Author Archives: Annie Dreisbach

4/9/14 “The Other Wes Moore”

Annie Dreisbach

This week, I was planning on reading a book entitled “Tiny Beautiful Things” by Cheryl Strayed. However, I began reading a different book for another class, and discovered that it had great relevance to Psych 401. The book is called “The Other Wes Moore”. It is written by a very educated and successful man named Wes Moore. The book begins with a Baltimore newspaper story about this man being named a Rhode’s Scholar. In that same newspaper, another man from Baltimore also named Wes Moore was in the newspaper for an entirely different reason: he was involved in an armed robbery gone wrong which ended with the death of a police officer. This Wes Moore was sentenced to life in prison.

As the author read this story of the other Wes Moore, he couldn’t help but notice the similarities of their lives. Both men were born into low class families and raised in neighborhoods in Baltimore. As young men, they were both exposed to drugs and violence. However, their life paths greatly deviated despite their similar circumstances, resulting in one man who became a decorated veteran, a White House Fellow, and successful business leader, while the other spent his life falling into the pattern of his peers and living in jail. Intrigued by their stories, the two Wes Moores came in contact and tried to understand how their lives turned out so differently. As they got to know each other and explore each other’s life story, it became clear that the successful Wes experienced change in his life when he joined the military. From there, he began to fall into better patterns of decision-making. However, for the other Wes, change did not come. Instead, he began to deal drugs and fell into a realm of violence, like many of his peers. Although at times he wanted to change, he was pulled back into his old ways because of financial issues or social pressures. Both Wes Moores grew up fatherless, were good students in school, were exposed to violence and drugs, and at times were motivated to change. One was never inherently better than the other, yet one grew up to be incredibly successful while the other not so lucky.

This story had me thinking, what makes up a person? Is it the choices we make? Or the social environment around us? What about the characteristics we are born with? There are so many elements that can dictate the life path we go down and it is often very hard to understand them. It is even harder to understand why some things happen that are beyond anything in our control. The idea that we all have a purpose and a life plan dictated by a higher-power, a loving being, can help explain some of these inexplicable events and may provide some comfort.

 

Mindfulness Exercise

Annie Dreisbach

4/1/14

The inspiration for the reflection this week came from another one of my classes, Psychotherapy and Counseling. In class, our professor taught us about the therapy technique mindfulness based stress reduction. This program assists people in learning how to love more fully in the present rather than ruminating about the past or being overly concerned about the future. The skills taught in the practice include sitting in meditation and mindful yoga, aimed at cultivating mindfulness. It is ideal for cultivating greater awareness of the unity of mind and body, as well as the unconscious thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that often undermine emotional or physical health. Research has shown that the meditation this therapy utilizes has been shown to positively affect physiological processes, like lowering blood pressure and reducing emotional reactivity. Also, the yoga used in MBSR helps to reverse the prevalence of atrophy from sedentary lifestyles, or pain from chronic illness. In this way, MSBR can be used for many people suffering from many different ailments. Overall, this therapy emphasizes experiential learning and self-discover.

After learning about mindfulness, I wanted to experience its effects first hand, so I decided to try a meditation exercise that I found on Youtube. I closed the door to my bedroom, turned off the lights, and sat on the floor. The soothing voice of the narrator talked me through how to sit comfortably and close my eyes. As I listened, I was instructed to listen to my breathing and focus on my inhales and exhales. When I noticed my thoughts drifting to plans, worries, daydreams, I was reminded to center on my breathing again in that moment. I was guided to feel the pressures on my body, and how in interacted with the floor and with other parts of me. The narrator asked me to imagine my worries and anxieties in my soul, and not to try to push them away. Instead, I was to see how they fit in and just let them be, acknowledging their presence. Even when I experienced discomfort, I was directed to stay with that discomfort, and really try to understand it. I was never asked to change anything I was thinking or feeling, but just be aware of myself at the present moment. The purpose was not to make myself feel better, but to becoming better at feeling.

During this exercise, I felt very much at peace. It was difficult at first to not control my thoughts and stay in the moment. However, it began to get easier for me to feel the sensations of my body without trying to manipulate them or turn them into something else. As this started to happen, I felt as if I was growing taller. It is a difficult experience to describe, but I felt like my back was straightening, vertebrae by vertebrae, and I felt no pressure on my joints at all. I am inclined to describe this ‘light’ feeling as the beginning of flowing out of my body. After opening my eyes, I felt much calmer and at peace. My mind was not racing like it often does, and I had a great feeling of awareness. I was aware of the sensations of my body, but at the same time I felt separate from it. In that separation was knowledge and openness. Unfortunately, as soon as I began to think about other things, I lost this feeling of utter relaxation. However, this technique can be very useful in the future and hopefully I can begin to utilize these exercises when I feel disconnected from myself. I look forward to learning more about mindfulness and practicing it regularly!

 

 

3/26/14 Questions about Reincarnation

Annie Dreisbach

Questions about Reincarnation

This week, I read an absolutely intriguing book entitled Old Souls by Tom Shroder. This book details the journey of one man as he seeks to uncover the truth about reincarnation and the validity of many stories we hear. However, instead of talking about this book and relating more of the anecdotes we have heard before, I would like to address some questions I still have remaining about the topic.

It is hard to listen to the thousands, millions, of stories detailing a person’s recollection of a previous life and fully deny the idea of reincarnation. The evidence alone can come from the multitude of similar cases. I do not doubt that to many people, these experiences are real. However, I have a difficult time aligning them with schemas I have already made about death and our surviving consciousness.

To begin, I wonder about the role the body plays in a person’s life. Obviously, they are our vessels this concrete reality, but do our physical bodies dictate our consciousness in any way? This question mainly comes up because children often recall their past lives, but lose their memory of it as they grow up. If a soul, or consciousness, is reincarnated in a person, shouldn’t that soul be completely indistinguishable to the person it previously belonged to? The only thing that has changed is the physical vessel, so the reincarnated person should be a replication of the first. Also, if memories are intact initially, why do they fade away with age? My concept of souls and consciousness was that it remained relatively constant and cannot dissipate or remake itself. However, if evidence shows people who were reincarnated become separate beings, the soul must be influenced by the body it takes on.

Going along with this, why is it that certain people who have experienced reincarnation have body marks similar to those from the supposed previous life? For example, in the movie we watched in class, one of the children who spoke about being a NYC cop had a heart condition eerily similar to the heart trauma that caused the police officer to die. Why should it matter if the bodies show any similarities? Everything we have read in this class points to the idea that our consciousness is on another level than our bodies and can live on without them. So because they seem so independent of each other, why do similarities on bodies provide evidence for reincarnated souls?

Another question I have about reincarnation is what is the point? I understand that many souls have the choice (or maybe not) to come back to Earth because they need a chance to do something over, learn something new, or get something right. However, in the book Old Souls, they talk about a woman who experiences great anxiety without apparent cause. Under hypnosis, she describes how she used to live as many different people, including an Egyptian woman, a Welsh sailor, a Germman aviator, and many others. She came to figure out that her anxiety was rooted in real fears she had from her previous lives. I cannot help but thinking that if she was sent back to Earth to resolve something, why was she experiencing anxiety at all? It seems as though her reincarnation was self-defeating because it was causing the anxiety and preventing her from growing as a person. In addition, the teenage girl from the video was pained because she was not with her true family. If she came back to finish or learn something, ideally she should be in an environment that would allow that.

Although I question the process of reincarnation, I come back to the same philosophy I have talked about many times before. If the idea of reincarnation brings people hope and joy, then I think they should believe in it. It is a concept that can be seen in a quote from Dr. Ian Stevenson, a researcher on reincarnation. When asked what he was trying to accomplish with his work, he replied, “world peace…I’m quite serious. If you removed the fear of death, the world would be stood on its head. There would no reason for war.”

3/19 Eisenstein

Annie Dreisbach

3/19//14 Reflection

In “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible”, Charles Eisenstein talks about what individuals can do to make the world a better place. By embracing our interconnectedness with each other and the environment we live in, we can create an atmosphere of love and acceptance. Although the book lays out many anecdotes about hope, truth, and righteousness (among many other things) one thing that seemed to be the foundation of his story was the idea that we are all connected. This interbeing is a part of everyone and through it we are inseparate from the Universe. This explains why we are so often affected by things that happen to other people. When we see someone get hurt, we feel hurt ourselves. When we see other celebrate joyful occasions, we can feel happy with them. The reason for this is because when something is happening to our peers, friends, even strangers, it is happening to us. Eisenstein uses the environment as a reflection of our interbeingness. Even though most of us are not actively and directly chopping down trees and polluting the environment, in fact many of us distance ourselves from the problem, we still feel the pain of the destruction of our natural resources. Occasionally we may feel relief from this pain, maybe through love or grace, but for the most part we are immersed in this suffering everyday. It is only in those moments of respite that we know what it means to truly live.

This aspect of Eisenstein’s book resonated with me because it is so closely related to Dossey’s book “One Mind”. The concept of interconnectedness is very powerful and can be used to motivate social actions. In “One Mind”, Dossey also uses the environment as an example, saying that many people separate themselves from the problem of climate change because they think they alone will not make enough of an impact. But these two authors argue that by working to preserve our natural environment, we are harnessing the power of our interbeing and it will result in a better way of life—something in line with how we were intended to live.

Additionally, I was also very intrigued when Eisenstein said we are all living in a “sea of pain”. We often find temporary pleasure in material things that work to separate us from the interbeing and instead grow in us greed and selfishness. Although I agree that often I am overwhelmed with feelings of sadness and despair when I think about the current state of our world. But I am more frequently overwhelmed by feelings of joy and hope. Today we are surrounded by tragedies broadcasted to us from all media. It is rarer to see a heart-warming story on the news than a story about disaster or destruction. However, that does not mean these moments of transcendence do not happen. I think one way to change is by celebrating these experiences of true life and broadcasting positivity. Through this, we can embrace our interconnectedness and become united.

One Mind 3/12/14

Annie Dreisbach

“One Mind” Response

In “One Mind”, Dr. Larry Dossey describes a parallel connectedness that has been alluded to by intellectuals for many years. However, this realm has not been explored in depth or talked about specifically. We have been taught about the individual conscious, unconscious, subconscious, preconscious, but what about the level of consciousness that is all-encompassing and unconstrained by time? Dossey believes in the unity of souls through the One Mind, or common awareness through which we are all infinitely tied. He is not alone or revolutionary in his ideas. In fact, Ralph Waldo Emerson alludes to this interconnectedness when he says, “happiness is contagious…your happiness depends not just on your choices and actions, but also on the choices and actions of people you don’t even know who are one, two and three degrees removed from you.” In this quote, Emerson touches on something most people have experienced. When someone exhibits a behavior or mood, others pick up on that, and may be influenced to act in a similar manner. Therefore, disposition is not solely an individualistic choice or influence, but is rather a collective reflection. Thomas Edison also talked about collectivism when he said, “I have never created anything. I get impressions from the Universe at large and work them out, but I am only a plate on a record or a receiving apparatus—what you will. Thoughts are really impressions that we get from outside.” In this quote, Edison is contributing all of his inventions to a greater power from the Universe. He is not taking credit for himself, but is saying that he, like all of us, gets ideas from the outside.

In addition to the evidence that intellectuals like Emerson and Edison provide, implications of the One Mind come from many things, and Dossey’s book covers a lot of them. They include cases of shared thoughts and emotions with an individual who is not nearby. Dossey sites his experience with his twin brother as an example of this. This type of non-locality connection shows that consciousness is not just individual, but links us all at all times. There are also cases of communication between humans and nonhumans, large groups of animals behaving in coordinated ways, and finding lost objects through mental capacities alone. In addition, mediums communications with those who have past and near death experiences provide evidence of the One Mind.

The main reason Dossey wrote “One Mind” is to provide a way to eliminate greed, selfishness, and destruction. The individualism that most people emphasize today has made people act in ways that only benefit themselves. An example of this is how many people do not believe by taking an active role in helping the environment will make an impact worldwide. By emphasizing unity, people may become inspired to treat others

February 19th

Annie Dreisbach

February 19th, 2014

Medium Biographies

This week, inquiries about the lives of mediums led me to the story of Andrew Jackson Davis. Davis was born in 1826 in Blooming Grove, New York. At a very young age, Davis heard voices and had gifts of clairvoyance. Until the age of 16, Davis never received any formal education, but instead worked as an apprentice for a shoe-maker. In 1838, Davis had an inclination to move to Poughkeepsie, so he persuaded his family to do so. Five years later, Dr. Grimes, a professor of jurisprudence, visited the city to deliver a lecture on mesmerism. Davis attended the lecture and was asked to be used as a demonstration. During the on stage mesmerism, nothing appeared to happen. However, later a local tailor named William Livingston put Davis into a “magnetic sleep” and discovered that when he was in this state, Davis had the ability to accurately diagnose people of disease. The following year, Davis wandered from his house in a state of semitrance and found himself the next morning forty miles from his home in the mountains. He claimed that on this journey, he met the late physician Galen and seer Swedenborg and experienced a state of illumination.

After this experience, Davis began writing and teaching about his gift. In “The Principles of Nature”, “Her Devine Revelations”, and “A Voice to Mankind”, Davis dictated his trances and visions to assistance who wrote down his words verbatim. His dictation was met with enthusiasm and witnesses confirmed the reality of his words. His gift was also supported by his improvisational and accurate answers to questions under trance.  Also they received much support, his books also had many critics, including Professor George Bush, who stated that Davis, although a decent man, was a mouthpiece for deceiving spirits. However, Davis did predict many things, including the coming age of Spiritualism, as well as the existence of Neptune and Pluto before their discovery. It is even thought that Davis met Abraham Lincoln and advised him during the Civil War. Davis died in 1910 after earning a degree in medicine and retiring to Boston to open a book store.

Obviously, there is strong evidence of mediumship existing many years ago. However, I was also interested to compare the experiences of mediums today. George Anderson is a well-known medium who claims to connect with departed souls. At the age of six, Anderson had a near-death experience after contracting encephalomyelitis. After he recovered, Anderson began to see images of St. Joan of Arc who spoke to him frequently about the afterlife. He also began to see relatives who had died. Initially, he ignored the visions, but eventually doctors got involved and worried that Anderson had permanent brain damage from his NDE. But the communication with the other side continued, which made people around uncomfortable, even suggesting that he goes to an insane asylum. It was only from one spiritual and understanding doctor who believed in Anderson’s visions and helped him realize his calling in life was to bring comfort to those grieving a loss. Some people believe Anderson was chosen, while other hypothesize that his gift comes from the rewiring of this brain after trauma. Today, Anderson continues his work with those who are suffering a loss. He is also an author and television personality.

Just by reading these two biographies, it seems like society was more open to this type of spiritual thinking and connection long ago. Although there were doubters, Davis was acclaimed for his abilities and thought of as a brilliant seer. However, more recently, Anderson was thought of as crazy when he talked about his gift. It seems like today, people look for proof, and abstract ideas or thinking are not given as much credibility as they used to be given.

http://spiritwritings.com/andrewjacksondavis.html

http://www.georgeanderson.com/georgeandersonbio.htm