love and gratitude.