Monthly Archives: March 2014

4.2.14

This week, instead of doing a reading or watching YouTube videos, I decided to visit Crazy Wisdom.  I originally hoped to get an intuitive reading done, but ultimately I got a tarot card reading (those may be the same, I just had no idea). There were three decks on the table and she told me to pick the deck that was calling to me.  Then, I shuffled the deck until I felt that it was time to stop. Once I stopped shuffling, she took the first seven cards that were on the top of the deck and set them in front of me.

I chose the set of cards that had fairies on them. My first card had a picture of a Queen on it.  According to her reading, this meant that traditional values and stability was part of my personality.  The next card was of a leprechaun, who is somebody who fleets back and forth giving gifts.  She said this means that while I may be traditional and do my own hard work, I should be accepting of gifts or moments of instability.  I would agree with this assessment of my personality.  I think that I am very traditional and stable.  I also think that I should try harder to accept what others offer me.

The next card that I can remember is the Grim Reaper.  I will admit that it was rather jarring when that card was laid down.  She had two interpretations of it.  There was one that meant that I needed to accept upcoming change.  That it would be headed my way and that I should embrace it.  The other option would be that death is behind me.  I hope that both of those readings would be true.  Admittedly, it mostly made me nervous that death is ahead of me.

The seven cards are supposed to tell a tale from beginning to end.  When I reached my 7th card, it symbolized the avoidance of deception.  She told me to avoid deceptive people in my life and stay true to myself.  However, the reader felt that this did not complete my life story properly, so she made me draw another card.  Ultimately, I ended with the green lady who is supposed to represent wholeness with oneself and with nature, which made a happier and more complete tarot card reading.

I found the experience interesting.  I liked the idea that the cards that were supposed to end up with me, would.  What she said did fit with my current journey, being that I am a senior and am looking at big changes.  However, I feel that the concepts were very broad, making it so that they could easily be relevant for anybody.  What I found the most interesting was the grim reaper.  I had been talking to my mom about how, based on my life experiences, I feel that I am a grim reaper.  She had been debating with me that I was, in fact, a guardian angel.  It was a bit eerie for me to get the Grim Reaper under those circumstances then.  Overall, I would say it was a fun experience but I do not think that tarot card readings are very personal or accurate.

3/26 – “Across Time and Death”

“Across Time and Death” is a story about Jenny Cockell’s journey in finding her children from a supposed previous life. When she was a little girl, Jenny had reoccurring vivid dreams about the death of a woman named Mary. Jenny could describe in great detail the architecture of the room Mary died in, the feeling of what it was like being in the room, the cottage Mary used to live it, a map of the village where Mary used to live, and perhaps the most significant, Mary’s children. The dreams were intense and would leave Jenny sobbing in the middle of the night, worried about what happened to Mary’s children. Jenny kept to herself as a child, as she was too nervous to tell her mother and father about the dreams.

Yet Jenny was not able to let the dreams go. Once she grew up and had children of her own, Jenny decided she had to find the children of her past life. After much work and dedication, Jenny learned more about the Mary in her dreams. When Jenny first got on the phone with the daughter of one of Mary’s sons, Jenny writes, “I said, ‘I know it’s going to sound very strange, but I remember the family through dreams.'” This (to my surprise) did not scare the daughter away, and Jenny was able to learn more about Mary’s children and where they are today. After this conversation, Jenny describes feeling “curiously free” knowing that the children are now grown up and self-sufficient. She felt more able to move on but still felt a strong tie as a mother.

This story, along with the documentary we watched in class on Monday, leaves me with lots of questions. How can we be sure these aren’t coincidental instances? What is the difference between having a reoccurring dream and believing it was a past life? Furthermore, is this a rare case, since like we discussed in class on Monday, most dreams end in the early teen years and the individual forgets this ever happened? What makes some remember and others not?

26 March 2014

Liana Rosenbloom

Dr. Michael Newton’s Journey of Souls dissects the track that a soul takes into the spiritual world.  He looks at everything from the movement into the afterlife, to different varieties of souls, to life selection and rebirth.  All of this is presented through a series of cases, with both Newton’s summaries and analysis, accompanied by transcripts of the conversations with these individuals after their rebirth.  As I continue to work through the spiritual aspects of the material we’ve learned so far in this course, the chapters on what Newton terms “beginner, intermediate and advanced” souls were extremely beneficial to me.

Through the stories told by the reincarnated souls with whom Newton speaks, the reader sees examples of the lives that are categorized as each type of soul, from beginner to advanced.  Most notably is the focus on perfection, morality and communication between souls as they advance along this path.  Beginner souls are known for having a difficult time accepting the faults of themselves and others, and are a contrast to the “perfect,” idealized image we tend to have of souls.  “People tend to think of souls in the free state as being without human deficiencies,” Newton says, when in fact, he notes, they are a lot like real-life groups and families, having flaws and undergoing daily struggles.  As souls become “intermediate,” Newton gathers based on his conversations that there is less interaction between souls and that high moral standards become a key.  Newton also explains that these souls are likely modest about their achievements.  Finally, advanced souls, which are supposedly rather scarce, are known for their patience with others and ability to cope.  They are also relatively solitary in their activities.

This evidence presented by Newton from those who have experienced life on the other side still leave me with a certain degree of skepticism.  In some ways, I feel this division of souls sounds too nit-picky and specific.  I am not sure that I can accept the idea that souls are divided into such distinct categories, but the cases that are presented do give me some security in the role that souls play in our daily lives.  This feeling is best captured by the line “souls eventually made us human, not the reverse.”  The relationship between the physical world, souls and the aspects of what make us human are extremely beneficial concepts, and are helping me shape my view of the spiritual world moving forward.

 

3/26

In his book Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist, Christof Koch asserts many scientific and philosophical notions of consciousness. It is difficult to summarize the entirety of his work since he covers so much ground from Descartes to The Matrix. Yet the core of Koch’s view of consciousness roots itself in an empirically sound version separate of religion. One of his main arguments is that humans are not special in their ability to perceive consciousness. He insists that animals experience consciousness too, but to a lesser degree than humans. Obviously there is not another known animal which possesses the higher level reasoning or cognitive abilities that we do, but this does not stop Koch from reminding readers several times that the traditional Judeo-Christian framework for human exceptionalism is misguided. In his view, it depends on what physical capabilities the animal has. Fundamentally, the animal’s ability to perceive consciousness still roots itself, at least in a correlative sense, with the brain and its electrical impulses. This might be Koch’s strongest viewpoint.

Koch believes that there is a high correlation between the connectivity of the brain and consciousness. He also thinks that electrical impulses are an excellent indicator of the level of consciousness that an individual is experiencing. In a study he describes, researchers built a metal contraption to fit over the head of humans in order to create a magnetic field using a technique called trans-cranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). The machine would briefly create the magnetic effect with only a slight discomfort to the patient’s head. Researchers would collect data on the brain’s electrical activity using an EEG while the subject was being stimulated by the magnetic field. The researchers’ theory was that there would not be as much electrical connectivity between neurons when in decreased states of consciousness. To test this they first examined subjects while they were in non-REM sleep. This phase of the sleep cycle is particularly dull for the mind as there are no dreams and therefore consciousness is incredibly limited. As expected, the connectivity of the brain was significantly decreased during this phase of sleep. There was a large local response to the magnetic stimulation, but spreading that signal proved difficult for the human brain during non-REM sleep cycles.

The researchers took their experiment one step further and decided to test their machine on hospital patients in a vegetative state, much like Terry Schiavo. For patients in a completely vegetative state, there was no such reaction to any stimulation indicating a complete lack of consciousness. Researchers also tested those in a minimal conscious state (MCS) where these people could move their eyes or do small things indicating a slight elevation in consciousness from those in a vegetative state. The MCS patients actually responded to the TMS in many of the same ways fully conscious individuals do and in some cases later returned to full consciousness. This experiment displays a large correlation between the connectivity of the brain and consciousness. Yet, as Koch notes, this hardly begins to explain how we get from localized clumps of cells sending electrical impulses to the consciousness we experience every day. Unfortunately, he does little to provide an explanation for the massive leap, but he outlines several philosophical and scientific views which attempt to unpack the idea more carefully to help the reader sort through their own understanding of consciousness. I was particularly drawn to the idea of animal consciousness and how it makes sense that animals, as a result of a lack of prefrontal cortex, always experience the present. This book inspired new thought as to when consciousness begins and where the line is drawn.

Life Before Life 3.26.14

After class on Monday, I decided that I really had no opinion on previous lives and the idea of re-incarnation.  Honestly, I hadn’t thought of it before.  The extent of my thoughts on re-incarnation stopped at the episode of Friends where Phoebe believes that her mother has returned to earth to live out her days as a cat.  It’s a funny episode, where she makes a heartwarming speech about missing her mother and finding comfort in re-incarnation, but I never had thought of it seriously.

My family always talked about how people who passed in our family were watching over us as guardian angels.  Never had I considered the idea that they could be back on earth walking amongst us just leading a different life.  So, I chose to stick to the schedule and read Life Before Life by Jim B. Tucker.  From what I have learned so far in this class, people are given a choice when they go up to heaven.  A story in the Life Before Life book that represents this choice is with Kenny.  Kenny passed away as a child but was escorted back to earth shortly afterwards.  He was told that he had to come back to help families who wanted a child.  This is a beautiful representation of the recycling of souls for the good of all.

What I found challenging to read were the stories of unhappy children being returned to earth.  One child’s original family died in a car accident.  One night at dinner, when they had guests over, he cried and screamed about how his real family was dead.  From what we’ve learned about spirits, the reason they would come back would be to grow.  They had not yet finished their learning experience here on earth, so they have returned. Now, if they are being returned, the benefit of remembering their past life would be to expand upon whatever knowledge they had acquired.  However, it seems counter-productive to me for them to want to go back to their original families.  This child who screamed and carried on about not belonging to a family is stuck.  What would the advantage of that be?

Finally, in Chapter 8 there was a story of Bobby Hodges from North Carolina.  Bobby spent a lot of time talking about being in his Aunt Susan’s belly.  He remembered wanting to get born, but never being born because the other baby had blocked him.  After an altercation between him and one of his cousins over this event, it came out that he knew of a family secret.  His aunt had a miscarriage many years’ back involving twins.  It was decided that one of the twins managed to block the blood flow by rolling over the umbilical cord, killing one twin, and due to the shared circulation, they both died.   This story amazed me, honestly.  Children have such an innocent and honest perception of the world that I just feel that they would not be able to make it up.  That being said, I struggle with the idea of re-incarnation.  I have a hard time understanding the purpose of re-incarnation.  With data from children, it certainly makes the argument for re-incarnation more believable for me.

 

Life Cycles Reincarnation And Then Web Of Life

Life Cycles Reincarnation And The Web Of Life

By Christopher M. Bache, Ph.D

This book like many others presents some of the best scientific testimonies about reincarnation (you can read one of these testimonials via the link at the bottom of this post).  However Bache joins these stories with philosophical arguments about the implications of accepting reincarnation as a reality.  This to me is what makes this book so unique.  These implications are mainly directed towards Christianity, as Bache spends a large chapter of the book discussing how reincarnation can be intergraded into and even enhance the Christian faith.  Bache even provides evidence showing when Christianity was young as a religion some Christians still believed in reincarnation.  These groups of people are now referred to as Gnostic Christians.  Furthermore Bache presents arguments that reincarnation did not get integrated into the orthodox faith not because reincarnation was a threat to the theology of Jesus, but because it may have been a threat to the institutional structure of the young church (p. 166).  Later the author points out “reincarnation invites Christians to go further then the minimal distance in rethinking their religions relation to other world faiths.”

 

Reincarnation also has profound effect on our understanding of who we are and what we are on this earth to do.  At the end of the book Bache discusses his understandings of the purpose of reincarnation.  He states that we are all here to grow and develop spiritually and that earth is a school we attend though our various lives.  Each life we learn a lesson or lessons that contributes to our bigger identity that encompasses all the lives we have lived.  Although not that different from many peoples current understanding of the purpose of life Bache’s thoughts made me conceptualize life in a slightly different way.

 

There is much more discussed about reincarnation and Christianity that I found very thought provoking.  I would advise anyone interested to check this book out.

 

 

Here is also a link to a more comprehensive review of the book:

http://www.booklore.co.uk/PastReviews/BacheMChristopher/Lifecycles/LifecyclesReview.htm

 

Link to Testimonial

http://www.beliefnet.com/Wellness/2003/02/Is-Reincarnation-Real-The-Case-Of-Parmod-Sharma.aspx

 

 

 

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.

3/26 Reincarnation and Biology

After watching the film in class on Monday, I became very intrigued about the concept of reincarnation as it correlates to near death experiences because of the similarities I observed. To explain, the reincarnation cases described in the video in class showed specific examples where the rebirthed souls seemed to be placed into a geographic location or family for a reason, thus non-randomly. For instance, in the case that involved a girl who drowned and was “born” into another family, it seemed to be more than coincidence that she ended up back to her original family. Similarly, all of the cases of people being reborn into the same families seem like more than a coincidence, especially when they bring up having a choice or having a card to come back to the world of the living. This got me to thinking about how this corresponds with the stories of people experiencing near death experiences. In both cases, there is a recurring theme of people coming back from the “other side” for a purpose or after a sudden unforeseen tragic passing or incident. This sparks the question of whether there is a bigger picture or higher purpose behind all of these alleged crossing over and backs. Therefore, when reading Where Reincarnation and Biology Intersect this week, I thought a lot about the parallels with the near death experiences we have analyzed thus far in this course and how they fit in with my current views on the subject.

I found it very interesting that the majority of the cases analyzed in the book were located in South Asia and West Africa, where the socioeconomic conditions are relatively lower, communities are rural, and primary occupations are agriculture or nomadic village work. Beyond the memories, personalities, and psychological evidence, what really stood out to me after reading the book were the vivid examples shown through images as examples of reincarnation from a physiological perspective. Although there are many similarities between humans in general in terms of human anatomy, more unique characteristics such as birthmarks or defects rarely intersect, especially in cases of reincarnation could serve to provide biological support. The birthmark on the head of Chanai Choomalaiwong’s head that corresponded directly to the bullet wound entry on Bua Kai when he died seems like very hard evidence given the memories that Chanai recounted of Bua Kai’s life and death. This also reinforces my theory that these reincarnations are very in line with the near death experiences that we studied in class because there is obviously a reason why Bua Kai’s soul was sent back to the Earth. The homicide obviously ended Bua Kai’s life suddenly and prematurely, which is why he came back as Chanai in order to fulfill his fate and live out his intended experiences through another human body. The biological evidence presented in Stevenson’s book especially in children also correlates with the video we watched in class, which presented a lot of cases where the reincarnated souls were in children younger than 9.

3/26 – TED Talk on Meditation

For this part of the semester I have decided to focus on meditation. Throughout my life I have suffered from anxiety and turned to activities like running and yoga to help with it. I have not, however, explored meditation directly and thus my interest stems from a curiosity about its practice and the potential it has to promote healthfulness and happiness.

This week I watched a few TED talks on the subjects of mindfulness and meditation. One that stood out to me was a talk by Andy Puddlcombe called “All it Takes is Ten Mindful Minutes.” Andy asks the audience when the last time was that they actually took time to do nothing. He articulates how we depend on our minds for everything — our happiness, performance, social interactions — yet we take no time to look after it. What happens as a result is stress. He touches upon the importance of being present and how we are so distracted all of the time by our phones, our work, our peers, that we do not take time to enjoy or be in the present moment.

Andy then reveals that he first tried meditation when he was eleven years old but saw it as “aspirin for the mind” rather than something that could be truly preventative. That changed, however, when he was twenty and a series of very serious things happened in his life that caused him to feel an overwhelming amount of stress.  As a way to cope, he quit his degree, went to the Himalayas, became a monk, and started studying meditation. He articulated that of course this changed things for him. The experience gave him a greater appreciation for being in the present moment and mindful in the here and now.

One thing that particularly stood out to me was how Andy voiced that it seems like such a simple task to appreciate the present moment but we actually spend barely any time doing it. According to research done at Harvard, our minds are lost in thought 47% of the time. Furthermore, mind wandering is directly related to unhappiness. When pondering this statistic, it is pretty depressing to think that we spend almost half of our lives unhappy and lost in the web of chaos that characterizes the mind.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to make the mind healthier so why aren’t we all doing it?! If one spends ten minutes a day being mindful it may impact ones entire life. Andy discusses how there is a common misconception that mediation is about controlling the mind or stopping thought altogether. In fact, meditation is more about stepping back from thoughts/emotions and seeing them clearly coming and going without judgment. It is about being relaxed and focused and letting go, without the usual all consuming involvement. In this way, we can learn how to watch story lines through meditation rather than stop them. Meditation allows new perspective to take shape.

I loved that Andy said, “we cannot change every little thing that happens to us in life but we can change the way we experience it.” This is the major takeaway for me. I am not going to be able to stop the thoughts that penetrate my mind and that I ruminate over on a daily basis, but I can control the experience of thought and learn how to truly let go. My project for this week is to take ten minutes a day to find focus and clarity.

3/26-Happiness

Izzie Osiniecka

Psych 401

3/25/14

The Art of Happiness by The Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler

            The Art of Happiness is a book written by a Western Psychologist, with help from the Dalai Lama, as a guide for changing your life in order to increase your happiness. This book presents Easter thinking in a way that Westerners, and really all humans, can understand. I think this is a book that everyone should read. The path to happiness really creates a better world for all, because at the core of happiness is compassion towards others. The Dalai Lama teaches us that we can connect to all humans in the sense that we share the similarities of being human, wanting to be happy, and not wanting to suffer. Dr. Cutler provides many ways for us to bring about the change necessary for personal growth and happiness, as well as ways to deal with various situations that can threaten our happiness.

The book is filled with many great lessons, and I will cover only a few here. First of all, the steps to make positive changes in your life are as follows: listening, conviction, determination, action, and effort. Through these, you can achieve any change you want to make. Dr. Cutler also notes that there are studies showing that more educated people tend to be happier, so as college students, we are already on the right path. Furthermore, as mentioned about, compassion towards others is a key component; how we treat others, how we act towards them, is very important. Regularly helping others will increase our happiness, and even if we at first do not care about the people we are helping, after a while our attitudes will change to match our behaviors. Dr. Cutler also included lessons on smaller, ever day happenings. One example is that if you are angry with someone, you should try to think of the positive qualities that person or the event surrounding the person possesses. It may be hard at first, but no person or situation is 100% evil. Focusing on the positive qualities will qualm your anger and bring you back to your path of happiness.