Communication with the dead has been accomplished through dreams for thousands of years. Kabbalists frequently use active imagination to enter unknown realms. This process is based on the kabbalistic principal that our imaginations are connected with higher realities. Today we call this method "waking dreams," the process of actively engaging an altered state of consciousness that simulates the experience of dreams. In fact, this is an ancient method the sages used for contacting souls that have passed over the threshold of death.
We can utilize the same process to connect with our own loved ones who have died. We can visit with anyone who has died, it need not be a parent or even a relative. It should, however, be someone we knew well when they were alive. This practice is especially recommended on Yom Kippur, during the yizkor (remembrance) service, when we bring to mind the memories of our parents.
People who first experience the exercise that follows are sometimes inhibited by an inner censor who says we are making this up with our imaginations. This often comes from strongly conditioned beliefs we have concerning death. If this is a loud voice within you, let it have its way. Nonetheless, let yourself "pretend" as if it were really happening.
Do not begin this practice with someone who brought great violence or severe abuse into your life. After a while you may choose to work with such a person, but begin with someone toward whom you have kindly or neutral feelings.
1. Find a protected, quiet place where you will not be disturbed for about thirty minutes. Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and let your attention rest on bodily sensations.
2. After a few minutes of relaxation, allow the images of dear ones who have died come into your mind. Notice how you feel as these images arise.
3. Pick only one to work with. Let this image rest in your mind. Try to communicate with it telepathically, or even by using an imaginary voice inside your mind. Ask the image anything you wish. Some possible questions are:
a. What is it like where you are?
b. What was it like when you first died?
c. Who else is there with you?
d. Have you visited any living person in their dreams?
4. Now, ask the image: "Tell me the things that you feel you did well while you were alive. What are the things that you are proud of having done?" (Let it speak to you.)
5. "And what are the things that you feel you did not do so well in your lifetime? What are the things you regret the most? (Let it speak. You may find yourself getting sad at this point. Try to stay connected as best you can.)
6. "If you could choose one thing that you regret the most, what would it be? If you could live your life over, what would be the most important thing you would change?"
7. Now, allow the image to fade into the background. Try to remember a situation that actually occurred with this person when they were alive. You want to bring this event into your imagination as if your deceased partner were living their life over again. Your task is to remember this event as if it occurred the way they would have wanted so that they would not have regrets. See the event anew, in its more perfect form. Let yourself replay it in this new way over and over again for a few minutes.
8. Let go of the event and invite the image back into your mind. Notice how you are feeling. Ask it, "Is this the way you would like to be remembered?" If it says yes, agree to try to build up these memories. If it says no, find out what it would like, and try to do it that way the next time.
9. Promise to return and ask if it will come back again. Hopefully, the image will agree to do so. Bid farewell for now, and give it a hug if you can. Take a couple of deep breaths and open your eyes.
Once you have identified a particular attribute to work on for someone who has died, allow yourself to meditate regularly on the person, always imagining situations in a way that idealizes how this person would have acted if they had the chance to do it over again. This is what heals and helps redeem the dead because it begins to change and soften your feelings toward this person.
The key to this practice is obviously the reframing of our memories. If we want to hold on to old and painful memories because "that is the way it was," we remain stuck, as does the one with whom we are working. If we can use our imagination to re-create our memories, we begin to free ourselves and thereby release sparks for the souls of the dead.
This is not a practice of denial. It is a practice of forgiving and regenerating. Everyone enters this life with a pure soul. We are stuck with our fate, the work we have to do, and our intrinsic strengths and weaknesses. We often make a mess on one level or another. Just as we hope we will be forgiven, we need to find a way to forgive others. Each time we are able to do so, the universe is raised one more notch in its consciousness.