Happy Hour on the Beach

Life has a Purpose!

I recently had a conversation with a friend and we were discussing the purpose of life.  I am very passionate about people finding their purpose.  Everyone needs to find their purpose and meaning to life, no matter what their faith or beliefs.  I found one happy guy who spends half his time on the beaches of Costa Rica and the other half on the slopes.  Is that a lasting formula for happiness?  Kudos to Surf for Life who have found a way to combine service to others and surfing.

beach happy hour

I recently watched a video about a lady who nearly died of cancer who had a near death experience.  The passion for life and purpose and intent was so incredible.

I LOVE TED talks.  I find so much value in listening to TED talks because the purpose and intent is greater than the speaker.  There are even a few talks that ask… Are you there God?

As I write this I’m watching a little TV.  My wife follows a number of shows and tonight she’s watching “The Apprentice All Stars,” and you can see even Hollywood folks that they want to find real meaning and purpose in their lives and in helping others.  I use to enjoy the end of the Extreme Home Makeover, it was great to see the light in the eyes of the family being helped out, often it was a disabled child with a single parent with piles of bills and worse, but also in the people who were bringing the good news of a new or rebuilt home.

What is the meaning of life?

Since I was young I have read scriptures that have discussed why we are here, and offered up answers “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” [2 Ne. 2:25]

In Sunday school, I learned we came here to gain a body, to essentially have a physical experience.  We wanted more.  God had a plan, and part of that plan was for us to come here on this earth that was prepared for us.  We came to be tested and ultimately to return to him having gained experience.  He wants us to obey him and keep his commandments. Those commandments were given to us to help us return to live with him.  They aren’t designed just to be difficult, but to help give us guidelines and to show our love for Him.  In Christianity, Christ plays a MAJOR role in that plan of happiness in showing us the way to live, and in ultimately sacrificing his life to atone for our sins.  He acts as our mediator with our Heavenly Father in our quest to be with him. 

This understanding of knowing we can be saved through this act by accepting him as our Savior and by keeping his commandments is what brings peace in this life.  These are the simple truths I’ve found.  (John 10:15–18; 1 Cor. 15:51–57; Mosiah 15:6–9; Mosiah 16:7–8.)

More of this plan of happiness is laid out in an article with many references titled “The Purpose of Life.”  Something I like about the article is that it also addresses the flipside of the plan, and why God allows bad things to happen to good people.  How can you really be free from pain and sorry if we hold onto sins and pain of the past?  People who dwell on the past and find themselves victim have a hard time finding peace.

Amulek the great Nephite missionary orator laid out an amazingly well articulated view of the plan of salvation or redemption as he encouraged his people to not procrastinate the day of repentance.  I have personally found repentance is one of the keys to happiness. 

Alma 34:31-33

“31… for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you.

32 For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.

33 And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity”

I’ve found that most of the world’s religions and even science will teach a person to try to be happy and enrich their life, but often it’s not enough.  It is important for a person to fill their life with things that help them continuously grow.  I reflect on the YouTube videos for kids who struggle with being different and struggle with life challenges.  “It gets better” is their message.  I’d echo that to anyone who is looking for meaning in life or struggling with life’s challenges.  I’d also encourage anyone that is having trouble finding meaning in life, that they are more likely to find meaning in life by loosing it in the service of others.  The times I’ve volunteered at a soup kitchen, or helped someone out, and in my travels looked for someone who needed my help… their is joy and peace in true charity and pure love.  I gathered a few quotes and thoughts from a decent collection of quotes and lines on the Wikipedia article on the “meaning of life” as I have recently done.  I’m finding that some of these references are looser than I’d prefer, and really you need to go a couple of layers deeper in analyzing the world’s religions in understanding them and this does over simplify the messages.

Ancient Greeks

“In Platonism, the meaning of life is in attaining the highest form of knowledge” [and good]

Confucianism

“Because mankind is driven by both positive and negative influences, Confucianists see a goal in achieving virtue through strong relationships and reasoning as well as minimizing the negative.”

General Christianity

“Life’s purpose in Christianity is to seek divine salvation through the grace of God and intercession of Christ.”

Islam

In Islam, man’s ultimate life objective is to worship the creator Allah… Earthly life is merely a test, determining one’s afterlife

Baha’i

To Bahá’ís, the “purpose of life is focused on spiritual growth and service to humanity.”

Zoroastrianism

“By using free will, people must take an active role in the universal conflict, with good thoughts, good words and good deeds to ensure happiness and to keep chaos at bay.”

Hinduism

Existence is conceived as the progression of the ātman (similar to the western concept of a soul) across numerous lifetimes, and its ultimate progression towards liberation from karma

Buddhism

The potential of human life to end suffering, for example through embracing (not suppressing or denying) cravings and conceptual attachments. “Attaining and perfecting dispassion is a process of many levels that ultimately results in the state of Nirvana.”

Sikh

Sikhs balance their moral and spiritual values with the quest for knowledge, and they aim to promote a life of peace and equality but also of positive action. “The Lord dwells in every heart, and every heart has its own way to reach Him.”

Science

“Science may or may not be able to tell us what is of essential value in life (and various materialist philosophies such as dialectical materialism challenge the very idea of an absolute value or meaning of life), but some studies definitely bear on aspects of the question: researchers in positive psychology (and, earlier and less rigorously, in humanistic psychology) study factors that lead to life satisfaction, full engagement in activities, making a fuller contribution by utilizing one’s personal strengths, and meaning based on investing in something larger than the self.”

A favorite irreverent comedy that my parents wouldn’t approve of:

In Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, there are several allusions to the meaning of life. At the end of the film, a character played by Michael Palin is handed an envelope containing “the meaning of life”…  “Well, it’s nothing very special. Uh, try to be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try to live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.”

I hope that is something obvious here as you study this.  I don’t see anything in here about getting your own way and harming others who are trying to do good.  I hope we can respect others of all faiths, and live together in peace and help each other to always look on the bright side of life.

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Is Karma Real? Do good things really happen when you serve?

Stack it up

Stack it up

I had a couple of experiences recently that among others, continue to reinforce divine providence.  We aren’t just here on a rock having human experiences like an animal.  Not to say that even animals don’t have a purpose, because they do.  You can know for yourself that God, Yahweh, Allah, Brahma, the Surpreme being Father, or a higher power exists by simply following the principles contained in Karma or the Golden Rule as explained below.

Interesting enough, many atheists, also believe in a solid foundation of based on mutual respect, even scientific laws of physics nod to the idea.

Newton’s third law, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

I find that simply living these principles or laws you can also find God interacts with his children who serve him.  No better way of finding yourself than in losing yourself in service to others.

The first principal I have to say I firmly believe in is when you do good things, good things will happen to you.  If you help others you will be helped.  You will be blessed.  In many Asian cultures you’ll hear that those that do evil will generate evil around them, and visa versa.  As well, Buddhists believe that you will suffer for those things you’ve done that bring pain or take advantage of others.

I like the simplicity of how Karma is spelled out in Wikipedia.  These quotes below are from the Karma wikipedia article.  The word Karma is most often associated with Eastern traditions of Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism and more.

“Karma is the law that brings back the results of actions to the person performing them.”

“Some traditions, believe that a supreme being plays some kind of role, for example, as the dispenser of the ‘fruits’ of karma.” Humans act with  free will creating their own destiny. According to the Vedas, if one sows goodness, one will reap goodness; if one sows evil, one will reap evil.”

The Christian world believes as well in the teachings that you should do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.  There are similar quotes in nearly all the world’s religions.  See more about the “Golden Rule.”  I have to agree that this is a true principal, and gospel and one that should be practiced outwardly.  We need to find the opportunity to help others.  Pass it forward!

Here’s a great list of quotes from world religions all supporting similar principles.

Baha’i: “Desire not for anyone the things that ye would not desire for yourselves.” Baha Ulla LXVI

Buddhism: “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” Udana-Varga 5:18

Christianity: “Do for others what you want them to do for you.” Matthew 7:12

Confucianism: “Do not unto others what you would not have them do unto you.” Analects 15:23

Hinduism: “Never do to others what would pain thyself.” Panchatantra 111.104

Islam: “Do unto all people as you would they should do unto you, and reject for others what you would reject for yourself.” Mishkat-el-Masabih

Jainism: “In happiness and suffering, in joy and grief, we should regard all creatures as we regard our own self.” Lord Mahavira, 6th Century BC

Judaism: “What is hateful to you do not to your neighbour. That is the entire law..” Talmud, Shabbat 314

Native American: “Respect for all life is the foundation.” The Great Law of Peace

Sikhism: “Treat others as thou would be treated thyself.” Adi Granth

Taoism: “Regard your neighbour’s gain as your own gain and your neighbours loss as your own loss.” T’ai Shang Kan Ying P’ien

Unitarian: “We affirm the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and the interdependent web of all existence…”

Zoroanastrianism: “That nature alone is good which refrains from doing unto another whatsoever is not good for itself.” Dadistan-I-Dinik, 94:5

Today I had an incredible experience that definitely helps reinforce the principle.  A lot of what is important to understand is not just that you should do this or that, but that you will be blessed in this life and in the one to come based on the good you bring into the world.  You reap what you sow!  Law of the harvest, one of the oldest principles on the earth.  Now don’t be offended or hurt if you have a few weeds in your garden, or if a storm comes… don’t curse God.

people watch and few act

People Watch and Few Act

I was travelling from Central America today and while parting with a friend who I’d spent the last week with we were approached by a lady who was disheveled and distraught.  She said “Delta?”  I replied back, “Where are you going?”

We were in the International terminal, in Atlanta, the world’s busiest airport.  It was obvious to me that this poor lady was overwhelmed and needed help.  My friend asked to see her boarding card, and she pulled it out.  Pittsburg, I looked up on the board with hundreds of flights and saw there were 2 flights, and narrowed it down based on her flight number.  She was going to the first flight to Pittsburg, boarding in about 10 minutes and needed to get from Terminal E to Terminal A on the train, and then go all the way down to gate A2, the last gate in the terminal.  A Delta representative also happened on to the situation and rattled off the gate and pointed in the direction of the train and told her to turn right after going down the stairs.  I looked up my flight and saw I also going to A2 at a much later time.  I said my goodbyes to my friend and rushed down to the train.

After a couple of minutes I saw the lady arrive and say, “Aqui?” (Here)  “Si,” (Yes) I replied.  We both entered the train, and I watched from a couple people away.  I saw her eyes tear up.  She was visibly upset.  Knowing we were going to the same place, but not trying to freak her out, I pointed at her and myself and said, “Vamos.” (We go).  Each stop of the train she’d look over at me, and I’d gesture to stay onboard the train.  Finally it was our stop, we left the train together and walked up the huge escalator.

To break the ice a little, I replied “grande airopuerto.”  (Big Airport).  As we walked down the terminal toward the gate she struggled with her bags, and I’m sure all sorts of things were going through her head.  Who was this guy??  As we walked I explained I spoke “Un poquito Espanol.” (A little Spanish.) It was obvious to me, she didn’t speak very much english at all.

After another 10 minutes of walking we arrived at the gate.  The plane was already boarding.  She looked at me, to see if I thought it was ok to board.  Overhead I heard them say first class and executive.  I asked to see her boarding pass.  She was in Zone 3.  “Zone Tres.” I explained. I pointed at those boarding… Zone Uno. (Zone 1).  When it was her time to board, I shook her hand and said “Adios” (Goodbye.)  In the many words in Spanish she said, I heard “Gracias.”

Man it felt good.  As she got up to the ticket counter going through the extensive line, I saw a final turn to see if I was still there.  I waved.  A warm feeling came over me.  It felt awesome to help her out.  Having travelled to over 100 countries, I have rarely had the opportunitity to reciprocate all of the hundreds of impromptu assistance I’ve received.  Even in this last week I’m sure I must have had dozens of people that took time out of their days to hear my broken pigeon “spanglish,” (mix of English and Spanish) and I was the one in the group that spoke the best Spanish.  A few weeks ago I was in Spanish Morocco and got around with a driver who spoke no English.  I really loved the challenge of trying to get around with only Spanish learned in a year and a half of high school Spanish class, which I struggled to get a passing grade.  I did enjoy the course, but didn’t have a very good foundation.  Seemed like a lot of memorization, but what I’ve found is it’s the context and for me it’s more about experiences that help enforce and help me learn.

Pay it forward.  We will be blessed for doing good and helping others.  Find a way to serve.  There’s no better way to secure your place in the hereafter, and let me convince you… there is a life after this life.

Is There Life After Death?

After life

With recent events in the world from children being bombed to gunned down in schools.  Many question if there is a God, but before we get to that question… is there life after this life?

I didn’t have to look far for the answer to this one.  When I was 16 my brother died suddenly.  It was incredibly difficult to have my life long closest friend gone.  My brother and I talked about everything and shared deep thoughts with each other including thoughts on heaven and the life hereafter.  One day we were talking about how great the next life would be without pain and suffering.  We agreed that whoever went first would visit the other one.  In the old Jewish tradition they say the spirit stays near the body for 3 days.

My brother was taken from me due to an accidental gun shot.  The recent shootings remind me of my brother and his accident.  He was taken from me all at once.  I had questions.  Why!?? Why was he taken so young.  He was only 12.  The police investigation told us what we knew… he was happy and loved life.

I believe in visions and dreams.  A couple of verses, one from the book of Joel from the prophets in the Old Testament or Bible, and another from the New Testament or Acts of the Apostles.

Joel 2:28. “And it will come to pass afterwards, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, and your young men see visions.

The Veil

Acts 2:17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.

About 3 days after his death I had a very vivid dream where my brother came to me as if in the flesh.  Over the course of the next few weeks he would visit me three times.  He was really there.  This wasn’t like other dreams.  This was real.  At each visit he would talk with me, and in some of these, my brothers and sisters were around.  In each of these I had a full recollection that he was gone.  I asked him as came to me, how he was.  He said he missed me, but he was busy.  He was busy he even showed me a list whereon was our family name.  He already had a calling and work to do.  On this list as well were other names of other people he was visiting or watching over.

I read every book I could find on the topic of life after death.  Life after Life.  I read about out of body experiences – OOBs.  I have learned when the body dies the spirit lives on and goes back to the Creator.

Ancient Grave stones

There are some Christians that believe we wait until the resurrection neither Dead nor Alive.  Others believe we go to heaven or hell after judgment.

Others yet still believe without the proper sacraments we are in some sort of purgatory and the prayers of the faithful can help them get to heaven.

Without baptism are else damned?  We’ll save that for another post.

I have found in my life answers to many of these questions.  Those that died are nearby and close, in experience.  I can at times feel the presence of my brother.  I feel very blessed for these experience and more which whisper… there is more.

Job 19:26

Geneva Study Bible

And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet {r} in my flesh shall I see God:

(r) In this Job declares plainly that he had a full hope, that both the soul and body would enjoy the presence of God in the last resurrection.

 

The Prophet Alma of the Book of Mormon offers a lot on the subject of Life after Death.

Alma 40: The Spirit World and the Resurrection

“Alma 40: 11 Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection—Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.

12 And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.

13 And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of the wicked, yea, who are evil—for behold, they have no part nor portion of the Spirit of the Lord; for behold, they chose evil works rather than good; therefore the spirit of the devil did enter into them, and take possession of their house—and these shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and this because of their own iniquity, being led captive by the will of the devil.”

So depending on the experiences in your life you can be taken to paradise or prison.  Heaven or hell.  This spirit paradise or heaven is simply an immediate judgment based on the light and knowledge we have received in this life.  I think other ways of explaining it…  do you follow those choices that you know are right or do you fight against them?

Alma continues on Resurrection as to how it will happen and the fact that all things will be restored.

21 But whether it be at his resurrection or after, I do not say; but this much I say, that there is a space between death and the resurrection of the body, and a state of the soul in happiness or in misery until the time which is appointed of God that the dead shall come forth, and be reunited, both soul and body, and bebrought to stand before God, and be judged according to their works.

22 Yea, this bringeth about the restoration of those things of which has been spoken by the mouths of the prophets.

23 The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame.

Even if your body was disfigured in life, it will be fully restored.  What a comforting and beautiful message.

 

When I was at 4-H camp, I met a kid who was on hard drugs.  We didn’t have much in common, but I was fascinated with his life experiences and he was very open about sharing his thoughts.  While on the bus home the two of us were talking about life and death.  I told him to visit me if he ever died, he was going through a really depressing time and thought he might die any time.

About a year later I had an incredible dream where this same young man was holding a hand gun and laughing.  I shared the strange dream with some friends at school the next morning.  I was in shock when later that day I ran into some kids from 4-H camp who shared the news… my friend from camp I had seen the night before was dead with a self inflicted gun shot wound to the head that he did right in front of his mom.  Incredibly sad.

In the scriptures and throughout the gospels we find dreams and visions, being the usual ways of conveying knowledge from God.  My experiences are my own, and I don’t necessarily share these as prophecies for others, but to share how I came to a knowledge of this life after life.

In my thirst for knowledge I read a series of books titled “Beyond the Veil” by Lee Nelson.  It’s a collection of real people’s experiences with near death experiences.  There are now 4 volumes, and each experience to me was that much more comforting and enlightening to hear how these people had a glimpse of life after going through tragic experiences and being sent back to earth.  Many recall a most wonderful place that they now know exists.

Can Science ever find Proof of Out of Body or Near Death Experiences?

A Time Magazine article on “Is there such a thing as life after death” interviews radiation oncologist Dr. Jeffrey Long says if you look at the scientific evidence, the answer is unequivocally yes.  His book Evidence of the Afterlife catalogs some 1600 experiences over the last decade.

He goes on to explain in the article, “I’m a physician who fights cancer. In spite of our best efforts, not everybody is going to be cured. My absolute understanding that there is an afterlife for all of us — and a wonderful afterlife — helps me face cancer, this terribly frightening and threatening disease, with more courage than I’ve ever faced it with before. I can be a better physician for my patients.”

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1955636,00.html#ixzz2FHSqVpek

AWARE.  A scientific approach to understanding Near Death Experiences

A number of recent scientific studies carried out by independent researchers have demonstrated that 10-20 per cent of people who go through cardiac arrest and clinical death report lucid, well structured thought processes, reasoning, memories, and sometimes detailed recall of events during their encounter with death.

“The remarkable point about these experiences,” according to Dr. Parnia, “is that while studies of the brain during cardiac arrest have consistently shown that there is no measurable brain activity, these subjects have reported detailed perceptions that indicate the contrary—namely, a high level of consciousness in the absence of detectable brain activity. If we can objectively verify these claims, the results would bear profound implications not only for the scientific community, but for the way in which we understand and relate to life and death as a society.”

During the AWARE study, physicians will use the latest technologies to study the brain and consciousness during cardiac arrest. At the same time, they will also be testing the validity of out of body experiences and claims of being able to see and hear during cardiac arrest through the use of randomly generated hidden images that are not visible unless viewed from specific vantage points above.

AWARE updated their site with an April 2011 update where they said they have had 1000 people through the study, but need to gather and compile the data.  More coming with their 2012 update.

I don’t need science to tell me there is life beyond this life.

There is a lot of references to various world religious in relation to Moksha with great references to life after death on Wikipedia

Life after Death in Hinduism

Hindusim – According to Hinduism, there definitely is life after death, the only difference is that we consider life and death as a continuous cycle which complement each other

Reincarnation

“Because you trust me, Arjuna, I will tell you what wisdom is, the secret of life: Know it and be free of suffering forever.”—Bhagavad Gita, chapter 9, verse 1

Pictured above: The Ganges river.  I had an incredible opportunity to visit Varanasi also known as Banaras, one of the holiest cities of the Hindus.  Lots of death and sickness in this city which as the days have continuous burning on the banks of the river with the human remains tossed in the river.

Buddhism

“In Buddhism the concept of liberation is Nirvana. It is referred to as “the highest happiness” and is the goal of the Theravada-Buddhist path”

Jainism

“In Jainism, moksa and nirvana are one and the same. When a soul (atman) achieves moksa, it is released from the cycle of births and deaths, and achieves its pure self.”

Sikhism

“The Sikh mukti is positive concept in two important ways. First it stands for the realization of the ultimate Reality, a real enlightenment (jnana). The mukta is not just free from this or that, he is the master of sense and self, fearless (nirbhai) and devoid of rancor (nirvair), upright yet humble, treating all creatures as if they were he himself, wanting nothing, clinging to nothing.”

Islam

How do Muslims View Death?

Muslims as well believe in life after death. Muslims believe that the present life is a trial in preparation for the next realm of existence.

Muslim boys

And he (i.e. man) presents for Us an example (i.e. attempting to establish the finality of death) and forgets his [own] creation. He says, “Who will give life to bones while they are disintegrated?” Say, “He will give them life who produced them the first time; and He is, of all creation, Knowing.” [It is] He who made for you from the green tree, fire, and then from it you ignite. Is not He who created the heavens and the earth Able to create the likes of them? Yes, [it is so]; and He is the Knowing Creator. (Quran, 36:78-81)

It is a blessing to know that there is life after death.  Science and global acceptance with more knowledge may come for what so many religions have been saying. It’s an important step toward bringing science and religion together. The world’s top religions reinforce this knowledge.  Evidence is being gathered at a ferocious pace at Near Death Experience Research Foundation, but even with support for out of body experiences, science won’t be convinced there’s a paradise, heaven or nirvana or worse for quite some time.  I won’t be holding my breath.  There are some things better left to faith.

 

(The pictures are mine and can only be used with attribution.  In order, Temple in Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Mosquito net in Zanzibar hotel, Khor Virap Armenia grave stone, Varanasi holy Ganges river in India, and Muslim school boys in Zanzibar.)