Monday, February 28, 2005

Another Sermonette from the Hugmeister

My name is Joshua Bagby, and I am an unapologetic hugger.

I think the world would be a hugely different and far better place if we made hugging more of a priority. It may be a priority in our own individual lives or it may be a priority on a more global scale.

By hugging here I mean lengthy embraces for the soul. One minute. Two minutes if you can stand the pleasure. Three minutes if you’re a bold adventurer. This is not motivated by sex or seduction, but rather it’s embracing given to each other as healing for the mess our world is in.

The way I see the world, we’re all suffering from some pretty serious delusions—yes delusions—created by our cultural conditioning. We’re wildly afraid to touch each other, physically and metaphorically.

Some of us are afraid to embrace for more surface, conscious, easily retrievable reasons. Not wanting to encourage sexual feelings probably leads the pack. Similarly, we don’t want to have to explain what we’re doing hugging someone else, especially if that person is sexually attractive and we’re married to someone who’s jealous.

To many minds, freely hugging people is one short step away from promiscuity. A hugging group would look to many like a swing party or an orgy at the Playboy mansion, so hands off and bodies isolated is the way to go.

Some of us don’t like to touch each other because we don’t want to endure sensually unpleasant sensations like foul odors or rough handling. A close competitor is that we don’t want to host someone else’s germs. One easy way to see where you fit in all this is to stand in a post office or grocery store line and envision yourself hugging each person you see. Does it make you want to throw up?

If you happen to be a Christian, be mindful that Jesus loves everybody equally, including the people who make you want to throw up. (All right, I am no biblical scholar, so I am just interpreting my vision of what I hear. Jesus loves everybody.)

Some reasons for not wanting to freely hug, I think, are less poised on the surface. Hugging brings us up close and personal with people, and our culture teaches us more and more to fear thy neighbor. The nightly news is a perpetual orgy of reasons why we should distrust just about everyone on the planet. So are the tabloid talk shows. We’re paying a high price for our scary infotainment, the least of which is high cable or satellite TV bills. We’re losing our minds.

A similar reason for fear of intimacy, I believe, is our own inner terror that we’re all a bunch of walking phonies. I’ve posed before that I don’t think many of us could do our jobs if we had to be truthful. So many jobs depend on deceit, cheating, manipulating. Our livelihood depends on shucking and jiving. It’s the system. So at some level we all know that if we hold another person in our arms, that person is that much closer to our core truths. We’re great at manipulating from a distance and not so great at close range. (This is one reason why people returning from near-death experiences and life reviews have such a hard time re-entering society. They know that every time they tell lies, it only hurts them. Liars who have not had an NDE and a life review do not know this.)

It actually becomes convenient to keep intimacy at bay by staying out of touch with people. It becomes convenient to hide behind the story that hugging causes unbridled lust for sex because if you believe that you don’t have to deal with fear of intimacy.

More and more we’re finding out that men and women alike harbor awful memories of having been abused in many different ways. Just thinking of my acquaintances, stories come to mind of childhood sex abuse, childhood and teenage rape, satanic torture, religious torture, parental brutality both mental and physical, severe rejection and abandonment, painful sexual identity struggles, abusive relationships as adults, to name just a few.

In a somewhat ironic way, encountering a loving atmosphere and exceptionally positive sensuality like long, warm embraces often opens up memory channels to this stored-up, unreleased pain. It is not uncommon for me to be hugging someone and that person bursts into tears. The exquisite beauty of being stroked and held, especially in a safe, private atmosphere, often releases emotions trapped in the past. I honor these times even though the person I am embracing may feel embarrassed or humiliated for sobbing.

Here’s the sunny side: When those of us motivated to be more in touch find creative ways to make that happen, it’s a huge blessing. Since extended hugging is not something our tabloid TV, fear-mongering, junkfood culture feels motivated to promote, we have to do it on an individual basis. We create our own hugging circles, whether it’s just two people or a gathering of more courageous, affectionate souls.

Lengthy embraces are about the consciousness you hold when your arms are wrapped around someone. Since this is not about sex or romance, it doesn’t matter if you’re holding a man or a woman, a young person or an old person. It’s about holding the body of an indwelling spirit who is on a journey of life just like you.

To send your love to this person in your arms is to send your compassion and empathy for all that person has bee through, is going through, and will go through. Hug this person as you would like to be hugged.

I like to fill my consciousness with beautiful visions. Usually I don’t create them. I just close my eyes and there they appear—colors, patterns, various hypnogogic photographs, cerebral animations. I don’t know exactly what I am tapping into, but it’s wonderful.

Every situation is unique. Embracing a stranger will be different from hugging a best friend. If you’ve developed a trusting relationship, you can combine embracing with words of encouragement, affirmations, love. If you are intimate about sharing troubles, you can use hug time to plant some positive suggestions for healing and success. Meanwhile, the person who is a stranger to your ego mind is probably not a stranger to your soul, so why not be generous with your love?

I leave you with the words of a stranger (to me) who left these words on my blog entry entitled The Gift of Presence on Sex and the Light.

I'm surprised that there aren't more comments on this - what you are writing here really speaks to me. I was doing a search on non-sexual intimacy via google, expecting to find nothing geared towards just what I had on my mind, yet, when I added "energy exchange" to my query, it narrowed the results down to only one page: this blog.

Over the past 15 months or so I have become involved with a small spiritual group that, amongst other things, recognizes and encourages things very akin to the "2-minute hug" that you refer to. In the past I often would refer to psychological problems in terms of a "Hug Deficit," due to my own knowledge of just how good it feels to be touched,
especially when there is no sexual stress attached to the act. Our culture promotes a terrible body shame that makes a lot of people experience great pain. This comes from the inevitable conflict that arises when they want to touch and be touched, and are conditioned to always associate this with sex, and also are conditioned to dislike promiscuity in all its forms.

Is it wrong for me to attend small gathers of like-minded and otherwise normal, healthy, effective people with mutual hugs, touches, and cuddles as the main thing on my mind? The overall message that this group has is a spiritual one. I am more or less a secularist, and while I do not subscribe to consensus reality, it still took me a long time to decide that my reasons for liking these people were okay. Maybe I'm way off base here, but I could not resist saying something. I am SO GLAD to read of this seemingly simple, yet powerful idea from an entirely different source.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Pacific Northwest March IANDS Meetings

If you live in the Seattle area and you’re curious about near-death experiences, you’re invited to attend a meeting of Seattle IANDS on Saturday, March 5 from 1pm to 4pm. IANDS stands for the International Association for Near-Death Studies.

People attending this meeting will receive a special bonus—a free, pass-it-on copy of Possible Fatal, a book about Joanie Thurston’s NDE. While on the other side, guides instructed Joanie to "tell her story" and "make it common knowledge." She told her story in the book, Possible Fatal, assisted by Wally Johnston, who also published it. Unfortunately, Joanie’s painful injuries preclude her from making public appearances, so the publisher (Acorn Endeavors) has launched a "Pass It On" project through Portland IANDS Chapter to publicize and promote sales of the book. Acorn Endeavors will distribute one case of books (79 copies) at the March 5 meeting. These copies are free and you are encouraged to pass them on to interested readers until the book is worn out. You can learn more about Joanie and her story at The book retails for $13 but will be on sale for $10 at the meeting.

Click here for meeting directions.

If you live in the Portland, Oregon area, you’re invited to attend a meeting of the Portland, Oregon Friends of IANDS on Saturday, March 12 from 1pm to 4pm.

Click here for more information and directions.

Please pass this item along (by clicking on the little arrow icon below) to anyone you think might want to attend one of these meetings. Meetings are free although donations are gladly accepted.

Woo-Woo Questions Begging for Answers

Here are some questions I would love answers to with respect to near-death experiences and the insights those having them bring back:

I am wondering if there are any known instances of people having NDEs, gaining “secret” knowledge from those experiences, and then taking action when they have returned to the physical body. An example might be learning during an NDE that a business partner is embezzling money, a fact unknown until the NDE. Another example might be the discovery during an NDE of an adulterous spouse or something a son/daughter does on the sly. Discoveries such as these, while not proving anything by themselves, would certainly lend support to the evidence that NDErs either leave their bodies or connect to a wider knowledge base than most of us in material reality seem bound by.

I am fascinated by the life review experience that NDErs report. Via some method that modern physics knows nothing about, we step out of time and relive every teeny tiny second of our lives along with all the feelings that anyone in the world (and maybe beyond) experienced as a result of our thoughts and deeds. Pretty intense. So here I am wondering what happens when I sit in my office and wave and say hi to myself. “Hello Self During My Life Review!” Can you pad your life review with good stuff? If I go hug a thousand people, will I feel them all again during my life review?

I have read quite a few books on near-death experiences and have heard a few people talk about their experiences at IANDS. So far, however, I haven’t read or heard much about sex. On the physical plane, sex turns out to be one of those things that you shush about. Just don’t mention it and maybe it will go away. My belief, however, is that a good and wholesome sexual relationship is one of God’s great gifts that is mostly unopened and unexplored. If conducted with a noble, healing, healthy, and loving attitude, sensuality and sexuality become a heady and heartfelt medium for the flow of love between two people. But that’s just my intuitive take. I would like to hear NDErs chime in with some insight. We keep hearing that our mission on Earth is to learn about love, but we don’t hear much about how sex fits into that big picture. On the other hand, the fundamentalists of most religions have a great deal to say about sex, most of it not very nice.

I have been wondering, and asking when I can, if there is any particular agenda by Spirit World personalities to bring to the physical world knowledge about the big picture that life is eternal. I know that many authors of NDE books do, indeed, report that they were told to write their books and share with the world what they experienced. On the other hand, and much to my surprise, I have found that speculating about NDEs and woo-woo, especially in fiction, is a very tough sell. I wrote a book that has all the earmarks of being an inspired piece of literature, and yet the road to publication has met with tough resistance on the grounds that this is too original, too witty, too woo-wooey. My own experience leads me to wonder if there is some sort of blockade from the Spirit World on the flow of information into this realm because, as the mystics say, “it’s all perfect as it is.”

In a similar vein, I am very curious about how the Spirit World views some of the celebrity psychics that strut their stuff on television, presumably leading to earthly fame and fortune as they wave from their luxury seats on the best-seller lists. If there are such things as life reviews, then presumably someone like Sylvia Browne will have to relive all her readings where she charged people hundreds of dollars an hour (at last report it was $700). Someone I met recently said that she got a horrible (in the sense of accuracy) reading from Sylvia when appointments went for only $400. For example, the husband who was supposed to die within the year is still ticking a dozen years later. If Sylvia is the high end, what about all the low-end readers at psychic fairs and on dial-a-psychic numbers? So my question: what is the real read from Spiritland on the business of selling psychic readings—and do these psychics know what they are setting themselves up for?

If anyone has any answers, I would love to hear them! Please email me

Monday, February 21, 2005

Tsunami Woo-Woo

Since the mighty tsunami of December 26, 2004, woo-woo stories have circulated around the world in the international press and on the Internet—often scaring away the tourists.

Ghost stories abound in a disaster that took over 170,000 lives. The most famous story is the taxi driver who picked up a foreigner, his Thai girlfriend, and their luggage. Upon reaching the Phuket Airport, the driver freaked. His passengers and their luggage had completely vanished—and didn’t pay, to boot.

Thai locals tell stories of hearing laughter at beaches when no one can be seen. A security guard quit his hotel job after hearing a foreign woman's screams of “help me” echo all night long from around the debris piles. Another family is terrified by phantom phone calls where friends and relatives cry out to be rescued from the flames of the crematorium.

Stories like these have made for a jumpy bunch, especially among the superstitious. A Thai psychologist called these paranormal experiences "a type of mass hallucination" caused by the trauma of "missing so many dead people, seeing so many dead people, and only talking about dead people."

Someone familiar with ghosts sees it differently. “The foreigners didn't know what happened and they all think they are still on the beach, still on holiday." This explanation flies with people who are into soul rescue.

Among the problems locals face are widespread fears about the troubled spirits of dead tourists. Chinese monks performed exorcism rites and offered food sacrifices to appeal to a foreigner’s palate, namely pizza! Paper clothes and money were burned with incense to help the troubled spirits, who were urged to return home. (Thai custom dictates that relatives bless the souls of the dead to facilitate a safe passage onward.)

Meanwhile, thousands of locals rushed to mystics and psychics, something strictly forbidden by Muslim culture. Desperate to discover the fate of missing relatives, people broke with tradition and braved religious retribution to seek answers of the fate of loved ones. During the first few days after the disaster, psychics claimed to pinpoint the location of the missing person. After several weeks, this was reduced to a yes or no about survival.

The Internet is crawling with pundits speculating about the disaster. That includes many stories where shadowy religious leaders claim that the killer wave was a wrathful smack from Allah’s hand. One account even has a photo alleging to prove that Allah signed the tsunami with his signature in Arabic in the water. A Christian minister calls the tsunami God’s retribution for pleasure seekers breaking the Sabbath!

But there are positive spins, too, not so much on why it happened but in how people are recovering. Some people who lost everything are digging in with indomitable spirit, as if pursuing a great life review. Other pundits are reflecting on Tsunami Miracles and asking big-picture questions.

Stories of dreams, premonitions, and miracles also abound in the world media. An Israeli couple living in India built their beachside home, which they named Eternity, on 16-foot stilts because the wife had dreamt repeatedly of floods. It was the only house of its kind on the coast—and the only house that survived.

There are stories of miraculous survival, such as a man who floated for a week in the Indian Ocean on a raft of debris. He survived on rainwater and floating coconuts. Another man is reported to have slept through the tsunami only to wake up at sea floating on his mattress!

Then there was this miraculous fashion statement. "I was saved by a new Missoni orange Italian design swimsuit I had got especially for the trip. I was knocked unconscious as the wave picked me up and carried me off the beach but the strap snagged in the branches of a tree and when I came to I was hanging in this tree above the water."

Yet when it’s time to go, changing plans won’t help. A San Francisco man called off his plans to spend the Christmas holiday in Sri Lanka. Though the scuba diving enthusiast missed the deadly tsunami, he went off-trail snowboarding in the Austrian Alps instead and was killed in an avalanche.

By the same token, if you’re meant to stay, you stay. It took twenty-five days for someone to discover the lone survivor of a flattened island in India’s Andaman and Nicobar archipelago.

Much has been made about the woo-woo of mosques and ancient shrines left standing. Although engineers believe that the “religious” buildings have better architectural resistance to tsunamis compared to conventional buildings, religious spokespeople claim divine protection.

The tsunami may have uncovered remains of an ancient port city off the coast in southern India near a famous beachfront temple. Archaeologists say that the six-feet-tall stone remains date back to 7th Century AD and have elaborate engravings of the kind that are found in the nearby Mahabalipuram temple.

Amid all the bad fortune and loss, some people took advantage of shifting fortunes from the sea. When a bank was swept away by the tidal wave, the action redistributed the wealth. Some people figured it would be okay with Allah to take the money they found scatterd everywhere; some didn’t because their religion forbids it.

Especially woo-wooey are accounts of animals who seemed to know that for them, December 26 was not a good day to die. They not only saved their hides but they saved a dozen tourists as well through precognition via elephant sensory perception. Then during rescue operations, elephants not only helped greatly in moving debris, but they located bodies buried under piles of debris. "What is unbelievable is that you could see tears welling up in the elephant's eyes," said one observer. "And every time they would find a body."

Curious to see what a tsunami can do? Here are some awesome before and after satellite photographs of Banda Aceh Shore, Indonesia. Note that there are multiple views reached by pressing “next” button as well as the before and after shots.

If you’re hungry for more stories of survival, check out this collection.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Does Loving Jesus Make Me Queer?

According to the fundies, Jesus and God make a big deal about homosexuality. You can’t go there or you’ll roast in hell, being eternally punished for loving someone of the same gender.

On the other hand, the Christians say that we’re supposed to look to Jesus as our one and only savior. If we love Jesus with our hearts, minds, and souls, we’re rewarded with everlasting life.

So logically I wonder if I love Jesus with all my heart, mind, and soul, does that make me some kind of queer?

Yep, that assertion may sound outrageous, but to me there’s a huge logical disconnect between what religious mouthpieces say about Jesus and God and what I hear from people who have had near-death experiences.

In a nutshell, NDErs bring back a vision of love. When they meet light beings, whether or not they identify that being as a Christ, you pretty much get Pepperland—all you need is love. You don’t get Blue Meanies.

But from many self-identified Christian mouths, you get Judge Judy style messages of exclusion, degradation, humiliation, shame, guilt, blah, blah, blah.

It’s taken me decades to figure out that I tuned out on God and Jesus primarily because I abhorred the man-made image of the deity. I was actually tuning out on religion, which is different from tuning out on Jesus/God. I saw most religion as hypocritical, preaching love but acting with a nauseating double standard.

After hearing NDEr after NDEr talk about how they revised their vision of reality as a result of their travels out of the physical body, I concluded that it wasn’t especially fair to tune out on God and Jesus because I thought so little of religion.

Taking a good long look at my life, I realized that for much of my life, women have been my inspiration. Women have been up close and personal and God/Jesus have been stuck way back on the top shelf of the spare room closet. I knew I wasn’t supposed to throw them away, but I disliked their style and functionality.

My parents never had a strong religious bent. Religion mostly symbolized sitting on hard wooden pews listening to the droning of uninspired voices. It was never my idea of a good time. So based on all my material world experience, the idea of loving God always translated in my mind to boring eternity.

Just recently as I have become more open to the idea of loving Jesus, primarily by reinventing my inner vision of who Jesus actually is, it occurred to me that I probably would have had a much different relationship with Christ had he been a she. So sue me—women have inspired me more than men.

This is what got me to thinking of the relationship, however subtle and unspoken, between Christian-inspired homophobia and males loving Jesus versus females loving Jesus. The picture I get of heavenly reunions using this model is women throwing their arms around Jesus and giving him awesome hallelujah hugs while males, being ever mindful of their naughty penises, give Jesus a hearty handshake.

I mean, what happens if you get a hard-on hugging a prophet or a god?

I would hate to think that an all-knowing, all-loving Christ would reject hugging men and relish hugging women. To me, that holy arrangement would be sexist. I would hope that a prophet or a god rises above the petty vision of sexuality proffered by too much mainstream media, including televangelists. I would hope that the god who invented sexuality in the first place has a much higher regard for his creation than the people who turn sex into something ugly.

Last December I heard author Howard Storm speak in Seattle about his NDE. During that otherworldly journey he met the light being he accepted as Jesus. It happened in 1985, and Howard still reels with emotions as he tells his story. The portrait of Jesus that emerged was of the quintessential lover of humanity who was hysterically funny. That makes me smile. It also turns out from Storm’s description that Jesus and the angels are big huggers, even male to male.

I know that we’re always tempted (by Satan?) to humanize our gods. It’s hard to see Jesus walking the aisles of Safeway with some clerk asking, “Are you finding everything you need?” It’s equally hard for me to think of him looking at loving same-sex couples and saying, “You know, there should be a Constitutional Amendment banning that kind of behavior.”

The amalgam of what NDErs report is that we don’t have a clue about the capacity of love that Jesus, angels, light beings, and God have for humanity. Jesus loves the worst of us as much as he loves the best of us (and, of course, what defines worst and best is up for grabs.)

That’s the kind of stuff that intrigues me.

According to the fundies, Jesus and God also really hate premarital sex. You can’t go there or you’ll roast in hell. If you follow that stepping stone to success but decide not to stay monogamous, even with your partner’s encouragement, you’re also destined for the wicked witch’s over.

The issue here gets expressed as sex, but that so often morphs into love. If you become committed to one person, you’re not supposed to be too loving with someone else, especially if there is any conceivable way it could ignite sexual passion.

That "stingy love" idea never much appealed to me either. There are just too many lonely, isolated people in this world. Some are single and feel trapped and some are married and feel trapped. They’re trapped because we frequently make it so difficult for people to relate with love and affection to each other.

Against that backdrop is the ideal that Jesus/God loves everybody equally. Now isn’t that an intriguing premise? Are we even close to understanding the significance of what that means?

I’ll pick up on that at another time!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Empathy Day: The Life Review

According to Kenneth Ring, author of Lessons from the Light, the life review is one near-death experience phenomenon that is under-reported. Most people have heard about the tunnel and the light and meeting “dead” relatives, but the life review, which may be the most intriguing event of all, isn’t as commonly known or discussed.

I have not had an NDE or an OBE. I only go by the amalgam of what I read or hear from near-death experiencers. But the life review is wildly exciting (if not daunting), as are its implications for the world!

The life review was loosely depicted in the Albert Brooks film Defending Your Life. Of course, that depiction was made to appeal to Hollywood audiences, so it was quirky and funny and understated. But at least it conveyed the idea that after we die, there’s a system in place that requires us to look at any moment of the life we just led; that ultimately, amid the seeming chaos of our world, there is accountability.

NDErs who have experienced life reviews report a most extraordinary development in our human perception; they suddenly experience empathy far beyond anything we know in this planet’s physical existence. From what I hear, people are suddenly acutely perceptive as if all our physical senses have become much more sensitive. For example, people who physically have yucky vision (some of whom are even blind) can suddenly see as it their eyes were fitted with electronic microscopes and Hubble telescopes at the same time.

Many people report feeling connected to everything, the quintessential “one with nature” experience. It’s like being plugged into omniscience itself. You think questions and instantly answers fill your mind. Sometimes a brilliant light being assists in this process. The light being’s identity usually corresponds to your belief system. Christians get Jesus or angels, and so on.

At so-called death, you step out of time. This essentially means, from what I gather, that you can relive every second of your physical life, but in our time, it’s just a blink of an eye. According to Howard Storm, who’s been there, done that, you can project yourself anywhere you want, such as to 14th Century Spain or 19th Century America or even into the future.

According to Kenneth Ring, who’s among the most prominent of NDE researchers, anecdotal evidence shows that in the life review you literally re-live every second of your life in minute detail. You re-experience everything you ever thought, everything you ever said, everything you ever did.

Not only that, but then you also experience every effect your presence in the physical world had on anybody and everybody. The Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you) turns out not to be just a moral precept but natural law like gravity. You do experience everything you dish out.

This apparently comes as quite a shock to people who have become accustomed to this physical plane’s environment where you can keep secrets and tell lies and get away with it if you don’t get caught. Apparently, all the while, the universal six-sense recorder is recording everything, secrets and all!

Aware of this, NDErs become much more careful about what they think and do. The life review is a major motivator for their abrupt turn-around in behavior, especially for those whose behavior prior to their NDE might be called creepy or unloving. They know that if they punch somebody out, they’ll only be punching themselves out. That’s because you literally feel every result of everything you ever thought or did. In a most literal way, what goes around comes around.

It’s a curiosity to me why the life review is not taken more seriously. I supposed it’s because near-death experiences, while having stirred up intense curiosity among the spiritual community at large, are still considered by many as near-delusional experiences. Taking this stuff seriously would rock the boat big time.

For the most part, all the NDE reports have made nary a dent in how the world is run at the corporate and political level. At one time I wrote a column that asked readers if they thought it was possible for them to do their job without telling lies. I don’t think very many people could say in all truthfulness that they could do their jobs if they had to be 100% honest. I often kid—but I suspect with a high percentage of accuracy—that our economy would crash the day we were all required to inject truth serum and behave accordingly.

That’s one reason why NDErs have such a tough time coming back to the material world. They have experienced something wildly profound that is not reflected in the majority of social institutions established to run (some would say to ruin) our lives. For example, say that you were the clichéd sleazy used car salesman who enjoyed ripping off people. Then you have an NDE and during your life review, you feel all the pain you caused. Would you, upon returning back to earth, be highly motivated to continue to rip people off, knowing that sometime later you would feel all their pain as yours?

Meanwhile, prior to his NDE that same sleazy salesman has no motivation to act out of love for humanity. His world is surrounded by proof positive that his route to “success” is to deceive people. He learns from his culture that money is power and that deception is okay unless you get caught flagrantly breaking the law. Deception gets rewarded for the little crook just as it does for the mighty corporations who routinely gouge the public. When you encounter the light during an NDE or related mystical experience and have your whole illusion (or delusion) of security shattered that things dramatically change.

It is said repeatedly that life reviews are conducted in an environment of extreme love and total forgiveness. There's no Judge Judy screaming at you about what an idiot you were. The justice system there is truly omniscient. It knows all motives and sees all circumstances that led to thoughts and deeds. The ultimate goal of this system is to teach us how to become loving beings, and therefore, even though we may encounter zillions of instances we instantly regret, it’s not about punishment.

Our legal system is frequently not about ascertaining truth; it’s more about which attorney can manipulate the law or put on the best show to prevail with a verdict. Our penal system is frequently not about rehabilitation, but it is about punishment. In celebrity murder cases, you often see the deceased’s family members giving speeches for justice to be done through capital punishment. Based on what NDErs are saying, the murderer will experience first-hand all the ramifications of his thoughts and actions. He will feel everything he inflicted. We the people do not have to pretend that by killing him by lethal rejection that we are actually punishing him.

As you can tell, the life review process fascinates me. Unlike the traditional Christian scenario of Judgment Day, which is more like a trial, Empathy Day appeals much more to me. You are the judge and jury of your life because you get back everything you’ve ever dished out.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Portland, Oregon IANDS

The next meeting of the Portland Oregon Friends of IANDS is Saturday, February 12. Please click the link for more information.

If you have any interest in exploring the topics covered in this blog, you're invited to attend. Meetings are free, although donations are gladly accepted.

See you there!

Wouldn't You Really Like to Know?

Wouldn’t you like to know, wouldn’t you really like to know if death as we think we know it is an illusion?

I would.

I went to another meeting of Seattle IANDS last Saturday and got another dose of verbal input from another near-death experiencer who’s seen another reality beyond the physical one science says is the real and only deal. She sincerely believes that we do not die. We morph.

Cut to the War in Iraq. Price tag: around $200 billion. People are getting killed. Bang—gotcha! Bang—gotcha! Bang—gotcha! Maybe you know someone who got killed. Maybe you know someone who knows someone who got killed. Maybe you have a Support Our Troops bumper sticker on your car.

Whether it’s us killing them or them killing us, there’s killing going on. And vast quantities of money is being spent on the gross amount of killing going on.

I think most of us can agree that our US economy tanked big time when terrorists flew jet planes into the World Trade Center and killed a lot of people. And the Bush Administration decided to go to War in Iraq to save us all from the specter of more killing.

In my mind I hear echoes of a song from the Fugs in the late 60s, “Kill, Kill, Kill for Peace!”

Cut back to a meeting room: So every month in IANDS groups around the world people talk about not dying. Oh, yeah, bodies go. Bodies turn to dust. But souls don’t die. Our consciousness goes somewhere else.

And it’s not to eternal rest and relaxation. While every NDE account is individual and unique, I keep hearing agreement that there’s a whole lot going on in the universe that does not get covered by your favorite news channel.

And for the most part, it doesn’t get covered in your favorite church, either. NDErs rather consistently report that organized religions are virtually clueless in how they present spiritual reality. Meanwhile, many “religious right” groups (right does not necessarily mean correct) contend that NDEs are orchestrated by the devil, so there you go.

Earth is a real creativity-on planet, and we don’t know diddly about it because we’re too busy fighting wars and tanking our economy with fear, greed, and heartache. We’re too busy hiding behind our cable TV shows and our materialistic empire-building—pursuits that numb us from exploring the unseen universe that, ironically, becomes seen during a near-death experience.

So why isn’t there more research being done on near-death experiences? If all these people are coming out of the NDE closet all over the world to share the accounts of their journeys out of the body, why aren’t we paying attention in a more serious way?

The answer: lack of research funding. Ain’t no money in the kitty to solve cosmic mysteries. We spend too much of it killing people to research what we might be doing by killing people.

I must admit that I am pretty naïve about funding and research procedures. I don’t have a clue about the intricacies and the obstacles involved in obtaining grants. So in this I probably qualify as a backseat driver.

However, it seems ludicrous to me that with anecdotal evidence about NDEs piling up like snow drifts in the Rockies, we are not applying even an itsy-bitsy, teen-weeny yellow polkadot bikini’s worth of funding to this paradigm-flipping research. As a rich and powerful nation we’re pleased as punch to spend hundreds of billions to impose our karmic will on Iraq (no, that’s not how the Bushies describe it), but we aren’t going to spend squat on exploring the nature of death.

In an email I asked a prominent NDE researcher about this situation. In response he lamented about the state of funding and that it took support from a powerful Senator to move things along in alternative health care research. Then he added specific to NDEs, “Until someone like Dick Cheney has an NDE, no amount of public interest is likely to make a big difference in funding.”

Does that sound like a challenge or what?

He then added, “There are still (incredibly) many people who are sitting on their NDEs, afraid to mention them in public because they think they're the only ones who've ever had one, and that people will think they're crazy if they mention them. So the more we can put this stuff in the public eye, the better…for the experiencers, for society, and, after a few generations of public acceptance, for research funding.”

So that, in a nutshell, is why I write The Big If Weblog. I think accounts of NDEs are the best show in town. They offer more fuel for spiritual growth and intellectual pleasure than virtually anything else I’ve experienced. That people get shamed, ridiculed, and sometimes even committed to mental institutions for sharing their out-of-body experiences is tragic at best—but is certainly in line with all those historical lessons about people like Galileo who eventually became heroic figures for sharing their truth despite all the shut-up-you-fool voices.

It’s my self-appointed role, because it is such a passion of mine, to be a harmonic voice in what I perceive to be a growing crowd of people who think (left brained) and feel (right brained) that we as a society should investigate this stuff.

Every time I watch the news and see another story about death, my mind goes back to one of a dozen IANDS meetings where I heard someone else share another story about non-dying. It makes me wonder from the depths of my heart when are we going to wake up and do something important, paradigm-flipping, and life-changing.

How about now?

Friday, February 04, 2005

Staying in Touch by Touch

You’ve got them in your email circle. Or maybe you’re one of them. They’re the people who collect and then propagate inspirational or touching thoughts through email.

They find a joke or a story or a quote or an insight that touches their mind or heart and then they send it out to mail boxes everywhere. Sometimes they pass along supposedly inspirational messages that ask (and in some cases intimidate) people to send it to five or ten or (choose another number) other people.

If you love Jesus, pass this on to ten of your best friends and on the 4th day see what great surprise unfolds for you. By the way, if you don’t do this, you’ll rot in hell.

People in this Internet era seem to think nothing of sharing thoughts. Some messengers even have this vision that they are better people for spreading positive consciousness everywhere without being asked. They just do it.

With that as a backdrop I wonder why spreading hugs and even kisses is not more widely practiced. The world would be a changed place if people hugged and kissed more freely.

If I got as many hugs and kisses as I got email broadcasts of inspirational messages, I’d be most uplifted. Stay in touch with me by touching me.

Of course, my vision of hugging and kissing may be entirely different than anyone else’s. My dad was a big hugger. I was always fond of touching. And I came of age in Northern California in the 1960s and 70s when showing affection in public was trendier, not like now when you have to get signed and notarized affidavits of permission before you touch.

And the style of hugging and kissing that I have in mind is probably different, too. I think of it as an expression of genuine caring. When I embrace from the heart, the mental state I slip into is akin to praying. The more spiritual I get in my thinking, the more it shapes how I embrace the world, including the people in it.

Touch is a very powerful language for me. It is primal. It often speaks more clearly than words. People can’t babble as easily in hugs as they can in verbalizing. I instantly know if the person I’m hugging is in tune with me or not. If they squirm, slap my back, hold their body rigidly, or rapidly veer away from contact, they aren’t really with me.

Hugs are more than physical. They also express consciousness. Body language broadcasts an inner landscape. You can feel a person’s energy. In my personal lexicon I think of people as hot huggers and cold huggers.

Cold huggers make me feel nervous. I get a general unwelcome feeling from them as if they are just putting up with the act of hugging on auto-pilot. They don’t feel truly present. They usually aren’t into long drawn-out embraces, so the uncomfortable feeling doesn’t last long. In erotic situations, they feel more as if they are coming from the head than the heart. They are an ice flow that needs to be melted.

Hot huggers spew energy. Hugging them feels instantly calming or nurturing. They give off a very come-hither feeling. When you embrace a hot hugger, it’s easy to imagine being plugged into a battery charger. When the situation is erotic in nature, hot huggers are, well, hotties. Hugging them is a gourmet meal in sensual arousal.

At an IANDS meeting one time, a woman talked about her experiences hugging trees, something I had never tried. “You have to hang out with the tree for awhile. I hug it for about thirty seconds or so before I feel this whoosh of energy flood through me.”

Curious, I tried it one day when no one was looking. Just me and this great tree. Despite how vulnerable I felt doing something out of the box and over the top, it was awesome. After about a half-minute of cuddling this tree, I felt a come-hither pull in the form of energy. (I wouldn’t rebuke a retort that my imagination had something to do with this, but it was still a rush!)

It was from that experience that I got the big ah-ha about my own hugging preferences. With trees or with humans, hugging for short durations pulls the plug on energy exchange. Duh. Go the distance.

Most people would eschew elongated hugging on sexual grounds. We’re either afraid that we’ll give off an unintended erotic green light for foreplay or we are annoyed by the thought of being sexual predator bait for an unwelcome body snatcher.

In my own experience, I have found that long embraces in and of themselves do not lead to sexual arousal even when I am sexually attracted to someone. I usually park my mind in a neutral setting. I am present with the person’s energy. I am grateful to be there in the way that I am grateful to God for all natural beauty. Inside my mind’s eye I may see colors or patterns or pictures. I often like to play with the thought that I am hugging another planet as if we are all planets in this vast universe.

There is a certain ineffable mental switch that gets thrown to convert a sweet spiritual hug like this into a sexually potent hug. I believe it actually happens on an energetic or telepathic level. It’s a come-hither feeling with a kick. Thoughts become more erotic. If your erotic green light meets my erotic green light, the switch gets thrown. This doesn’t mean that anything needs to happen; it’s more like a subtle awareness of a longing for connection on a deeper, more intimate level.

Under the right circumstances, which include mutual hunger, extended hugging can erupt into an amazing outpouring of sexual energy. Bodies quake and shudder, moans intensify, breathing gets choppy, genitals go woo-hoo, and the hunger for connection builds. But that’s a story for another day about hugging for lovers.

Today’s story is about connection between humans and how to design the world we want to live in. I have pretty much succumbed to the idea that I am not going to change the whole world to fit my vision of perfection. However, I still have the power to find my niche within the big wide world of diversity.

I can create my own social circle populated with people who love to exchange energy and connect through hugging and sharing. I don’t need the whole world to buy my vision; I just need a few individuals to share it with me.

So yes, I do like great emails containing great thoughts cast in great word combinations, but I also want hugs to flow as freely as emails. Forward me your favorite embraces. Have me hug ten other people.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Researching NDEs

Here is an interesting article, Questioning Life After Death. Along with describing some of the research in progress on the near-death experience in a hospital setting, the article also shows some of the prejudice that keeps research money from flowing.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

More Fodder for Some Exec's Life Review

This Just In….

Allegedly, a group of sci-fi authors got together to produce the worst book ever written, which they entitledAtlanta Nights. They did it to prove that PublishAmerica, a print-on-demand publisher that claims to have taste and scruples, will, in fact, publish anything, including literary sewer fluid. If it proves true it’s a great sting!

But don’t take my word for it. Read the press release.

I culled the Net and also found this article about PublishAmerica.

Oops. Now more is trickling in. From A Writer's Life: The PublishAmerica Scam.

Oh, my, somebody else is pissed...

I'll leave it at that. You get the idea.

Yep, somebody's gonna have a whole lotta splainin' to Self to do come life review time ...

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

In Watermelon Sugar in the Light

I’ve just read two unrelated books. One is Lessons from the Light: What We Can Learn from the Near-Death Experience by Kenneth Ring. The other is You Can’t Catch Death by Ianthe Brautigan, a memoir by the daughter of author Richard Brautigan.

Did I say unrelated? I beg your pardon. Watch me. I am on my knees, begging. See?

Ianthe Brautigan’s sad and chilling memoir is about life with her father.

I always mention him when people ask me who my favorite authors are. It comes out Tom Robbins, Kurt Vonnegut, and Richard Brautigan, not necessarily in that order. Then I say that my writing is kinda like theirs with subject matter more like Richard Bach, James Redfield, Richard Matheson (What Dreams May Come), and to a lesser degree, Mitch Albom.

I discovered Richard Brautigan through the recommendation of a beautiful woman, a flight attendant for TWA when they still called themselves stewardesses. She showed me her favorite book at the time, In Watermelon Sugar.

I wanted to kiss her in watermelon sugar.

A whole lot of books would be sold through word-of-mouth if all publishers did was to get beautiful women to recommend books to aspiring suitors. “Here, read this, and you will know my heart.”

I ended up buying a trilogy: Trout Fishing in America, The Pill versus the Springhill Mine Disaster, and In Watermelon Sugar. Ianthe Brautigan’s photo, taken when she was a child, is on the cover of that book.

Here is part of a poem that I put a stickie on a couple of decades ago:

Oh, Marcia,
I want your long blonde beauty
To be taught in high school,
So kids will learn that God
Lives like music in the skin
And sounds like a sunshine harpsichord…

I had hoped that the TWA stewardess would become my high school lesson, but she flew away with someone else. I guess it is some consolation that thirty years later I can’t remember her name.

But in many ways, Richard Brautigan’s words set for me a standard in literary lovemaking I wanted to achieve as a writer and as a lover. I wanted to make love in metaphors. I wanted lovemaking to sound like sweet weather.

I wanted to kiss and hear thunder and see lightning. I wanted to find a lover who understood what Richard Brautigan meant, what I meant. I wanted a lover to unbutton her blouse and show me her ideas.

“For reasons that no one will ever really know,” Ianthe Brautigan wrote in her book, “my father committed suicide in 1984.”

Her book shows that contrary to any of my fantasies, Richard Brautigan, author of images that made me yearn to write and make love, because sometimes they are one in the same, was no stranger to pain.

I hear him sobbing all the way from heaven.

If only he’d had a chance to read Lessons from the Light before he pulled the trigger.

Ianthe’s book is full of pain and suffering, much of it caused by the untimely death of her father. He never said goodbye.

Kenneth Ring’s book includes accounts of what happens when you die as told to him by people who’ve been there, done that.

A major focus of the book is the life review where the new arrivals in the spirit world encounter a complete recounting of everything they thought and did in life. Every teeny tiny itsy bitsy thing. Talk about anal retentive. But not only do we get to review the minutiae of our lifetime, we also get to feel everything good and yucky that everyone else felt in and out of our presence—and every ripple of feeling that anyone felt down the line.

Near-death experiencers who attempted suicide but didn’t succeed report how during their life reviews they experienced all the pain that their in-progress suicide attempt caused others.

Richard Brautigan, after he had blown his brains out, was able to experience all the joy that he had brought so many people. And then he got to feel all the sadness that his self-imposed death brought. Worst of all, I would imagine, would be the pain that he brought his daughter who loved him so much.

Another book that is entirely about a woman who was so sick she was willing herself to die—and then discovered the consequences during an NDE is Heavenly Answers for Earthly Challenges by Joyce H. Brown. She wrote from her experience to communicate the quintessential message if you’re thinking about taking your life, don’t do it, and here’s why.

While in the mortal sense and instant karma sense, Richard Bruatigan’s exit was tragic, the other side of the coin is that he is still alive, perhaps still creating, perhaps even dreaming in watermelon sugar.