Life Before Life – 4/2

Jim Tucker tells the story of Kendra Carter and her swim instructor Ginger in Chapter 6 of his novel, “Life Before Life.” Kendra was first introduced to Ginger when she was four and a half years old and instantly felt very connected to her. Although the two had only seen each other during Kendra’s swim lessons and talked about nothing other than swimming, Kendra told her mother a couple weeks after her first lesson that Ginger had lost a child. Surprised and skeptical, Kendra’s mother asked how she knew this. Kendra responded, “I’m the baby that was in her tummy.” She continued to describe an abortion to her mother, “saying that Ginger had allowed a bad man to pull her out and that she had tried to hang on but could not.” She further described being in a cold and dark place. Kendra’s mother later learned that Ginger had had an abortion nine years before Kendra was born.

While Kendra was very happy and warm towards Ginger, Ginger wasn’t the same way back. Rather, she was quiet and cool. Kendra insisted on seeing Ginger outside of swim lessons. She claimed she loved her. While Kendra’s mother wasn’t very fond of the idea, she allowed Kendra to stay with Ginger for three nights a week, because Kendra wasn’t happy otherwise. In fact, prior to staying with Ginger, Kendra had an intense fear of dying and told her mother that she wouldn’t come back if she died again.

Kendra’s mother and Ginger eventually had a falling out and Kendra was no longer allowed to see Ginger. Because of this, Kendra did not speak for over four months. Kendra’s mother (naturally) had a very difficult time dealing with this. As a conservative Christian, she didn’t believe in reincarnation and felt as though she were committing a sin by even considering the idea.

Of course, there are many unanswered questions to this story. How did this four year old describe an abortion? Was it a dream or was it real? As Kendra’s mother, how do you deal with this? Furthermore, I found it fascinating that Kendra felt so strongly towards Ginger even though Ginger wasn’t the same way back. I appreciate the way Tucker tells the stories throughout his book and lets the reader decide what theory best explains these incidents. He makes a point to state that the stories aren’t proof — they’re evidence.

3/26: Dreaming and Consciousness

Lately, the universe has been pointing arrows to my dreaming activity. After one of my best friends visited me for a week, my dream channel began opening up. I’m either dreaming more or remembering my dreams better than before. Although I may be more tuned into dreaming (and therefore picking up more signs), I can’t ignore the multiple “coincidences” pertaining to dreams. For example, I lost my cell phone in my house about a week ago. I looked around for hours and didn’t find it. In my experience, finding lost items is most successful when I’m not fixated on the item and my mind is clear. But sometimes that’s easier said than done—it had been 3 days with no success. I was about to start writing a paper for a Communications class, but then I had an urge to record my dream from the previous night. I reached for a book called How to interpret your dreams and there I found my cell phone—in a basket of books.

This was not the only sign. A few days later, one of my coworkers told me that my voice was in her dream, but I was not. Regardless, she knew that I was talking to her. More importantly, I recently talked to my mom about my precognitive dreams and I was surprised to find out that she has them too. Although my dreams have mainly predicted personal events, my mom has dreamed about personal events as well as significant events in her family and community.

In order to examine my dreams in greater detail, I read How to interpret your dreams (1978). This book was based upon Edgar Cayce Readings and written by Mark A. Thurston, PhD in consciousness and transformation. Even though this book is outdated, it has a lot of interesting information and perspectives. One particular passage about dreams seemed to connect to NDE’s: “In dreams, visions and experiences, each individual soul passes through or reviews or sees from a different attitude those experiences of its own activities.” Although NDE’s are much more intense experiences, this description shows that dreams and NDE’s occur on levels of consciousness where awareness is heightened.

One chapter that I found particularly interesting and relevant talked about Oneness and psychic dreams. Thurston talks about “Oneness” in multiple ways: (1) the same energy expressed in different ways or forces, (2) the interrelation of minds/level of super-consciousness, and (3) holistic resonation of body-mind-and soul. In terms of my precognitive dreams, I utilized the 2nd type of Oneness to connect with another person. Through this, I understood a mix of my thoughts and intentions as well as his. Within the next few days, he contacted me (and he hadn’t in a very long time). Although I need to do further modern research on dreams and consciousness, this is an eye-opening starting point.

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.