Wednesday, March 7, 2018

What We Need In School Instead of Mandated Prayer

For as much as I believe in God and the power of prayer, I’m often surprised by the calling for mandated school prayer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to the idea of people praying together in school, per se; truth be told, I’d be in favor of it *if* we all had the same spiritual beliefs. But we don’t. We are a very diverse society, not to mention the fact that we live in a country founded on a number of core principles, one of them being religious freedom. Our children come from different families and cultures, with different religious and non-religious backgrounds. Even that statement could open a whole separate discussion on what it means to religious, or event spiritual, etc. Therefore, while nothing should ever stop a child who wants to pray on his or her own from doing so, I find myself at odds with the idea of making group prayer an organized activity in a public school.      

Aside from the above, when I see people shaming the absence of mandated prayer time in school, I wonder to myself, how many of those protesters are stressing the importance of prayer at home, with their own children. The home is such important place for children to learn about spiritual and moral principles, as well as for parents who believe in the importance and utility of prayer to teach that to their children. Perhaps the energy spent trying to socialize a need for mandated prayer would be better invested if we were to encourage one another to make prayer a priority in the home. 

Furthermore, and perhaps even more importantly, an absence of prayer in school does not have to mean an absence of God. Without forcing anyone to pray or to pray in a certain way or with certain terminology, we can still bring God into our schools; we can do this through the very values we help our children carry as they walk into school each day and interact with their fellow classmates. We must take the time, at home, to teach our children (both by words and by example) about kindness, humility, respect, forgiveness, and patience. We have to educate them about the importance of empathy and helping others. We should encourage them to stand up for others unable to defend themselves. We need to help them develop courage as they face different challenges. We ought to instill in them a love of nature. And the list goes on.

In light of recent events in our country, I have seen this wording displayed on t-shirts, posters, and memes, as well as being illustrated in comics and used for points in debate. 

“Dear God,
Why do you allow so much violence in our schools?
- A Concerned Student.

“Dear Concerned Student,
I'm not allowed in schools."
- God

Well, in reality, God is always allowed in schools. Ironically, our religious freedom granted by the US constitution actually protects the rights of all individuals, including students, to pray on their own in and accordance with their particular beliefs should they desire to do so. I’m thankful for this because, as a Spiritist, to me prayer is very important. I believe it is important for children to be taught both why to pray and what it means to pray and that we as parents and other caretakers in their homes and spiritual communities should help them develop the practice.  Like the moral values mentioned above, children can take this with them wherever they go, including school. They can know that when they want to ask God for help from or give thanks, they only need to direct their thoughts to God or to their spiritual mentors.

That said, if God is allowed but not brought into school as we’d like, that is evidenced by different circumstances than what the above-mentioned wording alludes to. Instead,

if we taught children to be compassionate,
if we nurtured our children’s emotional intelligence and taught them kindness and respect, and
if we put more emphasis on resolving and preventing bullying,

then, with this to begin with, God would be more present than ever in our schools.


if we could ensure that all children had the chance to learn on full stomachs and well-nourished bodies,
if we could make certain to include the arts as a part of every child’s education,
if our schools could be adequately staffed, with enough teachers for healthy class-sizes and with enough counselors to give children and parents the attention they need,
and more,

we’d go even further to bring God’s love to children and those whom we entrust with their care during some of the most formative years of their lives.

◊ ◊ ◊

Rather than prayer or even the mention of God by name in public schools, we sincerely need the essence of God – love and compassion. 

Thank you for reading.
Blessings to all, today and always

Monday, January 15, 2018

COCO, the Movie! – Great Message – At the Perfect Time – Beautiful Film

STOP!  If you haven’t seen this movie, I HIGHLY recommend you watch it and then, of course, come back for this post to see if you agree with my thoughts! Even so, I will try not to reveal too much detail for those who'd rather keep reading anyway. ;)


So. Who's seen the movie “Coco” ?  I absolutely loved it! For starters, the animation is spectacular. The scenery is authentic, and with some of the characters I even sometimes forgot I was watching animation! Those visuals, combined with great writing and the music that also plays a central role in the movie, make for an authentic, captivating presentation for this touching story.

For me personally, I've also had a special place in my heart for the Spanish language and subsequently the Latin culture ever since I started foreign language classes in High School. I also learned then about the Mexican beliefs and traditions surrounding the "Day of the Dead". As soon as I caught a preview for this Disney/Pixar movie, I couldn't wait to see it, but I loved it even more than I'd expected.

◊ ◊ ◊

Aside from the above, this film had something else that spoke to the passion of my spirit. That is the big-screen representation of life-after-death and the ever-important messages revealed through the adventures and discoveries of little Miguel, the main character. 
As the developing story takes viewers from the material to the spiritual realms, at times depicting both side-by-side, we learn through the eyes of Miguel's family (on both planes) what the "Day of the Dead" is really about. Unlike what those unaware may believe, this tradition is not another name for a "day like Halloween". It is about the belief in a sacred opportunity for loved ones in two different realms of life to be together and celebrate their bonds that last long beyond the grave. Miguelito learns, however, that each year when that special and highly anticipated day rolls around, only those with an incarnate loved one who remembers them and puts their picture out on the "ofrenda" (an altar to honor and welcome the deceased loved ones, as well as to offer food and gifts) are allowed to make a visit to the "world of the living". The sorrowful cases of certain discarnates that Miguel finds in the spirit world bring attention to the plight believed to be endured by those who are instead forgotten. 
While the Spiritist understanding of spirit life differs in some details from that of the beliefs behind the "Day of the Dead" in Mexico, one very important, underlying idea is the same - that of the continued relationships nourished by mutual remembrance! Those we love in the spirit realm do rejoice in seeing our accomplishments (especially spiritual ones) and our times of happiness, they support us in our sorrows and trials, and they may become one of the friendly spirits who offer us guidance as we manage our way through the material life. At the same time, those who find themselves in a position of suffering of some kind feel strengthened by our prayers and love. In any case, when we do want to connect with the spirits in thought, what matters most is not the time or place but instead the concentration of our attention and the sincerity of our sentiments. According to Spiritist teachings, the visits between incarnate and discarnate loved ones is not reserved for a single day of the year; barring any individual limitations at the time, our loved ones in spirit can be with and around us at any given moment. Likewise, as we sleep and our bodies rest, our spirits have opportunities to spend time with them in the spirit realm. 

Indeed, the endearing connections we establish with one another remain, even when we are temporarily separated by the incarnate state of one and the discarnate state of another. I really couldn't help but think that while perhaps even those who brought this movie to life may have simply thought it was great story to take to film, perhaps something even greater was behind it, influencing its eventual materialization. As more people begin to see the afterlife as something beyond simply an abstract existence, I believe the timing was right for the appearance of a movie of this kind. 

◊ ◊ ◊

As we also see in this movie, there was another great lesson learned by little Miguelito. He came to realize that family is of utmost importance, more than any fame or fortune. His "abuela" (grandmother) and other family members tried to tell him so, but with his child's spirit of adventure and his secret but uncontainable love for music, he needed to follow his dreams and have the experiences he did to learn this important lesson. In the end, his adventures took him full circle, back to his "familia" to whom his albeit stubborn rebellion ultimately brought healing for some long-held misunderstandings about their past.

Through this heartwarming story, "Coco" offers the world a wonderful reminder about the treasure of family and a valuable message about the importance of remembering our loved ones in the spirit realm. Those who await us "on the other side" indeed think of us and take pleasure in receiving our warm thoughts and prayers, knowing that we remember them with the same affection or that we are praying for them if they are suffering. We are so fortunate to have the body of knowledge and study that is Spiritism to bring us evidence (if not proof) of these very principles as a source of comfort and inspiration.

So take this message as inspiration. Let those beloved souls in the spirit realm know they are on your mind and in your heart.

Thank you for reading.

Blessings to all, today and always


Friday, October 27, 2017

Remembering Romeo & Juliet and Reflecting on A Tragic Misconception Concerning Suicide

I came across Q&A 956 in “The Spirits’ Book”, and I couldn’t help but consider how it puts a bit of a thorn in the heartrending romanticism of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet".

The question reads:
Q:  "Do those who cannot bear the loss of loved ones and kill themselves in the hope of rejoining them accomplish their objective?"

The spirits answer:
A: “The result for them is much different than what they hoped for. Instead of being reunited with the objects of their affection, they keep themselves away from them even longer because God cannot reward an act of cowardice, an insult which demonstrates distrust in divine providence. They will pay for that moment of insanity with afflictions even greater than those they wished to shorten, and they will not have the compensation they hoped for.”

Did Romeo and Juliet believe they would be reunited, or could they simply not bear to be without one another for the rest of their days here on Earth? Either way, anyone who has ever been in love and dreaded the thought of continuing life without the object of his or her undying affection can certainly sympathize with the emotional catalysts for such actions. This is what makes us such fans of this theatrical masterpiece that portrays an emotional turmoil so many can related to. Unfortunately, however, in real life, choices like this do not lead one to happiness in the beyond, as one may hope. 

◊ ◊ ◊

From a broader perspective, Romeo and Juliet’s story reflects how a materialistic view on life may ultimately lend itself to a very tragic misconception. From this view, one my see taking his or her life as a way to escape deep pain and suffering. Honest to God, my heart goes out to anyone who is feeling so much hurt or despair that suicide appears to be the best alternative, but this is only made worse by the fact that cutting one’s life short does not take away our problems. In fact doing so limits our ability to resolve them. This also highlights the importance of the message in Spiritism. Spiritism shows us that life beyond the grave continues and that, upon leaving behind the material body, we remain the same individual we were while incarnated - with the same joys, the same sorrows, the same accomplishments thus far achieved, and the some problems left to overcome. Thus demonstrating the futility of ending our own lives and likewise the importance of working through our struggles while we remain incarnate, Spiritism also, however, provides a source of hope and consolation to help us in life’s trying times.

When we allow life to takes its natural course and bravely bear our trials, a natural death can relieve us from certain afflictions - such as the physical pain of an ill body, the longing to be with the loved ones who await our return to the spirit world, or the normal day-to-day challenges of living in the material world. However, many problems that we deal with while alive (incarnated) on Earth - such as broken relationships, addictions, a troubled conscience, moral weaknesses, etc. – do not go away merely because we’ve once again left behind yet another material body and thus closed another chapter on the life story of our immortal soul. Problems like the latter will always require resolution, something that will take effort on our own part to attain, as we continue living and growing in two realms of life.

Suicide only complicates things further and for two reasons. First of all, once we are no longer in the material world, it becomes even harder to actively work on resolving these issues. Sometimes, there are things we can do from the spirit world, but it’s also very possible that we have to wait for a new incarnation to resume where we “left off”. Secondly, the act of prematurely ending one’s life carries with it its own painful consequences – from the darkness and suffering one may experience in the spirit world to the imprint that such an act may have on the circumstances of a future incarnation.

 ◊ ◊ ◊
Collectively, the many teachings of Spiritism help us to understand why suicide is never a good answer. Meanwhile, our loving and knowledgeable mentors and teachers, communicating to us from the discarnate state and through the aid of mediumship, bring us compassion and hope. For all who are interested, below I recommend some resources for learning more about the Spiritist viewpoint and teachings related to the above discussion. If you would like information on where to obtain the books mentioned or which book to begin with, feel free to contact me.

For anyone who may, in particular, have been finding him or herself contemplating suicide: I ask you to please consider exploring the Spiritist teachings and, above all, please reach out to a trusted individual for help. Note that below I have also included US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Furthermore, if you find comfort in what Spiritism offers and you would like to learn more about it, starting with one of the books below, contact me; I will be happy to get you a copy.


Recommended Resources

US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255

Spiritist Books, topic of Suicide:

Those Left Behind - Understanding Suicide from a Spiritist View (Jussara Korngold)

Spiritist Books for study of Spiritist teachings:

Allan Kardec’s “The Gospel According to Spiritism” 
     (see especially the chapter “Blessed are the Afflicted”)

Allan Kardec’s “Heaven and Hell”

Spiritist Books, specifically, enlightening and inspiring novels:

Nosso Lar  (spirit André Luiz, medium Chico Xavier)

And Life Goes On (spirit André Luiz, medium Chico Xavier)

Resignation (spirit Emmanuel, medium Chico Xavier)

Memoirs of a Suicide (spirit Camilo Candido Botelho, medium Yvonne A. Pereira)

Paul and Stephen (Spirit Emmanuel, medium Chico Xavier)

Spirits Books, messages of inspiration

Happy Life  (spirit Joanna de Ângelis, medium Divaldo Franco)

Child of God  (spirit Joanna de Ângelis, medium Divaldo Franco)

Living and Loving  (spirit Joanna de Ângelis, medium Divaldo Franco)

Our Daily Bread  (spirit Emmanuel, medium Chico Xavier)

The Pathway, the Truth and the Life  (spirit Emmanuel, medium Chico Xavier)


Understanding Suffering - This talk of mine discusses the Spiritist perspective on suffering 

Thank you for reading!
Blessings to all, today and always

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Spirits: Why Not?! Seeing is Not Believing!

It puzzles me that so many people consider spirits to be nothing but a myth, something you’d have to be fooled to believe in. I’m guessing this has a lot to do with pop culture’s portrayal of “ghosts”. How often do we find movies & videos, books and articles, TV shows, and other media focusing on the miserable plight of suffering spirits and their haunting presence among the lives of the living? They encourage people to see these beings from beyond the grave as either too scary to contemplate or nothing but entertainment for whatever it’s worth to the audience.

We can’t blame all the resistance on popular media though. There are other reasons for the indifference or claims that that spirits simply do not exist. In response to some of those reasons listed here, I might make some suggestions such as these:

With respect to all but the last of the positions above, I would propose flipping things around for a moment of contemplation. What if you start with the details behind the notions and claims that people, in at least some in locations all over the world and throughout all times have seen spirits, heard spirits, or otherwise experienced or documented phenomena that offer strong evidence for the continued existence of individuals once living here in the flesh? Can there not be something to all that?

Yes, it would take some time and willingness to gather and study those details. Yes, you’d have to weed through information garbage to filter out the gems. Yes, you may have to question beliefs that, for you, have been a source of your skepticism concerning spirits. However, if you found the evidence in favor of the existence of spirits to be convincing or even thought-provoking, might it then give you cause to reconsider your perspective?

Of course, sometimes people don’t hold a deliberate disbelief in spirits, or in spirits being among us.  They simply haven’t given it much thought or haven’t had much exposure to information from sources other than contrary teachings or the pop culture I mentioned above. I was one of them, myself! That is, until Spiritism came into my life.

◊ ◊ ◊

One of the arguments that surprises me most goes along the lines of, “[Spirits don’t exist because] I can’t see them.”

Really? Of course, we all know the old expression that “Seeing is believing”. Ironically though, that comes nowhere near the way we actually think of the world in this day and age.

Our lives are filled with things we believe to exist or take for granted without seeing them for ourselves. We began learning this at an early age, when our teachers had us look through the microscope. As adults, we could list numerous examples. from the simple to the complex. Furthermore, even when we do “see” something, we know that what we perceive doesn’t necessarily reflect reality! Who doesn’t love a good magic trick? Who hasn’t enjoyed a 3-D movie? Today we’ve gone beyond that to create virtual reality and, even better, the in-development mixed-reality technologies. 

I think we can all agree that seeing is not necessarily believing, just as not seeing is not a direct and just cause for not believing. So when it comes to spirits, I say we scrap those thoughts and instead turn to the one that says, “There’s more than that which meets the eye.”

I’d like to share with you a personal experience that struck me as quite analogous to this concept of seeing or not seeing spirits. Where I work, we recently adopted a new software, which offers many options for customizing the display of project information. Each customized configuration is called a “view”, and it so happens that I create the views for my team.

At first I got frantic calls from panicked users claiming that their data (from the old system) was “gone!!!!!” I would then remind them that it was there but simply hidden through filters. To see it, they needed only to switch to a different “view”.

It occurred to me that the information filters in that software are a bit like the limitations on our senses as incarnate spirits. The inability to perceive spirits is nothing more than a temporary filter. Those who are ostensive mediums have a “view” that allows them to see, hear, or otherwise register the presence of spirits. The fact that others cannot perceive the same does not mean the spirits are not there.

That analogy coincides nicely with Spiritist author Richard Simonetti’s explanations in his book “Mediumship, All You Need to Know””. I would like to provide you this excerpt from that text:

“What is mediumship?
In its simplest definition, mediumship is being sensitive to the influences of the spirit realm. It’s the sixth sense,” which places us into contact with the world of spirits, in much the same way as our senses of touch, taste, smell, seeing, and hearing place us in contact with the world of humans

Does this mean that we are all humans?
All humans have the sensitivities that make the perception of spiritual influences possible.  Not all humans, however, are sufficiently sensitive to produce mediumistic phenomena

What determines this difference?
Let’s imagine someone wearing a suit of armor that impairs their ability to hear and see what is happening around them. This is what happens with us when we reincarnate. We put on a dense flesh garment that inhibits our spiritual perceptions. A medium is someone who has an opening in this armor.”

Is it a physical type of opening? Is it in the body?
Mediumship is a spiritual faculty inherent to all spirits. When we reincarnate it becomes dependent on the conditions of the body. In this regard, we can say that it’s organic because it’s subordinate to a physical structure which doesn’t inhibit all contact with the spirit world.” 

◊ ◊ ◊

For Spiritists, rather than questioning the existence of spirits (as we have already been convinced by the evidence and logic), we are hopefully now using this knowledge about spirits, including our own existence as spirits, to take advantage of this incarnation. If, as students of Spiritism, we are convinced by the logical theory but have not yet delved into the practical evidence and explanations, it is important that we study that piece of Spiritism - from Kardec and others as well. After all, this basic notion is fundamental to the entirety of Spiritist principles, perspectives, and approach to life!

To begin with, I’d highly recommend:

     Allan Kardec’s “The Mediums’ Book”: Part One:
         Ch   I - Are There Spirits?
         Ch  II - The Extraordinary and the Supernatural
         Ch III - Methodology
          Ch IV - Theories

     Allan Kardec’s “What is Spiritism”
          Chapter: The Critic / Section: “False Explanations of the Phenomena”

Just a word of caution. In our enthusiasm for Spiritism, we may be eager for others to study and gain from the same “enlightenment”. Let’s remember, however, that not everyone will see Spiritist thought, principles, and information in the same way or find in it the same degree of benefit. Nor does everyone have to! If we share the awareness of Spiritism, it is only to let each individual decide if the body of Spiritist knowledge and information is a good fit for him or her at this time.

Meanwhile, let’s continuously remind ourselves that any information, if not consciously employed for our own betterment, is simply that, information. What we do with it is up to us!

Thank you for reading!
Blessings to all, today and always

Thursday, September 21, 2017

“Easy For Me To Say.”; Walking the Delicate Line Between Empathic Pain and Empowering Perspective

Is it really a line? Only figuratively.
Even so, I say not fine, but delicate.
We can find ourselves on both sides at the same time.
At stake are raw emotions, precious human connections, and moral evolution

Never before have so many catastrophic events, happening in such a short span of time, affected the lives of people I love alongside those of countless strangers. Over these past weeks, we have had Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, the earthquake in Mexico, and now Hurricane Maria. In places where I know no one, there are other situations like the tremendous flooding in Bangledesh. It has been unreal to see these events unfold one after the other.

Of course, in any given year certain events rock the world with rapid and wide-spread devastation, while every single day millions of individuals endure personal tragedies of their own. The size of an event or the number impacted does not necessarily mean more, or less, suffering to each individual soul impacted. These major events, however, catch widespread attention due to their magnitude and exposure. As news spreads, those of us on the outside become collectively glued to the TV or internet, watching the shocking events and/or their aftermath unfold. Our hearts ache, even to witness it all from afar and to see and hear the desperation.

As Spiritists, we have the wherewithal, at least in terms of conceptual knowledge, to grasp the purpose of these events. And yet, each time I personally thought about sharing those ideas over the last several days to help both myself and others think through them without despair, I would hear a voice in my head answering, “So easy for me to say.”  The voice of that delicate line.

I would picture myself or a loved one enduring one of those experiences and suffering tremendous pain in the process, and I could understand how someone would think, “Sure, it makes sense until it happens to you”. Most of all, part of me feared unwillingly seeming to minimize the hurt of so many.

Then along came a handful of acquaintances - Spiritist or not  - who put their thoughts out there reminding everyone of the higher perspective, attempting to help foster calm. I then realized that even though I shared in that same understanding, the public expression of such ideas helped not only others; it helped me too. And it’s important.

These natural calamities cannot be blamed on terrorists, political groups, or people of any particular kind or background; instead of dividing us they bring us together. They serve a higher purpose, as mother nature engages her defenses of self-renewal and natural law employs mechanisms for our (spiritual) renewal. Large numbers of compassionate people are moved to help strangers. Expressions of concern, care, and support are all around. We become kinder and more giving. We stop to reflect on what is truly important in life. And the immensely painful experiences of those most directly affected will, with time, prove to be transformational in the evolution of their immortal spirits.  Only the understanding of immortality and spiritual evolution can help us to understand how, through the worst of times, nature and natural law bring forth not only the best of us but also the best for us.  
Now, let me rephrase that last sentence. For some, but not all, they will indeed bring out the best. For all, however, they will offer numerous opportunities to let our best shine. As Spiritists, now is the time to walk the talk of compassion, of charity, of solidarity and love, as well as of hope and faith. And sharing the enlightenment of Spiritist teachings is not the most pressing need among the general population. At a time like this especially, it is - above all else – about action.

◊ ◊ ◊

If you can be one of the awesome and inspiring souls who take the time and opportunity to help in-person and contribute somehow that way, God bless you.

If you personally know people either directly or indirectly affected, be there to listen. Do not impose spiritual principles on the distressed. Instead, lovingly allow them to express their emotions, tell their stories, and grieve in their own ways. Support with your presence and vibrations.

If you can give financially or donate needed materials, give. Give what you can, maybe even sacrifice. You already gave with “the last one”? Give again. Entire towns and communities, in same cases even countries full of people are now in dire need.

If you can pray (who can’t pray?), do it. If you are on social media claiming “prayers”, do it. Take the time to get quiet and lift your thoughts to implore assistance from the spirit realm. Ask for comfort, care and outreach for those directly impacted - both incarnate and discarnate if such be the case.  If you are able to give in other ways in addition to prayer, then ask also for guidance and inspiration to you in your desire and willingness to be of service.

It is healthy to shed tears and feel pain for our brothers and sisters.
It is also healthy to reflect on the bigger picture from a spiritual perspective.
It is our duty to help.

Let’s be there for each other. Even as our hearts hurt, let’s use our knowledge, prayers, and compassion to find perspective and strength so that we can give our solidarity and love to others in their time of great need.

This is how we walk the “delicate line” between empathic pain and empowering perspective.

Thank you for reading.
Blessings to all, today and always