Archive for May, 2017

Well-Being with Whitney: International Military Pilgrimage Celebrates Peace

Wednesday, 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

Wednesday, 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

Wednesday, 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

Wednesday, 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.”