Monthly Archives: March 2014

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.”

Charles Eisenstein’s The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible

Reading The More Beautiful World reminds me a lot of a video I watched recently by a gentleman named Steven Molyneux. The very title of this book begs the question why don’t we realize how beautiful life as we know it really is, and how thankful we should all be just to simply be a live! ? There is one simple answer, we need to remind ourselves occasionally and that one day we are going to die. Sometimes people simply need to be looked in the eye and reminded “you my friend are going to die”. This may sound morbid, but it is true, and is a sound reality check for all human beings. How we end up passing to the otherside, none of us know, we may see it coming or it could happen in a blink of an eye. For most of us, we will probably get news of an illness that will give us months in which to reflect. You will probably have a long time in a hospital bed that you know you will never get our of, the question is what is that hospital bed going to be like for you? All to often we are apt to complain about life, this incredible gift 4 billion years in the making. Every day is a gift, it is a cliché because nobody lives that way. Cliches are things that everyone knows to be true and almost nobody lives by. Our days are grains of sand in an hour glass and frankly all to often we whine about living in the most advanced economy, in the freest political time, with the greatest wealth and abundance, with the most opportunities, most possibility, that any carbon-based lifeforms on this planet has ever had!

Sometimes we have to remind oneself that one day we will probably be laying down thinking, “god damn I wish I had the problems I had 20 years ago, or 10 years ago, or even yesterday.” At the end times of our final days, what would we not trade to be back where we are now at this very moment, with the ability to soak in everything life around us has to offer. We do not get letters from people in prison complaining that they don’t know how to have a good day, and that is because they do not have any choice. In reality when we do complain about anything in life, we are in essence complaining about having choices. We have to learn to step outside our comfort zone, seize the day, take risks, OR don’t take risks but be satisfied with where you are. But complaining is like spitting on the only meal you will ever have than complaining about the taste. Not everyone is created equal, I understand that, but there is no law of physics or man does not allow you to live your life the way you choose. No matter what happens or what hand we are delt in life, we have a hell of a lot more opportunity, for fun, satisfaction, virtue, power, and brilliance than our ancestors ever had. Do not say no to the greatest gift in the entire universe. 

 

“Doing” The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible By Charles Eisenstein

This world that we’re living in is so fast-paced. We have to have the fast working wireless internet, vehicles, messaging software, and much more. Everything is always so urgent that we sometimes forget to be in the moment.  We always have to be actively doing something in order to feel like we’re utilizing our time wisely.

In Charles Eisenstein’s chapter, “Doing,” he touches basis on how our concept of doing isn’t what’s best. “Here and now is never enough.” We’re constantly planning for the future. I have a physical planner, calendar apps, and Google calendar. When I don’t utilize those, I’m constantly taking mental notes of what I need to do. Although I’m always tired, I enjoy always having something to do on my schedule because I feel productive or that I’m using my time wisely. Although they hardly ever happen, it’s the days where I relax and lounge all day that I feel least productive. Despite this, these are times I have the opportunity to think. Not about where I’m supposed to be, or what I’m supposed to be doing but just think or allow my mind to wonder wherever it pleases. Eisenstein emphasizes that, “we tend to devalue those periods of pause, emptiness, silence and integration.” This is the concept of mindfulness.

With graduation around the corner for most of us, finalizing our plans for our life after UMich has become more pertinent. I find myself getting so caught up in what needs to be done instead cherishing these last few weeks of undergrad.  We won’t get these moments back. There’s no need to be urgent, because the time in undergrad has been fast enough. Live for the now. Doing nothing is not bad, but needed sometimes. Be in the now.

Response to Charles Eisenstein’s The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible

This is going to be a summarization of what I thought was great about Charles Eisenstein’s book, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible rather than an interesting story from the book. First of all, he introduced a great way to talk about our current societal understanding of truth and the perspective from the One Mind. He labels the first the Old Story – the story about how we should live our lives so we can achieve conventional success driven by money and security. To contrast that, he talks about The New Story, which is the idea that we are all connected at a deep level, and individual happiness comes from sharing and caring for others. This concept is very much in line with what we read last week in One Mind.

I thought Eisenstein did a really good job describing the battle of having this radical viewpoint. In Chapter 4, he talks about Cynicism. He believes that “cynicism comes from a wound”, and ‘the derision of the cynic comes from a wound of crushed idealism and betrayed hopes.” Further more, he invites the reader to dig deep into the cynicism, if the reader happens to be very skeptical about this whole interconnectivity thing ; part of the cynicism comes from this little part inside you were you actually want to believe something to be true, but is scared to death that ‘buying’ it might result in a huge disappointment if it happened to be completely false. It’s safer to be cynical, and think that life is pointless – the bar is way lower to think that way.

He also accounts for if the reader isn’t skeptical about the topic – he believes that it is equally dangerous to just believe it. This is because over time, the more you think about the topic, that little bit of doubt will eventually seep into your conscious. “Skeptic and believer are not so different, as both are using belief to shelter a wound”.

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.

Reflections about The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible

Although the story of the Interbeing is about how we (and our consciousness) are connected to each other and the universe, some of Eisenstein’s description surprised me. The survey of the Interbeing highly resonates with my small group discussion on Monday. Because most of us are seniors, we’re thinking about our futures—what our hopes, goals, and dreams are and where are talents are best suited. Our future plans and decisions signify who we want to become and how we want to leave a mark on the earth. All of this reflects upon two of Eisenstein’s descriptions about the Interbeing story: Everyone has a “unique and necessary gift to give the world” and “the purpose of life” is to utilize these gifts (Ch. 3). This part of the Interbeing especially “spoke” to me because I’m currently standing at a crossroads of decisions and opportunities in my life. Ultimately, I want to find my purpose and funnel it into a career without compromising my desires for a secure opportunity.

Another part of the reading that was particularly interesting was Einsenstein’s argument about Psychopathy (Ch. 28). Our society constantly tells the story that psychopathic traits are rooted in biology rather than socially learned. There are certain instances that I have felt the presence of psychopathic traits in others—but I have only considered the people who demonstrate them strongly. However, Eisenstein’s argument shines a light on how many people demonstrate psychopathic traits for rewards and self-interest. Although genetics and biology may be a part of it, Eisenstein’s perspective is definitely worth considering—and the way it relates to interconnectedness.

3/19 Eisenstein

Charles Eisenstein’s book The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible represents a fleshed-out attempt to point out the maladies of our modern world; a world sunk deep in consumerism, rational thought and obsessed with technological marvel. Eisenstein advocates a paradigm shift in our collective worldviews, towards a more unified human experience, lest our world begins (or has already begun) to crumble from within due to our indulgent behaviors. Throughout the many chapters, he addresses different facets of the human experience, from pain to pleasure, and how we could strive to become ‘unseparated’ from each other and the world in our understanding and enactment of our lives.

In his chapter on evil, Eisenstein echoes my own thoughts and personal beliefs (in fact, most of his book does); that evil is often borne of situation, of ‘stories’, rather than being something inherent in a person. In this sense, it makes no sense for us to wantonly condemn others out of our own misguided and blind self-righteousness; we ourselves are in no place to judge another person’s actions, if not for any other reason than the fact that we do not know their story. Thus, the chapter advocates a spirit of love and understanding, contending that such displays may result in hopeful transformations, as opposed to open conflict that result in detriment to either side, and therefore the world at large. While Eisenstein maintains that there may indeed exist a time to fight and to resist the perceived evil around us, but we must always be aware that our justifications are largely subjective. Regardless, if resistance came from feelings of hate and self-pity, they are definitely not conducive to our advancement.

Overall, I feel that Eisenstein’s book contains a large amount of worldly wisdom for our personal, spiritual betterment. It tries to tear us from the ‘Story of Separation’ that we may live a more fulfilled life, freed from the chains of modern society’s expectations and imposed assumptions. Consequently, by adopting a culture of transcendence and love our actions may serve to heal our world, which according to Eisenstein, is heading towards its inevitable downfall if we continue on our current path.

The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible By Charles Eisenstein

This Book really put a lot of what we have been talking about into perspective for me. Obviously learning about such things, as a greater consciousness and the impact of meditation are important to know about and explore. But there comes a point when one starts to ask what is the point of it all? What do I make of this universal consciousness? How can meditation or mindfulness have greater impact on my life then just these individual benefits? I think there are many answers to these questions and I believe some of the books we have already read have gotten to the root of some of these thoughts. But I believe Eisenstein addressed these questions in a whole new way.

In a world that is slowly, or not so slowly crippling under this false facade we hide under it is so easy to be disheartened and pessimistic about the world we live in. More and more I am starting to acknowledge my own cynicism, as I am good at seeing the worst in things. I believe that is why this book resonated well with me. I didn’t need Eisenstein to do much convincing to make me see that this world we live in is not what it is cracked up to be.

However Eisenstein did not leave us with only these rather gloomy thoughts but instead with a new revelation, that being that we are all connected. From this new point of view we are empowered to become more resilient as we come to see that the small personal choices we make really do matter because of our interconnectedness. In fact Eisenstein makes the rather profound claim that our good intentions deeds and acts or kindness mean nothing with out coming to terms with the truth that we are not separate from each other.

One part of this book that particularly stood out to me pertained to the question of how meditation and mindfulness can have a greater impact on our lives then just what we have read about thus far. Answers to this question were embedded throughout the book, however one answer I particularly liked came from chapter 19 “Doing.” Here Eisenstein spends some time talking about how our constant doing has lead us down this terrible unforeseen path. Eisenstein points out that perhaps more doing will lead us out of this maize of troubles we find ourselves in but that stopping and reflecting might be a better way to handle our crisis. We as a society often look at these times of pause emptiness and silence as pointless and impractical but Eisenstein points out that this is futile thinking. As we trying to solve the problems in this world “we reenact again and again the same solutions that brought us to our present extremity. Where does the wisdom to act in entirely new ways come from? It comes from nowhere, from the void.

When I read this segment I must confess that I started to feel a bit exhilarated. I think its because I like to see the connections and seeing elements of whatever this greater thing is come together is truly magical. More importantly I think Eisenstein though his thoughts gives us all a clearer view of how this new direction could begin to take form.

3/19 Post

Chapter 32: Miracles

‘…we all have the power to perform acts that violate the old Story of the World.” Miracles, as we call them today, are impossible by the standard of our world. But what if miracles are only believed to be so because we have become to bound in the ways of the old, that we cannot begin to believe what it actually humanly possible?

Why have we gotten to the point where we cannot believe anything that disrupts the story of our own World? It’s really a difficult topic to speak upon, especially if you have never witnessed a miracle personally. However, I think that miracles are something that always needs to be believed in, because you really cannot put a limit on what the human body and mind are capable of. Just because we don’t, and can’t, understand all that goes on in the world, doesn’t mean that belief in miracles is a bad thing.

The things that are labeled as miracles are usually the instances that we cannot explain logically or compare it to any experience we have ever seen or heard about. But what if you went to the deep forests of the Amazon and showed then our “magic phones,” or use our weather app to forecast the weather before it happens. I think that those people would consider you to be a miracle worker by telling them it will rain three days from now. So really, miracles are really just in the eyes of the beholder.

I think that needs to be remembered as we trek through life. We can be our own miracle if we just put down our societal beliefs about what can and cannot be possible.

Eisenstein – 3/19

Eisenstein questions people’s true judgments — of themselves and others — in Chapter 25. He writes that it’s usually easy to be critical of oneself because it’s something that society values — being too good at something or being too hard on yourself. But what about others? By judging yourself, aren’t you comparing yourself against others? And isn’t that not fair because you don’t know their situation?

To illustrate this idea, Eisenstein tells a story about an experiment conducted by John Darley and C. Daniel Batson in 1973. There were three groups in this experiment, all of which were tasked with traveling across campus to tell the Good Samaritan story from the bible. The story is about a priest and a Levite passing a wounded man on the side of the road without stopping to help. The only one to stop was the Samaritan.

The first group was told, “You’d better hurry up, you’re late for your interview.” The second group was told, “You’d better hurry up, your interview starts in a few minutes.” The third group was told, “Well, you might as well head on over. Your interview doesn’t start for a while, but we’re done here.”

On their way to their final destinations, all the groups passed a wounded man, groaning loudly, in the middle of a doorway — a sight that was impossible for the groups to miss. As one might expect, the groups responded differently. Only 10% of the participants in the first group stopped while 60% of those in the third group stopped. But this can’t possibly mean that all the “good” participants were simply randomly assigned to group three.

Eisenstein reasons that we can’t judge others because we don’t know their situation. We can’t say we’d do something differently from someone else because we just don’t know. And it’s more likely than not that we’d probably do the same.