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#1814- Monday, May 31, 2004 Editor - Jerry

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  • Mark Otter
    #1814 - Monday, May 31, 2004 - Editor: Jerry Highlights Home Page and Archive: http://nonduality.com/hlhome.htm Letter to the Editors: Click Reply , compose
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      #1814 - Monday, May 31, 2004 - Editor: Jerry
       

      Highlights Home Page and Archive: http://nonduality.com/hlhome.htm
       
      Letter to the Editors: Click 'Reply', compose your message, and 'Send'. All the editors will see your letter.

      If this email was forwarded to you and you would like to receive the Nondual Highlights each day, please visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/NDhighlights

       

      This issue features a few news stories that appeared very recently and speak to spiritual transitions. The first one is about the Mikvah, a Jewish spiritual bath of cleansing. The second is about new research linking brain activity and extremely positive near death experiences. The last two stories return to the water theme and speak of the kinds of Baptism that comes out of surfing experiences.
      --Jerry

      Note: Due to problems with the Yahoo mail system, this issue appears late and photos had to be removed in order to assure delivery. Thanks for your understanding. This issue with the photos may be seen at http://nonduality.com/hl1814.htm

      June 2, 2004, marks the Fifth Anniversary of The Nondual Highlights. Thank you, readers for being there. Thank you current and recent editors: Gloria, Christiana, Michael, Mark, Joyce, Andrew, John. I know I'm speaking for all the editors when I say we're going to continue to bring you different, informative, fun, profound, enlightening issues that each of us enjoys putting together in our way.

       

       
       
       
      Spiritual Cleansing
       
      'The Mikvah Project' celebrates the Jewish ritual bath
       
      BY SHARON HARVEY ROSENBERG
       
      A deep current runs through the Jewish Museum of Florida, the spiritual cleansing power of mikvah water -- a ritual bath in the Jewish tradition. In a mix of art, oral history and ritual, the Miami Beach museum is presenting ''The Mikvah Project,'' a traveling exhibit created by the Houston-based team of photographer Janice Rubin and writer Leah Lax.
       
      In a supplementary exhibit, ''History of the
      Mikvah in Florida,'' the Jewish Museum has added
      a Florida spin, with additional research and
      photographs documenting mikvah facilities
      throughout the state.
       
      A mikvah is a pool of natural water or tap water
      with a designated connection to natural water
      (rain water or spring water). Containing about
      200 gallons of water that is also chlorinated and
      maintained under strict hygienic standards, a
      proper mikvah is built with a blueprint that
      follows Jewish law. For 3,000 years, the rituals
      associated with the mikvah have been the
      cornerstone of Jewish tradition.
       
      Under Jewish tradition and law, a mikvah is used
      each month by married Jewish women following
      their menstrual cycles. (According to Jewish law,
      physical relations between a husband and wife are
      halted during menstruation and resumed after a
      woman has immersed herself in a mikvah.) Converts
      to Judaism also undergo a ritual bath, and many
      observant Jewish men go to the mikvah before
      major Jewish holidays and before the weekly
      Sabbath. In observant Jewish homes, even new
      dishes are immersed in a special mikvah before
      use in the home.
       
      ''It's a spiritual cleansing,'' said Rabbi
      Solomon Schiff from the Greater Miami Jewish
      Federation. ``The water serves as a renewal
      because water purifies and uplifts.''
       
      AURA OF MYSTERY
       
      Over the years, the mikvah ritual has been veiled
      by modesty, Schiff said. That tradition of
      modesty has given rise to mystery, which in turn,
      has led to some misperceptions about the role of
      ritual baths in the Jewish tradition.
       
      ''Other people have thought it was some kind of
      old superstition. But when they see this exhibit
      and read about all of various purposes and the
      history of the mikvah, they will begin to realize
      the importance of that ritual and appreciate its
      value,'' Schiff said.
       
      In literature and religion, water is often a
      symbol of life. In fact, according to the Jewish
      tradition, everything was created from water and
      immersion in mikvah water represents a spiritual
      rebirth, according to Rabbi Akiva Stolper of the
      Congregation Ohr Chaim on Miami Beach. ``When you
      come out of the water, you become reborn.''
       
      With a mission to educate, the Jewish Museum
      features mikvaot (plural of mikvah) from Key West
      to Tallahassee. In photos and text, the museum
      highlights the history, the customs and the
      development of ritual pools in Florida. The local
      display includes a broad range of facilities,
      from luxury spas to the older bare-bones pools
      that existed decades ago in Hasidic synagogues in
      South Beach. The exhibit also highlights the
      Daughters of Israel Mikvah, which was founded
      during the 1940s and is the oldest ritual pool in
      Miami-Dade County. Since its launch, that
      facility has had three locations and is now
      called the Bessie M. Galbut Daughters of Israel
      Mikvah Center in Miami Beach.
       
      ''Today there are more than 25 mikvaot in
      Florida, with more than 70 percent of them built
      over the last decade,'' as more observant Jews
      move to Florida and more Jews observe the ritual,
      according to Laura Bolser, director of marketing
      for the Jewish Museum.
       
      LOCAL FLAVOR
       
      The local display offers a glimpse of Florida
      history, with colorful text about the
      construction, revival and survival of mikvaot.
      For example, after Hurricane Andrew, military
      officials reportedly were fascinated to see that
      the mikvah in Homestead survived relatively
      unscathed, while other homes and buildings in
      that area were demolished.
       
      Collecting such details consumed well over a
      year, says Marcia Zerivitz, founding executive
      director of the Jewish Museum of Florida.
      Zerivitz believes that the earliest mikvah in
      Florida was built in Jacksonville in 1921, but
      museum officials are leaving the door open for
      discoveries of earlier facilities.
       
      ''We are like detectives here. It's an ongoing
      process,'' Zerivitz said. ``We get totally
      immersed in the subject.''
       
      With a nod to South Florida's multicultural
      community, the Jewish Museum exhibit includes
      photographs and commentary about the religious
      and spiritual importance of water in other
      cultures. The exhibit includes photographs of
      Mayan baths, a community of Haitian religious
      pilgrims under a ''sacred'' waterfall in their
      homeland and a Southern congregation of African
      Americans during an immersion baptism.
       
      Meanwhile, as documented by Rubin and Lax, ''The
      Mikvah Project,'' highlights the stories of women
      around the country who participate in the ritual
      bath. For the sake of privacy, the women --
      Jewish women from diverse backgrounds -- were
      photographed without names or faces. One
      photograph features an elegant portrait of a
      single hand trailing through water. The exhibit
      also includes actual underwater photographs of
      models in simulated immersions.
       
      ''I really wanted to respect the ritual,'' said
      Rubin, the photographer, during a telephone
      interview.
       
      Documenting both women and models in various
      mikvah settings was a ''transformative'' process,
      Rubin said. Her initial reservations about
      immersion rituals have been replaced with the
      understanding that the mikvah represents ``a very
      rich experience.''
       
      Lax also approached the project with mixed
      feelings. But after listening to and recording
      the personal histories of women -- ranging from
      young mothers to post-menopausal women -- Lax
      concluded that the mikvah ritual involves an
      embrace of self, of God and of spirituality.
       
      ''It's a ritual of transition,'' Lax said.
       
      (Article contributed by Mary Bianco to NDS News: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/NDSN)
       
       

       
       
       
      'Near-death' survivors show brain-wave abnormality, study finds
       
      By Carla McClain ARIZONA DAILY STAR
       
      Many people who have undergone near-death experiences - a profoundly affecting glimpse of a loving afterlife - have abnormal brain waves, a University of Arizona study has found.
       
      This is the first scientific confirmation that something extremely unusual is going on in the brains of people who briefly died, reported leaving their bodies and moving toward a loving, peaceful light or presence, then were resuscitated and returned to life.
       
      The finding does not prove or disprove that
      near-death experiences are actual encounters with
      a heavenly afterlife, but it may help explain why
      lives and attitudes are often dramatically
      changed by such experiences.
       
      "This is the first study ever to find
      neurophysiologic differences in people who have
      had these experiences," said Willoughby B.
      Britton, the UA researcher who led the study,
      published last month in the journal Psychological
      Science.
       
      "They have to some extent an abnormal brain. But even after going through a life-threatening trauma, they are absolutely psychologically healthy, with no post-traumatic stress, no fear response.
       
      "This gets to the question of how the brain and consciousness and reality interact. Everyone wants to know how the spiritual and the physical meet."
       
      Throughout human history, people who have suffered traumatic events that nearly killed them - cardiac arrest, drownings, violent accidents, medical complications, allergic reactions, even suicide attempts - have reported eerily similar
      transcendental scenarios.
       
      They almost always involve a sense of leaving the
      body or viewing it from a distance, transcending
      time and space, entering a dark void or "tunnel,"
      encountering and being strongly attracted to a
      bright light or sometimes a religious figure,
      with an all-encompassing feeling of peace,
      warmth, unconditional love and welcome.
       
      In some cases, the "dead" undergo a "life review"
      - a rapid unfolding of life events, with an
      understanding of how their actions affected
      others.
       
      However, this is not the typical response to
      life-threatening trauma. Most people react with
      intense fear, anxiety, sometimes lasting for
      months or years, resulting in post-traumatic
      stress disorder marked by nightmares and chronic
      distress.
       
      Only about 10 percent to 18 percent of people
      instead have these extremely positive "near-death
      experiences" that leave them with little or no
      fear of death or danger, an optimistic outlook on
      life, increased spirituality, and often major
      lifestyle improvements.
       
      "They can't wait to have it happen again, they
      have no fear whatsoever. You have to ask, are
      these people completely crazy?" said Britton, who
      specializes in studying the neurologic effect of
      traumatic events.
       
      "It is a moving experience to be around them.
      They are different. You can almost sense it."
       
      The results of her study prove they are. During a
      night of sleep, Britton recorded the brain waves
      of 23 people who had near-death experiences,
      comparing them with the brain patterns of 23 who
      had not.
       
      An unexpectedly high number - 22 percent - of the
      near-death experiencers showed a rare brain-wave
      pattern known as "synchronized brain activity" in
      the left temporal lobe. That is a simultaneous
      firing of neurons - sometimes described as "an
      electrical storm" - in that part of the brain. It
      is the kind of abnormal pattern seen in people
      who suffer epileptic seizures in the temporal
      lobe.
       
      By contrast, normal brain waves are described as
      de-synchronized, with neurons firing at different
      times. Only one of the non-near-death group
      showed an abnormal, synchronized pattern, which
      occurs in only 1 percent of the general
      population.
       
      If the study had continued on multiple nights,
      more of the near-death experience group would
      have shown the abnormal pattern, Britton
      predicted.
       
      "But even on a one-night study, the rate was 22
      times higher in the NDE group than would have
      been expected. That is a very, very high rate,"
      she said.
       
      The near-death-experience group also showed
      unusual sleep patterns. Most took an unusually
      long time to reach the REM stage of sleep - the
      stage of rapid eye movement, known as the dream
      stage.
       
      "This may explain the change in temperament
      people have," said Britton. "REM latency is a
      marker for mental health. A long REM latency is
      an emotional bias toward the positive. People who
      take only a short time to get to REM sleep are at
      high risk for depression."
       
      But what the study does not reveal is whether the
      near-death-experience people had abnormal brain
      activity and unusual sleep patterns prior to
      their mystical experiences, or whether the
      experience caused the unusual brain and sleep
      patterns.
       
      "If these patterns existed before the NDE, it may
      mean they are predisposed to a positive response
      to stress - that is, to having a pleasant
      near-death experience rather than post-traumatic
      stress," Britton said.
       
      But it is more likely the near-death experience
      caused the brain changes, said Tucson
      neurosurgeon Dr. Philip Carter.
       
      "From my own personal knowledge, I would predict
      that the abnormal EEG (brain wave recordings)
      correlated with the hypoxia - the lack of oxygen
      to the brain - during the traumatic event," he
      said.
       
      He pointed out that epilepsy in that part of the
      brain - which shows the same kind of abnormal
      pattern - is usually caused by a hypoxic event,
      such as when a fetus is deprived of oxygen during
      a stressful birth.
       
      In fact, it is well known that temporal lobe
      epileptics also experience spiritual
      near-death-experience-type episodes during
      seizures and are profoundly affected and changed
      by them in the same ways near-death experiences
      are.
       
      "When the heart stops, when the brain shuts down,
      during the traumatic event, we do know there is a
      lot of discharge of brain activity," said Carter.
      "The brain is the ultimate computer. When it
      shuts down and reboots, it comes back with a lot
      of activity that can cause changes.
       
      "So I think most of this can be explained on a
      physiological basis. I certainly don't want to
      say there isn't an afterlife, but I don't think
      these experiences are the evidence for it. They
      can be explained."
       
      What Carter does think is possible is that the
      actual process of death may be pleasant, rather
      than painful and frightening, based on the
      testimony of a physician friend of his who was
      resuscitated after his heart stopped during a
      heart attack.
       
      "He talked of being warm all over, he saw a
      shining light, he had the feeling that death
      wasn't so bad. The actual process of death was a
      good experience, a good feeling," he said.
       
      But most near-death experiencers, by far, are
      absolutely convinced they have seen the true
      afterlife and felt the infinite love of God. All
      the scientific discussion is just the chitchat of
      those who haven't been there and done that.
       
      "There really is no such thing as death. We go
      from here up into the light. We change form and
      go on," said Susan Dayton, 58, who underwent a
      near-death experience 30 years ago, when she
      suffered a blood clot to the brain.
       
      "It was the most intense, warm, loving, beautiful
      experience I've ever had. I can't even describe
      it. I was surrounded by light and love. It was
      like going home," said Dayton, who participated
      in Britton's study.
       
      Noting that prior to that she had a drinking
      problem, smoked two to three packs of cigarettes
      a day, and "got married too often," Dayton said
      her life has changed "dramatically."
       
      "I simply quit all that. I've been sober for 20
      years. I have a heart now, a sense of compassion
      for others, and absolutely no fear of death.
       
      "Believe me, this is not just the brain
      misfiring. There definitely is a God."
       
      But for Tucson attorney Dan Dudley, who also
      entered the tunnel, and saw and felt the
      intensely loving light 13 years ago - when he
      nearly died from flesh-eating strep A - the
      experience has dimmed somewhat over the years.
       
      "Certainly it changed me," he said. "I just don't
      have any great concern or anxiety about dying,
      and I deeply believe in the power of prayer."
       
      For a while after, his priorities did change.
      Making money was no longer his main goal.
       
      "But when reality sets back in, that feeling
      fades somewhat," he said.
       
      He is well aware of the debate raging over what a
      near-death experience really is.
       
      "Does the act of dying cause the brain to
      download all its neurons, or is it a genuine
      spiritual experience?
       
      "All I can say is it was a wonderfully peaceful,
      loving, warm place to be, an overwhelming
      sensation. I choose to think it was a genuine
      spiritual experience."
       
       

       
       
      Rite takes place at beach where teen was rescued
      By Onell R. Soto UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER May 24, 2004
       
      A teen who nearly drowned while surfing Saturday
      returned to the same stretch of Torrey Pines
      State Beach yesterday and got back in the water
      for a celebration of life as he and two dozen
      other members of his church were baptized.
       
      Mathew McGee, 14, still wore two hospital
      bracelets. One, snapped on his wrist before
      doctors knew his identity, bore the name "Doe."
       
      Mathew, a Torrey Pines High School sophomore from
      Del Mar Heights, said little about his ordeal.
       
      "I just like surfing and I got knocked out or
      something," he said of his near-death experience.
       
      Bob Johnson, senior pastor at non-denominational
      Canyon Hills Community Church in Carmel Valley,
      found a message in Mathew's survival.
       
      "You could be in heaven right now," Johnson told
      him in front of other church members gathered on
      the sunny afternoon. "But you're here because God
      has a plan."

      Like he does every week, Mathew had gone surfing
      Saturday with a friend, 16-year-old Preston Harp.
       
      Preston said it is not unusual to get separated
      in the surf, but something was different Saturday
      when he didn't immediately spot his friend in the
      water.
       
      "I had a feeling that something wasn't right," he
      said.
       
      He started looking around. He saw Mathew's board,
      and then he spotted Mathew face down in the
      chest-deep water.
       
      Preston grabbed his friend and set out for shore.
       
      He was almost out of the water when two people
      happened by. They were cardiologists out for a
      day at the beach.
       
      They helped get Mathew on his side so the water
      could begin flowing out of his lungs.
       
      Disoriented when he came to, Mathew battled with
      paramedics and lifeguards. Soon, Mathew was in an
      ambulance speeding to Children's Hospital.
       
      Within an hour of his arrival, doctors used a CT
      scan to check his brain.
       
      Kitty McGee, Mathew's mother, rejoiced at the
      news that he was OK.
       
      McGee, said it's unclear what knocked him out.
       
      "I don't know if he hit the bottom or his board
      hit him," she said.
       
      Mathew spent the night in the intensive care
      unit, and was released in the morning.
       
      By afternoon, as planned weeks ago, he joined
      dozens of others back at the beach for a baptism
      in the waves.
       
       

       
       
      "Surfing is like a baptism... . A rebirth. A
      conversation with God."
       
      Soul of Surfing: Marty Schreiber lives a life that may be fading
      By PEGGY TOWNSEND Sentinel staff writer
       
      It costs Marty Schreiber $200 a day to surf.
       
      Marty knows this because he runs an automobile
      repair business out of the back of his truck and
      since he charges $80 an hour to tune up an engine
      or change out a set of spark plugs, he figures
      that’s the cost of the two-plus hours he spends
      in the water every day.
       
      "I had to come to an understanding with my wife
      and family," says Marty, who by his own
      calculations pursues a sport that costs him about
      $52,000 a year.
       
      "I could probably have a nicer house or send my
      daughters to college," he says. But surfing is
      something he needs to do.
       
      No matter what it costs.
       
      Surfing is like a baptism, he says. A rebirth. A
      conversation with God.
       
      Advertisement
       
      It even makes him a better mechanic, he says.
       
      Out in the water there is no Iraq, no cars with
      oil leaks, no bad days, says Marty, who’s known
      around town simply as Marty Mechanic.
       
      "It’s people walking on water, man," he says.
       
      Every day, the 55-year-old Marty throws a leg
      over his black Honda scooter or his fat-tire bike
      and heads for Pleasure Point. His surfboard and
      beach umbrella are strapped on tight. One of his
      three dogs always rides shotgun on the back.
       
      It makes him cry when he talks about how much he
      loves the sport.
       
      "It (surfing) raises the spirit and makes you
      believe in God," he says.
       
      "Oh yeah girl, it reinvents you every day."
       
      Marty’s not the only one who looks at surfing
      that way.
       
      After a May 2 article in this newspaper about the
      way the high cost of living here is drowning the
      surf-bum spirit, a number of people wrote to us
      to talk about the soul of the sport, the way it
      used to be and the way it is now.
       
      We heard from famous 70-something surfer Fred Van
      Dyke who says love is what is needed in the
      water, and from a man who believes the invention
      of the wetsuit and surf leashes made the waves
      more crowded. We got memories and advice and
      inspiration. We’re presenting some of those
      letters today for you to read.
       
      For Marty, who has four children (his two grown
      children include an ex-Marine and a sheriff’s
      deputy), no day would be right without a slug of
      coffee, a high-performance vitamin and an 8 a.m.
      session at Sewer Peak.
       
      It’s the only spot he surfs.
       
      "Yesterday it was just blowing at Sewer Peak,"
      says Marty, driving to an oil change he’s got
      scheduled at the Point. "It was ‘Victory at Sea.’
      "
       
      But while less hardy souls huddled in the lee of
      the cliffs around the point, Marty unstrapped his
      board from his scooter and headed into the
      wind-chopped ocean.
       
      It cost him $200.
       
      And it was good.
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