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.

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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.” 

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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.

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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

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Looking for a movie this weekend? How about "Astral City"? (Trailer included)

"Astral City: A Spiritual Journey"
Strand Releasing
If you're interested in life after death and you haven't yet seen this film, I highly recommend it! The movie is based on our Spiritist novel, "Nosso Lar".

First, some background from the "official" movie description, by production company Strand Releasing: 

Based on the best selling book "Nosso Lar" by medium Chico Xavier, the film tells the story of Andre Luiz, a successful doctor who experiences an enlightening spiritual awakening after his death. When he wakes up in the spiritual world, he embarks on a new journey of self-discovery and transformation, from his first days in a dimension of pain and suffering, until when he is rescued and taken to the spiritual Astral City. [...] the film brings to the screen what life is like at the Astral City that hovers in the upper layers of the Earth's atmosphere.

Now, here's my review and why you need to see it!
(Trailer to folllow)

"Astral City” gives viewers a real glimpse into the treasures of knowledge found in the science and philosophy of Spiritism. In this well-done production that stays quite faithful to the true story novel it is based on, viewers accompany the main character, Andre Luiz, as he encounters the reality of our existence as immortal souls and awakens to new perspectives about life, love, responsibility, and connection.

Through this movie many viewers, like the main character himself, discover the awesome reality that "death" only pertains to the impermanent physical body and that life not only goes on, but in a very real way. By following Andre's experiences, we see that the bonds of love and affection established here on Earth are never destroyed and that, one day, we are all re-united with our loved ones, in the spiritual realm - a place to reflect on our past experiences, engage in opportunities for study and fraternal service, and prepare for the continuation of our spiritual journey.

Like threads that weave through those discoveries, some deeper underlying realities that Andre also comes to realize as he is helped to understand the connection between past, present and future, are that life has great meaning, that everything we experience serves a purpose, and that we all are truly the authors of our own destiny.

The film is well-produced and very entertaining, with great music and visual effects that keep you absorbed from one scene to the next, and these elements all come together to really bring home the heartwarming and thought-provoking messages of this incredible story, as first narrated by Andre Luiz, himself.

Movie Trailer

As mentioned, this movie is based on the book "Nosso Lar"
by spirit author André Luiz and medium Chico

André Luiz is considered, among Spiritists, as a beloved reporter of the spirit realm, who has shared, through this novel and others, an amazing collection of details about life in the spiritual dimension and the ongoing interactions between the spiritual and material worlds. His accounts bring to life and help us to really understand, with meaningful examples and explanations, the fundamental principles of the science and philosophy of Spiritism.
Read more about
André Luiz.

Chico Xavier is the much-loved medium, through whom Andre Luiz was able to share his story with us.  Watch this short video about Chico and his life of service, faith, and love.  Read more about Chico in this book "Chico Xavier, Medium of the Century".

If I've peeked your interest on the movie, you can now catch it through a number of options, including:  YouTube, Amazon Movie, Google Play, and iTunes.

Enjoy!   Let me know what you think!

Thank you for reading!

Blessings to all, today and always



Friday, August 11, 2017

Is the thought of reincarnation truly consoling?

In Spiritism you’ll usually hear how the knowledge of reincarnation is so mind-settling, inspiring, and consoling. 

Well, here’s the thing. We live in a crazy world. Who wouldn’t agree that that it’s far from perfect? OK, I know; it’s more like 
those living in it are far from perfect. But you know what I mean. As a consequence of its inhabitants, the world itself is likewise still significantly backward. So there’s a lot about life on our planet, or even just material life at this stage of the game, that is not fun, not pleasant. In fact, the truth is that life can be really hard sometimes, truly painful, and often both. 

As far as I’m concerned, it’s a totally legit evaluation of that to think, “Hey, I really just don’t want to come back and have to live here or do this all over again!” I’ve actually heard people express that before, and I can’t blame them. After all, on the surface, who on Earth (pun intended) would want to sign up for a return if you’ve had a really difficult life and endured significant suffering? Even if you’ve had a great life, albeit with difficult moments (no one's life is all great all the time), you still may feel that once is enough for you.

Yep. I totally get that. However, I invite you to look at it another way, because I also know there’s more to it. For example, what if you grew up in a dysfunctional family and even though you always dreamed of someday having the perfect family of your own, domestic trouble somehow always followed you, and later in life you felt that you would give anything to come back and experience that blessing of a united, loving home and family? What if you longed to pursue a particular career but some kind of unavoidable limitation kept you from doing so and you still wish you could live out that dream? What if there are so many places in the world you want desperately to see or experiences you want to try out, but you don’t have the time or resources to do that? What if you wanted to be a parent but life never gave you that chance?

In spite of all that is imperfect, there’s also a lot that’s really beautiful and wonderful about our world! As such, life here offers so many opportunities that what any one person can experience “from cradle to grave”, no matter what position her or she is in, is just a tiny fraction of all those possibilities. 

Unfortunately, if one truly believes that “you only live once”, it becomes possible to feel pressured to do or accomplish as much as possible or to feel remorse, maybe even resentment, for that which one simply cannot do or have. So if you instead consider that, given reincarnation, we journey through multiple material lifetimes, you can relax somewhat and let this knowledge take a load off.  There will always be other opportunities for everything that this lifetime doesn’t allow for. Take a moment to let that thought sink in a bit, and take a deep breath.

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I’m guessing that for some that’s still not convincing. Well then, what if you leave this world with your soul in unrest, your emotions unsettled, your mind tormented – whether occasionally or continuously – by disturbing thoughts or memories? What if you end this life here or resume life in the spirit world with regrets over your choices, decisions, or behaviors and their consequences?  And what if the only way to resolve such circumstances and truly find peace was to come back and give life on Earth (or a different material world) another try? From both teachings and testimonials obtained through communication with spirits, we know that this is the situation in which countless souls find themselves. At any given time, there are multitudes waiting anxiously for their chance to reincarnate.Those of us who study Spiritism and consider ourselves Spiritists do not believe in reincarnation because it is consoling or inspirational or even because it’s logical and offers a sound explanation for many of life’s otherwise inexplicable phenomena, at least not for those factors alone. In reality, reincarnation is all the above and it is supported, illustrated, by what we believe to be reasonable evidence for its existence, alongside that for the existence of life-after-death and the communicability of spirits - spirits from whom we have actually learned a great deal about spirit life and reincarnation.  I mention this because the next thing I want to say stems from the starting point of this belief.

If natural law were such that we could actually go on to experience true and full happiness upon leaving this world no matter what “lot” we each received in this lifetime and regardless of what we did throughout our stay here on Earth, then, I have to say, I’d probably be quite tempted myself to say that I too would rather just go straight to the state of enjoying eternal happiness and peace. Why not? However, according to the Spiritist teachings, disclosures, and illustrations taken from serious study of both the spirits and their communications, this just isn’t the case and that’s not how it works. 

Our spirits go on living beyond physical death, but they upon leaving the physical body they return to the discarnate state as the very same beings. Therefore, there will be relationships to heal, virtues yet to attain or strengthen, knowledge to acquire, and dreams to accomplish. The vehicle for all of that is reincarnation. This is the reality, as Spiritists believe, of our evolving spirits.

My own opinion, given the above, is that yes, reincarnation is truly consoling, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to study it in the context of Spiritism. It comforting to me to know that we have endless opportunities to achieve, experience, amend, grow, and evolve.

So that’s how I feel. What’s your take on all of this What’s your verdict? I’d love to hear from you!

Thank you for reading!

Blessings to all, today and always

Friday, November 25, 2016

Reflections on the Day After: Why Thanksgiving is Decidedly My Favorite Holiday

Who doesn’t love a day off of work, time spent with loved ones, and a delicious meal?  All things to be grateful for and a wonderful way to celebrate, for sure!  But they’re not unique. As enjoyable and truly special as they may be, we do similar things on other holidays and occasions as well.  The dishes may change, and the people we’re with may vary a bit, but these general aspects of the Thanksgiving holiday are common among our various celebrations throughout the year.

At one point in the day yesterday, it just hit me. Thanksgiving has got to be my favorite of them all. For me, two unique things about this day really make my heart smile.

For one thing, Thanksgiving is a day that we can all share. It’s not a religious holiday that by definition involves only a portion of the population. Furthermore, even more shared than Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or other non-religious occasions like Valentine’s Day and the like, Thanksgiving is a simple but distinctive celebration, with nothing* but love and gratitude as its focus. We can all join in, and how awesome is that?

(*Note: I’m going to ignore here the fact that as something relatively new, stores are now opening on Thanksgiving and people are actually out in them. Personally, I still choose not to join in. Many people, I know, likewise feel the same, but whether you like it or love it, let’s not bring that in here as a point of contention.)

Now, the other thing I love about Thanks-giving… is the giving of thanks! I’ve always loved that, but this year I appreciated it even more than ever before. My husband I have a tradition of spending a number of hours on Thanksgiving day, reaching out to friends and loved ones to give them our good wishes. It’s great to hear from so many and to catch up with some whom we haven’t connected with in in a long time. This year, however, instead of just calling or writing to say “Happy Thanksgiving” and to enjoy the many conversations, we actually stopped to really tell people how much they meant to us, to share with them our gratitude for we what appreciated in them, and to thank them for ways they had been there for us throughout the year.

The impact on me was significant.  My heart truly felt happy to connect with so many in a vibration of warmth and love.  It feels so awesome to let people know they are appreciated, and connecting in that way with people from all different parts of our lives is really special. Adding to that my general thoughts and reflections, throughout the day, about various reasons for which I feel so blessed, I literally started feeling grateful for gratitude itself.

As I connected with even more individuals through the medium of social media, I also found the wave of positive thoughts, thanksgiving wishes, and expressions of thankfulness to be so truly refreshing. We have spent so many weeks in this country enduring a heightened division among us that it felt so good to see and feel something welcomingly different. For at least a day, we shared a vibration of joy and thanksgiving.

Gratitude is something we talk about so much in Spiritism. We know conceptually that it is a source of both nourishment and healing for our souls. Still, when we stop to cultivate it and enjoy it as we may do on days like Thanksgiving, we realize how powerful it really is. It then becomes strikingly evident how important it is for us to exercise and express gratitude not just on a dedicated holiday but as much as possible all throughout the year.


Having said all the above, I must add one more thing. I want to acknowledge that for a good number of people the holidays are trying times, including Thanksgiving.  Even when feeling grateful for acknowledged blessings, many find themselves - around the holidays in particular - reminded of losses, difficulties, or loved ones missed so dearly. Others may be prompted to reflect on their lives and for one reason or another find themselves burdened by regrets.  And of course many struggle, whether it be to make ends meet or to simply make it through the day.  If you count yourself among them, I am thinking of you as well, and I have you in my prayers. My heart goes out to those who are hurting, and I ask that in our vibrations of gratitude and love, we remember and extend our giving hearts and hands to those who need the kindness and compassion and of others.  

I likewise pray that for the well-being of our nation, we can keep alive any healthy and vibrations that may have been kindled over this Thanksgiving weekend. For our world as a whole, I pray for peace. Finally, I extend my sincere appreciation to all those who are doing what they can to cultivate respect and care for all individuals, as well as for the environment we share and will one day leave for generations to come. To all doing their best to be make a impact in this world, I thank you.

Happy Thanksgiving to all and God bless.

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