Author Archives: Reema Zakharia

4.2.14

Well, I only have three weeks left of being a Division I student-athlete and doing the sport that I have grown up giving my heart to, but I finally picked up the book Mind Gym by Gary Mack and David Casstevens. Numerous people have recommended this book to me for years now and I finally got around to it. Even though I’ve had 16 years to develop and practice my mental toughness, I figured that this book could provide me with lots of insight and help me in preparation for my last meets as a gymnast and along with my life/career transition upon graduation. We talk about the conscious mind being so powerful and when it comes to sports, one’s mental strength is almost more important than their physical strength. It’s difficult to handle pressure and stress and still perform successfully. I’ve been doing the sport for a long 16 years and still haven’t mastered it every time. The author talks about “playing in the zone—to perform in the present, body and mind attuned, working together.” It’s a lot easier said than done but when I do manage to get everything working together, it’s an amazing feeling!

It’s all about training your brain and avoiding distractions—much like meditation. To get the body and mind attuned, everything has to be clear and tension free. He touches on the main checklist to get under control: fear, anger, anxiety, self-consciousness, competitiveness, perfectionism, stubbornness, distractions, and persistence. That is a lot to regulate in order to keep out self-defeating thoughts! There is no way someone can conquer a dream or goal without conquering oneself. I’ve heard my coach preach countless times “stop being your own worst enemy!” We as human beings are so hard on ourselves for no reason and that can tear us down more than another person. Mack and Casstevens complain that we get in the way of our own growth! We must learn to open our mind, be receptive of suggestions, and try different ways of responding to various situations.

A quote that really stuck with me from the book says, “Your mind is like a parachute. It only works when it’s open. What did you learn today and how will it make you better tomorrow? Work on your weaknesses until they become your strong points,” (Mack and Casstevens, 50). Resilience is crucial in sports—everyone struggles and goes through slumps and the only way to come out of it is with an open mind and resilience. Relating this book to life post college/gymnastics I am going to want to find a new purpose. If I take the time and effort to reflect on each day and figure out something I learned that would help my growth, it will put me off to a good start. If I fail at some point in my new job, I have to treat it as an experience I’ve had with my sport. Mind Gym touches on the art of “failing successfully.” It suggests that we should hate to fail but never fear it; we should simply view failure as feedback. If we do this, it will have a bigger reward than winning.

I believe the timing that I chose to read this book was perfect. If I had read the book five years ago, it would only be relatable to gymnastics. It would have assisted me in guiding my mind, practicing positive self-talk, and controlling my emotions but reading it now does exactly that and more. Throughout college, I have learned to view situations from various perspectives and when I was reading Mind Gym I was able to relate it to the three weeks I have left of my sport, the three weeks left of my undergraduate education, and emotional instability due to my fear of the unknown post-graduation. I’ve been an athlete my whole life and must never forget the multitude of ways in which it has prepared me for my next chapters. Mack reminds me of a cheesy quote, “What your mind can conceive and your heart believe, you can achieve.” It is crucial to believe in oneself and his or her abilities.

3.26

For this week’s response, I wanted to share a little bit about my self-reflection. This past weekend, my team and I competed at Penn State for the Big Ten Championships. We were put in a tough situation competing in the first session but that didn’t deter us from believing in our team to make history and win, regardless of the time we were scheduled to compete. We did in fact manage to take the title back and win, but that’s not the point of this story. It was an exhilarating and satisfying feeling, we were all on cloud nine. After the awards later at night, numerous little girls wanted to take pictures with me (and my teammates of course) and get our autographs. Young gymnasts were ‘tweeting’ at me about my performance saying things like “I want to do floor like her.” As humbling as all of this is, it gives me such self-fulfillment to know that I am inspiring others. It is important to me that gymnastics does not only hold a purpose of providing me with happiness, but through my sport which has practically been my job, I can also influence others. Gymnastics is an aspect of my life that I am extremely passionate about and I personally love making others fall in love with it the same way that I did.

Along with the competition this past weekend, I also had two interviews. The roles are sales/account executive/marketing positions—kind of cliché post graduate, entry-level positions that students seek. During my four-hour drive that I had all to myself, I experienced such an inner conflict. I felt so misguided and lost. I understand that gymnastics is a huge part of me, but it certainly does not define me. If you take that out of my life, I will still be the same person and capable of doing great things. The reason why I do so well in gymnastics is because of my passion for it and when I was interviewing for these jobs, I found myself lying or being fake when answering some of the questions. Gradating seniors get so caught up in emerging adulthood, taking the next step, and finding that first job. Sometimes they get so desperate that they’ll just settle. After visiting with the recruiters and speaking with them, I realized that I was pursing the particular companies to simply “get a job” already. I am using the selected companies as stepping-stones while I’m in “limbo” trying to find my real interest.

Due to my experiences my whole life, if I am not passionate about what I’m doing it will simply not turn out as well. Passion is my fuel. During my four-hour drive I was thinking deeply about what would give me self-satisfaction, fulfillment, and happiness. Whether it’s working for a corporation, non-profit, a sports team, entrepreneurship—I need to see myself having a purpose. Sure, I would love a job that pays well and keeps me living easy but truly enjoying what I do is 100x more important. I want to continue to inspire others in different means than through gymnastics. I want to use my voice, make a difference. Selling sales or being an account executive and cold calling is a job, sure…but not the one that I want to do my entire life.

My self-reflection certainly brought me back to the drawing board and added more unnecessary confusion and stress into my life, which I’m trying not to dwell over. In today’s world, seniors across the country are scrambling trying to establish their next steps post college and it’s easy to lose sight of what you want your end goal to be. I understand that everyone has to start somewhere, but it’s also important to have some kind of idea and focus on who you hope to be in the future. What kind of person do you want to become because of the experiences with your job/careers. Oh, emerging adulthood.

3.19

I was truly captivated by Eisenstein’s reading that you provided us with for this week. I really enjoyed the slight theme switch from death, near death experiences, reincarnation, and mediums to a topic more about life. Eisenstein has a nice simple style of writing and it’s less scientific than the readings we have covered previously this semester. I was able to resonate with so many chapters—it was all relatable to questions I often ask myself and philosophical things about life that race through my head at night before I go to bed. The chapter on ‘interbeing’ was the first chapter that caught my eye. A part of the chapter reads, “the interbeing is something we can feel.” I think it is so fascinating how connected human beings are. The chapter uses the example of feeling hurt when we hear about harm to another person. Recently I wrote a speech for an event and had a few people read it to give me feedback and everyone cried even though the speech wasn’t written for them. They cried and felt my writing even though they did not go to the University of Michigan. I really admired when Eisenstein said, “we are all greater than what we have been told…we are each other and we are the world.” That statement reminds me why it’s important to have a purpose, to help other people, to create friendships and relationships, and always be there to lend a hand. We are each other and we are the world—that shows how we are interconnected and why we are brought up with a desire to be good to others. This chapter showed similarities to One Mind in the sense that we are all one.

Other chapters that really stuck with me were Hope and Reality. I have never correlated the two words together before but reading this book makes me wonder whether the two are opposites. Eisenstein says that hope implies a rejection of the present moment. I can understand that definition but does there come a point where ‘hope’ is a waste of time because reality overpowers? Does hope really “prolong the torments of man” because they refuse to accept reality? In the chapter on Reality, it talks about limiting beliefs—I see that essentially as limiting hope. In life, it is so difficult to find balances in everything you do whether it’s between social lives, personal lives, work lives, or figuring out whether one should hope or face reality in a situation. Who decides what reality is? Don’t we? And if so, doesn’t that mean we can hope as long as we want and it shouldn’t be a torment? I wonder.

This brings me to the chapter on miracles. On a day-to-day basis, we easily use words like faith, hope, reality, and miracles but what do these words actually mean? Eisenstein explains that a miracle is an invitation to a larger reality. So this means that similar to how there are multiple levels of consciousness, there are multiple realities? I truly loved reading The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible but it brought so many unanswerable questions to the forefront of my brain. I feel like as I think deeper and deeper and more philosophically into the meaning of life, I know even less. Sometimes I feel like I should ask a naïve child these questions to see what they come up with because it could be better than my idea. How are miracles, truth, and consciousness related? For what it’s worth, I know that an opportunity to be given life on this Earth is something one shouldn’t take for granted and as I continue my journey it’s important to stay in touch with my interbeing. I feel like the rest should come if I am true to myself, make myself happy, and do things for the goodness of other people.

3.12 One Mind

One Mind by Larry Dossey was a very thought-provoking book and definitely opened my mind. The universe is such a complicated place and so unknown—after skimming though this book, I was reminded on how the world is such a mystery and there are going to be numerous things that we will never understand. I liked how Dossey talks about “one mind,” this overarching umbrella that oversees all the different states that we enter and can get into. With this “one mind,” it makes you look at consciousness in such a different way—that it’s infinite in space and time. In Dossey’s chapter called “Mind beyond Brain,” he suggests that consciousness is produced by the brain and is confined to it. After reading this chapter, what is consciousness? This particular chapter reminded me of the question, “What came first the egg or the chicken?” Does the brain produce the mind or vice versa? As I said this book was very thought provoking for me and left me with many unanswered questions.

Something that really stuck with me was the overarching theme that consciousness is a huge and immeasurable umbrella that goes beyond our world but everyone shares it and is united by it.  This is something that the brain cannot “make.” Reading Dossey’s book makes a little more sense to me when thinking about NDEs, ESP, and simply the special connections with people and animals. Is this “one mind” God or something like that? I really enjoyed his chapter on twins, because I know a few twin siblings very closely and they often experience what they like to call “telepathic communication.” Whether it’s thinking and saying the same things, or being in different locations and thinking of one another at the same time—I like to believe in the fact that they have one mind uniting them together. Dossey brings in animals to this too. There are various stories where the owner of a pet is in danger and their dog can sense it so they bark and do their best to seek out help. The connections between humans and close animals seem to fall under one mind as well.

All in all, what I am getting from this book is that this “one mind” that humans share is what bonds us no matter location, belief, spirituality, or experience. Being on a gymnastics team, we always talk about chemistry as a huge factor that determines the team’s success. Throughout my four years at Michigan, every team dynamic that I’ve been on has been very different and I experience different cohesiveness. Things like tension and negativity are obvious cancers to the success on a team but when you are focusing on something bigger than yourself and trying to instill happiness in other people, this unity and trust prevails. I’ve certainly been skeptical throughout this class but I respected what Dossey had to say in his book, it definitely had my mind racing and I make a more conscious effort to think about my purpose here on Earth.

Reema Z—Feb. 19

Lessons from the Light—George Anderson

George Anderson’s Lessons from the Light was a great choice for me to read considering the topics and themes we have been talking about recently. In the beginning of this class, we discussed and learned a lot about “near death experiences” that numerous people have been through. The individuals we explored encountered all different causes of their NDE, whether it was a freak accident, illness, old age, even suicidal. Despite if a student in class was skeptic or not, the class had the great opportunity to discover very thought provoking experiences.

As of recent, we geared away from NDEs and have read more about psychics and mediums. In class we had wonderful guests and a video chat with the women who considered themselves to be “mediums,” but throughout the whole chat, I was still confused as to what that meant. Anderson clarified for me that the words ‘psychic ‘ and ‘medium’ not interchangeable; which I thought were almost synonymous. I learned that a psychic feels intuitively the circumstances or information about the sitter. They rely heavily on their intuition. Mediums on the other hand involve two factors: direct communication from a soul no longer on this Earth, and someone with them to receive the messages. Mediums rely on information that is shared by the souls in the hereafter and is merely a link to the person on Earth.

The clarity of the definitions changes my perceptions of the two terms. Quite frankly, I have never liked “psychics” or the idea of them. For one, it scares me a little bit and secondly, I relate it a lot to counting cards. In a game of 21, a player knows how to strategically count the cards dealt to the players and figure out what do. I think that psychics can simply read body language and facial expressions with a strength that others do not have. Just as in 21, one move leads to the next and the person counting keeps track, sitting down with a psychic involves the same kind of plan. Each question they ask gears up to the next and essentially the sitter discloses enough information—whether it be a nod or eyebrow raise, or gulp of saliva—and the psychic develops the reading.

As for mediums, there certainly are things that I am skeptical about; for instance how does someone have the power to speak to an individual in the hereafter? I know that the human mind is incredibly strong, but it is difficult for me to understand how it happens. I do approve of mediums much more that psychics because I feel as though one should not know the future or whether something good or bad is going to happen in a certain amount of time. We are supposed to make the most of each day and live life in the present. On the other hand, mediums can provide a person that may be suffering the loss of a loved one, with a positive light. It can bring comfort and closure to the person struggling by just knowing that their loved one is safe, okay, and happy.

I enjoyed Anderson’s book because it provided the reader with understandings about the afterlife and didn’t take a particular religious approach. It was interesting to read about the ‘hereafter’ and have it defined as a fixed place with many levels of consciousness. I always wondered if people with NDEs were in another sort of dimension than the souls that are 100% in the hereafter to stay. I’ve said this before, but reading up about things like this help me with my fear of what comes next, and life in general. I can’t say I believe everything I read, but it surely provides me with another perspective to look at things and gives me some kind of faith and hope. Anderson gives the reader a lot of insight and understanding, especially for individuals who suffer from a loss of a loved one.

YouTube Video—John Edward: Psychic Medium

John Edward- Medium on the Moore Show 

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKalDxBIzkw

This 55-minute video was really insightful for me. As we have been reading more about psychic mediums, I found myself wanting to research more about it. John’s story was particularly interesting because he was not gung-ho about the whole thing in the beginning. Similar to our guest in class, he experienced a moment in the bookstore where cards “fell” and flew towards him, hitting him. After this incident he purchased the cards, began reading them, and soon after began to believe in himself more and more and develop his abilities.

Feb 12 Weekly Paper

Everything we have read, watched, or heard thus far has been extremely thought provoking for me. I didn’t think that as a class we would come to think so philosophically about this subject matter but it’s definitely very interesting. Shwartz’s book, The Afterlife Experiments was a much different approach than the other novels we have read considering he wasn’t looking into actual stories of near death experiences.

I thought that the way Schwartz started out this book was rather intriguing—when he shares the conversation between Dr. Arroway and spiritual scholar, Palmer Joss. Joss asks whether Dr. Aaroway loves her father and when she responds with “yes,” proceeds to say, “prove it.” The moral of this whole skit is that Joss was explaining that there is no substitute for having the experience of love, or any other experience. She goes on to teach “one must ultimately have the experience oneself. Everything else is indirect—a process of inference, interpretation,” (Schwartz, 11). Schwartz emphasizes how science establishes that gravity, electrons, and photons from long-dead stars exist, and knowing this it is also possible for science to establish that love, consciousness, and survival of consciousness exist.

Schwartz introduces this book and how he plans to study the afterlife in a pretty persuading way. He gives a personal shout out to the “nonbelievers” that are convinced life goes “ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” and furthermore assures his readers that he has been in a skeptics shoes. He expresses, “I know what it’s like to feel that this simply can’t be true….I know the intense skepticism first hand.” Sure, I was captivated after getting into this book and was really curious about his experiments and use of different mediums. Unfortunately after going deeper into the book, I wasn’t thoroughly convinced. The experiments conducted with psychic individuals just seemed forced and sketchy. I think that Schwartz is a pretty intelligent and creative guy, because he surely finds ways to relate his experiments or findings to other things we believe or have faith in.

In one part of the book, Schwartz brings in Michael Jordan and shares that on a good night, Jordan would make 60-70 percent of his shots and on a bad night, a low percentage of 20. Schwartz’s follow up question: “How can someone, who on average misses more than half of his shots, be a superstar? He need only be better than everyone else,” (Schwartz, 54). As I mentioned, very creative and lovely perspective to relate this experimental work with the mediums, but I see this example (and others provided throughout the book) and the mediums as comparing apples to bananas. I understand that Schwartz is doing everything he can to get the reader to buy into what he’s saying; therefore he is using fairly strategic strategies, but I’m still left raising an eyebrow. The HBO experiment was an entertaining one to read about and in the portion discussing the HBO results, it showed that the mediums’ accuracy ranged from 77 to 90 percent. That’s impressive and coming from a gymnast who lives off consistency and accuracy, I am still left skeptic.

All in all I am left questioning Schwartz’s work and it is certainly not my favorite research we’ve read about regarding afterlife experiences. We’ve talked about supernatural powers in 418 and Schwartz provides us with the idea that these mediums have the ability to connect to the “other side.” Schwartz talks about these powers and I thought, what would happen if one of the psychic individuals were hypnotized? Then what? Hypnosis is a pretty cool power and it shows how powerful and maybe even weak a mind can be. This week’s novel was stimulating, but I believe Schwartz would have to refine his research to really get all of the skeptics on his side.