About Whitney Hopler

September 27th, 2017

Whitney Hopler is a digital content strategist, writer, editor, and researcher who has successfully served influential media and educational organizations. She uses her communications skills to go beyond information to inspiration — motivating people to take positive action on the content they read and watch. Her work has often focused on well-being.

Whitney is an expert storyteller. She produces and curates content that compels people to care and respond. Whitney’s work has reached millions of people around the world, both in print and online — from books and national magazines to websites like About.com and Thrive Global.com.

As Communications Director for the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being at George Mason University, Whitney directs all communications, including all website content and social media. She plans how readers and audiences experience and interact with content designed to promote their well-being. Learn more by visiting these websites that Whitney manages:




Connect with Whitney through social media on Twitter and Facebook. Connect with her through the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being’s social media at: CWB Twitter and CWB Facebook.



Well-Being with Whitney: International Military Pilgrimage Celebrates Peace

May 24th, 2017

Hi everyone – I’m taking a break from this blog to focus on other work. Thanks for reading.

As Memorial Day approaches, let’s honor the men and women who have fought for our freedom, and pray for their well-being. Every May, military veterans and active duty members gather at the Virgin Mary apparition site of Lourdes, France in an event called the International Military Pilgrimage to Lourdes. This place where thousands of healing miracles have been reported over the years is where people travel from throughout the world annually to pray together and celebrate the miracle of peace.

The tradition began when members of the French and German militaries, who had fought each other during World War II, met at Lourdes in 1958 to seek help from God to reconcile their relationships.

Since then, the event has attracted military personnel and their loved ones from more than 35 nations worldwide. Those who are dealing with injuries or illnesses as a result of their military service (and their caregivers) may travel for free, through sponsoring organizations such as the Knights of Columbus and programs from various Catholic archdioceses around the world.

During the three-day event, the pilgrims gather for a series of worship services, parades, and times of talking together about their experiences. They stay at a place on the sanctuary grounds that’s part hospital and part hotel, cared for by thousands of volunteers who have paid their own way to come to Lourdes and help those who have fought for freedom in their nations. The military service members seek healing for physical, psychological, and spiritual wounds they’ve suffered.

Saint Bernadette Soubirous reported that she saw apparitions of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, in a grotto by a spring of water at Lourdes on 18 separate occasions in 1858.

Mary said that Lourdes would be a special place for people who place their hope in God to visit, Bernadette said, adding that many would find healing for their bodies, minds, and spirits there.

Over the years since then, many people have flocked to Lourdes to seek that healing. Today, more than five million people visit Lourdes every year.

So many healing miracles have been reported from Lourdes that there is an official medical investigations bureau there. By opening themselves up to whatever God’s will is for their healing journeys, the military pilgrims welcome whatever may happen for them — everything from miraculous cures to empowerment for managing their challenges well going forward.

Healing through Prayers

Military service members spend a lot of time praying during the event. Through prayer, they communicate with God about all sorts of challenges they hope their faith will help them overcome.

One of the most common challenges they deal with is the stress of the trauma they have been through in combat. Many pilgrims have suffered from nightmares, had conflict and tension in their relationships with loved ones, and fought back and thoughts of suicide.

Anger issues are also often the topic of prayer for military personnel who have seen a lot of pain and injustice in their work.

Many pilgrims are working through grief over the deaths of their colleagues in the line of duty, as well as grief about other types of losses (such as arms and legs they lost when they got injured, or divorces that happened when their marriages fell apart after they returned home from deployment).

Depression is another subject that people often address in prayer at the pilgrimage. Many are seeking the hope of experiencing joy again after suffering through long periods of unrelenting sadness.

Yet another common topic of prayer at the event is forgiveness. Pilgrims pray about giving themselves and others forgiveness for past mistakes, and receiving God’s forgiveness.

Healing through Conversations

The conversations that the warriors have during the event also help them find the peace they’re seeking there. By simply being in each other’s presence, they say, they feel comforted and encouraged. By sharing their personal stories with each other, they discover that although each one of them has gone through different challenges, they’re all dealing with the same wounds in their souls that need to be healed.

Men and women of all ages, military ranks, and nationalities develop camaraderie through their discussions. They freely share thoughts and feelings they have previously kept hidden from others, they say, because their fellow military service members understand what they’ve gone through, which motivates them to open up without fear of being judged for what they say.

When the pilgrims discover how much they all have in common, they report, they start to see each other not as enemies or strangers, but as brothers and sisters who are all beloved children of God.

Pilgrims discuss what spiritual lessons they’ve learned near the end of the conference. They affirm each other unconditionally — faith, doubts, and all — and encourage each other to keep bringing their questions and needs to God with open hearts and minds.

Well-Being with Whitney: Near-Death Experience Lessons: Part 6

May 17th, 2017

Survivors of near-death experiences (NDEs) learn during their time in the afterlife that the most important value of all is love, because God is love and has designed the universe with love as the most powerful force. Everyone they meet in heaven — from angels to loved ones who have died before them —  all communicate the importance of love. During NDE life reviews, the focus is on evaluating how well they’ve loved others during their earthly lives. So when people come back to life, they value unconditional love and try to love others without limits. The process of loving no matter what isn’t easy, but can lead to wonderful well-being when we get it right.

Coming Back Changed

Those who come back from death to resume their earthly lives after an NDE are never the same again. If they didn’t make love a high priority before dying, they do so after coming back to life. If they did love God and other people well before the NDE, they do an even better job of loving once they return.

“Experiencers come back more loving,” writes NDE researcher P.M.H. Atwater in her book Near-Death Experiences: The Rest of the Story: What They Teach Us About Living and Dying and Our True Purpose. “They tend to love others without conditions — none of this ‘I’ll love you if you love me’ stuff.”

NDE survivors make daily decisions based on love as their highest value and priority, writes NDE researcher Raymond A. Moody in his book The Light Beyond. “Upon their return, almost all of them say that love is the most important thing in life. Many say it is why we are here. Most find it the hallmark of happiness and fulfillment, with other values paling beside it. … Where they may have been bigoted, they now see each individual as a loved person. Where material wealth was the pinnacle of achievement, brotherly love now reigns.”

Feeling Loving Unity

People who return from NDEs report feeling a sense of unity with other people. They find themselves miraculously able to love not just the people they like (such as close friends and family), but also the most difficult people among those they already know, and even strangers.

“After a near-death experience, it is as if every woman you see is your mother, sister, aunt, and daughter,” Atwater writes in Near-Death Experiences. “Every man, your father, brother, uncle, and son. It’s not that you can’t tell differences. Rather, everyone takes on ‘the glow of family’ — the human family in oneness with each other — and you want to embrace everyone in a giant hug.”

An NDE survivor Moody interviewed and quotes in The Light Beyond describes feeling a newfound sense of loving unity with strangers: “I used to walk down the street in my own little world, with my mind on a dozen different little problems. Now I walk down the street and I feel I am in an ocean of humanity. Each person I see, I want to get to know, and I am certain that if I really knew them I would love them.”

Trying to Carry Out Missions of Love

NDE survivors do their best to try to love other people unconditionally after they resume their earthly lives — loving with passion and devotion even when the people they’re trying to love don’t understand what those who have survived NDEs see as their God-given missions.

Often, love is what compels people who are given a choice about returning to decide to come back to life. They report that love for someone who plays an important part in their earthly lives motivates them to leave the afterlife and return to their bodies.

An NDE survivor recalls in Pierre Jovanic’s book An Inquiry into the Existence of Guardian Angels: A Journalist’s Investigative Report that it was love for her children that compelled her to return. She says that after spending time with the light she understood to be God — the light that “envelops you with infinite love so every atom of your being quivers with passionate love” she asked God: “‘If I go back, will it make a difference to my family?’ and he said to me, ‘Yes, to your son.’ So I came back for him.”

Ironically, even though unconditional love is a blessing, sometimes people don’t want to receive that gift from NDE survivors, because it makes them feel uncomfortable. The way of the our fallen world is to love with conditions, so unconditional love is the exception.

“Is everyone truly ready to love each other unconditionally — no secrets, nothing held back, no exceptions?” Atwater asks in Near-Death Experiences. “I don’t think so. The tendency to openly embrace and give without hesitation is generally seen by others as foolish, flirtatious, disrespectful, or unloving. … Maybe this conundrum speaks more to how distant and distrustful society has become, than to how loving and generous most experiencers come to be.”

Whether or not everyone they love unconditionally accepts their love, NDE survivors set inspiring examples of living according to what matters most from an eternal perspective. Expressing unconditional love in a world full of broken relationships can set miracles of healing in motion.

Well-Being with Whitney: Near-Death Experience Lessons: Part 5

May 10th, 2017

After learning miraculous lessons about the universe during near-death experiences (NDEs) in heaven, people passionately seek to learn knowledge and wisdom when they return to their earthly lives. One of the many after effects of an NDE is an insatiable desire for education. Lifelong learning is an important part of strengthening our well-being. Paying attention to NDE stories can inspire us to value education and develop our well-being as a result.

Learning Without Limits in Heaven

During NDEs, survivors say, they have been able to learn about whatever topics (from science to history) most interested them from the living light (which may be God), angels and loved ones they met in heaven. They even describe learning profound lessons from simple interactions with objects they encounter in the afterlife, such as living rocks and blades of grass that can communicate with intelligence. The entire heavenly environment is full of information to learn. Music that communicates complex messages harmoniously plays in the background. Angels encourage people to ask questions, and learning about something is easy as thinking about it, since communication happens through telepathy (mind to mind).

NDE survivors report that they could learn without limits in heaven.

In his book The Light Beyond, pioneering NDE researcher Raymond A. Moody quotes a man who had an NDE after a heart attack describing the knowledge he acquired in heaven: “… while the doctors were saying I was dead, this person I was with, this light, the Christ, showed me a dimension of knowledge, I’ll call it. … Knowledge is important.”

Moody writes that his research shows that NDE survivors “have newfound respect for knowledge. Some say that this was the result of reviewing their lives. The being of light told them that learning doesn’t stop when you die; that knowledge is something you can take with you. Others describe an entire realm of the afterlife that is set aside for the passionate pursuit of knowledge.”

Learning is woven into the fabric of heaven itself. “There is a ‘state of being’ in the afterlife where you will have access to the accumulated knowledge of the ages,” writes Craig Hamilton-Parker in What to do When You are Dead: Living Better in the Afterlife. “You will not only be able to look into the story of your own life and relive every experience but you will also be able to see the complete narrative of the universe. Recorded in the vibrations of the cosmos is a record of everything that has happened. Imagine what it would be like to see the rise and fall of the dinosaurs, or to witness the birth of civilization. … Imagine what it would be like to witness moments of great scientific breakthrough, or feel the inspiration of the great artists? … You may ask yourself how much – or little – your life on earth contributed to a better world.”

Guardian angels, who accompany dying people’s souls to heaven, often guide people through the learning  process during NDEs, such as by helping them evaluate their lives so far during life reviews. During NDEs, guardian angels help people learn the knowledge that God wants them to obtain about their life purposes before going back to Earth. As Hamilton-Parker writes in What to do When You are Dead: “As the angel speaks, the perplexing problems of your life will unfold. Why did you suffer? For what purpose were you put on Earth? What did you do that was right and what could you have done better? There will be no judgment as such, no successes or failures; you will judge yourself in the light of your spiritual understanding.”

Seeking More Knowledge on Earth

Once people return to their earthly lives after experiencing such wonderful knowledge, they develop a passionate desire to learn all they can from now on about any topic that interests them. They hunger and thirst after knowledge for their minds as much as they crave food and water for their bodies. As they learn, NDE survivors try to turn the knowledge into wisdom by using it to help them fulfill God’s purposes for their lives.

It’s “quite common” for NDE survivors to have a “hunger for knowledge” afterward, writes NDE researcher P.M.H. Atwater in her book Near-Death Experiences: The Rest of the Story: What They Teach Us About Living and Dying and Our True Purpose. Atwater describes the changes she personally experienced after her NDE: “Intelligence increased, developed an insatiable hunger for knowledge. Once memory disconnection and energy fragmentation were corrected, ability to concentrate skyrocketed. Mind now like a laser beam. Fully exist wherever my attention is…”.

The vast majority of the children Atwater studied after their NDEs experienced increased “intelligence and creativity” when tested on those abilities after coming back to life, compared with their test results prior to go through NDEs, she writes.

Moody explains in The Light Beyond that NDE survivors feel compelled to keep learning as much as they can, even changing their lives significantly in the process of doing so. “The short time they were exposed to the possibility of total learning made them thirst for knowledge when they returned to their bodies. Often, they embark on new careers or take up serious courses of study.”

The man who had his NDE after a heart attack expressed an interest in learning about anything and everything, Moody writes: “I read everything I can get my hands on now, I really do. … I’m glad that I have time now for learning. History, science, literature. I’m interested in it all. … when you have one of these experiences, you see that everything is connected.”

Well-Being with Whitney: Near-Death Experience Lessons: Part 4

May 3rd, 2017

Near-death experience (NDE) survivors return from the afterlife prioritizing the compassion they experienced in heaven. We can learn a lot from them about how to develop compassion and put it into action through kindness and generosity, which are vital aspects of well-being.

After people who survive NDEs leave the afterlife and return to their earthly bodies, they experience many significant life changes. One key way they change after an NDE is by developing more compassion for others, which leads them to become more generous helping people in need through volunteer service, charitable contributions, and simple acts of everyday kindness.

Learning that Love Matters Most

During an NDE, the key lesson people learn is that the most important value of all is love. God is love, and since love is the Creator’s essence, love is the most powerful force in creation. So angels focus on love when they communicate with people during an NDE, the being of light that people encounter exudes love, and the life reviews that people go through as part of the experience highlight how well they either have or haven’t really loved God and other people in their lives so far.

“‘Have you learned to love?’” is a question faced in the course of the episode by almost all NDEers,” writes pioneering NDE researcher Raymond A.

Moody, Jr., M.D. in his book The Light Beyond. “Upon their return, almost all of them say that love is the most important thing in life.”

Finding the Motivation to Reach Out

NDE survivors are compelled by the love they now feel deeply for other people to take action to help people in need. They no longer languish in apathy as they may have before dying and returning to life. Instead, they’re motivated to reach out to do what they can to help others during each new day of life that God gives them.

Coming back from death powerfully inspires people to be compassionate toward others who are going through suffering in their own lives, writes NDE survivor Don Piper in his book Heaven is Real: Lessons on Earthly Joy – from the Man Who Spent 90 Minutes in Heaven. “We learn compassion when we’re ready. We learn to care when we’re open to God’s instructions. … If we’re teachable, we become divine instruments in the world. That may sound like a grandiose statement, but I believe it. It’s not whether we help two people or two million. What is important is that we change and then use the change in our lives to reach out. I can think of nothing more God’s people need today than compassion. For me, compassion means an awareness of another’s pain accompanied with a desire to do something to alleviate it.”

People who come back from NDEs often feel a sense of urgency to maximize how well they use the rest of their earthly lives, knowing that they could die at any time, and wanting to help make the world a better place while they can. “‘Sense of urgency’ is a phrase that comes up again and again when I talk to NDEers,” Moody writes in The Light Beyond. “Frequently, they are referring to the shortness and fragility of their own lives.”

Changing Their Priorities

Those who return from NDEs also overcome whatever confusion they may have experienced prior to their NDEs and about their life purposes. Since they learned during their visits to the afterlife (either heaven or hell) that every act of love actually does have eternal significance, when they come back to their earthly lives, they focus on expressing love to others however they can do so best, according to their God-given talents.

They no longer focus on what they can do for themselves (such as acquiring wealth); instead they look toward others and what they can do for them. “Money and material things are not particularly important in the scheme of things. Helping others is what counts in life,” write Kenneth Ring and Evelyn Elsaesser Valarino in their book Lessons from the Light: What We Can Learn from the Near-Death Experience.

Since the being of light people encounter during NDEs emphasizes the importance of love, people try to make love their highest priority when they return to their earthly lives. Moody writes in The Light Beyond: “Many people are asked by the being, ‘What was in your heart while this was going on?’ It’s as though he’s telling the NDEer that the simple acts of kindness that come from the heart are the ones that are most important because they are most sincere.”

Prior to going through an NDE, they may have lacked discipline for how they used their resources of time, money, and energy. But after returning, they give generously of all their resources to help other people.

In her book Near-Death Experiences: The Rest of the Story: What They Teach Us About Living, Dying, and Our True Purpose, NDE researcher P.M.H. Atwater writes that her studies have revealed that “between 80 and 99 percent” of NDE survivors become “more generous and charitable” as a result and “50 to 79 percent” of those who have had an NDE become “convinced of [their] life purpose/mission” and more “service oriented” afterward.

“After the NDE, value changes came,” Ring and Valarino quote an NDE survivor in Lessons from the Light. “I felt that the materialism and external stuff that was a big focus before just didn’t matter anymore. My priorities in life took a complete turnaround. I felt there was a purpose for my life, even down to the smallest detail of being kind to others spontaneously and freely…”.

They interviewed another NDE survivor who told them: “I became very generous with all of my time and material things. I joined several school philanthropy groups and spent time working in several soup kitchens.”

NDE survivors continue to expect miracles to happen through their lives as they say “yes” to God when he gives them service opportunities. Letting their newfound compassion fuel their work helping others invites God to keep working miracles out of their experiences.

Piper writes in Heaven is Real: “… that’s one of the great miracles of getting over it – we never know what God will do with us or through us. Sometimes I reflect on others who have moved beyond their pain. None of them chose their form of helping others. But if it hadn’t been for their tragedies, they would never have been exposed to the needs that they can now help alleviate.”

Well-Being with Whitney: Near-Death Experience Lessons: Part 3

April 26th, 2017

People who have returned from near-death experiences (NDEs) know that every day of life is a gift. They died and saw how suddenly our earthly lives can end; they returned with gratitude for more time to finish fulfilling their purposes here. While they may have been afraid to die before their NDEs, they no longer have any fear of death because they’ve already experienced it and know that the process isn’t scary. For the rest of their earthly lives, they exemplify the courage it takes to live every day fully and well. All of us can learn well-being lessons of courage from NDE survivors.

After returning from NDEs, people who went to heaven report miraculously losing their fear of death. The end of their earthly lives no longer scares them, since they’ve already experienced the peaceful transition of dying and the wonders of the afterlife. But their calm, confident view on death — which is one of the most common and powerful human fears — astonishes others. Here’s why NDE survivors say they’re no longer afraid of dying.

Overcoming Reasons to be Afraid

People who haven’t died yet are usually afraid of death, for a variety of reasons. But many of those reasons are surpassed by newfound confidence for those who have died and come back to life again during an NDE.

If people fear death because it’s the great unknown, they overcome that fear after going through an NDE and discovering exactly what happens during the dying process. NDE survivors often describe their experiences as being so vividly real that they’re even more powerful than anything they’ve experienced during their regular, earthly lives.

Memories made during NDEs are incredibly detailed and make lasting impressions on those who have returned from them.

If people are afraid of their soul being annihilated after death, they’re no longer scared after an NDE because they’ve learned that they’re eternal beings who will always exist — and not only that, but they’re fully conscious and treasured by a loving Creator for who they are.

If people are scared of death separating them from loved ones, they find out during an NDE that family and friends reunite in heaven.

The only reason that NDE survivors give for being afraid of death is that they fear going to hell to suffer and be separated from God. But those who visited heaven during their NDEs generally have no fear of death at all.

Discovering that Consciousness Continues

NDEs show that the most common reason for fearing death — the obliteration of consciousness — doesn’t actually happen. NDE survivors say that the death of their physical bodies wasn’t the death of their souls. Even after they leave their bodies behind, the true essence of who they are (their conscious souls) continues into the afterlife.

“When NDEers say they have lost their fear of death, they most often mean that they no longer fear that obliteration of consciousness itself,” writes pioneering NDE researcher Raymond A. Moody in his book The Light Beyond.

An NDE survivor interviewed by Kenneth Ring and Evelyn Elsaesser Valarino for their book Lessons from the Light: What We Can Learn from the Near-Death Experience declares: “There is no such thing as death per se. Death in our three dimensional space/time view of things is simply a biological event that has nothing to do with consciousness, which is continuous…”.

Breaking Free of Pain

Experiencing complete healing and relief from pain in heaven also reassures NDE survivors that they don’t have to be afraid of death.

In Lessons from the Light, Ring and Valarino quote an NDE survivor who says that after her experience: “I now have no fear of death. Let me tell you from personal experience, no matter how bad that pain gets, it does end, and you will find yourself out of the body, in another dimension, still very much alive, and in no pain.”

Death feels positive, not negative, says an NDE survivor who Mally Cox-Chapman interviewed for her book The Case for Heaven: Near-Death Experiences as Evidence of the Afterlife: “I enjoyed feeling the freedom of death. I wish I could describe it. But not being afraid of dying is like saying riding a bicycle is easy. Until you’ve done it yourself, you don’t know.”

Celebrating Life

After losing their earthly lives and then regaining them, NDE survivors return with a renewed appreciation for life that also gives them the confidence they need to prepare for their permanent death (whenever that happens) without fear.

An NDE survivor Moody interviewed for The Light Beyond recalls: “For the first 56 years of my life, I lived in constant fear of death. My focus was on avoiding death, which I regarded as a terrible thing. After my experience, I realized that by living my entire life in fear of death, I was blocking my appreciation for life.”

Moody explains that the many NDE survivors he has studied have told him, “… that the experience makes life richer and fuller than ever before. The ones I know want more than ever to continue living. In fact, many feel they are living for the first time.”

“We can live each day with grace and dignity, with an assurance that we’re going to be in a better place,” writes NDE survivor Don Piper in his book Heaven is Real: Lessons on Earthly Joy – from the Man Who Spent 90 Minutes in Heaven.

Ring and Valarino write that many people who have returned from NDEs celebrate life by volunteering to help terminally ill patients approach death with peace “because they have come to feel such an affinity with the dying and know they can help such persons more easily make their transitions and with less fear.”

The key to approaching both life and death without fear is focusing on God, Piper writes in Heaven is Real: ” … the end can come at any minute. We need to be prepared. I look forward to that transition. I can’t choose the time or the place of my death, but I can choose how I cross over that final bridge. I don’t know how or when it will happen, but here’s one simple thing I want and for which I pray: I want to be a faithful witness to God’s love and grace and to die in a positive way.”

Well-Being with Whitney: Near-Death Experience Lessons: Part 2

April 19th, 2017

After a near-death experience (NDE), people who return from the afterlife often comment on the wonderful music they heard in heaven. Music is a powerful force for well-being, they report, because musical sound waves help bring people into harmony with God and each other. Here’s why NDE survivors incorporate music into their daily lives — and how we can benefit from doing so, as well.

Imagine the last time you heard music that resonated so deeply in your soul that it stirred up deep emotions and moved you to smile or cry. Now imagine music so extraordinary that its impact on you is far more powerful than that — music that connects with you so deeply that you become a part of it as you hear its complex sounds and join its praise to the universe’s Creator. That’s the kind of heavenly music that people describe in near-death experience stories. They report angels singing and wonderful music known as the “music of the spheres,” which expresses creation’s harmony in the form of celestial vibrations.

Transcendent Sounds

Music is indeed a universal language that connects all people and other parts of creation — including angels — together. Since everyone and everything in the universe vibrates, the sound vibrations of music affect the core of every aspect of the universe that God has made. Musical sounds are built into the fabric of creation, helping to connect all parts of it in harmony.

“Music is well said to be the speech of angels,” Scottish author Thomas Carlyle famously said. Music plays a vital role in angelic work acting as messengers between God and human beings.

In his book Heaven, Randy Alcorn writes that, “Music is transcendent — a bridge between this world and another.”

The DNA in the human body’s cells “emits and receives both phonons and photons — electromagnetic waves of sound and light,” writes NDE researcher P.M.H. Atwater in her book Near-Death Experiences: The Rest of the Story: What They Teach Us About Living, Dying, and Our True Purpose. “… Today DNA is considered a text, a keyboard, a musical score that follows the rules of grammar and language. … our bodies are made of light and sound at the most primal level, and so are the worlds of spirit and the structures of matter. Life and death are coded in the language of light and sound. We stumble upon this coding in near-death states, not knowing what we’ve found until we come to realize that the essence of otherworlds, of origin, is implanted in our very genes.”

Music of the Spheres

Constantly playing in the background of many NDEs are sounds that some people call “music of the spheres” – musical vibrations that emanate from every part of heaven. Angels, people, animals, plants, water, rocks — everyone and everything is alive with music and expressing God’s creative energy in musical form.

“During many near-death scenarios a distinct kind of music is heard unlike that on earth; dubbed ‘music of the spheres’ for lack of a better term,” Atwater writes in Near-Death Experiences. “… Background sound and melody (similar to ‘hoomi’ singing/bell-like overtone harmonics) are present in the majority of near-death experiences.”

The ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras originated the music of the spheres concept to explain the structure underlying the entire universe, and the ancient Greek author Plotinus wrote about it in the Ennead: “If the stars pass a blessed existence in their vision of the life inherent in their souls, and if, by force of their souls’ tendency to become one … they are like the strings of a lyre, which, being struck in tune, sing a melody in some natural scale.”

Thomas Aquinas, the patron saint of people who love angels, wrote about the work angels do transmitting God’s creative energy throughout creation through means such as the music of the spheres. He wrote in the Summa Theologica that “everything that moves in nature is moved by the Ruler; the angels transmit the motion to the spheres.”

Praising the Creator

The essence of the music that people hear during NDEs is a message of praise to God for creating and sustaining every part of a vast and awe-inspiring universe. Angels and other spirits (like people who have died and gone to heaven) all participate together in praising God through the music.

“The songs emphasize God’s greatness, justice, truth, holiness, and uniqueness,” Alcorn writes in Heaven.

The world’s most used religious text, the Bible, describes musical worship of God happening in heaven often, and describes the power of that sound in a Book of Isaiah story about seraphim angels worshiping God that the prophet Isaiah hears through clairaudience while in a temple on Earth: “At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke” (Isaiah 6:4).

Beautiful Harmony

All the music that people report hearing in NDEs harmonizes in sounds that are never discordant but instead merge beautifully into a unified whole.

In his book An Inquiry into the Existence of Guardian Angels: A Journalist’s Investigative Report, Pierre Jovanovic includes an NDE story from a man whose guardian angel took him to a heavenly concert: “This time we were audience to a choir of angels singing. Angels were totally outside my reality at the time, yet somehow I knew these beautiful beings to be angelic. They sang the most lovely and extraordinary music I had ever heard. They were identical, each equally beautiful.”

Don Piper recalls in 90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death & Life (his book with Cecil Murphey) how much he enjoyed the musical harmony he heard during his NDE: “I didn’t just hear music. It seemed as if I were part of the music – and it played in and through my body. I stood still, and yet I felt embraced by the sounds. … The melodies of praise filled the atmosphere. The nonstop intensity and endless variety overwhelmed me. … The celestial tunes surpassed any I had ever heard. I couldn’t calculate the number of songs – perhaps thousands – offered up simultaneously, and yet there was no chaos, because I had the capacity to hear each one and discern the lyrics and melody.”


Well-Being with Whitney: Near-Death Experience Lessons: Part 1

April 12th, 2017

People who have survived near-death experiences (NDEs) often make significant changes to their lives after they return from the afterlife — and many of those changes relate to strengthening their well-being. Those who have experienced what it’s like to be completely well in heaven have a lot to teach us about how to live our earthly lives well!

The first lesson is simply to remember that every choice we make about our words and actions truly matters from an eternal perspective. A common part of an NDE is a life review.

People who have had an NDE often report that their entire lives have flashed before their eyes – they’ve simultaneously seen every moment in their earthly lifetimes, yet somehow understood it all completely, during a process known as a life review. Angels, who act as guides for dying people during NDEs, sometimes help people process their life reviews.

People Seeing Scenes from their Lives and Feeling the Impact

During life reviews, people see different scenes from their lives replayed for them as if they’re watching a movie about their own lives.

But they don’t passively watch; they actively experience every thought, word, and deed as they feel the impact of their choices on themselves and every other person with whom they have interacted.

When a person has an NDE, “His whole life passes before him like a film, in the space of 10 seconds, but in three dimensions, with the effects of his actions and words experienced by others,” writes Pierre Jovanovic in his book An Inquiry into the Existence of Guardian Angels: A Journalist’s Investigative Report. “…when the subject relives his life in three dimensions, he is invariably judged by the love he has brought/given to others. Period. He relives each of his actions and words, as well as their effect on others. If he has slapped someone in the face, he relives the slap as if he has given it to himself, experiencing it in the other’s place.”

In his book Spirits, Angels, Demons, and Gods: Experiences on the Road to the Heavens and to the Hells, Don Little writes that, “Activated thoughts, words, and deeds become entities.

In the ethereal, nothing is hidden – nothing! … Souls see and feel the rippling effect of every person that their choices, intentions, thoughts, words, and deeds – good or evil – has ever affected, or will ever affect anyone in the future, and they may see and feel it as though they were in several other people’s bodies at the same time.”

Renowned NDE researcher P.M.H. Atwater writes in her book Near-Death Experiences: The Rest of the Story: What They Teach Us About Living and Dying and Our True Purpose that some people only saw “segments” of their lives during their life reviews. But, Atwater writes, “Some accounts cover the entire impact of a person’s existence: everything said, thought, or done since birth, and the effect he or she had on everyone, even passerby, whether met or not, and on the air, soil, plants, water, animals … the entire gestalt of one’s life – the result of ever having taken a breath.”

Angels Guiding People through the Process to Help Them Learn

While people are reviewing their lives, they may have angels — especially guardian angels — guiding them through process and supporting them as they deal with waves of strong emotions. The angels seem to want to help people learn spiritual lessons from their reviews.

Mary C. Neal, a medical doctor who had an NDE after a kayaking accident, writes in her book To Heaven and Back: A Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again: A True Story about how she found herself in a hallway after traveling there accompanied by angels: “I knew with a profound certainty that it represented the last branch point of life, the gate through which each human being must pass. It was clear that this hall is the place where each of us is given the opportunity to review our lives and our choices, and where we are each given a final opportunity to choose God or to turn away – for eternity.”

Neal, who writes that angels communicated with her through the “pure form” of telepathy during her NDE, points out that angels always hope that people will keep learning and growing — whether during an NDE, or simply in the midst of regular, day-to-day life: “Angels often expose us to, or push us into, a situation that will force our redirection. Of course, our redirection is not really forced; rather, as we are compelled to face the fork in our road, we make a choice to turn left or turn right. Every choice leads us forward, and there is no going backward, no ‘redo.’”

Little writes that, “There is always a teacher present to initiate the life review and to be supportive along with the soul’s spirit guides. … The teacher has the ability to enter your mind and evoke your life review. … The teacher possesses an ineffable force that starts the vicissitudes of your life on the Earth coming to the fore as on a movie screen in order to give you a chance to review and learn from your mistakes and to learn about the things that you did that were of benefit to you and also to God’s creation.”

Life Reviews Focusing on How People Have Treated Others

What seems to matter most in NDE life reviews is how people have treated others during their lives so far. Once people see and feel the impact of how they’ve interacted with other people, they report, they learn that love is what’s most important in life.

“Often the life events reviewed and reinforced that are of greatest importance are those where they showed kindness and love to others,” write Joyce and Dennis Ashton in their book Jesus Wept: Understanding & Enduring Loss. “Personal accomplishments did not seem most significant. It wasn’t the honors or praise of men. Rather, it was the love and charity they showed to other human beings.”

P.M.H. Atwater, who notes that in her NDE research about half of people in all the cases she studied experienced life reviews, half of adults met angels, and 70 percent of children met angels, writes that life reviews magnify the importance of what people may have previously thought were just little things. “The life review actually highlights the little things in life – how we treat each other, lies we told, what we did about our promises and goals, how willing we were to ‘walk that extra mile’ to get a job done or lend a helping hand. It is as if a life review is actually a teaching mechanism, an opportunity to ‘peel back the layers’ so deeds versus consequences can be weighed and measured.”

Jovanovic mentions in An Inquiry Into the Existence of Guardian Angels that, “…less than a third of NDEs with angels included a complete life review of the life lived – as if their presence dispensed with that requirement.” Perhaps some people reflected on portions of their lives through conversations with angels rather than by watching the entire chronology of their lives in a life review movie.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, who was a pioneering doctor in NDE research, told Jovanovic: “… at our death, we will be responsible for each of our thoughts, each of our statements, and each of our deeds … everything has its consequences. When you are in the Light, you will be accountable for everything, including your choices. Each person is entirely responsible.”

Well-Being with Whitney: Arianna Huffington to Speak at Mason’s Leading to Well-Being Conference

April 5th, 2017

What is success, really? That’s a question iconic media leader Arianna Huffington has raised in our culture lately, provoking discussion and change among many people who are rethinking their approach to success. Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post and founder and CEO of Thrive Global, will present a keynote speech on “Redefining Success: The Third Metric That Can Benefit Your Bottom Line” at the Leading to Well-Being Conference on Friday, April 7th. As the Communications Coordinator for George Mason University’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being, I helped plan the conference. As a contributing writer for Thrive Global and longtime fan of Huffington, I’m especially looking forward to her speech there. Here’s an article I wrote about the conference for Mason. I hope it will inspire you and motivate you to join us!

The first two metrics of success are those traditionally associated with rising to the top of a career: money and power. But, according to Huffington, there’s a third metric that’s even more meaningful, and that is “based on well-being, health, our ability to unplug and recharge and renew ourselves, and to find joy in both our job and the rest of our life.”

Well-being – more than anything else – leads to real success, Huffington wrote in her bestselling book Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder. In the book, she advised: “Don’t just climb the ladder of success – a ladder that leads, after all, to higher and higher levels of stress and burnout – but chart a new path to success, remaking it in a way that includes not just the conventional metrics of money and power, but a third metric that includes well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving, so that the goal is not just to succeed but to thrive.”

Huffington’s message is spot-on for leaders who are trying to cope with the stress and burnout that pervades many workplaces. People don’t have to look far to find examples of what’s not working well for leaders. “Whenever we look around the world, we see smart leaders – in politics, in business, in media – making terrible decisions. What they’re lacking is not IQ, but wisdom,” Huffington wrote in Thrive. “Which is no surprise; it has never been harder to tap into our inner wisdom, because in order to do so, we have to disconnect from all our omnipresent devices – our gadgets, our screens, our social media – and reconnect with ourselves.”

The process of changing for the better begins by clarifying what people truly value the most. In Thrive, Huffington challenged leaders to consider, “Why do we spend so much of our limited time on this earth focusing on all the things that our eulogies will never cover?” By learning well-being practices that help people focus well – such as mindfulness, exercise, and sleep, people can discover what they really care about the most, and set goals that focus on those values.

One well-being practice in particular – sleep – is a struggle for many people in this age of widespread insomnia. People often work so hard that they can’t relax enough to sleep, which leads to a myriad of health problems. So Huffington tackled the sleep issue in her latest bestselling book, The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time. “By helping us keep the world in perspective, sleep gives us a chance to refocus on the essence of who we are,” she wrote in the book. “And in that place of connection, it is easier for the fears and concerns of the world to drop away.” People can improve their ability to do every task in both their professional and personal lives by simply sleeping well. “Everything you do, you’ll do better with a good night’s sleep,” Huffington has remarked.

People who neglect their well-being often do so because they think that investing time taking care of themselves will make them less productive at work. Ironically, many research studies (some of which Huffington will discuss in her conference speech) have shown that making time for well-being practices actually leads to greater productivity in the workplace. Not only is well-being good for people’s health and relationships, it’s also good for companies’ bottom lines. That’s because employees often work to their fullest potential when they’re taking good care of themselves. Huffington has often talked about how her own work improves when she’s paying attention to her well-being. “I’m much more creative when I’ve actually taken care of myself,” she has said.

As people incorporate well-being practices into their lives, they’ll build the inner strength of resilience that is crucial for success as in any type of leadership role. Challenges and crises will hit all leaders on the job. Uncertainty will lurk in the background of all workplaces. Even leaders who try their best will sometimes make mistakes. In light of all that, Huffington has commented, fear threatens to overwhelm leaders – but resilience empowers them to move forward with courage. “Fearlessness is not the absence of fear,” she has said. “It’s the mastery of fear. It’s about getting up one more time than we fall down.”

Join Huffington, Dr. David Rock, and more than twenty other leadership experts and researchers presenting at this year’s Leading to Well-Being Conference on Friday, April 7th by registering now. The focus that day will be on exploring what it takes to build resilient teams, leaders, and organizations, and how to prosper during times of great challenge, change, and uncertainty.

Well-Being with Whitney: Spring Cleaning for Your Soul

March 29th, 2017

When spring arrives, more sunlight brightens your home as the days grow longer, and fresh air blows in once the temperatures warm up enough to open your windows. But all the light and fresh air reveal what you may not have noticed during the dark, cold days of winter: Your house is a mess. It’s not fun to see the clutter and dirt that needs to be cleaned up around your house, but the more light and air that flow in, the more motivated you are to do some spring cleaning.

Spring cleaning can be more than just a chore, however. It can actually be exciting if you use the time to start cleaning up something far greater than your house: your soul. The more you invite God to blow the fresh air of his love into your life, the more motivated you become to cleanse negativity out of your mind and welcome in positivity that shines bright.

Here are 6 ways to spring clean your soul:

  • Eliminate clutter. Get rid of distractions that block your ability to focus on the values that are most important to you. Take an honest look at what might be interfering with spending time with God in prayer and meditation, so you can tap into wisdom and know what matters most. Are you devoting more time and energy to working, watching TV, shopping, playing sports, pursuing a hobby, or something else than you’re devoting to time with God? How much time are you really spending praying, meditating, and at your place of worship? Are frazzled thoughts cluttering your inner life, or are you making time regularly for quiet reflection, and asking God to renew your mind? Eliminate clutter in your schedule and your mind to create space to focus on what’s truly important.
  • Scrub away dirt and disinfect. Cleanse dirty attitudes and behaviors and purify your soul. What kinds of filthy attitudes are lurking in your soul? Are you harboring bitterness against people who have hurt you? Do you entertain judgmental thoughts about people you don’t like? Are you infected with anger, fear, or selfishness? How do impure behaviors affect your life? Are you struggling with a bad habit or even an addiction that causes trouble whenever it rears its ugly head? Pray about each dirty attitude and behavior, asking God to help you clean up each specific one. Whenever negative thoughts enter your mind, purposefully replace them with positive ones.  Whenever you’re tempted to slide back into a bad behavior, ask God to empower you to resist and overcome temptation.
  • Suck up everyday annoyances and persistent resentments that will stain your soul if you let them accumulate. Keep short accounts with people rather than letting issues between you pile up and spill over into dirty arguments. Ask God to help you learn how to deal well with difficult people and those whose personalities differ significantly from yours. Whenever people offend you in minor ways, be willing to let the issues go. Whenever people offend you in major ways, be willing to forgive them and reconcile if possible. Do all you can to live at peace with others and resolve conflicts quickly and wisely.
  • Wipe away vestiges of the past that are hindering you from moving into the future with confidence. Consider how you need healing from past traumas and losses. Then patiently work through the healing process as God leads you, from prayer and journaling to support groups and counseling. Expect that each time you deal with one layer of dust from your past, you can see a bit more clearly as you move into the future.
  • Make your relationships shine by serving others as God leads you. Be creative about figuring out how often you can bless others through your words and actions. Remember that even a brief encouraging comment or small act of kindness can make a significant, positive difference in someone’s life. Every day, look for opportunities to encourage or help the people with whom you come into contact.
  • Rearrange your life so you can move into your future with positive plans and goals. Build your decisions for how to use your resources (time, energy, talent, money, etc.) around pursuing your dreams, so you can focus on what’s important without being sidetracked by what’s urgent. Set specific and measurable goals to help you move closer to achieving what you hope to accomplish. Check your progress regularly, and make whatever adjustments you need to make to keep your life organized well.