COVID-19: Together As One

venice

Photo Credit:  Gulf News

Reality is merely an illusion, although a very persistent one.” Albert Einstein

In March, Italy announced a country-wide lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  Today, Venice’s canals—stripped bare of its usual water taxis and gondolas—are clearer than they’ve been in decades.  Carbon monoxide emissions are down drastically in Los Angeles and in New York City you can actually hear the birds singing.  In Beijing and Delhi, reduced smog and air pollution has given way to beautiful, clear skies.  As we witness these incredible transformations, it is an important reminder to us all that our actions affect everyone and everything.

The world as we know it does not consist of separate things and we are not really separate from one another.  We only seem to be.  I’ve written about the Law of Oneness many times over the years in both my books and my blog and I know it is difficult for our earthly minds to understand.  We live in a world of contrasts which gives us the illusion of separation but, in reality, we are not separate at all.

If you think this is pseudoscience, look around you.  If the global pandemic we are experiencing right now is not proof of the interconnectedness of all things, I don’t know what is. Our very actions today are literally making the difference between life and death and affecting the future of humanity as a whole all over the world.

After taking a trip to Jamaica with my family, I wrote about the concept of oneness in a former blog post.  Here is an excerpt from my post of July 23, 2017.

When asked what your body is made of you might automatically think: blood, bones, skin, organs, etc. But if you break down everything that you can see and feel to the subatomic level what you will find are particles and atoms.

As you look deeper and deeper into the workings of the atom, you will discover that nothing is there. Well, at least nothing very tangible. What you will find is an energy field or energy waves. These atoms, in other words, are composed of nothing less (or nothing more) than pure energy. So everything that you see around you (the trees, the sand, the sky, the ocean, your house, computer, cell phone, etc.) is made up of this energy and everything is connected to that energy.

Science has discovered that matter is 99.999999999999 percent empty space. So what looks and feels solid is not solid at all. It’s actually energy. In 1911, Max Planck was the first to demonstrate that the seemingly empty space between the planets, stars, etc. is actually teeming with energy.

If we all truly understood the implications of this on the nature of reality, the changes in our way of looking at life would be immeasurable. We are all connected by an unseen force that in turn infuses everything else. This is why it is so important to make sure we surround ourselves with positive people. The energy waves that make up who we are constantly collide or join with the energy around us.

We get back what we put out there in the universe. Taking this one step further, everything that we think, say and do influences our reality. If you want good, you have to do good. If you want love, you have to give love. You create your own destiny.

If you want proof, turn on the news or take a walk outside.  Here in New Jersey, one of the places hardest hit by COVID-19, we remain on 24-hour lockdown.  My niece Brooke and her fiancé Joe had no choice but to postpone their May wedding and I am growing increasingly worried about my elderly parents in Florida.  I know several people who have either died from the virus or are recovering from it.  Over the past few weeks, my prayer list is sadly getting longer and longer.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if the world just stopped?  Again, take a walk outside.  Turn on the news.  Streets are eerily quiet, stores and restaurants are padlocked, schools are closed and businesses are shut down as many employees struggle to work from home.  In New York City, Time’s Square is virtually empty.  As you know, no more than 10 people are permitted to gather at one time and when we do we must adhere to strict social distancing guidelines.

What we are experiencing is something I thought I would never witness in my lifetime but it’s nonetheless very real.  What’s more, there is really no definite end in sight and we have no idea when things will return to “normal.”  And speaking of normal, we may never see life as we used to know it again.

As we spend our time quarantined away from those we love and care about, I hope we can all reflect on and appreciate the many blessings we have been taking for granted for so long.  As we deal with the loneliness and fear of the unknown, may we remember that we are all in this together and know that we can only survive this together.  When we turn on the TV, the current message is that we are “alone together.” But the correct message should be “together as one.”  In reality, we are never really alone.

Science is now echoing what ancient texts and religions have been telling us for a very long time:  there is an unseen connectedness between all things.  That is why every thought and every action affects the whole of humanity.

As we take this time to catch up on things and maybe even fit some exercise into our days in quarantine, may we also remember to exercise our minds.  Be mindful and stay in the NOW.  Doing so will help us to be grateful for all that we do have.  I may not be able to see my parents or my daughter Erica, for example, but I’ve never appreciated my family or missed my friends more than I do now.  There is a positive in every negative and a lesson to be learned in every experience.

Besides the environmental benefits, people across the globe, for example, have voluntarily made sacrifices to protect the lives of those who are considered more vulnerable to the virus (the elderly and those with diabetes, cancer and autoimmune diseases, etc.).  As doctors and nurses work tirelessly to save lives, others deliver medical supplies and hand out food to the needy.  The list is numerous but there are many unsung heroes out there who are putting the needs of others before their own.

When asked if the worst was behind us, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, noted, “I’m a very cautious person, but we are seeing some light at the end of the tunnel.”  While there are no definitive answers, I must say that I do agree with Dr. Fauci.  As we all get through these uncertain times, may we remember that light will always prevail over darkness.  Love will always carry the day despite the loneliness and hope will forever conquer fear.

In the end, we will emerge a stronger, more compassionate world.  As before, and perhaps now more than ever, we are together as one.

This blog is dedicated to all those who have lost their lives or who are fighting the coronavirus.  I would also like to acknowledge those who are on the forefront (doctors, nurses, police officers, firefighters, EMT’s, etc.).  Thank you.  And to all those essential workers, for example, who continue to deliver our mail and stock our shelves at the supermarket, thank you so much. 

SEEDS REPLANTED

Photo by Jude Beck

Never forget the world at this moment

Take nothing for granted ever again

Let your hearts be not silent

As the memories of these days remain

 

As we get through this

Remember only what truly counts

Family, friends, a handshake, a hug, a kiss

Precious gifts, may we recount

 

Life’s many pleasures

Dinner, shopping, dancing . . .

Appreciate all those simple treasures

Love and romancing

 

Once taken for granted

Now gone in an instant

The seeds seemingly unplanted

Now so precious, yet distant

 

A walk on the beach

On a warm summer day

Once within reach

Now all kept at bay

 

We shall rise

Stronger than ever before

Amidst the uncertainty and cries

Footprints left upon the shore

Seeds replanted

A testament to all that we adore

When Anxiety Strikes

“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.” Charles Spurgeon

Roughly 40 million people live with some kind of anxiety disorder in the United States.  While the condition is certainly not chronic for me it has happened to me over the years but the occurrences are luckily few and far between.

Last week I was vacationing in Turks and Caicos with my friend Karen.  On our second night there, I had what is known as an anxiety dream.  These are unpleasant dreams which cause feelings of distress or fear in the dreamer upon waking.  I couldn’t begin to tell you what the dream was about.  I only know it wasn’t a pleasant one.

anxietyphotoI woke up at around 3:30 a.m. with my heart racing feeling like I wanted to jump out of my skin and I had no idea why.  As I struggled to catch my breath, it took me a few seconds to realize that I was away from home in a hotel room which only made me feel worse.

Anxiety is typically caused by rampant thoughts that spin out of control. There are steps we can take, therefore, to regain control of our thoughts and hence calm down.

  1. Just Breathe: Take long deep breaths.  This is the fastest way to help your body calm down.
  2. Recognize Your Anxiety: As you breathe in an out, recognize that you are having a panic attack. Tell yourself that everything is alright.
  3. Move and Release: Get up and move around.  Go for a walk, for example, or go to a different room.  Since my friend was sleeping and I didn’t want to wake her, I went to the bathroom and splashed water on my face.
  4. Change Your Focus: Concentrate on something positive or familiar.  In my case being over 1,000 miles away from home did not help but knowing my friend was there with me helped to calm me down.
  5. Talk to Someone: Whenever possible, reach out to someone for support.  It is important to understand that you are not alone.
  6. Get Some Fresh Air: These panic attacks are often accompanied by feelings of suffocation and claustrophobia.  Walk outside, open the windows, and get some fresh air.
  7. Stay in the Moment: Don’t jump ahead worrying about things in the future.  Remind yourself of where you are try to stay in the moment and recognize how irrational your thoughts are.
  8. Relax and Think Positive Thoughts: Recognize your thinking pattern and replace them with calming, positive thoughts.

There are many things that can trigger anxiety and panic attacks.  Among them are stress, fatigue, worry, diet, caffeine and alcohol.  Anxiety can also be brought on by trauma or pain.  For females, hormonal changes during perimenopause and menopause can also lead to feelings of anxiety and depression.

My experience last week marked the first time I had ever had an anxiety dream.  Truthfully, I have no idea what triggered my panic attack that night nor do I know if and when it will happen again.  But as Wayne Dyer once said, “You can’t always control what goes on outside.  But you can always control what goes on inside.”

I am stronger than my fears and so are you.

Love is the Bridge

“I love you not because of who you are, but because of who I am when I am with you.”
Roy Croft

How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.  Everyone knows the words to this now infamous poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.  And with Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I’m sure we’ll be hearing them a lot more.

liabrooklynbridge

My beautiful daughter Lia Varga on the Brooklyn Bridge/Photo by Larry Yu

I’ve always had mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t appreciate the expressions of love and gratitude.  My husband still makes my heart skip a beat when he walks in carrying a bouquet of long-stemmed red roses and my ears will never tire of hearing the words, I love you.  While my arms will be forever grateful for his embrace, however, I expect and want these expressions of love every day of the year.

Valentine’s Day has long been recognized as a day when we can show our appreciation and express our love.  Many believe this is best shown through big gestures like expensive jewelry and romantic getaways.  However, several studies have continually shown that the small, repeated gestures are what matter most.  Not surprisingly, researchers also found that people prefer behavioral actions over verbal expressions.

As I often say, words are cheap if your actions don’t follow suit.  The small little things we do are what help us to feel loved and appreciated every day and this applies to both romantic and platonic relationships.  It’s important to feel loved, wanted, and needed by all the significant others in your life.  Those little gestures that say, Hey, I’m here for you, I care about you or I still love you, are important to any relationship because they keep the bond of love going.

Recently, I went out to dinner with one of my closest friends, Karen.  We have been friends since high school (Yes, a very long time!).  Over dinner, we were talking about our high school years and I recounted how she bought me a new pair of sneakers with her very first paycheck.  Karen looked over at me and laughed asking, “How do you remember these things?”

At the time, I only smiled at her in response.  The truth is, though, I remember because those little gestures and those beautiful moments have left footprints on my memory.  I remember because each gesture, each memory has left an imprint on my heart.  And when the day comes for me to leave this Earth, there they will forever remain.

Naomi Judd’s career came to an abrupt end in 1991 after she announced she was diagnosed with Hepatitis C.  The announcement was made in the midst of their Love Can Build a Bridge Tour at a time when the Judds were at the high point of their career.  Thankfully, she is now doing well and has since resumed some concert tours with her daughter Wynonna.

“Love Can Build a Bridge,” written as a heartfelt farewell song to her fans, won Naomi an Emmy.  Speaking of her mother, Wynonna said, “This next song represents the 10 years I spent on the bus with my queen.  Those were some of the best years of my life; I just didn’t know it back then.  But looking back, I now realize more than ever that the history we made together was a true miracle.”

(Wynonna Judd singing “Love Can Build a Bridge”)

Beautifully said, Wynonna.  I, too, have a fond memory with my mother on the bus.  My mother took the day off from work to accompany me on a school trip to the Bronx Zoo when I was in first grade.  I can still remember how proud I was to be sitting next to her as she sat holding my hand.  Like you, I was too young to realize just how precious those moments truly are.

Love cannot only build a bridge.  Love is the bridge.

 

 

Why I Believe in an Afterlife?

The bonds of love are what connect us to the other side.

John Edward 

Is there an afterlife?  Most Americans seem to think so.  In fact, according to a 2014 CBS poll, three in four Americans believe in some form of an afterlife.  Some closed-minded skeptics will tell you that those who believe in life after death are naïve and desperate to be reunited with their loved ones.

IMG7708_retouchThese same skeptics will say that the evidence for survival after death is merely circumstantial and subjective.  However, many who have had a near-death experience and still more who have had other forms of spiritual experiences strongly disagree—myself included.

Recently, I had dinner with a friend and we chatted about my research and the afterlife.  My friend who I would describe as an open-minded skeptic told me that she is open to the possibility of an afterlife not because of what I write in my books but rather because of who she knows I am as a person.  In her words, “I knew the person you were before your experience.  I know how much it changed you and I also know you would never make this up.”

She’s right, of course, I would never just make this up.  Interestingly, some atheists argue that there is no evidence for a heaven or an afterlife.  But for many of us who have had near-death experiences (NDEs) and other spiritual experiences, these phenomena are indeed proof.

Numerous people around the world who have had an NDE report being conscious after their body ceased functioning.  My book Visits to Heaven highlights many such accounts from around the globe.  The following are excerpts from two examples:

I knew that I had always known him as he looked at me and simply asked, “Are you ready to come?” I then exclaimed in surprise, “Already?” At that moment I remembered that my soul chose to come to Earth. I remembered who I was before I was born and that we are not here by random accident nor are we here as victims.  We come here not only to learn and grow but also to give and to receive love in the physical and so much more.

Martha Cassandra St. Claire, MA

I remember slowing down, without my choice, at the entrance to this beautiful lighted place and was amazed to discover my mother and grandmother standing to the right and greeting me with so much love.  They communicated to me in some way, certainly without words or hearing, but clearly inside my mind.  I was astonished to see them healthy, happy, middle-aged, and so full of love and recognition for me. . .

I then passed into the place of Light: rolling hills, grass, flowers, and blue skies vibrant with color. What amazed me were the intensity, brilliance, and clarity of the color. It seemed to be coming from within each aspect of the landscape.  The grass glowed green. It was so beautiful. It was so very beautiful.

Joyce Hawkes, PhD

In addition to NDEs, countless others have reported deathbed visions, divine interventions and afterlife communication accounts.  My book Visits from Heaven highlights the story of one mom who recounts hugging her deceased daughter.

One night just before her sixteenth birthday, I walked into my room and sat at the edge of my bed.  When I looked up, Tanya was there! She didn’t say anything, but her eyes expressed so much love and she had the most beautiful smile.

Tanya wrapped her arms around me.  I put my right hand on her left arm. She was cool yet not cold, solid but not quite hard. My hand did not go through her, but it was just so different; it felt kind of like touching “Jello-O.”

The texture of her skin startled me. There are no words to describe what her arm felt like.  I drew a quick breath, and then Tanya gave me the most beautiful loving smile.  She just backed away and was gone.  I can’t even begin to convey how much her “visit” meant to me.

Carol Rhodes

In 2003, my husband’s deceased friend and former boss came to me in a vivid dream with a message for his grieving wife.  The message was confirmed by his family leading me to research the possibility of life after death.  At the time I was a young, happy mother of two toddlers and I was admittedly not thinking about the afterlife or whether or not I would see my loved ones again.

In fact, I had never even met my husband’s former boss and had no reason to have such a dream.  So to the skeptics who claim that those who believe are gullible and biased, nothing could be further from the truth.  I believe in an afterlife not because I am afraid of death.  I believe because my experience gave me a glimpse of the afterlife and now I know.

Stephen Hawking once said, “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail.  There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”  Everyone certainly has a right to their own opinions.  But luckily I, too, don’t believe in fairy stories and I’m not afraid of the dark.

If you have an NDE, afterlife communication or other spiritual experience to share, please feel free to contact me at josievarga@comcast.net.  You are also welcome to visit my website at http://www.josievarga.com. Thank you! 

Three Things I Wish I Knew a Year Ago

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.”

― T.S. Eliot

new-years-day-4157632_1280 (2)Nothing will teach you more than the book of life.  As I reflect over the past year and look forward to 2020, I am reminded of some hard lessons I wish I had taken more seriously a year ago.

  1. Nothing will change you like pain will.

In April I was walking to my car and ended up tripping over a crack in the broken sidewalk. Putting out my right arm to brace my fall, I had gotten away with a cut on my knee and a scrap on my right hand.  As I drove home, my arm and shoulder grew increasingly painful.  I didn’t think much of it, though, and simply iced it.  After about two weeks, the pain seemingly went away.

The following month I was making a U-turn in a tight driveway and felt a snap in my right shoulder followed by piercing pain.  After about an hour, the pain subsided so I assumed I had just pulled a muscle.  Since that day, my shoulder would continue to hurt every time I moved in a certain way. Then in August, I woke up in such excruciating pain that I was rushed to urgent care.

To make a very long story short, I was misdiagnosed by two doctors and spent two months in physical therapy before going to another shoulder specialist who found a huge calcium growth in my rotator cuff tendon.  I had surgery on November 21, I’m still recovering and now have what is known as frozen shoulder. I have not felt so much pain in a long time and the experience has certainly put me behind on my work.

2019 definitely dealt me some rough cards but I was also reminded time and time again not to ever take things for granted.  To put things in perspective, I could not even brush my hair for several weeks and I needed help just pouring myself a cup of coffee.  Nothing will teach you to appreciate the simple things in life then not being able to do the simple things anymore.

Lesson learned:  Appreciate. Appreciate. Appreciate!

  1. Make moments; cherish the memories.

Let’s face it.  Life can be hard.  Sometimes we spend so much time working and getting through the daily grind that we forget to make time for the things that matter most.  In July, I lost a beautiful friend to cancer.  Rosemary was a renowned author and afterlife researcher and we became fast friends.  We talked about all the things we wanted to do together that never happened.

Looking back, I wish I didn’t put things on hold.  We all think that we’ll have tomorrow but tomorrow may never come. Part of the problem is that we often associate who we are with what we do.  Our work becomes our identity and it becomes increasingly difficult to separate a rewarding career from a fulfilling life.

You are not your work.  Yes, what we do for a living is part of our identity but it is not our identity entirely.

Lesson learned: Make more time. Make more moments.

  1. Put yourself first. Be honest.

This one is a difficult one for me to admit but nonetheless very true.  I spend so much time trying to be there for everyone else that I often neglect myself.  Time and again I’ve learned the hard way that if you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will.  Recently, I read a quote by Penny Reid which said, “Don’t set yourself on fire trying to keep others warm.”  Well said, Penny.

Putting yourself first and foremost also means being honest with yourself.  It’s not easy to admit that you actually are setting yourself on fire at the expense of others.  Take a good look at your life and the people in it.  What do you see?  Part of being honest and putting yourself first also means taking responsibility. Don’t play the blame game. You are where you are now because of every decision—right or wrong—you made in the past.  Own up to your mistakes and move on.

Lesson learned:  Make yourself a priority.

Last year’s mistakes are this year’s lessons.  May we learn, discover and treasure the moments.

Lucid Just Before Death?

Death may simply be an alteration in consciousness, a transition for continued life in a non-material form.”  Edgar Mitchell

We’ve seen it again and again.  A terminally ill patient has been unresponsive for days yet just before his death he suddenly becomes lucid and is able to communicate.  Is this just a coincidence or is there something more going on?

CallfromHeavenCoverTerminal lucidity is a term used to describe the unexpected return of mental coherence and responsiveness in a patient who was previously incoherent.  Family members and even some medical personnel may see this as a sign of recovery only to find that death is imminent. Is there a logical explanation for this phenomena and how can this be explained to the patient’s grieving family?

First off, it is important to understand that terminal lucidity is nothing new.  In fact, one of the most incredible cases on record occurred in 1922 with a woman named Anna Katharina Ehmer (1895-1922).  Ehmer was severely disabled and lived in a mental institution located in central Germany.  Reportedly, she never spoke a word her entire life until the day she died when she suddenly began singing for about 30 minutes before she passed. Since then many such cases have been reported and science is finally starting to study the phenomena.

While working on my book, A Call from Heaven: Personal Accounts of Deathbed Visits, Angelic Visions, and Crossings to the Other Side/New Page Books, 2017, I had the honor of interviewing Professor Alexander Batthyany, PhD who is conducting a study on terminal lucidity involving patients with Alzheimer’s disease.  His findings have thus far suggested that normal cognition can occur despite a nonfunctional brain. Batthyany is a professor at the University of Vienna in Austria where he teaches courses in the behavioral sciences and philosophy.

As you may know, Alzheimer’s disease kills nerve cells in the brain and patients eventually lose normal brain functioning and suffer from memory loss.  Yet, in many cases, many become coherent right before death with no known changes in the brain.  The nerve cells, for example, don’t suddenly become alive allowing patients to say their final goodbyes yet these cases of terminal lucidity are clearly happening.

Thus far, science has no explanation for this.  Professor Batthyany has called these deathbed phenomena “close to a miracle,” however, he admits, “I am not sure whether miracle is a good word but it is deeply mystifying given what we know about the relationship between mental function and brain integrity.” (A Call from Heaven: Personal Accounts of Deathbed Visits, Angelic Visions, and Crossings to the Other Side/page 26).

But maybe the answer is not a scientific one but a spiritual one.  Perhaps a higher source is allowing those on their deathbed to bid a proper goodbye to their loved ones.  Regardless of which stance we take, we cannot deny that these deathbed phenomena are taking place.

One of the most recent cases on record involves a doctor by the name of Scott Haig in New York.  An orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Haig wrote about a patient named David who passed from lung cancer which eventually spread to his brain leaving him both motionless and speechless.

David’s brain, he explained, was completely destroyed.  Yet just before his death, David suddenly woke up and was able to converse with his family.  He said his final goodbyes and after about five minutes he went comatose again and passed within the hour.

Interestingly David’s wife was a nurse at the same hospital and witnessed the occurrence.  Doctors may not understand how these cases of terminal lucidity are taking place.  We also don’t know why many experience it while others don’t.  But of more importance is the fact these cases are happening and are, in fact, very real.

A biologist named David Searles once said, “Seeing death as the end of life is like seeing the horizon as the end of ocean.” It may look like the end when we are looking at the horizon because that is as far as our eyes can see.   But when we die we will all come to know that death is only a transition.  It is not an end but rather a new beginning that is not limited by the constraints of a dying body.

As an author and afterlife researcher for over 15 years, I have been asked many times if dealing with the death of a loved one is easier for me given my stern beliefs in an afterlife.  My answer is always the same.  Yes, it’s easier but, no, it’s not easy.  Losing my loved ones hurts but I do find comfort in the knowledge that life continues.  I do find comfort in the knowledge that the bond of love is the one thing that transcends death.  Nothing is stronger.