Why near-death experiences intrigue me

God-lightSomeone recently asked me, “Why are you so fascinated with near-death experiences. Why live your life for some distant future and miss living your life now?”

That’s a valid point. A lot of people don’t live for the present. They live for some distant future. Some stay stuck in the past.

I explained that looking at the NDE phenomenon is one way for me to comprehend my present-day reality. Understanding death and the continuity of life helps me make the most of my present life. My studies in near-death experiences and spirituality have helped me shape a life philosophy based on a premise that we should fully live each existence we get.

We’re here for a reason, even if most of us don’t fully understand the scope of that reason. It will be revealed to us later, much as a good college professor will guide students through a maze of lessons and challenges and then later explain the particulars after the exercises have been completed.

ANOTHER COMPELLING REASON

Whether it’s Facebook or the newspaper or somewhere else, I constantly hear death stories. One Friday I read an article about a teen-age couple whose life plans were abruptly altered when the male was killed in a motorcycle crash. The following Monday I learned that a client’s husband was also killed in a motorcycle accident.

Then on Facebook I read a post by a woman who wanted to know how to talk to a new friend of hers whose only child just committed suicide.

Sudden deaths seem especially freaky. They take us by surprise. We have to cope with them quickly without any time to prepare mentally. In my case knowing about near-death experiences helps me process these events. My vision of death is much different than those who have not been exposed to much about spiritual adventure.

For example, I have heard first-hand several accounts from people who have “died’ in motorcycle crashes, and who eventually recovered to tell their stories. I have heard from others who have “died” in other kinds of crashes, electrocutions, drownings, heart attacks, combat, and so on. The argument is that these people did not actually “die” because they obviously came back, but I contend, as do they, that they did enter the dying process.

In so many of these accidental near-deaths, including botched suicide attempts, the victims often came back revolutionized in their thinking. They had what Dr. Alan Hugenot, a physicist who had an NDE of his own, calls a “brain shift,” like a total a mental makeover. They had become fearless as to the prospects of dying again (except for those whose NDE was hellish.)

Many had entered another reality for awhile and were confident that this other realm of existence was not a hallucination, dream, or trick of the brain. They often say it was “too real.” They came back with a refreshed look at what it means to live in this physical existence, what is truly important in life, and many vow to make the best of it.

They often have complete shifts in values, usually becoming more about service to humanity and less about ego. Their personality shifts often annoy and frustrate their friends and family who want the old personality back.

LIFE HAS A PURPOSE

For me, the most liberating message garnered from collective near-death experience accounts is that there is a purpose for each of our lives. We’re here for a reason; we’re not just accidents of chaos. All the trials and tribulations of life on this planet are not accidental either.

We are enrolled in Earth School. Go, team, go! Earth life is like playing in an ultra-realistic simulator. There is much more to big-picture life than we can perceive.

Our reason for being here is to negotiate a spiritual reality—not to earn lots of fame and fortune. Success can be something quite simple and has nothing to do with social norms about career and material success. It could be about learning how to love even in adverse situations. It could be simply to find a way to weather the storms of negativity that surround us and to stay in a peaceful spot despite those forces, which is actually not as easy as it may sound. It apparently takes us a bunch of lives to get it.

FLIPPING THE PARADIGM

Becoming familiar with near-death experiences and other spiritually transformative experiences like out-of-body adventures helps me process what so much of society convinces us is tragic. To flip the paradigm that death is horrible—that we actually survive it albeit in a different form—is amazingly freeing for the inner spirit. While there is always room for healthy skepticism, the evidence for soul survival continues to mount.

In many circles it’s still not popular to talk about death in anything but sad and grim terms, so when death occurs in our family or among friends, we’re stuck with suffering the old-fashioned way. When my mother died a few days short of her 93rd birthday our family faced a flood of well-intended condolences. Some people clearly wanted us to be or at least to appear more traumatized that Mom had died. They did not want to hear any scenario but their own, which supported the premise that death is 100% sad and that if we don’t openly suffer, it reveals a shortage of love for the deceased.

What about the suffering that people go through with the decline of their health, the more pervasive presence of daily pain, and bodies that no longer function well? In my mind, my mother is dancing in the streets of heaven overjoyed to be out of her pain-filled physical body and away from her walker. Her quality of life has drastically improved, an impression strengthened by the spiritual reading I do and from listening to the shares from NDErs I have met. Naturally I miss my mother’s physical presence in this physical world, but I fully expect to see her again and believe she still checks in from time to time (in her timeless world.)

BE HERE NOW

NDEs and the paradigm that I call Earth School give me an exciting framework from which to live my life in the present. To me it is not much different than what science does by spending billions of dollars to try and figure out definitely how Earth and all its flora and fauna got here. Answers to big questions.

I won’t know the truth about NDEs until I have a real-death experience. However, going with the idea that we in Earth School have lessons to learn is a great way for me to deal with the downs in life. I think of them not as chance but as part of a lesson plan, and I look for the gifts even in painful circumstances. It helps enormously. It helps me be here now.

What happens in the minds of lovers?

Minds-of-loversThe word itself has never much excited me, but I have always been raptly interested in consciousness for lovers. Yep, consciousness.

Whether I have written love stories or erotic stories, or just lived my life, the juiciest part of lovemaking for me is what happens within people’s minds. What motivates them to do what they do? What thrills them? What do they want? What thoughts do they have? What do they say to each other during one of nature’s most creative experiences?

Sharing consciousness is the stuff of intimacy.

INTIMACY — NO YAWNING

When I look at so many media portrayals of romance or erotica, the picture that emerges is that sex is what we do to someone or what someone does to us. It’s usually not depicted as a co-creation, as two people joining equally in a duet. The seducer seduces or the chaser takes charge and does something — usually a physical act. Mouths and other body parts crash into each other in hurricanes of passion.

Yet intimacy is not what we do to someone. It’s what we do with someone! Intimacy is equality in action. It’s a duet.

Intimacy is vastly underrated. It often sounds lame, especially to people trained to be intrepid, hot men or women of action. Intimacy often sounds as exciting as contemplating one’s navel. It’s usually portrayed in G-rated bunnies and duckies terms. Men are frequently taught to put up with intimacy as a step to “get to the good stuff.” Little do they know.

I think intimacy is top-drawer, the best. It makes the rest juicier, more meaningful. It’s where connection happens, friendship expands, love boils, lightning strikes. True intimacy is like a closely guarded secret, an out-of-bounds topic. Out of sight, out of mind.

Heavily exploited by porn but also distorted in mainstream depictions, sex has often become increasingly like stupid pet tricks. It’s about doing more outrageous activities, pushing the envelope on quirky-kinky. Be wild, be daring, be fearless. Show off better than the last person. It turns sex into a circus show like Buffalo Bill’s Wild West — thrills & spills and rootin-tootin fun. That’s exciting, but it’s not connecting.

Sex also often becomes much ado about playing roles. You are sub and I am dom. Or you are slut and I am lucky bastard. Or you are whatever and I am whatever. Roles can be very steamy to play for those with creative imaginations, but usually it’s much more mundane. This is especially true when playing roles does not create emotional connection to another human being.

GETTING REAL

Truly adventurous sex would be entering another’s mental and emotional world unarmed. That’s a place where all our memories dwell and all the emotional firing pins are hidden yet cocked.

Have you ever made love soul naked? Have you ever been able to shed all the cloaks and disguises of your real self and share love from that mental space? Yes, it can be exceedingly scary to be so open, but with the right partner, it can be incredibly profound and satisfying.

Nothing draws me closer to someone than sensing their realness. When I feel they’re meeting me with their true and uncensored self, I become most present. I listen respectfully as they share their fears or sadness or rants or (yes!) their joys and aspirations, too. And with all this input, we make love with more depth and caring. It changes everything.

Lovers as objects are supposed to play the right roles, say the right things, follow the expected scripts. Real lovers are not objects, they’re people, and real sex is about real feelings. Only lovers willing and able to be intimate with each other can feel the difference.

Lovers as objects have to look right in every way possible. Wear the right shoes, the right naughty fashions, the right do. There’s also a long list of skin and body conditions to avoid — to be cosmetically perfect is the ideal. I have read some blogs and have had some personal correspondence with women who feel more like hunks of furniture for their mate’s pleasure than they feel included in any co-creation of beautiful experiences.

Loving people see beauty in so many different ways. Many of those ways are nonphysical — intelligence, creativity, sensitivity, enthusiasm, passion, compassion, humor, spice, oh, so nice. Intimacy is an exploration of whole people co-creating. Yet where in our culture does anyone learn co-creation? I think long and hard to come up with examples.

HIGH ADVENTURE

It’s worth it to reflect for awhile on what mating really is (or could be.) We enter into love relationships as hunks of history, programmed with agonies and ecstasies. We could provide a healing sanctuary for one another, neutralizing emotional wounds from the past from our mutual love.

The minds of lovers are really dealing with more than the mechanics of sex, even if much is not conscious. Most of us yearn to be loved and accepted. We yearn to have someone care about us. Sex is a way people measure how they’re doing in life. A truly fulfilling sex life boosts happiness, especially when it generates loving feelings, self-esteem, and relationship health. When sex is unhappy, it’s often because it lacks intimacy.

For the sake of intimacy, I like to deliberately make love mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Making love mentally is sharing ideas without censorship. That means much more than talking dirty. Sex can provide a bonding experience rich with thought. Permission to shelve inhibitions often lets more good stuff surface. Unfortunately, many people feel too intimidated (for lots of reasons) to speak their truth even to their mate — sometimes especially to their mate. Most everybody has learned the hard way that sharing without editing can have dire consequences. It can also create peak experiences.

Making love emotionally is sharing feelings. Thoughts and feelings are different. Feelings often don’t have explanations or rationale. They may not be logical. They may be dreamlike. Sharing feelings freely and openly is relatively rare in a society that encourages secrecy, shame, guilt, and mistrust. One example is saying “I love you” spontaneously without running it by the analyst in your brain.

Making love spiritually is recognizing that people are much more than their bodies — that they are spirits inhabiting bodies. Spiritual awareness can have a surprisingly powerful affect on lovemaking including energy play, harmony with God/nature, a deeper appreciation for spiritual love, and transcendent sexual experiences (I’ll write about that sometime!) Spiritual lovemaking takes a great deal of emphasis off superficial beauty and re-focuses it onto cosmic beauty.

JUST THE BEGINNING

Becoming aware of how you might make love mentally, emotionally, and spiritually can be very enlightening. It can shift your focus in fascinating ways just to consider how you might do that.

Seed planted. Let me know what blooms!

The news opera

ScareguyIf you spend much time watching — and being scared by — the news, it’s essential to your sanity that you understand something.

The news is not sacred. The news isn’t even real. If you depend on the news to give you a heightened-consciousness view of the world, forget it. News is primarily show business. Its aim is economic — to deliver an audience to sponsors.

Many people have realized that news, as defined by what the new covers, is mostly bad. Shit at 11. World Shit Tonight. Nightly Shit. 6 O’clock Shit.

“Good evening. In the top of today’s shit pile, …”

And that’s because we as a society have allowed news to be defined as bad stuff. We are just as complicit in this system as are the providers. They deal us the drugs and we continue to buy them.

NEWS OPERA

Maybe at one time the news was more objective, but these days, that premise gets mighty iffy. Now it is soap opera designed to deliver viewers to advertisers with techniques derived from drama.

The moment a news broadcast begins, professional attention-getters leap into action attempting to hook you, the viewer, into hanging on and staying around. They do this with teasers, which now is a combination of video clips and pithy headline remarks. All that is packaged in glitzy computer graphics to make the whole thing look like a big, fun-to-play video game.

Prove me wrong. The focus is on negative drama — the festering conflict.

The retort from the news pros is always, “We don’t make up the news. We just report it.”

Many of us are trained to shrug our shoulders and say, “Yeah, OK. Point taken. Show us another murder then.”

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNIHILATION

Traditional broadcast TV used to be focused on something called public service. A certain portion of the broadcast day had to be devoted to public service programming. The news was part of that mix. News often didn’t make a profit in the early days of TV. It was a resource drain. It was dry. They only had film, no video tape, and the guy just read the news to us.

That has all changed. Broadcasters figured out that news could become a profit center if it were run more like drama. Being a profit center meant teasing and trapping viewers, boosting ratings, and delivering the crowd to advertisers who are paying for all this shit.

The news is the practice of scaring the crap out of us in a socially acceptable way. It’s a parade of train wrecks — that’s metaphorical unless they are “lucky” enough to score a real one.

Watching the news is sitting there like a zombie (which is also what you do when you are being hypnotized, just in case you never made that connection) while you’re being fed stories of conflict. Besides that, you have to suffer through a barrage of fear-mongering commercials, many of which are mini-horror flicks imagineered to upset you.

Some people appear to be waking up to this condition and are not watching the news anymore. They see the news as tease, lure, fright, dread, analysis, thank you.

I heard from a Facebook friend who said that her husband, recently treated for depression, had “watched A LOT of CNN …. but stopped a few weeks ago. He said he suddenly noticed just how negative it is.”

NEWS AS ILLUSION

How can news be illusion if it is all about facts? Isn’t seeing believing?

This is actually a complex question with many different veins of explorations to follow. The bottom line for me is that if you watch a ton of news, you get a very distorted, unbalanced perspective of reality. The stories might be real, but the balance is off-kilter.

This is similar to how porn is a very distorted, unbalanced perspective of happy human sexuality. It’s sort of real but nevertheless selective and formulated in what it shows.

The news could feature a balanced spectrum of solutions if it truly were about public service; the norm now is that the news gushes with the worst of everything. I yearn for the day when the News Director will say, “Let’s focus on positive solutions to the real problems facing humanity.”

DEFINITION OF NEWS

So is the news actually supposed to be a sewer documentary?

I look at my own world. I have done bunches of reading and personal research on near-death experiences and after-death communication. I have talked with people who say they “died” and experienced alternate realities. They are fully convinced that their brains didn’t make this up, and many have made dramatic post-NDE personality shifts.

As it is currently presented, the news rarely goes there. They’re wildly happy to cover fatalities but loathe to consider what happens after death. They’re wildly happy to cover shit, but are they willing to turn it into fertilizer in the form of stories that help us all heal social ills?

Just sayin’.

People seeking answers these days are leaving mainstream broadcasting and choosing YouTube, Netflix, and similar venues. They know that by searching online they’ll find topics traditional news ignores.

Understandably, skeptics as well as news providers point to science as to why the nature of death is not speculated on in the news. Maybe so, but that does not explain why the news needs to portray death and disaster with such sideshow drama — unless it’s about making money.

BIG CONSPIRACY?

I am not a big fan of conspiracy theories. I don’t think that the Media Monster is out to enslave us—even if that does prove to be true! I believe that this is just how the media organically evolved when it was unleashed into the mainstream as a moneymaking enterprise. For people in the media, this is their job. This is how they feed, clothe, and house their families. It’s the American way.

I still think it is ruining the consciousness of the planetary community by flooding us with negative stories dramatically rendered, but I don’t see conspiracy.

MIND YOUR MENTAL DIET

Ask yourself what is the value of learning about all the discord in the world — especially when it is clearly not being balanced with solutions.

If you are really into the news, take a day and watch it mindfully. View it defensively. Reflect on how your attention gets grabbed and by what? Watch what hooks you emotionally. Study the techniques they’re using. Considering that passive televiewing is a form of hypnosis, or works similarly, are you pleased with all the conflict, stress, and strife you are feeding your unconscious mind?

You might also reflect on this: what do you get from the news that you really need to know? Could you get that from another source? Are you really being served?

Remember, we are talking about your mind, your emotional well-being, your life.

THE MOOD-O-METER TEST

Here is a fun experiment: Compare the “news” you watch to places like ted.com. Do a day, a week, a month.  See which one is performing a better public service. See which one makes you feel more like living and thriving, more like engaging and joining with others.

If you normally watch a half hour of news, watch a half-hour of speeches on ted.com. See if it makes you feel different.

I guess it’s not a closely guarded secret which one floats my boat more.

The news is not the high road. It is not currently the solution. It may actually be much more the problem since all it does is rifle viewers with messages and visions of ain’t-it-awful?

Mind your mental diet. Learn how to monitor what kind of consciousness you are feeding your brain. Feed it good stuff.

Hollywood wimps out again

Seeking-FriendI recently posted a piece that pondered Hollywood’s reluctance to delve deeply into exploring what happens after death or providing an explanation for what’s behind the woo-woo in movies such as Field of Dreams.

A few nights ago I saw Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, and it entirely made my point. (If you haven’t seen it and want to view it without spoilers, stop reading and start watching.)

I gotta tell you, I enjoyed the film. Well, I ate up the love story within the film. It was a tissue movie in a few places, not from sadness but from gladness, love triumphant over stupidity and all.

But here’s the deal:

An asteroid was on a collision course with Earth, and everyone was facing annihilation in three weeks. There was a countdown and everything. Insurance guy Dodge Peterson played by Steve Carell befriended a much-younger neighbor Penny Lockhart that he had not previously known played by Kiera Knightley. This Penny was from heaven, at least yummiliciously.

So everyone was facing the giant splat … and yet the death topic was barley explored.

Death was assumed, not discussed. “We’re all gonna die. OK.” No lengthy conversations with God or about God. No one opined out loud what an afterlife might be like — or even if one awaits. No one mentioned anything the least bit woo-woo.

Everyone went on living with their fatalistic programming that death is the ultimate off and oh, too bad, asteroid zooming in to wipe humanity off the face of the Earth. So sad. Who can I screw?

WHAT’S UP WITH THAT?

What’s up with that? Seriously?

WHAT’S UP WITH THAT? (PART 2)

I don’t know why Hollywood is so wimpy when it comes to exploring the topic of death and after-death. Why is death so comic book simple?

In this case I do not know if writer/director Lorene Scafaria decided on her own not to acknowledge and explore the obvious, or if it was something the studio dictated. “You know that poignant scene where Dodge and Penny talk about how they want to share life in the next world together? Well, cut it. It’s gotta go. We don’t want to offend anybody’s religious sensibilities. Market share, box office.”

I don’t know what the real reason is, but I’m always so disappointed that characters facing inevitable end games are so philosophically lame about their fates. “Oh, well, maybe I’ll think about it after I’m dead,” they seem to say.

About the most philosophical statement in Scafaria’s movie was the horny quirky guy who observed that almost-dead women don’t worry about birth control, hygiene, STDs, and ethics. Yee-haw! Time to party.

WHAT’S UP WITH THAT? (PART 3)

I wonder how this scenario of the eminent asteroid-planetary collision would play out in what we call real life. Would broadcast news go on day by day and ignore the question of life after squish? Would any media entity step up to the plate and offer suggestions on how to cope with this existential crisis? Would they continue to keep death comic book simple?

Would everyone quit working as mostly happened in the movie, except for a few eccentrics like the overly zealous cop who jailed Dodge and Penny for driving without a license? Would no government agency step in for crowd control, or more appropriately, for crowd education? I think of those brave band members aboard Titantic who kept on playing to help soothe nerves, even though they knew they were goners.

I’m reminded of a real-life author and afterlife researcher who visited a hospice. He was startled to discover how little information was provided to patients about death and afterlife. What he describes is very much like the movie where everyone knew they were going to die but went on living as if they had already flat-lined spiritually. They had no questions about anything. They were just going to wait and see.

WHAT’S UP WITH THAT? (PART 4)

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World contained several avoid-saying-anything scenes. One happened just after Dodge parked his car in his reserved parking spot at work (yes, he was still going to work.) As he was shutting off his engine,  a co-worker splat on his windshield from above. It was presumably a suicide, but there was no discussion about it later in the movie. If a guy splat onto and shattered my windshield, I’d probably mention something.

I also wondered why a guy would choose to throw himself off a tall building as being a better fate than waiting for death by asteroid from God’s pea-shooter. I’m missing something here.

You could also hire an assassin, the movie suggested. This was presumably if you did not have the cajones to kill yourself but still wanted something deadly before the fate the rest of the world would suffer. By the way, no one discussed assassination, either. It just happened by surprise in good ol’ Hollywood style.

Another scene involved a montage of a bunch of people supposedly at a mass baptism beach party! Presumably there was some God talk during that, but what was shown was like a big picnic with all the de rigueur food and games and smiles … and no talk about death. Let’s all have a jovial picnic before the big bang.

Even in the end when the asteroid started colliding with Earth, Dodge and Penny kept strangely mute about any possibility of meeting in some other dimension. I am not denying that they died beautifully together, but the way I look at it — joined by any of the millions of people who have had near-death or out-of-body or spiritually transformative experiences — it ain’t the end!

The end of the movie could have been how they awoke in a gorgeous meadow together. “Rise and shine, honey. It’s a new life!”

WHO CARES?

I believe that one reason why so many people fear death is that mass culture doesn’t pursue making peace with it much. We pursue exploiting the pain of death and the multiplicity of ways that physical death snatched us. Mass culture plays with themes of how people die — or how their bodies die. We worry about what’s coming without exploring what we know about it.

So the people in this movie did exactly what society in general teaches us to do. Don’t question fate. Party till the end. If that includes acts of violence, so beat it.

Being different

being-differentI don’t know when being different became such a dreaded thing to be, a state that when taken to extremes is responsible for homicides and suicides. And I further don’t know why society hasn’t put its collective foot down and fought this condition with a vengeance.

Being different usually means becoming the object of rage, ridicule, torment, and torture. You’ve seen thousands of cases of it and have probably experienced some of it yourself.

There are bunches of flavors of how this gets expressed, but it all comes down to being different, and rarely do we proclaim “Viva la difference!”

THE CLASSIC DIFFERENCES

One of the classics, of course, is being a different race from the next person. I am grateful that I grew up in an environment that was relatively unaffected by racial hatred. I did not have hatred shoveled into my mouth like coal into a steam engine, which in turn left me shocked as an adult to discovered how cruel racism had shaped our history.

Being a different religion is another big one, often a bloody one. Again, I am grateful that in my youth my path did not include being taught to be vile and violent against someone else’s religion.

I was brainwashed in school — along with a bunch of others — that America is a glorious ethnic and cultural melting pot. Aren’t we wonderful? Yet if you watch any Ken Burns historical documentaries about American life, you see that our melting pot has been rife with racial or religious conflict. More like a melting pot crock.

Being a minority of sexual orientation is often a ticket to nonconformists’ hell. A gay friend once told me, “No one would deliberately choose this lifestyle if they knew how much pain it creates.”

Being from the designated wrong side of the tracks or wrong side of the country or wrong side of the law is another one. (What? Wrong side of the law? Well, sometimes being on the wrong side of the law is the right thing to do when the law oppresses people. That’s how the United States of America began.)

Zillions of smaller-scale differences have caused people great amounts of emotional pain, too, despite how insignificant those differences should be. One example is women who grew up tall. I have heard over the years stories of woe from tall women and the suffering their physical difference caused them while growing up (and up and up.) It is ironic for me because I have always loved tall women. To hear them bemoan the quality that I adore makes for brain weirdness.

Skip this paragraph if descriptions of female genitalia offend you: I once knew a woman who was painfully embarrassed that she was born with pronounced labia minora. Her humiliation was to the point that she disclosed this information way ahead of any disrobing to avoid a hurtful rejection scene; she apparently had emotional wounds from the past. She thought I was just being nice when I later conveyed my joy over the exquisite sensual experience her difference provided. Little did she grasp my true delight and fascination.

The list of these smaller-scale differences goes on and on. We’re amused by differences that others deal with yet seem especially focused with angst about our own. I’m often attracted to the very thing that others find weird or strange.

EARTH SCHOOL

I hate the suffering I’ve seen in people who have been vilified and abused for being different. It seems to be a rite of passage most of us go through at various degrees of severity—some through mild teasing, some through tragic torture—and perhaps it’s just part of life in Earth School as set forth by the cosmic curriculum designers. I still find it an awful state of affairs.

I hope it is true that younger people are growing up smarter about being different. I hope the message that diversity is a good thing is taking root. It seems to be more so as younger people are much more approving of such things as gay marriage and interracial marriage and even alternative lifestyles.

Still we see a steady stream of news stories about young people who have committed suicide because they were outed and bullied for being different. They could not take it. They felt their world was already doomed, so they ended their lives.

I wish we as a society appreciated differences more. I wish we celebrated them. I wish teenagers could get excited about being the soul they are that are dwelling within the bodies they genetically inherited. I wish they did not feel they had to jump onto the conveyor belt of conformity and mold themselves into the exact match of their friends. I wish they could wear their external and internal differences proudly.

DIFFERENT DIFFERENCES

These days, so many young people are getting tattoos. When I was growing up, only rebels and warriors were tattoo-prone. Like, join the Navy, get a tattoo. Later a few adventurous women got tattoos but usually hid them in intimate places well out of normal sight. Body tattooing now has reached the point where it is nearly conforming to be inked. Being different is not succumbing to peer pressure.

In my youth, long hair on guys was the defining difference of those who wanted to conspicuously conform-me-not. But that meant that males growing long locks were simultaneously being different and similar depending on who was looking at them. Long hair eventually became stylish in a more mainstream celebrity way, and something else had to replace it to denote uniqueness. Enter hair dyes in bright colors and new spiky dos.

NONCONFORMISTS RULE

So frequently society ridicules those who don’t fit in with the majority — including guys with hot pink hair. Yet time and time again, the nonconformists come up with the great ideas. Nonconformity often starts with being socially rejected. People somehow deemed as too different to be “in” go searching for their peace in some other venue — athletics, the arts, science and technology.

People who don’t make great clones often think out of the box better. Not so lured into being the same as the next person, they are more free to follow the beat of their own drummer. Independence is the essence of creativity — to look at what everyone else is looking at and seeing something different, often remarkably so.

Of course, some people with differences choose anti-social routes to seek revenge for their pain. Prisons are full of people who took their differences into a life of crime and punishment.

LOVE YOUR DIFFERENCES

The bottom line from me would be to love your differences — yes, even if they currently upset you.

It’s often challenging to feel good about those qualities that people say are weird about you, but give it a shot. Look for the gifts in your differences! Look at how other people have handled their differences.

I think there is a myth about the perfect life. We all seem to think that there is some special way to be where everything is peachy keen and mighty fine. Success! Triumph! We often look at our celebrities as examples of people living the good life. They must lead charmed lives and have everything. Well, yeah Michael J. Fox has Parkinson’s and Annette Funicello died of complications from multiple sclerosis.

Spiritual teachers are more inclined to say that the life you are living now is the perfect one for you. All your imagined flaws and defeats, along with your advantages and successes, are part of a lesson plan your higher self provides for you.

Sexual respect

respectSomething I don’t see much in our culture and would like to change: respect for sexuality. Besides being the gift of creativity itself, no small feat, sex is a natural and free source of pleasure that, oh by the way, keeps us healthy, fit, and glowing.

So much about sex is awesome and wonderful, and yet our culture as a whole has trivialized it, demonized it, ridiculed it, dogmatized it, pornified it, and uglified it.

I have often wondered what the world would look and feel like if we truly respected sexuality. What if we beheld it as sacred from the get-go? What if we looked at sex as many of us look at a moonrise or sunrise or sunset or moonset? What if we looked at it with the reverence we hold for the natural world around us — the magnificent ocean vistas, the towering waterfalls, the beauteous alpine meadows? What if we honored sex as a spiritual interlude with our loved ones … and the divine?

I strongly believe that we should go back to the drawing board on this one and give it a re-think.

THE MEDIA CULTURE

When it comes to disrespecting sex, pornography is just a start, but a huge start. Supposedly porn shows us state-of-the-art sex — what we should aspire to. Yet it’s as if they never heard of or even imagined intimacy. Porn sex is usually not fun, loving, friendly, intelligent. It is grueling, mechanical, and often hard-hearted. It’s beyond what most people look like and what they are capable of doing. The platter of antics that porn serves up is not respectful of the natural magnificence of real-life sex. It’s a cheap imitation pandered as the sizzling best.

Porn, meanwhile, mirrors in a sexually graphic way what the other media suggest or allude to. Sex in mainstream Hollywood movies is usually depicted as a recreational conquest that often leads to problems or tragedies. It’s just for kicks or to prove someone’s coolness factor. Often someone seduces and then humiliates and abandons the victim. We see a bumper crop of horndog creeps in movies and plenty of acts of humanity against humanity. Rarely in movies do we see a depiction of sex as awesome, beautiful, empowering, and happily life-changing.

TV shows being even less explicit than movies often use dialogue to cheapen sex, to show it has no respect for sexual attraction. Sometimes the less explicit that sex is, the more harm it can do. Popular entertainment often reinforces stereotypes that keep many of us feeling ugly, ashamed, and unworthy. Look at all the people who become the butt of jokes about their various forms of “ugliness.” In drama sex is often tossed into the gutter, slime for crime. So-called factual TV has a field day with sexual deviancy and malice without presenting counterpoints of healthy sex. Think Jerry Springer’s ilk. When do you ever see sweet programs about the wonders of orgasm? Just sayin’.

Media turn sex into a cheap knock-off of what I came to know as its potential. Media turn sex into formulated physical interludes that have little mental, emotional, or spiritual impact — unless it’s painful or tragic. This usually translates into the message that the sex urge creates bullies and victims. Great message. Thanks, guys,

SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS

Most religions do not encourage us to respect and adore sexuality. We’re taught more to fear the devils who tempt our lustful desires. Outside of attempting to control behavior with fear, religions from what I can tell don’t do much Lord-praising and God-thanking for this wonderful gift. They portray sex as about flesh and weakness, not about holy merging and love.

In a similar vein, marriage is usually presented to the world as sanctifying a relationship after which sex is permitted, yet this institution does not portray sex itself as being sacred. Sex becomes a benefit of marriage; now it is legal and even God blesses it. Yet sex is not often held in reverence as a special bonding ritual. It devolves into “Not tonight Honey” and auto-pilot calisthenics.

As a condition of a committed relationship, monogamy means avoiding temptation from all others. Yet relationships often practice sex as an activity, not as a deep, special bond. It does not seem to occur to people that despite appearances. a sexual relationship is 24/7. Even when you’re not acting sexual, intimacy-building (or its opposite) happens with every interaction. The communicating, the shows of affection, the support in both sickness and in health, even the arguing and dealing with problems and disappointments affect all future interludes.

Non-monogamous lifestyles might appear to hold sex in higher regard — or maybe it’s just pretend. When people trash a lover’s feelings and avoid deep intimacy to feast on multiple partners, that isn’t respecting sex. I’ve seen it work ethically and happily, but it’s rare.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

What does sexual respect look like?

Sex itself is sometimes goofy, wild, gritty, wicked, intense, slobbery, ooey-gooey — anything but dignified. The fun of it is relishing the whirling, swirling mess. Offering each other a sacred space within which to be wild and free is a fabulous gift. It is like saying, “This is recess. Play all you want.” Protecting that playground with all your honor shows respect for it.

We seem to have made a cultural imperative to diminish the value of sex. To respect sex would be to participate in it with gratitude. It would mean honoring your partner who chose to share this experience with you. The play might get dirty and edgy. It may seem anything but sacred. Yet having had the thrill ride brings us back to the thankfulness for such play.

Respecting sex is also understanding that you make love to more than bodies. You make love to souls, to personalities with feeling, to people with emotional histories. When sex is about making love to souls, the intimacy goes deeper. The feelings penetrate farther. Even the pleasure is more intense.

There is a further layer of gratitude for me. It is to the deity that created this magnificent system — God, nature, the universe. Making love lets me love a mate and my deity at the same time. The more I love my mate with an open and free heart, the more pleasure flows through me from the design that the great infinite provided.

This is sex beyond ego. We’re taught to adore a person, conditioned to think someone is hot, sexy, and responsible for arousing our hunger. What we don’t often consider is that the very sex appeal we are driven by is an expression of God! The very energy of attraction that makes someone hot to you — and you hot to that person — is the force of nature or the force of God.

Respecting sex is like respecting the force that shaped Yosemite Valley or the Grand Canyon or that makes the mighty oceans. It’s the same force that makes flowers and trees bloom in the spring and dance magically during the harvest days of autumn. It’s the force that takes our breath away in all the ways it does.

LOST AND FOUND

As many people will attest, we don’t often appreciate what we have until we lose it. To make matters worse, often when we have something, we soon want more or we want different. If something may be lacking in our vision of perfection, we tend to forget the blessings of what we have. In my opinion, big mistake.

These days I memorialize gifts given to me long ago from people who have gone on. I lament how I took some gifts for granted, the times I didn’t try harder, the times I didn’t see farther than my immediate desires or limited perspective. In my current life, I have no partner, a situation which inspires much thought and perspective about the meaning and worth of happy sex.

If it were held as more sacred, perhaps we would not treat sex as an after-thought, a recreational diversion for when we get bored. Perhaps our lives would have more meaning if we conceived of sex in a more creative light.