This is only a Test …

I have been intrigued by the idea of death and the afterlife for a long time. But recently I am more interested in this subject since I read the book “After,” by Dr. Bruce Grayson. I also read the book “Life After Life” by Raymond Moody, about the same subject. Both books are written by psychiatrists who have done scientific research for decades on this subject. They describe numerous real life stories of people experiencing near death experiences, or NDEs. They all conclude that NDEs are independent from any brain activity. Almost all the experiences include an overwhelming sense of love and peace. I am also reading stories from the International Association for Near Death Studies (IANDS) , and even following a Facebook group page about NDEs . Most of these stories include one or more of the following:

a. thinking more clearly and more rapidly than usual

b. a sense of overwhelming peace, well-being, and absolute, unconditional love

c. feeling comfortable and free of pain

d. a sensation of leaving the body, sometimes being able to see the body while floating above it

e. a sensation of being drawn into a tunnel or darkness

f. a brilliant light, often perceived as a being of light

g. a life review, or return of memories from the past

h. a sense of having access to knowledge not available by normal means

i. encounters with deceased loved ones, or with other beings who may be identified as religious figures

j. a reluctance to return to the earthplane, but invariably realizing either their job on earth is not finished or a mission must yet be accomplished before they can return to stay.

It seems that, according to many of these stories , we are part of a bigger source. There is also the common feeling that “everything makes sense.” There’s a lot of reminders that, when the person returns to their bodies, they do not understand or remember anymore. Almost as if the physical body , our brains, limit them from having a more understanding of their existence. The brain may serve as a filter that limits our understanding of life.

All these descriptions make me wonder what this existence we call “life” is really about. We rely on our five senses to understand our surroundings, but how much can we rely on them? We have learned so far that there are other wavelengths outside of the visible spectrum that we cannot perceive with our eyes. There are millions and billions of galaxies out there that we are just beginning to notice. How can we then conclude that this existence is all there is?

Are we a reflection of what is real? We are like the moon that reflects sunlight. Ripples on the surface of the ocean. We could be living a story written by a much bigger (and more real) author. What we experience right now, while our hearts are pumping blood and our brains are “fully functioning ,” may not be the “real thing.”

While reading these stories from these books and websites about near death experiences, I noticed some resemblance between them and what Jesus taught in the Bible. I don’t mean to be religious in this post but I think it is important to point out the similarities between what some people experience close to their deaths, and what Jesus teaches us.

There’s often a theme during NDEs about “returning to the Source” and “going back home.” Jesus also taught about him returning to the Father and him preparing a place for his followers. Jesus also told his disciples, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). This implies that we would need to recognize our “oneness” with the universe , or God, to fully experience our true nature. If we remain separated from God and each other, we will fail. But if we are all spiritually connected, we will fulfill our purpose.

The immense love and peace that many of these experiencers feel during their NDEs can be the same love and peace that Jesus taught to his followers. Jesus said that the peace that he leaves us is not like the peace “of this world.” (John 14:27). He also told Pontius Pilate that “his kingdom is not from this world.” (John 18:36). All of these descriptions can be compared to what experiencers of NDEs try to describe themselves.

Similar to this is the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11) who decides to take his inheritance and overspends it in worldly pleasures, against his fathers wishes. Each part of the story can be compared to our lives on earth. The son decides to leave his father’s house (when we are born), goes to the city (we start living in our physical bodies) ,spends all of his money in pleasures and food (our worldly successes and accomplishments), finds out that he has lost everything (life crisis and facing death ) and decides to return to his fathers house (when we die).

Jesus also teaches about being born again (John 3:3-21), which is usually interpreted as a spiritual reborn. This “spiritual awakening” may be one if not the only true lesson that we are invited to learn while we are living in our physical bodies. So, in other words, our purpose in this physical life would not be to be successful with material goods and pleasures, but to have a spiritual reconnection (Salvation) with God or Source.

Whatever we think that this life is about, there is ample evidence from these stories that tells us there is much more. Whatever we imagine the ultimate Being or God to be, it is apparently more than that. Our brains do not give us a full picture. What we experience in this state of existence, in this realm, is basically only a test.

Has any of my readers experienced an NDE in their lives? I’m curious to hear from you on what you felt and heard. Thanks.

Is God dead?

Is God dead?

If God is dead , then that means He was once alive. Alive in what sense? Alive like we humans are alive? Alive only in our minds ? If He was alive like we define life on earth, then He is not God, because by definition, God is an all powerful being that exists outside of time and space. And since life, as we understand it, falls within time and space, then God is not alive as we are alive on earth. It must be another kind of “being alive” or existing. The best way I can describe it is by comparing it to an author of a book. The story in the book comes alive as we read it and imagine it, but not as alive as the author of the book itself. The author does not live inside the book but creates it and understands it fully , better than any character in the story of the book.

But given that God is an all powerful being, outside of time and space, then is it even possible for him to be dead or cease to exist?

An imaginary line that we can picture in our minds can go on either way infinitely, but can we fully comprehend how this is even possible? Not fully but we can have some understanding of it.

And if God only lives inside our minds, then how can we possibly come up with such an idea of an all powerful being in the first place? The same way that we can picture an infinite line. Are the unicorns and the dragons that we create in our minds possibly alive outside of our minds? Yes, but not in this world, based on the lack of evidence. But then do we have evidence of the existence of an all powerful Being that created this world? The DNA that makes up our living cells is just one example of the complexity and wonder of our designed existence, which could serve as evidence for the existence of God. But then again, we are talking about a being that, by definition, created the human mind which is now trying to understand the mind of God, its creator. The same way that the character in the story of the book is trying to understand the author of the book.

So, is God dead ? Only if he was once alive and existed within time and space. But since God cannot be alive within time and space, then he exists only outside of our lives and therefore cannot be dead.

What is this …?

What is all of this that I am sensing ? Nothing seems to make sense at all. At the same time it does.

What is all this beauty I see around me? So many colors and shapes. I feel joy and awe in the landscape that surrounds me. I experience love and joy with amicable entities. But what is it?

What is all this horror I see everyday? We act like a disease that contaminates our surrounding. We hate, envy, and hurt our neighbors. As if we were threatened by an invisible force. Isn’t it all in our minds?

We are born, then we grow, we work, we build families, communities, and then we fall. We have goals, ambitions, and dreams. The limited period called “life.” But it continues with our children and their children. I only witness a minute portion of the whole human experience. Or do I?

All for what? Who is the author of this confusing story? What is the purpose of this journey? And where are we heading? Was I alive before this existence and I do not remember? Will I live after this?

There is no clear answer. It seems to be all a cycle. Almost like a test. There’s a beginning and an end. Or should I call it a transition? We are all in this together. All we have is hope. But the questions remain.

Reviewing the Batman movie: Pros and Cons

I have been wanting to give my honest opinion about the recent 2022 movie The Batman. I heard so many positive and encouraging reviews about this movie, that I wanted to see it myself in theaters as soon as possible. After watching Christopher Bales’ The Dark Knight in 2008, my expectations were really high for Reeves’s The Batman movie. But it was mostly a disappointment, although it had some really good scenes.

Negative reviews: Let me start with the negative first. The most anticipated villain was the Riddler. I was excited to see this villain which has been one of my favorite ones from the time that I watched the classic Batman TV show from the 1960s. But the Riddler from Reeves’s movie was a disaster. Even Jim Carrey’s character in Batman Forever movie from 1995 was a great pick for this mysterious yet flamboyant character, although that movie was cheesy and too infantile.

The Riddler from Reeves’s The Batman reminds me more of Bane from the Dark Knight Rises movie, except that he has a heavy green coat and a was glasses. He is dressed almost in military clothes (with combat boots) and a weird mask that covered his whole head. I understand that the director probably wanted to create almost like a “Uni Bomber” type of mass murderer. But the original Riddler is more like a dressy individual with a derby or fedora hat and a cane, not a combat suit.

Reeves’s Riddler.

Another disappointment from this puzzling villain is his acting. Although Paul Dano appears like a scary psychopath, his acting was a little bit off. The director tried too hard to make this criminal more like a demented murderer with a mischievous laugh, which sounded too fake. The Riddlers from the TV show Gotham and the movie Batman Forever had better actors that depicted a more genuine psychopath.

The different versions of the Riddler. Notice how different is Reeves’s version (second to the right) from the others.

The next negative review is about Batman himself. Except for his awesome looking Bat suit, everything else about the vigilante is disappointing. Robert Pattinson was definitely a bad pick for this main character. He looked more like a depressed teenager than an angry, dark vigilante. Also, there was no proper introduction to how he came up with the bat-cave, bat-mobile, and his special contact lenses (which seemed to come from a science fiction movie). Also, he endured so many gun shots and explosions at close range that it seemed almost like he had superpowers to be able to survive all those attacks with minor injuries. Even surviving falling from a tall building and flying towards traffic was a little bit too unrealistic (although this scene was pretty awesome).

The character of the Batman seemed more like a depressed teenager.

Also, Batman never had a direct encounter with the Riddler except at the end of the movie when the villain was already in custody. I understand that the Riddler’s main weapon is his psychological criminal games, but a little bit of action between him and the Batman would have been nice. In addition, the group of criminals dressed up like the Riddler at the end of the movie were mysteriously taken care of too easily by Batman, even though the city was under an apocalyptic flood. There was no clear indication of how they were organized. The movie ended with Batman escorting the mayor and a few civilians out of a pile of rubble, which could have been done by any regular group of firemen or city rescue team, nothing special about that.

Gordon was another lame character. The guy was almost clueless about Riddler’s hidden messages. Batman had to explain almost all of them to him. And Alfred was then helping Batman figure out some hidden clues, even though his character was a decent one.

Positive:

Let me share the positive starting with the Penguin. This second villain was a relief for me. His charismatic yet evil demeanor helped to make this movie more interesting. Colin Farell did a great job acting like a master “gangster”. Although he didn’t have the traditional Penguin hat and cigar, his attire and acting was almost perfect. The scene where he was being chased by Batman was the highlight of the movie (The batmobile is a true masterpiece). It was exciting to first see this character as a charming nightclub manager and then turning into a violent criminal. It was interesting how he turned into a rising powerful criminal after the death of Falcone.

The Penguin.

Catwoman was another success. Although her mask seemed like a cheap Halloween costume, everything else about this character was almost perfect. She had good fighting skills and was fearless. Her thirst for revenge combined with a romantic relationship with Batman was a classic role of this villain.

The overall plot of the movie was interesting and intriguing. The attack at the church during the mayor’s funeral with a car driven by a hostage carrying a bomb was a clever idea. This was a nice way to introduce the Riddler’s unique criminal tactic. Also, the numerous letters and hidden clues left by the Riddler throughout the city made this criminal even more haunting.

The last scene where Batman finally meets the Riddler in Arkham hospital was a nice conclusion that helped give closure to Riddler’s mysterious murders, for now. His intentions to “team up with Batman” was a sick way of revealing his twisted mind. Also, the mysterious inmate next to the Riddler’s cell was an interesting indication that a new villain is about to emerge, possibly the Joker.

On overall , the movie had its ups and downs. I was disappointed with Riddler’s character and Batman’s acting. But the rest of the characters were more acceptable. I hope that its sequel would bring better acting from the vigilante and exciting new adventures, specially from a new Joker. Maybe introducing new villains such as Mr. Freeze or Clayface may be a great way to improve this new version of the world of Batman.

Awakening to our Purpose

I came across this picture while reading the news about the current world events. Look at this face:

The face of a victim of a senseless war.

This is the face that represents the suffering that is currently occurring in Ukraine. It is the face of desperation, victimization, and injustice. It is the face that many of us simply ignore because we are so distracted by other affairs. Shame on us!

Back in 1991, I followed the news on the Gulf War between Iraq and the United States. I was still in high school and I remember thinking and writing down about how absurd it was to engage in a war because of disagreements between two national leaders. I thought back then: “Why don’t the two world leaders meet for a fighting match and see who wins, instead of sending soldiers to fight the war for them?!” Today I think exactly the same way.

Maybe I am too simplistic in my way to thinking. But just because one man is paranoid about a world organization (which is designed to ensure peace) that it is going to somehow attack his country, he reacts with a military invasion where thousands of innocent lives are killed. Just because of his paranoia.

One man’s delusion that a former Soviet country is still part of his bigger country and should unite his country again is killing women and children in villages and hospitals. It is barbaric.

A mother holds her baby after an attack on a hospital.

We are missing what is important. Peace. But I am not talking about the peace that national leaders talk about. No. I am talking about inner peace. We are living in a premature society where actions are primarily driven by ambitions, hatred, envy, and competition. It is a world where we feel insecure and therefore , we are going to do whatever we can to protect ourselves from any perceived threats.

We have to denounce to our self absorbed nature. We have to let go of ambitions and insecurities. We have deny ourselves in order to experience inner peace. But it starts in our hearts. It starts with making a decision within ourselves. And then reach out to others.

We have to wake up from our fantasies. It is imperative to start perceiving ourselves and others in a different way.

Let us start with our hearts.

We are at war

We are at war. But who is our enemy? Our enemy is not a foreign country or local terrorists. Our enemy is not big companies that exploit us or a corrupt government. It is not individuals who envy us or want to manipulate us. Our enemy is simply the ego.

And what is the ego? It is the fabricated self that we develop in our minds to try to keep us from being vulnerable and avoid pain. But it truly keeps us from genuinely connecting with each other. It makes us proud, envious, depressed, angry, and anxious.

The ego makes us live in a fantasy that deceives us everyday. It paralyses, isolates , or leads us to aggressive impulsivity depending on how we interpret circumstances. Simply because we don’t want to experience pain.

The challenge is to be OK with vulnerability and try to connect with others. Being aware of the ego , slowly getting rid of it, and simply being ourselves.

Is emptiness and mindfulness the same as being with God, the “I am”?

“I am” is used frequently in the Bible to refer to God and Jesus. It is the eternal presence of the almighty. Moses asked God what his name is and He answered “I am that I am.” And what does this really mean? Does it mean simply the eternal presence? It definitely implies that God is outside of time ; He is not in the past or future, but I the present. But , does past and future even exist? In our minds. Or is there only present, therefore, God? Which also implies that God or eternal presence (I am) is all there is, but we are often oblivious of this fact because we are consumed by our time-driven thoughts.

While reflecting on this, I also come across the interesting idea that when

emptying my mind, being mindful of my surrounding, and therefore not identifying with my thoughts and emotions, I enter a brief state of calmness and peace . Is this what Jesus referred to as “self denial” and also “my peace I give you… not like this world gives it”?

Jesus referred himself as “I am”.. was he referring to reaching this state of self awareness and peace with the present moment? Is the present moment, without identification with thought and emotion , being “one with God”, the eternal “I am.”?

If we continue to identify with our thoughts and emotions, which most of us do throughout our lives, then we will not get closer to God or eternal “I am.” As long as we continue to be self-centered in our thoughts, we will not reach out to “I am.”

So, is the peace and calmness that I experience when I am in the present moment the same as being in the presence of God?

The space between objects, the silence between every sound, and the emptiness between our thoughts could be the key to finding God. This means that we would really have to put aside everything that we thought was our identity , which is the act of self denial, and enter a state of emptiness in order to be with God, the “I am.”

Random Post …

I counsel people everyday… but I can’t seem to keep my anxiety under control. I sometimes feel like a hypocrite giving advice and suggestions to total strangers. I also put into practice what I “preach” , for example, taking deep breaths, looking at the bigger picture, disputing some negative thoughts. But I often find myself feeling tense and irritable.

At the same time I also think frequently about this existence. If you have been following my posts you have probably noticed the common themes I have been sharing here. About reflecting on this existence and how to learn to accept death. The inevitable cycle of this life.

I finished reading the book “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown, which teaches about vulnerability and how to live wholeheartedly. It was a nice reminder that we have emotions and pain that is ok to accept and share with others. It does not make us weak to embrace our human emotions.

I am also starting to read the book “New Earth” by Eckart Tolle, which is another reminder that we are here on earth to learn to be still and love our planet. I will learn more as I continue to read. I may share more about it once I am done with this book.

Anyways, thanks for reading. Until next time. Hopefully my next post will be more organized and will have a single topic.

Happy New Yea!

The sky, the garbage truck , and my dog

We have the illusion that we can manage and control our daily lives. But are we really, truly in control? We like to believe we are so that we can make sense of this chaotic existence we call “life.”

Who are we fooling? We create civilizations and complex systems. But it takes only a brief moment of tragedy and our system crumbles.

Sitting outside in my front porch, I was contemplating in the morning sky. The sunrise is one of my favorite scenes to contemplate. I then started thinking about the immense universe that surrounds us. The mixture of pink, orange, yellow and blue colors of the morning sky makes it a beautiful sky. We are truly out of control of the beauty we can witness everyday. It is given to us as a daily present.

Then I notice the garbage truck coming into our neighborhood. It comes to pick up our trash with its huge mechanical arm that easily picks up our garbage bin and flips it over the truck as if it was a toy and back into its original position. Man invented and created this machine to facilitate the process of getting rid of trash. We created these “robots” to help with our daily lives. Then I notice the truck leaving as its driver waves his hand at me and I wave back.

Then I look down to my small dog, who is just sitting there, also looking at the big garbage truck as it drives away. This little dog who does not know what he is looking at (or does he?) but simply observes and relaxes. And I think that he simply knows when it’s time to go outside to do its business, eat, drink, and bark, and sleep.

And then I think, “am I like this little dog, who looks at the garbage truck with its massive robotic arm that picks up a garbage bin with ease and simply observes?” Just like my dog looks and contemplates on the garbage truck, I also look and contemplate on the morning sky without fully understanding what I’m looking at but still enjoying it. I can only contemplate and be thankful.

The sky, the garbage truck, and my dog. Three different levels of consciousness. God, humans, and animals. Humans fall in the middle of this ecosystem , taking care of the animal kingdom, thinking we have this world under control, but sometimes forgetting we are truly at the mercy of God, not being able to control how beautiful the sky will look in the morning or if nature will bring us a natural catastrophe.

It humbles me to realize that it all boils down to admitting we have no control of our existence as much as we would like to believe. But it is all given to us. It is all a gift.