Tag Archive: After-Life

A Life Review

My father is an NDEr’ (someone who experienced a near-death experience). During the summer of 2000, his experience included several perceptions, including bright light, moving through a tunnel, positive emotions, meeting his mother, reaching a point of no return, and an out-of-body experience (OBEs). He did not experience a life review. Afterward, we couldn’t get my father to stop discussing it, as if there was some mission to tell everyone about it. Go into a metaphysical shop, and my father would start talking of his NDE. It didn’t matter if anyone asked; my father often felt the world was a podium, and he was the messenger. He never considered the presumption that others could attribute the experience to anything more than neurology.

One neurobiological hypothesis is that NDEs are by-products of brain disorders. Altered blood gas levels that produce hallucinations, tunnel vision, and bright lights. Others equate an abnormal electrical activity to explain life memory flashbacks. It has also been presumed that medications and neurochemical reactions, in general, could affect the occurrence of NDEs. Then there’s delirium, which is the well-known primary effect of brain dysfunction. As one who has experienced the mystical, I always believed.

I’ve often said that one of the blessings of my illness was the opportunity to feel such incredible love and support from acquaintances, healthcare professionals, and even total strangers. I know intuitively that many people go through their entire lives without ever experiencing the kind of human compassion and love God and others have shown. I was moved to tears by and experienced true humility through the gentleness and kindness shown to me by the many nurses and doctors who helped me through the darkest days of my diagnosis. And I wish I could tell everyone that God sees their contribution, their act(s) of love, and their beauty, even during those days when the patient is experiencing the worst. I hope, during my life review that I can relay these acts of kindness to God. They are essential, for they are the focal point of love’s ministry.

During a recent meditation, I experienced a life review, mine. It was an interesting experience. Over two hours, many acts of utter selfishness were reviewed. I can only describe this review from a third-person perspective, and included awareness of what others were feeling and thinking at the time of my interaction. This previously unknown awareness was both surprising and unexpected. I could feel the good and awful emotions I made them experience. I received a total picture of my life’s truth and that of everyone I affected. I perceived not only what I had done or thought, but even in what way it had influenced others. Of course, I could see truths that I had hidden from loved ones and friends. The ‘poor’ decisions made had more impact than the positive, for all the promises I made to God on Christmas Eve 1978 fell apart during my review.

I wanted to make a meaningful impact on the world. But I did not. While I probably didn’t envision solving poverty, hunger, or cancer, I certainly did not foresee the profound sense of pain I caused others. I don’t believe I’ve adequately “paid it forward.” In those moments, I found myself angry, bitter, and manipulative.

After several hours, I stood at a crossroads, literally and figuratively, the end of one phase and the beginning of another, a decision point where choices must be made. Days later, I remain at that crossroad, trying still to figure out what to do next: be the giver of compassion and love or be that which I was. What God taught (maybe remind) to choose unconditional love now and always, while we are alive. We can always be honest and open about everything. We can be accepting and forgiving so that others can do the same. I know the universe will speak to me and direct me towards the right road.

And that road be? Why toward the ‘Light,’ of course.

How Did You Make It?

thThe Barnes and Noble I currently sit offers little comfort my from the muscle aches and pains I endure.  Literally, some days wrench my life with true exhaustion.  While I am not some fanatic guided by overbearing and miserable thoughts, my wonder of the hereafter often cruise through my brain on such days.  The basic question is similar to those who probably sit around me, “If there is indeed an afterlife, is it really any better? Does the sum of your days condemn one to an afterlife of pain and anguish or does a merciful God await one’s soul near life’s end?”

Would that merciful God appreciate all the deaths from Ireland’s Catholic/Protestant wars, the anguish Catholic Priests caused during sexual scandals, the genocide of Hitler, Rwanda, suicide bombers, fake evangelical television preachers and the like? Would God allow politicians utilizing demagoguery to pervert the very nature of kindness and love a wonderfully filled heaven with incense and mirth? Would God call me, the most vile of humans, to live at all?

Philosopher Samuel Scheffler doesn’t believe in a traditional afterlife — that is, he doesn’t think that a spirit or soul survives the body’s physical death. Profoundly, his thought is that we have a profound effect on those who live beyond us, that many of the things we now regard as worth doing would no longer seem to us worth doing. And by living beyond us, we are ensured for moments, maybe even years, that our spirit lives on.

The Rev. Gabriel Salguero suggests we as people have learned to live together, despite difference and despite our cultural backgrounds. This means that acts performed over the centuries in the name of faith (i.e., God) will become washed away. A right relationship with God here on earth, and also in eternity. So we’re going to see people from across the geographic spectrum, and across the racial/cultural spectrum, and we’ll all be one.

I am not sure if either of those perspectives would comfort any of those whom surround. Most would certainly follow those often chimed words, “Everyone wants to go to heaven – just not today!

Truthfully speaking, here and now, I know exactly where I will end after my days close.  How I know will be set for another writing.  But being Buddhist, I believe what God really wants all of us to do is to develop and invest in the right relationships. For some, that may be through the Christian faith. For others Muslim. And others, leading a wonderfully beautiful atheist life. I believe any right relationship established here lasts throughout eternity.

I am befuddled by those who despise such an earth as elitism or socialism. Yet, almost to a word, that’s almost how they perceive God’s view of heaven.

But being a Buddhist, what if we built heaven now? What if we built our heaven here? What if we built a world where there’s no concept of power or money. The hungry eat, the thirsty drink, no iPhone APP, nothing to kill or hate, no one to rape or abuse. No one to politicize. No wars. No unnecessary death.  All receive healthcare. All are cared?

Buddhists believe that there is a deeper, more complete understanding of reality than the one we think of and participate in every day. Having partially seen part of the next world, I can say our bodies may die, but our minds will live. Like a river running through several countries, we continually pass through one boundary into another. That river never changes.

I suggest we life heaven now.  As Kevin Spacey quotes in the movie K-Pax:

Even your Buddha and your Christ had quite a different vision, but nobody’s paid much attention to them, not even the Buddhists or the Christians. You humans. Sometimes its hard to imagine how you’ve made it this far.”

How did you make it this far?