How is your death perception?

LightningRR

Danger or beauty ahead?

How weird is it to post a piece on death on Christmas Eve? Maybe not at all if death is life-affirming.

We open our show in an operating room. A woman patient has a tube in her mouth.

“It’s a question that haunts us all,” the deep-voiced narrator with a British accent booms. “What happens … when we die?” Ooh, dramatic.

Quick series of shots shows a huge truck plowing into a compact car with its damsel-in-distress driver. Glass shattering, metal crumpling. Looks painful. Terrible.

In the audio, a frenzy of bass-rich boom, boom, boom electronic strumming amps up the creep factor.

Another shot of the victim in the hospital. Dire straights on the operating table.

“FEAR suddenly entered our life,” some guy says.

OK, STOP THE TAPE

This squirrelly, edgy beginning was from a National Geographic Paranatural show on life after life. Several of those interviewed later in the show, including famous neurosurgeon Eben Alexander, have become convinced through their own profound near-death experiences that we humans morph more than we die. Consciousness lives on. We change forms rather than go completely lights out. Caterpillar into butterfly.

The fear of death has been wiped away from these near-death survivors (and hundreds more I have met, heard, or read about.)

So let’s get this straight. They are not haunted. They are not afraid of death. They do not accept death as a reality. Whether or not we believe them, they believe themselves and what they experienced first-hand.

But for the rest of us, the underlying message of the show with the foreboding music and dramatic collage of horror shots nevertheless says, Death—scary stuff. Very scary stuff.

FEAR OF DEATH

When I think about why people fear death so, one conclusion I draw is that our entertainment media continuously shows death as a sad, painful, often horrific event. We’re hypnotized through countless hours of life-versus-death programming, let alone vast amounts of reading matter, to see death as solemn, scary, and spooky. It’s a deep chasm filled with judgment and punishment. It’s a one-way street, the ultimate sacrifice, the end.

To the contrary, in places where people who’ve had NDEs or other spiritually transformative experiences gather, the whole gestalt about death is a very different story. It is not a stretch to say that they celebrate when someone dies a natural death, much as we would celebrate it when a loved one graduates from high school or college. They believe, and some would say they “know,” that death means graduating from Earth School for a much less hostile, much more loving environment.

Yeah, they miss those who have departed, but they characterize it positively. Death, they believe, sets spirits (consciousness) free from the confines of mortality. For many of those who have been there temporarily, it has even been ecstatic.

“There is no scientific proof that there is an afterlife,” the program’s requisite skeptic said. He was a neurosurgeon as is Eben Alexander. Alexander had a profound NDE, and the other doctor has not.  Documentaries about near-death experiences usually include a skeptic, usually a person of science, who just says no to the possibility that consciousness exists outside the human body.

Skeptics in these shows usually seem to say, “Well, for the people who think they saw the afterlife, great for them. But if you are rational and scientific, don’t take any of that to the bank.”

SO WHAT?

On a very practical level, including the one I have adapted for myself, I begin to wonder what’s the harm in believing in life after death — even if it turns out to be dead wrong. You can’t really wake up dead. If you do wake up dead, you’re not actually dead.

If the brain is indeed the generator of consciousness, its demise ends all thinking, all awareness. So would it be a bad thing to have spent a whole life not fearing death because a fairy tale of immortality was more comforting?

Or would it be more productive to go through life dreading death — with a lot of boom, boom, boom creep-out music playing in the back of my head whenever the topic comes up?

Of course, many near-death experiences believe/know that the brain is not a generator of consciousness. Consciousness exists outside brains say those who have left their bodies when their brains were not functioning, reports Eben Alexander, the neurosurgeon.

A PROFITABLE PARADIGM

Our society has done pathetic job of embracing death. We spend more time creating and selling an ugly vision of dying. This includes pandering products that are motivated by our fear of death.

We place myths and stories of death high in the priority of our mass entertainment media. Our news, our dramas, and our marketing all sell us visions of death that are intended to inspire fear. We tell ourselves scary stories galore and spice them up with words like loss and tragic and horrific. When we can, we show awful pictures.

Death in our world seems to be more of a money-making opportunity from our fears of it than a natural life event.

THE LIFE AND LIFE DRAMA

The people who seem to be doing more to say inspiring things about dying are those who believe (some say know) that death is transition, not termination. For them the issue is not life and death; it is life and life or life and more life.

Believing or “knowing” that death does not end consciousness seems to promote living more fully and mindfully. Those who believe that life has a purpose, that we’re here for a reason, seem more motivated to live purposefully. They do not put their lives in neutral and coast their way to an afterlife. They are busy living a productive life, often spreading the love that they believe is life’s best currency.

Those who believe in nothing after death are more likely to feel more hopeless and victimized when looking at the prospect of impending death. Many of them feel inconsequential, especially if they did not accomplish what they had hoped to. The prospect of entering a void actually comforts some people sick of pain and perceived failure.

THE DEATH TRAUMA

Whether one believes in an afterlife or not, the media depiction of death is usually filled with visions of pain, misery, sadness, and grief. Our “civilized” culture generally does not recognize death as a success, a graduation from Earth School, or a natural passage like caterpillar to butterfly or autumn to winter to spring. As a society, we like death to haunt us. Cue the creepy boom-boom-boom music.

We seem to want death to be tragic. When Nelson Mandela died at 95, some people called it a tragic loss. When my mother died 12 days short of her 93rd birthday, many friends played the script of lamenting our loss. My mother was more than ready to go off the clock, freed from constant pain and severe physical limitations of old age.

Tragic? No. Not for them.

I think of my mom dancing in the streets of heaven. Arthritis gone, walker gone, pain gone. While I miss her physical presence, I find joy in thinking of her freedom.

What makes sex sexy?

God-and-sexI have been toying with an idea that brings me delicious joy to contemplate.

To set the context right, I should point out that I am a sex-positive person. I think that sex — and by that I mean not only the physical engineering of our reproductive system but the whole enchilada of mind, heart, and spirit besides — is a remarkable, praise-worthy gift to humanity. I rejoice and am filled with gratitude for it.

I regret that this yummy gift is vastly under-appreciated and over-exploited. As we have done with so much in life, we humans have ripped sex from nature and turned it into a commercial enterprise. Once we segregated it from nature, wholesomeness, and God, we turned sex into a trivialized, often meaningless commodity. We lost that loving feeling.

Yet despite all that, sex is still wonderful and beautiful, especially for those who perceive and treat it as a precious gift from that which created us. Sex is highly creative, with or without procreation in the picture. Besides all the wonders it creates in consciousness, it can produce among the most delicious physical sensations available to humans.  A healthy, happy sex life provides a cornucopia of benefits to the body, mind, and soul.

THE GREAT IDEA

The idea that blows me away may require a few double-takes and mental replays from you before it can sink in. You may have to fiddle with it through your belief system, especially through your personal history with sex and religion. If you bristle at the term God or have a troubled relationship with sex, my great idea could fall flat (and you’ll probably quit reading anyway.)

It came to me one day as a flash from the blue, and from there the seed germinated and sprouted, particularly in the right hemisphere of my brain.

God makes sex sexy.

Granted that God is a multiplicity — some say God is everything — but here and now I am playing with the idea that the driving force behind our attraction for other people is the force of God in action. I am well aware that for many people, God is missing in action, especially in the bedroom, even among those who scream out, “Oh, God, oh, God!”

So let’s fiddle.

First of all, I am not talking about God as a personality, the omnipotent rulemeister, the left-brained super savant who notates every time you think or say the f-word. I am talking about God the force of nature. It’s the God you feel when interacting with nature, like how you respond to an awesome lightning strike, using the traditional meaning of awesome. True awe.

As for sex appeal, we are trained to think of it as person-based. She is hot. He is gorgeous. S/he is so sexy and picture perfect.

But as I age I have come to think of sexual attraction as the energy force that animates somebody. We may focus on our favorite jiggly or bulging body parts and attribute our passionate response to those things, using such advanced expression as “Look at the hooters on that one.” A popular social paradigm is that physicality is what’s sexy. We also have our personal list of behaviors we categorize as sexy, like how she twerks or how he struts.

But what if the juice, the current, the electricity of our attraction is actually God energy? What if God is the electricity that illuminates the light bulb of sex? What if it is God that makes those body parts we love so much come alive with sex appeal? What if sex appeal is God waving at me (or you) through someone else? “Hiya! How are ya?”

AND YOUR POINT IS?

The idea that God makes sex sexy does some amazing things, at least inside my psyche.

In the first place, so much religion pits God the personality against sex except under the condition of heterosexual matrimony. Even then, it’s more as if God allows those rule-followers to have sex, primarily for procreation, with maybe a slight nod to a little marital pleasure. In my youth, I was essentially offered the choice of going with God or going with sex — you must choose between them, religion seemed to say. In our sex-negative climate, very few voices proposed inviting God into the bedroom or taught that God is sexy.

And what is sexy? Feature films, porn, advertising, and books have all weighed in on this, usually trivializing the awe and wonder into tricks. But sexy to me means creative in the most profound sense. Sex makes babies, but it also symbolizes the best in a dance of co-creation between two lovers and the universe in which they dwell.

Then we have big ego. You can see this in action with celebrities, the Hollywood machine, and peeps in the porn industry. This is where “the beautiful people” are packaged as visual commodities. Big ego turns me off, especially when those who have it (along with a huge marketing support organization) project that their looks make them superior humans. Yet fast forward several generations. What if we were raised to perceive and symbolize sex appeal as God appeal? What if physical beauties owned the paradigm that they are channels for God? What if the media culture was onboard with the idea?

While some people crave the attention they get for being regarded as sexy-gorgeous, others hate attention like that, especially when focused on their body parts. It seems to me that a paradigm that merges God and beauty might serve to promote a more positive and respectful backdrop for how we embrace love and sex. It wouldn’t be so much me, me, me, I am so sexy. It would be more God is so sexy, and let’s enjoy.

Embracing God in lovemaking provides more of a celebration of life experience. It has shifted my perception. Now I see beauty less in physical terms and more in spiritual terms. Physical stunners lose appeal if they are not animated with non-physical delights such as wisdom, humor, sensitivity, creativity, and so on. I become more sexually attracted now to people I admire and respect who tune into the joy of sex, emphasis on joy. Personality is sexier to me than body beauty.

Sex itself takes on a more mystical, spiritual meaning then. It’s less about the paint-by-numbers mechanics of getting off. It’s more about savoring intimacy through interacting with each other. It becomes co-creating a delicious experience. That, in turn, adds more emotional joy to the tapestry, which then leads to a more powerful physical experience. Funny how that works!

GODS OF RELIGION

The notion that God makes sex sexy requires an overhaul in thinking about what God is and what sex is. I am not a religious scholar by any stretch, which means that my head has not been clogged with gobs of dogma. In my case, my love of lovemaking — and the moments of ecstasy it provided — inspired my spiritual curiosity. My logic was whatever created this bliss is worth my attention.

This is especially ironic considering that many religious organizations cast sex as the devil’s work and abstinence as the route to spiritual growth.

In my own view, much of religion has turned God into an ugly omnipotent torturer. And sex has been morphed into a friend of self-absorption and exploitation. But I don’t have to follow those paradigms. I can create my own new ones.

Putting God and sex in the same loving sanctuary gives both of them an opportunity to make beautiful music together. When I feel the intense lusciousness of sex beheld as sacred, I smile inwardly at the face of God.

SACRED MOO

This idea to attribute sexiness to Godliness plays wonderfully inside my head, but I realize that playing with sacred cows has the potential to offend people. I am not telling anyone what to believe. I am merely expressing an idea that brings me great joy.

Christmas presence

Awesome-skyIt’s in full gear — the ritual of frenzied shopping for gifts. The norm is to give things, material doo-dads. When I think of what I would most like to receive for Christmas, the so-called perfect gift, it would have to be Christmas presence.

The term Christmas presence just popped into my head, a gift from the universe.

It’s looking into someone’s eyes and knowing that person is fully present with me, open and welcoming from the heart. It’s that person just being there, fully engaged, all systems present. I could get all jargony and talk about mindfulness and whatnot, but it boils down to this: someone being fully tuned in with me is the epitome of special.

On so many occasions and in so many ways, people seem to act out parts in some grand stage play of life. It happens to me. I perform my expected roles and say my expected lines, often on auto-pilot. I was raised to be nice, polite, supportive, and to conform to the social graces despite my quirky outlook on life. I was also conditioned to be be shy, self-effacing, approval-seeking, insecure, and often too serious despite my  highly developed sense of humor.

I have a deep abiding love for intimacy in all of its forms (intimacy being “a close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person or group.”)  I love breaking down the fear barriers that keep people separate and distant from each other. The rare gift of presence lets people momentarily merge in a shared experience.

FOLLOW THE SYMBOLS

The term Christmas presence has great depth if you care to take it down your own trail of symbolism. Literally it might come out as “the birth of the Christ essence within our shared presence.” How you define that would of course depend on what the term Christ means to you. My version of Christ may not agree with yours (and yet to be Christlike, there is room for all variations.)

It delights me to look into someone’s eyes and see the Christ light shining in them. To me the light of Christ is the light of love, the human potential for love that Christ on Earth manifested. People who’ve had mystical experiences often encounter the blessing of  beings of light who shine unconditional love upon them. I like imagining how Jesus or angels would hug — with or without physical contact — which, incidentally, is where the term soul embraces came from.

Can you think of times when a stranger gave you full presence? It may have been very brief, a welcome into his or her space without the normal social masks and barricades in place. It might show up as a friendly smile from across a room or a brief exchange of universal love. It might be someone who is not afraid of beaming love out. You know it when it happens. It’s a blast of divine goodness!

It’s also increasingly more rare. I have noticed during my walks around town that more than ever people are less open to even looking at each other as they pass. I could go off on a pity party about the decline of friendliness. Who stole my town when I wasn’t looking?  I choose instead to savor as even more special those times when actual connection occurs.

Christmas presence is free to give and is invaluable to receive. It can happen anytime and anywhere. You can even give Christmas presence in July.

FEELINGS NOT THINGS

Some people are very plugged in to materialism. They like their cool stuff, their shiny new gifts. While I am not immune to the lure of material delights, the most meaningful and satisfying gifts to come my way were experiences more than things.

We are taught that giving the “perfect” material gift will make someone feel good. So, ironically, the intended aim of a thing gift is to provide a good feeling.

The drug cartel of commercialism has convinced us that real gifts cost money, and plenty of it, whereas not spending money on someone is shameful proof of a broken, loveless person. Some people have become so enslaved by this materialistic ethic that they either suffer greatly if and when they cannot afford to dole out great presents or they feel unloved if they do not receive the Taj Mahal in their Christmas stocking. Meanwhile, the insanity displayed in the Black Friday shoving and pushing ritual speaks for itself.

When I look at the best gifts that I have received, the ones at the top of my list featured intimacy and presence. Many times they were unplanned and spontaneous gifts. It might be the time someone stopped to listen to me when I was in deep pain. It might be the sizzling creative chemistry during a hot roll of wit or inspiration, as in “We’re on a roll now.” It might be an exquisitely timed hug or kiss that transported my mood from angst to bliss, from worry to wonder.

For my money — a little pun there — the gifts I treasured most were gems of consciousness and companionship. They sustained me the most with emotional nutrients. They gave me the best memories. Sometimes in the big picture the gifts were very small, like a welcoming smile from a passing stranger or a juicy slice of rhetorical pie during a spontaneous verbal exchange, but they’ve had a remarkable shelf life in my world.

A NEW GIFT PARADIGM

In the gift-giving frenzy of our holidays, perhaps it’s worth asking what kind of gift could someone give you that you would love? What priceless (and costless) gift would you like to receive? It may be easier to think first about what you would enjoy receiving, since you can tell by your emotional response what you’d be grateful for and how meaningful it would be. Then perhaps you can more deeply feel the essence of what you would like to give.

I recently read These Few Precious Days about the relationship between Jack and Jackie Kennedy. The book included descriptions of the lavish gifts that Jack and Jackie gave each other, each gift priced more than my annual income. And yet there were valuable “no cost” gifts Jackie yearned for yet learned not to ever expect from her husband, such as romantic hand-holding or kissing.

Commercialism hides how we all want most to feel loved. Many institutions inhibit us from freely displaying love or asking for love without guilt or shame, so we buy things instead. Again, this is not to say that all material gift-giving is wrong. I am making a call to honor gifts of love where we give of ourselves … listening attentively, sharing at depth, making smiles, showing gratitude, being affectionate in special ways, deep play with no distractions — and Christmas presence.

What gifts that you can’t buy in a store would you like to receive?