On Martha’s Bookshelf: Proof of Heaven

You may have noticed the kerfuffle of attention around a new book called Proof of Heaven, by Dr. Eben Alexander. The author was an academic neurosurgeon who taught at Harvard Medical School for fifteen years and published scores of articles in medical journals. He had heard some of his patients describe “near-death experiences” and was quite sure their occurrences were explained by random firing of the distressed neurons in their brains.
 
A few years ago Dr. Alexander developed a freakishly rare bacterial meningitis. By the time he was diagnosed, he was in a deep coma and the disease had literally eaten the entire cortex of his brain. The coma lasted seven days, during which Alexander was closely monitored and known to have no cortical function. This meant that he was unable to use any sections of the brain that have to do with cognition of any kind. As he puts it, his brain was not just damaged; it was off. 
 
I’m sure you saw this coming: the entire time Dr. Alexander’s brain was essentially Jell-O he was having one hell of a near-death experience. He describes entering a dimension of existence that made his “real” life as a physical being seem like a flimsy transparent dream. He learned more than his brain can presently articulate, but the most important of these lessons were these three statements: “You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever.” “You have nothing to fear.” “There is nothing you can do wrong.”
 
For fans of near-death experiences, this is not new information. However, Dr. Alexander’s experience is what he calls “the perfect storm” of near-death experiences. He is a trained neuroscientist, more capable than most of us at understanding what can happen in the brain. He was under the closest medical supervision. Unlike most people who undergo near-death experiences, his entire brain was simply not functioning during his adventure. He humbly expresses a belief that he was given this experience, on top of his lifelong training, so that he could be in a position to not only tell his story but to be believed. I highly recommend this quick and fascinating read. You definitely want to go on this ride with the good doctor. By the way his recovery of full cognitive function after such severe brain damage is virtually impossible. Go figure.

Concepts to Calm and Comfort…Insight from Martha

Rumble Strips AheadI am going to assume that y’all are already on board with my obsessive belief that we are undergoing a transformation of human consciousness. I could be wrong, but let’s just say I’m not. It seems that this change is imminent, if not already upon us. In Eckhart Tolle’s image, blossoms are opening in individual human beings all over our flower-field of a planet. This is beyond exciting! It’s also slightly more than terrifying if you are going through it. So here are a couple of concepts to calm and comfort us all.
 
The first is what I call “culture versus compass.” If we are meant to continue living on this particular planet, we must switch—very rapidly, now—to a way of thinking and living that has never before existed. This is necessary because the conditions we now face as a species are utterly unprecedented. What this means is that no culture—I repeat, no culture whatsoever—can give us full instructions on how to embody this new consciousness. Every culture provides hints, but none by itself could possibly be complete.
 
So how does one steer a path that does not yet exist? Since there is no cultural map, we have no alternative but to rely completely on the internal compasses we all carry in our hearts.
 
This sounds dangerous, even to me. The human heart seems full of bugs and errors. I have a firm faith in destiny but have never thought it wise to trust humans too much. Tough! The heart is all we have left to guide us. The ongoing miracle I have been experiencing recently is the discovery that our hearts are being guided more benevolently and helpfully than I ever dreamed possible. Even people who set out to harm others end up accidentally helping them. (I call this the “nemesis phenomenon”; the villain who sets out to destroy the hero, but without whom the hero could never discover the limits of his superpowers.) So all of this is just to say that any decision you are facing is best made in the deepest confines of your own body and brain. They are instruments miraculously calibrated to lead you; you must trust them now more than ever. For further information on this, please read everything I have ever written.
 
The next most useful tool in these chaotic times is what I call the rumble strip. A rumble strip looks like this: your dog dies on the same day your car is totaled, your daughter joins a cult, your best friend moves away, and your refrigerator explodes. In other words, it’s a barrage of seemingly unrelated catastrophes so severe you cannot ignore them. You have no idea what’s happening or why, only that this feels too freakishly bad to be coincidental.
 
I believe that, as the phrase suggests, rumble strip experiences are designed not to torture or punish us, but to steer us. We are headed in the wrong direction, not through malice or even intent, but simply by mistake. We’re like drivers who have fallen asleep at the wheel and the fates are conspiring to awaken us. If you encounter a rumble strip, from a morning of small annoyances to a year of crises, please realize that part of your awareness is asleep. By this I mean it is tied up in erroneous assumptions. Assumptions, by definition, shape the way we see the world. We are as unconscious of them as a sleeping driver is of sleep itself. That’s why the rumble strip feels so chaotic: it is jolting, jarring, and breaking apart the basic foundations of our worldview.
 
The best response is to slow waaaaaaay down. Begin to see where the thoughts you believe most deeply no longer serve to explain the chaos in your life. The rumble strip is pointing out the assumptions you must question, and in its elegant mercy it paints them so vividly with emotional pain that they will be hard to miss. For example, my first rumble strip was the year I described in my book Expecting Adam, when I was afflicted by everything from a nearly lethal illness to high-rise fires to lice. Fun! And then there was my son’s Down syndrome diagnosis. It took all that to smash apart my assumption that the value of my life was my intellect. You may have different assumptions but, trust me, some of them will not work in the months and years ahead.
 
The transformation we are feeling will only speed up from here. So please pay close attention to your inner compass. If you stop steering by your compass you will hit a rumble strip. Don’t panic. Just question your assumptions and you’ll be back on the road in no time.

When You Feel Lonely

At times in my life, I have felt utterly lonely. At other times, I’ve had disgusting infectious diseases. Try admitting these things in our culture, and you’ll find they evoke identical responses: Listeners cringe with a mixture of pity, revulsion, and alarm. In a culture where everyone wants a happy family and a sizzling relationship, read more…