To Be or Not to Be

Sometimes it is good to stop doing, and just be.

If we could just be, for a few moments each day, fully where we are,

we would indeed discover that we are not alone.”

         Henri Nouwen


We’ve all heard the phrase, “Don’t just stand there, do something.” We tend to put such importance on what we do. We judge others by what they do. We judge ourselves by the same standard. We feel we must always be doing busy doing rather than beingsomething to have value; to have worth.

How often to you hear someone talk about how busy they have been. How often do you respond to the question, “How are you?” with statements of how busy you have been. It’s like a badge of honor. The busier we are, the more important we are.

But is this “doing” standard true? Is our worth based only on what we do? What about simply who we are? Remember when your children were infants. Remember when you gazed at them while they slept. Were they doing great things? Were they accomplishing something of importance? Of course they weren’t. All they could do at the time was sleep, eat, pee and poop. Yet, they were precious. Your baby’s worth was not based on doing, but on being.

And what about when we grow up? Think about someone you love. If they were in an accident or developed an illness, where they could no longer do the things they do now, would they be less valuable in your eyes?  Would you love them less? Probably not.

Of course, our actions or behaviors are important. Our choices do matter. Our goals and accomplishments shape our lives. But, must we always be doing something?

Sometimes, we need to just be. Be in the moment. Be aware of our surroundings. Be still. When we are still and present in the moment, we are reminded of who we truly are, and perhaps, that we are not alone.


Evidence of an Afterlife

I think you might enjoy these reports of near-death experiences.

Today, I would like to share two books that recently impacted me. The two books are “Evidence of an Afterlife: Theevidence of an afterlife Science of Near-Death Experiences” and “God and the Afterlife.” The authors are Jeffrey Long, MD and Paul Perry. “Evidence of an Afterlife,” their first book, provides information about the phenomenon, with case examples. “God and the Afterlife” focuses on the nature of God provided by the descriptions. Personally, I preferred the second book, but the first was helpful.

Jeffrey Long is a Radiology Oncologist physician, but he became interested in near-death experiences early in his career. You’ve probably heard of people who came very close to death and later told of an experience with heaven, meeting deceased relatives or even God. Of course, there have been several books and movies about the experience. A near-death experience is usually defined by its name. The person was near death, and he or she had an experience.

In 1998, Dr. Long established the Near Death Experience Research Foundation (NDERF) to study the phenomenon. He set up a website and invited people to write about their experience, and answer a lengthy questionnaire. At this point, the site has received over 4000 entries from all over the world. The questionnaire explores not only the near-death experience, but also changes that may have taken place after the experience. The questionnaire has been translated into over twenty different languages.

The amazing thing about such experiences is their consistency. While not everyone offers the same description, most experiences are very similar. The most common experiences involve an out-of-body experience, heightened senses, intense and generally positive emotions or feelings, passing into or through a tunnel, a brilliant light, and encountering deceased relatives. Many also report a life review, learning special knowledge, and a moment where they had to decide to stay in that realm or return to life.

I was most impressed by the consistent reports of intense, unconditional and indescribable love during the experience. They said that they felt surrounded by this incredible love, like they had never experienced. They said the love emanating from God was beyond description. They often said that God was love.

I was also impressed by the ways this experience changed the lives of the reporters. Most said they no longer had any fear of death, and that they gained a new love for others and themselves. They said that they felt a peace. And these changes continued over twenty years after the experience.

The author also deals with the arguments of skeptics, and presents evidence that, to me, seems pretty convincing. In many of the experiences, the person was able to describe events occurring in other rooms, that would have been impossible for them to know. Also, many people had these experiences when their brain functions should have made any conscious experience impossible.

As I noted earlier, there have been several recent books about one person’s near-death experience, but this is the first time I have been able to review research into over 4000 such experiences. I think you might be impressed as well.

Putting Someone Else in Your Shoes

Try this exercise to put your mistakes in proper perspective.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Don’t judge a man unless you have walked in his shoes.” It reminds us that we can’t avoiding self-judgmentknow or judge another person’s choices or actions unless we haven’t been in his situation. It is a good idea. Keeps us from being quite so judgmental.

Today, I want to recommend a different version. Consider this version, “Don’t judge yourself until you have put someone else in your shoes.”

Every day, I meet people who judge themselves harshly. They treat their mistakes as horrible, and worse, unforgivable. They get mad at themselves when they mess up. They criticize themselves harshly in their minds. Sometimes their self-talk borders on self-abuse.

Also, there doesn’t seem to be an end to their self-judgment. The mistake may have occurred yesterday, or many years ago. It doesn’t matter. Their self-judgment for the mistake is constant over time. I sometimes ask them exactly how long their sentence is. I’ve seen murderers get off with shorter sentences. These self-critical people have no date for parole or release.

To put our mistakes in better perspective, I ask these people to imagine putting someone else in their shoes. I ask them to identify a person in their mind that they like and respect, but someone they could imagine possibly being in their situation.

I ask them to imagine that this person was in their exact situation. Imagine that they made the exact same mistake, under the exact same circumstances. Then, imagine that they felt the same remorse or self-criticism; same situation, same mistake, same reaction to the mistake.

I then ask them how they would judge the person in their mind. Not what they would say to the person, because they might be nice or kind, but what they would think in their mind.

Almost immediately, they will say that they would judge the other person less harshly. They would usually see the mistake as less catastrophic, and they would see it as more easily forgivable. They would see it as just a mistake.

Our judgment of the other person more accurately reflects our true assessment of the situation. It isn’t biased by our tendencies to be hard on ourselves. This exercise helps us put our mistakes or deficits in better perspective.

I have used this technique with myself most of my adult life. Whenever I make a mistake, I put someone else in my shoes, and ask myself how I would judge them. I don’t let myself be any harsher with myself or any easier on myself than I would the other person. It has helped me many times. Try it and see how it works for you.