Saturday, April 19, 2014

Belief In An Afterlife

Over the years I have read many books about near death experiences and the afterlife, and I have just finished reading one of the best out of all of them. It’s titled “The Afterlife of Billy Fingers” written by Annie Kagan.  Billy was Annie’s brother who passed while in his 60’s.  In his life, he experienced drugs, jail time, etc. and died after being hit by a vehicle.  What happens next is absolutely astonishing and inspiring.  Billy begins to speak to his sister from the other realm.  You can believe it or not, but there have been many of us who have had these types of experiences, and to us, they are very real.

I’ve spoken to many people who have told me of their own wondrous experiences when their loved ones (humans and pets) visited them either as a spirit or in their dreams.  There have been many people who have had near-death experiences where they died, had a glimpse of the other side (what some term ‘heaven’), and came back to life to tell about it.  Many say their lives have changed for the better because of these experiences.  They know that unconditional love really is what it’s all about, though that term doesn’t come close to the magnitude of love that is waiting for us.  As humans, we’re limited in our terminology to describe that love, and the word ‘love’ is about as close as we can come to it.

I’ve never been blessed to have seen the other side, but I did have my grandmother come to me before her funeral.  My grandmother and I were soul mates and we had a special bond.  When she passed, I was living in another state and it was several days until I could get home to the funeral.  I was devastated and the grief was overwhelming.  Every night I would fall asleep soaking my pillow with tears.  Then something amazing happened.  I looked up at my ceiling and saw something that looked like white smoke in the shape of a feather floating down towards me and went into my heart.  I immediately knew it was my grandmother and the force of peace and comfort that embraced me was astonishing.  I never cried after that because I knew she was okay and that she was with me.

There have been times when I dreamed of friends and loved ones and the dreams were so real that I knew they had visited me.  Last fall, a dear friend of mine committed suicide.  Later, I dreamed of her and she was so happy, healthy, and vibrant.  I knew she was okay.  Another friend died before Christmas, and not long after, I dreamed that we were dancing and the love I felt from him was incredible.  I found peace in both dreams that helped ease my pain of losing them.

In the book “The Afterlife of Billy Fingers,” Billy passes on so many wonderful messages to help us live a better life here on earth.  I loved this message in particular:  “If people could see each other’s souls, the whole world might shut down.  Think about it.  You’d go into a store to buy something and get hung up for hours marveling at the cashier’s soul.  If you saw the soul of your so-called enemy, you’d probably fall in love with them, and then what?  And if you beheld the soul of someone you already truly loved…the intensity of that experience might incapacitate you for the rest of your life.  You can understand why seeing souls could be a problem on earth.  It would become one big love-in.”

If we really knew how much a part of each other we really were, I think we’d treat each other a whole lot better and there would be so much more love, compassion, and kindness toward our fellow beings.

There are so many beautiful quotes from Billy, some of which are:  “Every single life is valuable in ways you can’t imagine.  Every single life is a gift.”  “Everything you ever need is already inside you.  And who you really are is far beyond your comprehension.”  “The intelligence that gives birth to stars also breathes your breath.”  And, “If there’s one thing worth doing on your planet, it’s discovering self-love.” 

These are the very things I’ve been learning and what I try to teach others who are open to discovering that there is so much more to life than we can imagine.  If you can take your beliefs out of the box, you’d be amazed at the wisdom and knowledge that can be remembered! 

Aberjhani said, “You were born a child of light’s wonderful secret…you return to the beauty you have always been.”

Published in the Cookeville Herald-Citizen newspaper April 18, 2014.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Holy High Road

Recently, Fred Phelps, minister of the Westwood Baptist Church, passed away.  Feelings have been mixed.  Many are celebrating his death saying it’s good that he died.  Yet others are taking the high road and are sending love and condolences towards the family. 

For those of you who have not heard of the Westwood Baptist Church, they are a church consisting of about 40 members, mostly family, and are considered a hate group.  They are the ones who have been picketing the funerals of gays, military personnel, celebrities, children killed in the school shootings, and others.  Every time there is a tragedy, they thank God that the people died.  They also speak against other religions such as Catholicism, Judaism, Islam, Protestantism, and many more. 

There was a BBC documentary titled “The Most Hated Family in America.”  Canada and the UK banned them from entering their countries when they had planned to protest there.   These people really believe they are doing the work of God and are speaking for God.  It’s hard for me to imagine how a group of people could be so hateful to so many.  Who taught these people to hate?  And why? 

If you’ve seen the news about their picketing, it can leave a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach.  Unless of course, you agree that the person or group of people they are picketing should be condemned.  If you take away the picketing and just listen to the hateful and bigoted remarks they make, as well as the comments of how they celebrate the deaths, then you will realize just how much more common these comments are.  They’re being made by religious leaders, politicians, and others who also claim to be Christians.  How many times have you heard a Christian minister say that God caused a tragedy where countless lives were lost and they blamed a belief system or group of people for those deaths?

Hate is taught and people can be brainwashed to hate.  Just take a look at what Hitler did to an entire country.  He brainwashed his fellow countrymen (not all) to hate Jews and others so much that they slaughtered them in one of the worst genocides in our history.  What most people don’t know is that Hitler claimed to be a Christian and was doing the work of God.  There have been many other acts of genocide throughout history based mostly on the differences of skin color, cultures, and/or beliefs, and it’s still occurring to this day in other countries.

Even in our country we have news programs and talk shows (from all “sides”) that propagate hate and bigotry and are brainwashing the people who watch them into agreeing with them.  And many are using Christianity and the Bible to do so!  I don’t think this is what Jesus and other great Spiritual Masters had in mind when they were teaching people to love others unconditionally. 

Religion is a very strong force, regardless of the religion, and people can be convinced that they shouldn’t think for themselves because others know better.  They use fear and guilt to control people into believing what they believe.   And people blindly follow. 

But there’s good news!  There are people from all religions who are awakening to the fact that love is why we are here.  They use their Bibles for good instead of as weapons of mass destruction.  They know it’s okay to think for themselves and to ask questions.  They are bringing people together and focusing on what we have in common.  Instead of fighting hate with hate, they are taking the holy high road and are using unconditional love to melt the hardened hearts of so many. 

When the WBC recently picketed singer Lorde’s concert, something amazing happened.  There were signs directed towards the church that said “Sorry For Your Loss” and “Live Your Life and Be Awesome!”  I’ve often wondered what could happen if the WBC picketers were surrounded with love instead of countering with the same hatred they espouse.  We also have to realize that the WBC’s actions also resulted in good in that hundreds and thousands turned out to support the family and friends at the funerals of those who died.   Would they have otherwise if it weren’t for the WBC?  We need to remember that God works in mysterious ways.  The WBC’s actions actually brought more people together from all over the world in love, kindness, and compassion. 

As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”  Hate is a powerful force, but love is backed by the power of God and the Universe!  We’re getting there!

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper April 4, 2014.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

It Pays to Be a Woman!

Recently, I needed some make-up so I went to our local department store to buy what I needed.  I was lot of money to look our best.  It got me to thinking just how much money we spend and how many products we use to look presentable. shocked at how high the prices were!  We women sure pay a lot of money to look our best.  It got me to thinking just how much money we spend and how many products we use to look presentable.

Let’s start with our faces…  First we need special face washes to make sure that our face is super clean.  We may also use a face mask (either mud or peel) to get deep into those pores and clean them out!  Follow that with a toner, though I’m not sure what the toner does because my face doesn’t look any more toned than before I used it.  After that, we use a facial lotion to smooth over our face and neck.  But that won’t do for the eyes, so we need a specialized eye cream.  Of course, these lotions and creams must be anti-wrinkle, anti-aging, lifts and tightens, and have an SPF to keep us safe from the sun. 

To add color to our faces, we use a foundation to smooth out the blotches and uneven areas, and we can use different shades so that we can contour and shape our face.  Add to this, we need cover-up to hide any dark circles, zits, or freckles.  A good blush can make our faces look slimmer and our cheekbones more pronounced.  We move on to the eyes.  There are hundreds of colors to choose from and we can use several different colors at the same time to get the desired effect.  We also apply mascara, but it can’t be any ordinary mascara; it’s the extend the lashes five to eight times the length, separate, and look fuller mascara.  If we need to make our eyes stand out a little more, we can add eyeliner or even fake eye lashes. 

After we have all this applied, we dab our face with powder to set everything in place that we have already put on.  We also carry a compact with us so we can keep the shine off our faces and do those little touch-ups when needed.

At the end of the day, we need to be able to take off the make-up so we use eye make-up remover and regular make-up removers.  After we take our day face off, and before we go to bed, we need the night creams and eye creams to work on our faces while we are sleeping, again to remove wrinkles and to keep us from aging! 

This is just the face.  Now on to the hair and we collect bottles of shampoos, conditioners, gels, mousses, spritzes, sprays, volume lifters, and the list goes on.  If our hair isn’t the color we want, there are hundreds of hair dye products to choose from and then we have to buy the products to keep our hair color from fading!

We also need body lotions that are anti-aging, anti-wrinkling, SPF, and in different fragrances to keep the rest of our skin smooth and youthful looking.  Don’t forget just the right deodorant, too!  These even come in countless fragrances!   

What woman doesn’t shave her legs?  There are all kinds of razors to choose from in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes.  Add to that the shaving gels in an assortment of scents that we use to keep from nicking ourselves, as well as to keep our legs silky and smooth.

Of course, we also need to keep our nails looking good.  There are creams and lotions for the nails, the nail primer, nail color, topcoat, files, buffers, fake nails, and now little stickers to put on the nails.  Obviously, we can’t just do our hand nails; our toe nails need to look good, too.  And then we need to be able to take all this off, so there are nail polish removers.   Once that’s done, we need hand lotions to keep our hands looking youthful, and of course, there are countless lotions to choose from in a variety of fragrances.

Who can leave out the perfumes?  We love our perfumes!  We can smell like flowers, fruit, wood, and thousands of other heavenly or earthly scents because we women must smell good!

Now that we have our make-up, hair, and bodies done, we can now move on to our undergarments.    They come in every color and pattern imaginable, as well as every shape and size.   Add to this, we must keep our fat in place, so we have girdles, Spanx, and other torture items that we squeeze and stuff ourselves into.  Who cares that we can’t breathe!  We look an eighth of an inch thinner! 

We then have the outer clothes we wear, and what a variety of styles we have to choose from!  Our closets are stuffed with clothes!  We keep the clothes that are too big so we can wear them on those bloated days or if we gain our weight back.  We have the clothes that just fit.  And then we have the clothes that are too small because we just know that one day we’ll get back into them.  It doesn’t matter that we haven’t worn them since grade school; we will get back into them! 

Who can forget the shoes?  The pointier the toes and the taller the heels, the better we’re told our legs and feet look!  So we squeeze all ten toes into shoes that not even a bed bug can get into.  Women are out there walking on stilts just to make our legs look a little slimmer!  And you know that we have to have shoes of all shapes, sizes, and colors to match every outfit that is hanging in our closet

After we’re all dressed, we need to accessorize!  Earrings, rings, watches, bracelets, necklaces, toe rings, ankle bracelets, hair ornaments, hair bands…  Need I say more? 

Now on to the men…. 

If you go down any isle of any department store, the sections for men are few and far between.  There’s a small selection of razors usually in just a couple of manly colors, as well as some electric shavers and a selection of shaving creams and aftershaves.  Do you ever see the creams and lotions with the anti-aging, anti-wrinkling, and SPF directed toward men?  I think not! 

There are very few shampoos and conditioners marketed towards men.  Men will choose what they need and one bottle will usually do him until it runs out.  There is a selection of deodorants with some masculine fragrances, but not as many as there are for women.  Men might use a body lotion if they have dry skin, but give them a basic lotion and they’re happy!  Men will wear cologne, and who doesn’t love a nice smelling man, but you don’t see the large selections like you do women’s fragrances.  

Clothes?  Men just put something on to get out the door.  Most wear suits and a tie or jeans and a shirt.  How many men do you know who will change clothes a half dozen times trying to find that one outfit that will make them look just a little thinner?   And when was the last time you saw a man try something on and ask, “Does this make me look fat?”  Basic shoes, tennis shoes, and socks in a couple colors round out his attire.

 Other than that, men do not have nearly the upkeep we women have!

Women and young girls feel a lot of pressure to conform to the way others think they should look, and most of it is dictated by society and the media.  Look at any magazine that is directed towards females.  They’re full of articles and ads that make women feel that in order to be accepted they have to look like the women in the pictures, which means buying the products that are being advertized.  What they don’t realize is that the pictures of these women and girls have been extremely photo-shopped so if you saw the real person, you wouldn’t know they were one and the same.  No one can live up to the ideals that these medias propagate! 

We have to remember that the people who make these products are in it to make money…period.  And if they can play on women’s insecurities and feelings of low self-worth in order to increase their profits, they will do so.  Unfortunately, we females buy into it and end up spending thousands of dollars on their products hoping they will somehow magically transform us into the perfectly photo-shopped women we see in the magazines. 

Our health also takes a hit because most all the women in these pictures look like they haven’t eaten in months.  Inches are trimmed off their bodies in the photos.  Therefore, we also buy countless diet products thinking we’ll find that one magic formula that will do all the work for us.  Many women end up having eating disorders and we’re finding this in young girls as well. 

What’s sad is that we let society (through the media) dictate to us how we should look rather than being happy and content with who we are as we are.  Their commercials and print-ads imply that if we use their products, our lives will suddenly transform and we will be happy and healthy by use of their products alone.  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use the products.  The question is why are we using them? 

There will always be people and industries telling us how to dress, how to wear our hair and make-up, and that we have to be super skinny to be acceptable.  The fashion industries tell us what’s ‘in’ and if we don’t do as they say, then we’re out of style. 

What can we do?  We need to teach women (and men) to love and accept ourselves as we are, and not be brainwashed into thinking we’re anything less than magnificent if we don’t conform to those ideals that don’t serve our highest good.  It really is true that beauty is an inside job.  No matter what we look like on the outside, if we feel beautiful and are happy within, it will show as beauty on the outside. 

We came to earth in the bodies that we were given to us and the Universe/God doesn’t make mistakes.  We are beautiful and magnificent just as we are!  If we want to use some of these products to “enhance” a particular feature, then it is our freedom to do so.  I use many of the products, but I also know that these products are not who I am.  I’ve learned that my identity isn’t out there, but it is who I am within, and that is true for each and every one of us.

Let’s stop allowing others to dictate how we should look!  Let’s stop buying into the hype that we have to spend money and buy and use certain products in order to look or feel a certain way!  We need to be comfortable in our own skin and to love and appreciate ourselves as we are.  As women (and men), let us take back our power from these industries and know that we are powerful, beautiful, and magnificent!  We were made to be unique, so let’s bless our uniqueness and embrace our inner awesomeness!  We are perfect just the way we are!

Published in the April 2014 issue of the Putnam County Visions Magazine.