Earth’s chemical imbalance

Et tu, Earth? Yes, Earth too. There is large debate about the reason for climate change with all sorts of data thrown about like the significant CO2 output of human activity. I, for one say yes, human activity is the culprit and the current weather imbalance is a reflection of our own off-kilter lives. In short, we consume more than we need and we definitely take more than we replenish.

If earth was my patient, my diagnosis would be this: Stage 3 human cancer isolated to earth’s outermost crust. The cancer can be successfully treated and removed with severe weather. Earth’s long-term prognosis is good. In the meantime…

Broomfield / Lafayette border, Colo. (AP Photo / Cliff Grassmick)

Broomfield / Lafayette border, Colo. (AP Photo / Cliff Grassmick)

In severe weather news this week we have flooding in Colorado. Parts of Colorado saw heavier rainfall in one day than it has in all other days in the last 95 years. Just another record-breaker? Yes and no. Yes, it’s another record, but the pattern suggests this kind of record-breaking is a new norm that started only in the last decade.  This new norm coincides with warmer temperatures also this past decade, as mentioned in a previous post.

For instance, last St. Patrick’s day was the warmest St. Patty’s day recorded in Chicago since 1872. And last year’s hurricane Sandy holds a few record-breaking facts: its central pressure at landfall was the lowest recorded pressure of all storms on the Atlantic coast since 1938 (lower central pressure is generally equated with stronger storms) and the ensuing storm surge surpassed the previous 1960 record of 10-feet by nearly a whopping 4 feet causing New York City to essentially shutdown, including the subway and the stock exchange.

As for this week’s record, if you were a resident of Boulder for the last 95 years you would say “Heavy summer rains are normal here, but this…I have never seen rain like this before…ever.”

Coal Creek, Golden Colorado Sept 12, 2013 (AP photo/Reuters/Rick Wilking)

The reality of such record-breaking weather is sweeping forces of destruction. So far there are four reported deaths due to Colorado’s flooding. 

Perhaps nature is decidedly the ultimate healer of healers, knowing best how to treat its own ailments–treating earth’s higher temperatures with droughts and deluge, which wreaks temporary havoc on its surface, but effectively disrupts large-scale human activity. One day we just might be disrupted enough to change the way we do things.

My first week of kindergarten…

…again. This time as a parent.

ahs_library

My recollection the first time around is a memory of surprise at recognizing a boy from preschool and…that’s about it. His name was Derek. This time around as a thirty something year-old, I am likely to remember a lot more including the monumental sigh of relief at making it to the first bell. In the lead-up to the first day I am overwhelmed by the wealth of things I had to do like obtain up-to-date vaccinations, register with a copy of my utility bill (to prove in-district location), and purchasing then labeling a myriad of school supplies with my kid’s name i.e. extra clothes, backpack, folders, art apron, and…each crayon/marker in 9 boxes worth of crayons/markers. Really? Continue reading

The Chihuly garden & glass

Chihuly garden & glass, Seattle

Chihuly garden & glass, Seattle

I took an end-of-the-summer trip to Seattle this year. It was a gorgeous five days of crisp mornings and afternoon sunshine, as well as a dramatic change in scenery from tropical paradise. From the moment I arrived at the airport, I absorbed the energy that is the Pacific Northwest–stone, wood, and steel construction with large glass windows peering out to evergreen views. All of it still looked shiny and new compared to the quickly fading paint typical in Hawaii.

On my first day I visited the Chihuly garden & glass exhibit at the Seattle Center, which replaced the old carnival rides and games area. I have to say I love the improvement and so does my five year-old (even though she never went to the carnival rides)!

garden1

Maybe it’s my personal fascination with glass art. For example, I love those glass paperweights with jellyfish captured forever in a perfect bubble of light right there on my desk. Or maybe its everyone’s fascination with light and brilliant, vibrant colors in a way that only sunlight and glass can produce. Either way, the exhibit is inspiring. It easily made me forget about chores or any of the mundane facets of life and instead lifted me near bliss and somewhere carefree. I need a garden like this at my house!

garden2

My first experience with the artist, Dale Chihuly, is the lobby of the Bellagio in Las Vegas. I think I stared straight up at the colorful glass display on the ceiling for ten straight minutes. It was glass paperweight heaven suspended over an entire lobby. Maybe its also a favorite of Chihuly’s since he included a similar display in Seattle. I love the little sea creatures 'floating' around here and there.
 

glass ceiling 2

glass cathedral If you get a chance to visit the Chihuly garden & glass in Seattle, I highly recommend going. It is kid friendly, with plenty of room for strollers and no stairs. There are both indoor and outdoor exhibits. Although, my favorite are the outside spaces where the art is integrated with its surroundings. Most prominently, it is quintessential Seattle art and moment after moment of awe and wonder and delight that you won’t regret.

Older and wiser (and still looking good)

Cafe Julia

Cafe Julia

I recently celebrated my birthday with a long-time girlfriend who incidentally has exactly the same birthday as me. Since turning 21, birthdays have been fairly unremarkable, for me anyway. But this year’s birthday feels like a milestone of heavy proportions. It brings with it a tangible sense of aging (like fine wine rather than good cheese, thank you.) Continue reading

My trip to Shangri-La

I did it. I purchased a round-trip ticket to the mystical land of Shangri-La where no one grows old. I journeyed to the strange land and while there, time stood still. But now I am back…and growing older by the minute. As I reflect on the trip and look at the photographs, I notice time slipping ever gently away.

Portal to Shangri-La

Portal to Shangri-La (Photo: Naia Jones, 2013)

Indian Mughal style garden

Indian Mughal style garden (Photo: Naia Jones, 2013)

The journey to Shangri-La is a marvelous trip down the rabbit hole into a garden of Eden that beckoned me to enter it and leave my mundane existence behind. As the portal to another world opened to me, I stepped forward without so much as a glance back. The grand garden fully surrounding me, instantly turned me into Alice-in-Wonderland.

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Another story about heaven

Book cover, Simon & Schuster, published Oct 2012

Book cover, Simon & Schuster, published Oct 2012

Heaven is for Real: A Little Boys Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back (Todd Burpo, January 2010).  To Heaven and Back: A Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Angels, Heaven and Life Again: A True Story (Mary C. Neal, MD, May 2012).  And now Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife (Eben Alexander, MD, October 2012).  Three separate, published true story accounts of visiting heaven within a two-year time frame.  If I wasn’t so educated, I’d say God was sending us a message.  

All three authors attest to the existence of another dimension beyond earth and that this dimension is irrefutably the place we call heaven.  They know this because they’ve been there.  All three suffered near-death trauma to their bodies, traveled to heaven as beings of light, then miraculously (and begrudgingly) returned to earth a short time later.

Our latest traveler is Dr. Eben Alexander, a neurologist who taught at Harvard for 15 years.  At hospitals, Dr. Alexander encountered many cardiac arrest patients telling stories of an after-life.  While he marveled at their ecclesiastic visions and even envied the comfort it brought, he completely dismissed any truth to their stories.  Once the brain shuts down.  That’s it.  Its over.  No more awareness. 

Then one day something happened to him, that he can’t scientifically resolve, but at the same time cannot deny.  On November 10, 2008, at age 54, Eben Alexander contracted life-threatening bacterial meningitis and narrowly escaped death.  Doctors say his recovery, let alone the full recovery he managed is a modern miracle.  In between near-death and the miracle, Eben says, was a timeless journey to the other side.

There he saw a fantastic world, spent time with his sister (who preceded him in death), and observed a dazzling brilliant light amidst an inky darkness that has changed him forever.  He’s been on Oprah and Larry King Live and on the New York Times best-selling list.  What’s more, like his patients before him, he obstinately insists, even in the face of utter disbelief and criticism from fellow colleagues, that what he experienced is real.

Book cover, Thomas Nelson, published November 2, 2010

Book cover, Thomas Nelson, published November 2, 2010

Heaven is free of physical limitations
According to Eben and consistent with many other true story visits to heaven, the other side is non-physical; energy is everywhere like on earth, just not solid.  It is a realm of light and pure awareness, a place where time is irrelevant.  Eben was a being of consciousness free from the limitations of a body, of physical eyes and ears and a slow brain.  Sight occurs at all angles at once.  Movement is at light speed and initiated merely by thinking about a place. Eben could “hear visual beauty” and could “see the surging, joyful perfection” of sound.  As odd as these descriptions seem they are consistently odd across the spectrum of stories about heaven and the people who tell them commonly struggle with our inadequate language to describe it.

Telepathic communication
The cumbersome use of language on earth is replaced in heaven with perfect telepathic communication.  People exchange absolute information quickly and remarkably without talking.  As soon as questions form, the answers arise at the same time.  Upon meeting his sister, Eben writes, “Without any words, she spoke to me. The message went through me like a wind, and I instantly understood that it was true.”

Eben Alexander

Eben Alexander

Eben struggles to adequately describe the vividness of this kind of information transfer.  It is direct communication of the essence of something, like experiencing information versus interpreting it. This information, he writes isn’t “vague, immaterial, or abstract.”  This information is “hotter than fire and wetter than water.” Further, the information is coded into your being and does not fade with time.  Eben says, as a being, he absorbed volumes of complex information instantly and effortlessly that would have taken him years to understand on earth.

Experience of heaven is more real than life on earth
Despite the unusual features of near-death experiences, people who have them categorically insist on the certainty or hyper-reality of it all.  Eben writes, “I was absolutely sure of one thing: this place I’d suddenly found myself in was completely real.”  He adds that life on earth is dream-like in comparison to the sharp, crisp reality of heaven, which often includes fantasy-like backdrops of verdant gardens and brilliant colors. Eben describes his journey as “the single most real experience of [his] life.”

Star Cluster, NASA, The Hubble Heritage Team, STScI, AURA

An encounter with God
It doesn’t seem to matter which religion or lack of religion a person has.  Atheists, agnostics, Christians alike may experience a light, a presence, or a figure dressed in robes who they are certain could be no other than God. The encounter often happens in a place described by Eben as an “immense void, completely dark, infinite in size, yet also infinitely comforting. Pitch black as it was, it was also brimming over with light.”  The 17th-century poet, Henry Vaughan, noted the peculiar expressions of near-death stories in his time.  “There is, some say, in God a deep, but dazzling darkness.”

Before his coma, Eben Alexander could be described as a product of his pedigree, a highly educated scientist who had no evidence of and therefore, was completely skeptical about the existence of a God or a heaven.  And yet, he is certain he was in the presence of God, although he hesitates to use the oft misconstrued word,  preferring to use the term, ‘Creator’ or ‘Om’ instead.

The pronunciation of Om, he says, is near to the deep resonating sound of God within “infinite space, infinite dimensions, and all of eternity.”  Eben further describes Om as omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, and as the infinitely powerful creator of everything.  If Eben was agnostic before nearly dying, he is clearly a changed man today. 

When asked what God looks like, Eben says God has no gender and is made of light–a light brighter than a million suns.  This impossible to fathom description is common in near-death stories.  Still accustomed to earthly ways, they describe the light as so bright it should hurt their eyes.

The purpose of life
Many who visit heaven are told they will not completely remember what was learned once back on earth and that a required veil of forgetfulness shrouds our earthly minds for good reason, for some sort of larger purpose.  What is the profound purpose of life you ask? 

The answer isn’t glamorous or very specific, but it does resonate with the heart. Stories about heaven consistently cite the same answer: love. Not the steamy, passionate love that often turns to jealousy and hate, but the unconditional kind of love that forgives everything.

It doesn’t matter so much whether you are the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, or a basketball star, or a parking lot attendant.  It doesn’t matter how many trophies you collect, or how much money you make.  What matters is using free-will to choose love above fear in any circumstance, particularly difficult ones.  Choosing to forgive others for causing you harm, for stealing from you or cheating on you for example, far outweighs any other conventional achievements.  Too touchy, feely for you?

Eben Alexander writes, “love and compassion are far more than the abstractions many of us believe them to be. They are real. They are concrete. And they make up the very fabric of the spiritual realm.” 

If there weren’t so many of these stories about heaven, I would easily dismiss them.  So despite my education, I think God, or however you choose to name it, is sending us a message.  Life isn’t just about getting ahead, buying a big house, and eating gourmet food.  Love does seem to be a special kind of energy. 

For me personally, a big part of my life is learning to choose patience, kindness, compassion, and ultimately love despite the chores and trials of daily living.  Its so much easier to judge!  Choosing love over anger especially when I am wronged is much more difficult and less glamorous than obtaining an engineering degree or jet-setting across the globe.  And when I do manage to do it, I can honestly say I feel more powerful.  The struggle to choose wisely is the reason for this blog and the reason I bother fumbling around with these words.  Here’s to chores, love, and service!

Click below and watch videos to find out for yourself what to make of stories about heaven.

Hotter days: does our planet have a fever?

Solar flare composite image by NASA / JAXA

The world did not end in 2012. There was no magnetic pole reversal or solar flare catastrophe. But for one country at least, 2012 was a marked year of solar intensity and extreme weather. The United States (excluding Hawaii and Alaska) experienced its warmest year, by far, in 2012 since records began 118 years ago says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA). NOAA scientists also say the new record significantly sets itself apart from the rest of the data, breaking the last record set in 1998 by a full degree versus the much more typical fractions of a degree. Higher temperatures translate to extreme weather as both record years are also tagged as the United States’ two most extreme weather years. Continue reading

Winds of change: my doomsday story

It’s January 2013 and I still report to my desk job the same as usual instead of somewhere underground sheltered from nuclear fallout or solar flares or other fantastic cataclysm (not that I have such an underground shelter to go to). December 21, 2012 came and went and the biggest headliner was about a looming fiscal cliff. Continue reading

The declaration of the Higgs boson and what it means

This past Fourth of July was like most other Fourth of July holidays. It included getting up late, preparing an All-American meal (which turned out to be boiling some corn and cutting cubes of watermelon), swimming in the afternoon, and by late evening attending a fireworks show to commemorate the United States’ 236th birthday. Little did I know, this fourth of July, in another part of the world a different historical event was taking place—the declaration of the Higgs Boson.

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The day after enlightenment

Three years ago I discovered the secret to life. I was elated and on a high. Nothing could bother me. I felt free and as light as Dandelion seeds completely absent any resistance and taking flight easily whichever way the wind blew. Things that used to infuriate me just didn’t anymore. It simply wasn’t worth my energy to feel rotten and miserable. The secret I learned is that our energy is a precious commodity, even more precious than gems and diamonds.

The euphoria came because it wasn’t just a theory. It was knowledge infused into the very cells of my body. I was a superhero who went out into the world unable to spend my precious energy in any way that was wasteful. Continue reading