Monthly Archives: April 2014

4.9.14

This week I continued my journey of looking into children’s experiences of past lives.  I found a Paranormal Documentary called “The Ghost Inside My Child.”  The documentary followed three children and their parents’ through their journey of living their current life and their past lives.  One of the children felt that he had died in WWII, another child felt that she had died in the Oklahoma City bombing, and another child felt that he had died in the terrorist attacks on 9/11.  I focused my attention on the child who had visions of WWII and the child who had memories of dying in the Oklahoma City bombing.

James, a child from Lafayette, Louisiana started having nightmares around the age of 2 years old.  He would thrash around screaming about a “airplane crash, on fire, little man can’t get out.” When his parents asked him about the event, James explained to them that he was shot down by the Japanese.  The boat that his plane had taken off from was called Natoma, which was an American ship (USS Natoma Bay).

When James was three, he started doing drawings of the plane that he had been on the day he died.  He also claimed that he had flown a Corsair and that his name had been James. James’ dad then took it upon himself to research people who had been killed aboard the USS Natoma Bay.  He discovered that there was only one person who had died aboard the USS Natoma Bay and his name was, in fact, James Huston Jr.  James’s mother then called the sister of James Huston to see if she would send any pictures to their house.  This was when they found out that before James Huston Jr. flew from Natoma Bay he used to fly a Corsair.  James’s story finally had full validity.

To help James make a distinction between his two lives, his family held a memorial service for him in the spot where he died.  It was very emotional for the present James.  However, his parents have noticed a difference in him since they held the memorial service.  He has finally been freed of his past life.

The second kid from the video was named Carson.  Even since she was 5 years old, Carson felt that she had died in the Oklahoma bombings.  She talked about a man who pretended to be nice but was actually bad and how he drove a van into a building, killing many. The hardest thing for Carson was not that she had died, but that she was separated from her original family.  She wanted more than anything to visit her “real” mother.

Now, Carson is 12 years old and has visited the Oklahoma City memorial.  When she visited, she finally got some closure.  She went with her current mother and they talked about the memorial, the significance, and Carson finally was able to visit “home.”  The two of them stood there and cried for a long time, sharing this experience together.  Since this moment in Carson’s life, she has started 7th grade and has not mentioned the Oklahoma City bombings in months.

I found both of these stories very compelling.  The other night I was speaking to my roommate about reincarnations and whether or not we believed in them.  She was dead set on not believing and never believing.  After hearing these two stories, I feel that there is a possibility that it could be real.  I struggle with the idea of children suffering through reincarnation.  That does not seem like a positive learning and growing experience for either the child or the family. In order to grow as a new individual and for the soul to experience new things, the past life needs to separate from the present.  Overall, to help the children’s psychological well-being I felt that closure was the most important.  Both the parents and the children needed to be on board with the experience of saying goodbye to the past life so that they can all move forward together

4/2

Yuma Uesaka

PSYCH 401

April 3, 2014

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Since we talk a great deal about validity of stories and theories of the world we live in, especially what is “scientifically” sound, I thought it would be interesting to look at the very nature of science, and the mechanics of it. It is easy to think from the “science camp” that science provides objective truths, and it is something that is free from beliefs. However, taking a look at how science operates allows us to think about the potential pitfalls and patterns science itself falls into. The book I read this week, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, by Thomas S. Kuhn points out a few patterns we see in the history of human scientific endeavors.

In Chapter 2 and 3 of his book, Kuhn talks about the path Normal Science takes in its development. He claims that Normal Science takes a particular paradigm which best fits to the current set of facts and experimental results, and makes incremental changes to the paradigm. Most scientists spend majority of their time and effort in 1. Determination of significant fact, 2. Matching of facts with theory, and 3. Articulation of theory. The best scientists of any time basically spends most of their time in a box, which is the paradigm of whatever scientific field they are working in. Anything outside of that particular paradigm is considered less than the work within the paradigm. The result of this system is that science moves at a very slow pace, analyzing every single detail of a particular paradigm, which could be a good thing. It allows minimal amount of error within the paradigm itself. However, one could also look at it and observe that the paradigm boxes people into thinking in a particular path, when they could be spending their time and energy on other places. Furthermore, the fact that looking outside of the box is stigmatized in the community may be a limiting factor for the development of science in a long term.

MIndfulness, Meditation, and Finding a Happiness in Your Career

I was on the phone with my sister today to catch up and I started telling her about my interest in mindfulness and meditation. We spoke for a while about the initial research I have done and about how some of the primary goals of mindfulness are to be able to observe your own thoughts and emotions, label what they are, experience them non-judgmentally, and make decisions based on that non-judgment.  I also mentioned the meditation class we all attended this morning at the Zen Buddhist Temple. A few things our teacher said really resonated with me. First, I loved when she spoke about how we see intellect as residing solely in the mind. Thus, we become totally disembodied and forget to be present in our own bodies. I really enjoyed the incremental mindfulness exercise in which we focused on various parts of the body and “awakened” them so to speak or brought our attention to them in order to truly relax. The teacher also shared with us the Indian scripture that went something like, “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”

This got me thinking about a similar idea that came up in my psychology of entrepreneurship class. In a book called, “So Good They Can’t Ignore You,” the author, Cal Newport speaks about two mindsets when going to start your career. He says there is a passion mindset one can have that is defined by the question, “what can the world offer me?” On the other hand, he describes a second mindset he deems the craftsman mindset that is defined by another question, “what can I offer the world?” Newport goes on to speak about how the three pillars of a satisfying career are impact, control and creativity. He says that we are better able to achieve these three things when we try to make a difference in the world and thus we should use the craftsman mindset when trying to find ourselves.

In life, sometimes you seem to learn similar lessons in very different places at similar times. I thought it was interesting to speak about these two intellectual experiences together because they are in direct conversation with each other. Both the teacher in the Buddhist Temple and my reading for a business class were telling me that service and social impact may create the most satisfaction and happiness in one’s life. Food for thought I guess while I continue the job search.

 

4/2 Weiss

This week, I continued my quest to exploring the different systems of thoughts on reincarnation by reading Dr. Brian L. Weiss’s book Many Lives, Many Masters. In his book, he presents a very interesting and surprisingly specific structure for the reincarnation process involving a hierarchical structure of masters and souls. In this unique system, the masters guide the general souls through numerous lives in order for them to gain wisdom and learn valuable lessons. At the same time, the souls retain certain characteristics such as phobias into their next lives even though none of the memories transfer. Overall, this system seems just as plausible as any other system to me because it assumes the commonly held belief of omniscient / omnipotent / omnibenevolent beings and parallels the near death experience and stories of meaningful reincarnations we have looked at before in class. However, the thing that bothers me the most is the single case study that is used as the sole evidence for the basis of the entire book. Although the repeated and consistent therapeutic sessions of the lady with anxiety issues outlining her thirty seven past lives coupled with the supposed confirmations by a third party psychic suggest the existence of these multiple lives, there are a lot of holes in the picture such as how masters create souls or when souls can ascend to masters or how many lessons there are to learn.

I thought that the scope of the study was not even close to sufficient proof of the described system and could very easily be debunked by any other conflicting case. I hoped that there would be other evidence because the lesson learning and concept of free will seem to make sense in the larger scope of things.

I myself am a skeptic, although I can see how the possibility of reincarnation and the system Weiss could still exist.  Even though other non-believers say there is no evidence that we can prove this type of stuff exists, I believe that it could be due to the fact that skeptics are making that judgment based on the standard scientific method of proof that we currently know.  What if there are more ways to prove that things exist than just using the standard scientific method of developing a hypothesis and running controlled experiments.

2 April 2014- Tucker’s Life Before Life

Tucker’s Life Before Life explores the stories and experiences of children who claim to be reincarnated souls, and also explores the thoughts of skeptics and those who are inclined to believe their stories are not true.  While I am still somewhat skeptical of the concept of reincarnation, primarily because of religious reasons, I found this collection of stories and information to be extremely compelling and helpful in my journey to understanding my views on the overarching themes of spirituality that we’re exploring in this course.

One of the most interesting chapters of Tucker’s investigation was that which detailed some of the abnormal behaviors that are common in children who claim they are reincarnated souls.  He describes things such as “surviving emotions,” which is often in the form of longing for a connection with family members who have passed, and “un-acquired taste,” where children have odd preferences in things like food and entertainment.  As an example, a striking case of twins, Gillian and Jennifer Pollock, is told, showing behaviors that indicated they were the reincarnated souls of their late twin sisters, who had passed only one year before they were born.  As a number of situations unfolded, it became clear that their lives were more than coincidentally similar.  For example, Gillian suggested that Jennifer’s birthmark was the result of an accident that had actually involved her late sister Jacqueline, and both girls expressed a desire to visit a park because of the swing set, when they had no first hand knowledge of the park’s swing set.

This evidence, to me, makes a strong case that these children have undergone some kind of significant emotional and spiritual experience.  While some of these stories may seem far-fetched or simply coincidental, and I’m not entirely confident in how I’ve will interpret them collectively, I am very intrigued by this possibility.  Additionally, it seems that this idea of reincarnation is often comforting to those who have lost loved one and are eager to reconnect with them.  Knowing the spiritual and emotional comfort that this idea can bring to people makes me more receptive to the idea and willing to accept it as a possibility.

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.

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!

 

 

4/2

This week I watched a lecture by consciousness and sleep researcher Dr. Giulio Tononi. Tononi has made it his life work to understand the complex phenomenon of consciousness. In class we have explored certain aspects of consciousness or changes in consciousness (NDE etc.), but not much thought has been given to what consciousness is, how it is created and how it works. Dr. Tononi has pondered these questions and developed an all encompassing theory to explain consciousness. First he outlines how current thought has failed to produce results in the field of consciousness. Freud developed the thought that even when we completely understand the localization of the brain’s functions, this will still not explain consciousness or its origin. It may be interesting to see which parts of the brain control which functions, but we have yet to determine how those neurons in our brain produce the highly developed and intertwined experience of consciousness. Tononi also demonstrates that if we were to judge an individual’s consciousness strictly by their brain activity then we would be wrong. He showed a graph of EEG readings for an individual in a wakeful state transitioning into sleep, which did not show a drop off when the individual went into a non-dreaming sleep state. Tononi asserts that consciousness can be best thought of as all of the time spent outside of sleep, especially if one is not dreaming. Therefore, the EEG readings cannot explain how we do not experience consciousness because our brains our still active during this subdued state of consciousness where we experience nothing, not even dreams.

Dr. Tononi’s integrated information  theory of consciousness rests upon two assumptions. The first being that every conscious state contains a huge amount of information to be processed. Tononi gives his standard example of a movie frame as seen through a human and a photodiode. A photodiode can differentiate whether something is light or dark so a photodiode may see a blank screen (during a dark part in the movie) and register as ‘dark’, whereas a human will register this as a break in a movie which he or she is watching at a specific location and time, among other things that someone may be thinking about during a film. The same could be said about a light part in the film. In a specific scene the human mind will differentiate between characters on the screen, their location and what is specifically occurring, unlike the photodiode which will simply say it is ‘light’. The second assumption to Tononi’s theory is that this massive amount of information is highly integrated. The human mind can integrate the information found on the movie screen seamlessly. For example, if there was a man wearing a blue t-shirt the human mind can instantaneously process this as a man wearing a blue t-shirt as opposed to strictly a man or blue or a t-shirt.

The integrated information theory takes these two assumptions and makes the following claim. A physical system with large amounts of information and integration will produce a measurable level of consciousness. He measures consciousness using a complex set of algorithms with an end result denoted by ‘phi’. For example, human consciousness is so low during sleep because there is a decreased amount of information. It also explains why epileptic seizure patients cannot remember their seizures; it is because the brain’s neurons are not well integrated. In theory this could mean that the internet, as an informative and integrated system is conscious. Some would disagree with this example, however, and remind us that the internet is not constantly connected like a human brain is so it could not develop a large level of consciousness.

I think this theory is compelling, yet I cannot help but think that this takes the animalistic perspective out of consciousness, if it is true. It would have major implications for non-living systems of information that I am not sure would be possible. Although, I am not the only skeptic out there, as many researchers have expressed their doubts. Many, including Tononi, have stated that this theory is in its infancy and needs further development.

What Are Dreams?

 

In almost all of the small group discussions I’ve had during the past week or two, the topic of dreams always tends to come up.

This video asks the questions whether or not dreams are the “nonsensical byproduct of a sleeping brain, or a window into our unconscious mind?”