Saturday, December 6, 2008
As I was experiencing this dislike for most of the people around me, I recalled reading a story about a man (Howard Storm) who had a near death experience (NDE), before which he was similarly cranky and unhappy, but additionally treated people in a nasty, condescending, rude and abrupt way. He expressed no belief in afterlife or a deity or any reglious doctrine. During his NDE he initially experienced negative entities who seemed to take pleasure in hurting and lashing out at him as well as pleasure in his anger at them. Ultimately he came to the conclusion for various reasons that he should pray to Jesus, something he was not accustomed to doing. After he did that, his experience changed to a light-filled positive experience that changed his beliefs and outlook on life from that time on. After returning to his body he said that he felt love for everyone he saw because he was shown during the experience that we are all connected and that love was a key element to growth and life enhancement.
So as I walked down the street, I thought of this cranky man waking up from this "scrooge" experience and loving everyone around him (to their discomfort). And I wondered if I could feel love for the people around me and, if not, why not? Why was it that I was so turned off by everyone's differences from me?
And I realized on the other hand that there is a theory called Terror Management Theory (TMT) that says that the more mortality salience we have, the more judgmental and territorial oriented we are -- with an "us/them" sense of the world. For some reason, this theory says, that a stronger sense of self-esteem (i.e. feeling like "I'm better than you" and "My way is better than your way") helps fend off a fear of death. I don't really understand why that would be the conclusion, and I don't necessarily agree with it, but those who have put forth TMT have done research on these responses by people who are reminded about the reality of death.
It seems to me that this difference in response to mortality salience -- being aware of one's ultimate demise--comes from the way one is reminded of one's mortality. From a real near-death experience in which one narrowly escapes death versus talk about or reference to death's reality. I personally have not had an NDE but my awareness of death's reality is fairly substantial -- so perhaps that is why I exhibited the negative response to people???? Who knows. I think it has nothing to do with my mortality salience and more to do with my salience that life is hard and sometimes other people make life harder for me. And sometimes they make it easier. That day, I didn't find anyone helping to make it easier.
Then you get the Christmas Spirit and holiday generosity -- the "feel good" season -- giving food to the needy (this one time a year?) and coats and blankets to the homeless (as if this is the only time to give something and as if that is what and how to give).
But that is another subject altogether...
Sunday, November 23, 2008
The GA guys also went to an abandoned insane asylum to investigate. Again, I find it questionable that they leave investigators alone with a camera -- on this episode they locked one of the investigators into a body compartment in the former morgue, with a camera on the inside and a camera on a tripod on the outside pointed at the doors. Then the other two investigators proceeded to explore other parts of the asylum and "get lost" as they put it. When Nick, the investigator locked in the morgue compartment, began to get claustrophobic, or uncomfortable, in that space, he could not get out, and the others could not hear him kicking at the door and yelling to let him out. Fortunately, they did have a radio to talk to him with, but at one point, it appeared the radio did not work. They also were off in some other part of the building and were not sure how to get back to him. If something were really to go wrong, that would be an irresponsible practice. Especially the fact that he had no way of getting out of the morgue compartment except for someone to unlock it from the outside.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Unlike Ghost Hunters, they do not have a camera crew with them -- it is filmed totally by the three investigators. Also unlike Ghost Hunters, they do not appear to have a rule that they never send anyone into an area alone.
What I noticed immediately in watching this show is that Zak yells and screams and insults whatever entity it is he is trying to contact (no respect!) in order to provoke it. I found the yelling to be annoying to ME as a viewer and imagine if I were a ghost I would probably throw something at him, too, as he is trying to make happen in some of the episodes. The other difference I saw between GA and GH is that these guys seem genuinely scared of what is happening to them, while Jason and Grant on GH almost never exhibit fear, but excitement or curiosity at what they see, hear or experience. (Jason and Grant also show the supposed entities a bit more respect, though they occasionally try to provoke with lightly condescending comments). On more than one episode of GA, the investigator actually lets out a yell and runs away (which I know I would do, too), but it makes me wonder why they do this at all if they are so afraid of it all.
Their web site has a number of video clips from the show. One thing I liked that they have done is to have an expert analyze the video clips to authenticate what is shown on the video as not having been tampered with and not having been staged. Here is a clip of one video analysis from the show.
I do predict this show will be successful, though, because they do exhibit genuine fear and shocked reactions to the experiences they are having.
Dr. Robert Brumblay wrote in the Journal of Near Death Studies a simplified explanation of how to understand the effect of hyperdimensions.
My understanding of what he wrote is that if we were living in a one-dimensional universe, it would be as if we were living along a line (which is where the term "string" comes from in string theory, from what I understand). We could see only what was in front of us or behind us along the line. We would not be able to imagine anything other than a one-dimensional existence. If there were a dot on the line, it would be as a wall is and block any view of any other individual on the line next to us. We would not be able to see anyone other than the one-dimensional beings to either side of us. If we somehow were lifted away from the line into the 2nd dimension, moving past the dot would not be impossible, and seeing both other one-dimensional beings at once would be possible as well as seeing others along the line that would not have been visible while on the line in the one dimensional world. I could also see the entire being as it appears along the line. If it is darker vs. lighter in different places, which is something I could not see from my perspective on the line.
If I were a two-dimensional being I could see the back of the two-dimensional being in front of me and the front of the being behind me. It would be front, back, up and down only. If I rotated around those beings I could see the other side of them or see the being next to them. But if I were to flip out away from the two-dimensional plane and face it from a three-dimensional point of view, I could see not only both sides of the being next to me, I could see their entire being -- including what is inside the lines on the plane. Something I could not do in the two-dimensional existence. In writing this, I came across a description of a story called Flatland that apparently makes understanding dimensions easier, and it deals with a two-dimensional world and a one-dimensional world (Lineland).
As three-dimensional beings in a three-dimensional world, we know we can move front, back, up, down and side-to-side. Walls prevent us from moving forward, unless we go around them. Walls prevent us from seeing other people. But if we were to go outside the three-dimensional world into a fourth dimension walls would not be barriers any longer, we could see people in more than one place at the same time, and we could see those people in a way that is beyond the three-dimensions -- we could see inside of them, the same way the two-dimensional person in a third-dimension could see within the lines of the two-dimensional being they are looking at. There is a computerized demonstration game available on the web that is supposed to make this understandable. I could not download it to my computer, but it might be of interest.
So Brumblay writes that if someone were to leave the three-dimensional world through a near-death experience and enter a fourth dimension, these are the kinds of things that might be possible to them. In fact people who say they died on the operating table and floated up out of their body often claim to be able to see not only inside the operating room but also outside in the waiting room where their loved ones are sitting as well as being able to see inside the building, outside the building from the top of the building to the bottom, all at the same time. They also have claimed to see things like the fact that someone is pregnant and they are carrying a boy -- so they can see within a person. They can see different views of things at once -- the top of a table and the underside of the table at the same time.
I just thought it was interesting that a theory of physics that can be demonstrated mathematically can also potentially explain non-physical experiences of people who claim to have left their body temporarily.
There are a few blogs that talk about string theory and other dimensions. Here are a few:
Study Group of Physics UI
and a list of others from Wordpress.
I am reading a rough draft of a professor friend's book that touches on a number of issues relating to death. I am not able to write about what he is writing because his book is not published yet, but through his writing I am learning about theories that exist (like Terror Management Theory) regarding fear of death and denial of death that seem to fit what I want to focus on regarding people looking to media to provide answers to the question of life after death that science and religion are not able to. I will look up those theories and see what I can find that could be informative to my study.
I would like to see the film Flight From Death: The Quest for Immortality that looks at fear of death and the works of Ernest Becker, on which Terror Management Theory is apparently based.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
I don't come to my beliefs lightly and I don't ever like to jump on a bandwagon. Yet some people have said to me, "Diane you are so smart, how can you believe that?" as if I say I believe in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy.
In 2000 I took a class on contemplative practices and did a paper on the concept of chi. Part of that paper talked about Qi Gong and Tai Chi, and part of it talked about Feng Shui. My professor was hesitant to accept my writing about Feng Shui because he thought it was a trendy concept that had no basis in this sort of understanding. Yet before writing about it I asked a Chinese student whether her culture saw Feng Shui in the same light as Qi Gong and meridians in accupuncture. She said yes, that feng shui was taken seriously in China. I did write about it in my paper, and how the flow of energy can be enhanced by placement of water, color, and other elements. In the reading I've done, energy and electricity and magnetic force are key factors in a lot of unexplained phenomena that includes apparitions, paranormal activity, and health. In the same vein, that energy and magnetic force (and gravity) affects the planets and their relationship to each other, and their alignment (the way our living environment can be affected by energy flow and magnetic/electric energy around us). When I talk about the planets being aligned well for some purpose or not being aligned well, people are surprised at my comments. I do think, just as the moon affects the tides and people's behavior and as electro-magnetic fields can affect one's health , that the planetary positions can affect energy flow and magnetic pull.
That being said, there is a full moon coming up on November 13 and there will be a golden triangle in the sky with Jupiter, Saturn and something else, Neptune? Golden triangles in the sky mean a positive alignment in a geometrically balanced formation, and that is thought to be a helpful aspect. I've read books that talk about golden triangles being in the sky when certain businesses started or when a person is born (so it appears in their astrological chart), and it bodes well for them. People like Bill Gates and Michael Jordan have these sorts of geometrically balanced formations in their birth charts that indicate possible superstardom in particular areas of their lives. A friend of mine said he didn't believe in astrology because it was not in the Bible. But it was in the Bible. The Magi were astrologers who came to see Jesus because of what they saw in the stars. Prophets in the Bible, like Isaiah, described Jesus' coming and his life in ways that are not unlike psychics today.
But I digress. When we are born and the universe is aligned in a particular way in relation to where we are on the planet, it seems to me that it sets the stage for the direction we will take in life the same way the current of water sets the stage for where a twig or leaf floating in the water will end up and when.
I read a really interesting journal article from the Journal of Near-Death Studies today that gave a great explanation for physical theory on hyperdimensions and how that fits in with the experiences described by those who have near-death or out-of-body experiences. I will try to write more about that this week.
(note: will add links and photos to this later when I have time).
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Then the Catholic church canonizes humans who devoted their lives to spiritual quests and whose faith allowed them to inspire others or to affect events. Those people are canonized partly on the basis of miracles (unexplained happenings -- not unlike paranormal or supernatural things), happening when people pray to those humans after death. The miracles could have happened when they were alive, as well. Bernadette, who saw the Virgin Mary, and dug for water in a certain spot that is believed to heal people, and the kids in Fatima, Portugal, who brought messages to the Pope from Mary. These are all stories that are believed by Catholics around the world. So supernatural things based on spiritual beliefs are part of the Catholic faith.
To extend that to say that those people became more highly evolved based on their understanding of spiritual or non-physical "laws" --- and I mean laws in the same way as the law of gravity or the laws of physics--means that there is reason to believe that other people not revered as saints also have come to understand those laws and use them to effect change and healings (shamans, buddhist monks, yogis, etc.).
Many psychics speak of spiritual guides -- and often among those is a Native American spiritual guide as well as others who have lived. Columbia educated psychiatrist Brian Weiss, in his book Many Lives, Many Masters, the information he received from patients under hypnosis who talk about not only past lives, but life between lives, in which they work with spirit guides to plan their next life -- almost like an educational program--that will be done with the help of these spiritual partners. Raymond Moody in his books about people who have experienced near death experiences notes the repeated reference to spiritual beings who meet the person and who the NDErs feel a close connection with.
So all that being said, I personally have come to believe that I am part of a group project, so to speak, with me being one who has taken on the physical body and interacts with others in the project who are in a physical body, and having other partners who are not in a physical body in order to meet some sort of spiritual goals for growth. We help each other move forward through the experiences and choices I have in this life and the interactions I have with others in the physical world. I consider the Saints (as designated by the Catholic Church) to be part of the spiritual realm that I can access. While I'm not sure how it all really works -- of course, who am I to say I know something like that--I have come to believe from my own reading and discussions with others and my own experiences that developing relationships with those in spirit is kind of like networking and calling on our own personal friends and contacts in the physical world.
Saints in the Catholic Church are often given areas of expertise--and are called the patron saint of some specific thing based on that saints earthly life and miracles attributed to that saint. My favorite Saint buddy over the years has been St. Anthony, who finds lost things. He rarely, if ever, lets me down. Sometimes, I will just say, "Anthony, where are my keys?" as my hand reaches into a pocket and there they are. Or "Anthony, I can't find my black pants," and my hand reaches to the back of the drawer and pulls them out. For particularly important things that I've misplaced, when I've exhausted all my options -- all the time calling on Anthony -- I sometimes get the sense that I should just stop what I'm doing and calm my mind and listen. When I've done that, a picture or thought will come to my mind about where to look and I will find what it is I am looking for. So here's to Anthony! Happy Saints Day.
One of my sons was a difficult teenager. It came to my attention somehow that St. Augustine was also a difficult teenager and his mother, St. Monica, who was also in a difficult marriage (I could relate), prayed to have her son's heart changed. I often spoke directly to Monica asking her to help me out in knowing what to do about my son's problems (he is now a police officer and very hard working and in a good place). I also spoke to St. Augustine asking him to work in my son's life. St. Augustine wrote about how his relationship with his peers often influenced his choices, and that was a big factor in my own son's life.
When my other son was going into the NYC Fire Department, I wanted to know who to ask to watch over him -- which saint was designated for Firemen. The more well-known saint is St. Florian, who may actually be Hungarian, as I've seen statues of him in Hungary when I go there. But there is also a saint, St. John of God, who is the patron saint of first-responders. In his life he did first aid, he ran into burning buildings to save people, and he started hospitals way backbefore that was something that was done. Places for sick or injured people to recover. But he was someone who rescued people who were in danger.
While looking up those saints for my son, I came across others who I talk to. I was going through a long, drawn-out divorce and was not looking forward to being alone. I often felt lonely and isolated, and found in my research that St. Rita is the patron saint of lonely people. I started talking to her in my meditations and asking her to send me some friends. The effect was so positive that at times I would ask her to turn it off because I needed a break from my social life.
I do a lot of work in public relations and marketing and found that St. Paul (the apostle) is the patron saint of writers and people in the field of public relations. So when I am in need of ideas or struggling with writer's block, I pray (or speak) with St. Paul. (Also St. Bernardine of Siena)
One of the most interesting things I found in my research was when I was looking for a patron saint of people in the wine business. I had decided to start my own wine importing business and was having difficulty with learning the ins and outs of that whole thing. So I Googled Patron Saints and found a site that allowed me to plug in a topic and to find the saint that corresponded to that. St. Amand is the patron saint of people in the wine business. And the interesting thing is that his saint day is on my birthday. So does that mean I was born to go into the wine business? Probably not, but it doesn't hurt to have that double connection going on. I speak to St. Amand when I am facing difficult business decisions, when I feel like giving up (normally when I feel that way and talk to him, I get a call or e-mail the next day that keeps me going forward in the business) or sometimes I just connect with him when I am out selling to store owners, and I say "Amand, help me make a sale." That connection has been helpful to me in many ways --psychologically and serendipitously.
I changed jobs (my official job at a graduate school) and found myself in a sometimes hostile environment which was very stressful to me and very negative. Others in my workplace called it toxic. It was affecting my health and my ability to sleep. Somehow I came upon information about St. Michael, the Archangel, who is supposed to have been charged by God to defeat evil and negativity in the world and allow God (or divinity, or positive energy, whatever you want to call it) to overcome that negativity and bad will. Every day I ask Michael to protect me (I live alone in NYC) and to keep negativity away from me. When I go into meetings at work that I anticipate being stressful, I say the official prayer of St. Michael and add my own requests related to the specific negativity that I experience or anticipate. I find that at times I can almost sense the protection surrounding me -- like a force field--that people don't want to cross. I do that, too, when I invite someone to my home who might create a negative experience (argument, criticism), along with burning sage (to remove negative energy) and sprinkling Kosher salt outside my front door (a ritual that is supposed to cleanse the environment and keep negativity outside the house).
One quick story about burning sage -- one time during my difficult marriage I was burning sage in the house to cleanse the energy. My ex-husband was out while I was doing this, but returned home before I was finished. He did not even step inside the house but saw me burning the sage stick and spreading the smoke around the dining room. He said, "What are you doing?" and I answered, "Smudging the house to clean the negative energy." He would not even come in. He turned around and left to go somewhere else. I thought to myself, "It worked!" (And he was not one to dislike smoke or incense--in fact he burned incense all the time himself, and he smoked cigars). So I don't know what it was that made him turn around and leave without coming in but I attribute that to the characteristics of sage deterring negative energy.
Friday, October 31, 2008
It is interesting that during Halloween week, ghost hunting is the focus. In fact Ghost Hunters, the TV show is going live tonight. They bring in viewers interactively by having connection to their web site in which viewers can press a button to let the investigators know if they saw something. That opens up a lot of doors to pranksters – they said last year they got 10,000 hits on that button! How annoying would that be to have people pranking them. But at the same time, the show is 7 hours long tonight – from 7 pm to 2 a.m. and hopefully it will be better than the Geraldo live show looking for Al Capone’s treasure.
What is interesting to my study is that people are getting information from a mediated event and they are participating with the television show through the Internet, another mediated aspect of the experience. So it is an event in which possibly millions of people are coming together to watch and/or interact around a paranormal-based reality event – to share a lived experience, discuss it, investigate it (albeit through the representation of the show’s experts and their visitors), and be able to determine among themselves if there is evidence, what the evidence is, and what that means to them. It brings to mind the idea of taking “science” into their own hands… something perhaps blasphemous to a trained scientist, but it is in the same vein as when the bible was put into the hands of the masses (via Gutenburg’s press) and people, rather than priests, were allowed to read and interpret for themselves the words of the bible. In a way, television and other forms of media are allowing people to look at this controversial “pseudo-science” as paranormal research has been called, and to determine for themselves if they think there is something to it.
However, the use of media can make the evidence suspect because there is always the possibility of doctoring the video or audio footage. It would be great if the show would occasionally focus on the steps they take to make sure that these images and sounds are legitimately captured and not added or created by the production company – a topic of discussion I have seen on Internet chat groups about the show. They do have investigators, like Donna LaCroix , who are scientists – she is an engineer, apparently, and it would be helpful if the show played up the more objective and scientific (to whatever degree they can) aspects of what they do. They say what the theories are, but who came up with these theories about EMFs and cold spots? That is a big criticism by skeptics that there is no “proof” – and that is a misguided term, they should say “evidence”—that entities give off high EMFs. But perhaps they do, and this show is making an effort to show that evidence. If there are scientists that they work with, it would be great to see input from those scientists and to know who they are and what their credentials are.
While Ghost Hunters does appeal to those who may too easily believe, it also appeals to those who are well-read in these areas and the just-plain-curious among us who want to see what they are doing. There are even web sites that show amateurs who try to do the same thing themselves. But there are also web sites that show people playing pranks on those watching looking for real footage of entities and then doing something on camera to make them jump, like the video Whoopi Goldberg showed on The View. But Ghost Hunters does not, in my opinion, bring itself credibility when it has investigators who think everything is paranormal, like Brian Harnois did. While I liked his enthusiasm and imagine he had a good friendship with the TAPS people, he was a bit too quick to jump to conclusions that a place was haunted or that an event was paranormal.
The show Ghost Hunters is becoming increasingly popular, at least according to a press release from Sci Fi, the station that airs the show. They don’t, however, say what organization has published those stats (Nielsen or otherwise). But at least at this time of year, there is more interest in things paranormal. And people look for things to watch on television related to hauntings and demons, etc. More channels offer shows about famous places that are supposedly haunted, And newspapers, like The New York Times, as I mentioned in my previous post, are featuring stories about hauntings, real and put on.
From that Times article, there is mention of Bonnie Vent of the San Diego Paranormal group, who channels dead people, many of whom are celebrities. The article mentions her channeling of a message from comedian George Carlin who died in June of this year. This video shows her channeling the "lovely stranger" ghost at the Coronado Hotel in
I am posting a video of Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson from Ghost Hunters when they appeared on The View this year. They talk about the way they go about debunking sounds and activity and what tools they use to investigate.
So I'm anxious to see them working live -- as I've missed them doing it the last two years.
More comments later this weekend....
Thursday, October 30, 2008
I'm going to write up something about the Saints for Saturday, All Saints Day. In my belief system about spirits and spirit guides, I (and others) see saints as some of those in spirit who help us in our day-to-day lives. I have certain saints I consider to be helpful to me -- and I've sought them out from the general Catholic understanding of patron saints. More later...
Monday, October 27, 2008
Friday, October 17, 2008
Hastings speculates that even in the face of reasonable evidence to support a possible idea, without absolute proof those in the science community are resistant to belief. Reasonable evidence is not simply someone saying they experienced something, but data that indicate a good reason to conclude something, and yet there seems to be a determination not to believe.
The scientific community is built on credibility and acceptance. If researchers deviate from the paradigms that have been absorbed as truths, they risk loss of credibility, sometimes for life. Examples of that in other fields of science -- medicine and physics, for example -- indicate that scientists who have contributed theories based on findings that go against prevailing ideas and paradigms have been ostracized and unsupported in further research.
But Hastings says NO EMPIRICAL CONCLUSIONS CAN BE ABSOLUTELY PROVED, and every scientific conclusion is believed on less than complete logical proof. The ironic part of trying to establish the paradigm of the existence or possibility of a non-physical world is that in order for it to be accepted, it has to be explained by the use of the physical because the rationale is often "something that is not physical simply is not real because "real" means "physical." So how do you show the existence of a non-physical realm within those methods?
Measurement. Matching an experience that does not fit within the accepted paradigm by use of a well-accepted part of the paradigm. Lucid dreaming was not taken seriously until electroencephalography was used to confirm the consciousness state of lucid dreaming.
In late September an announcement of a study on out-of-body experiences (OBEs) that will be done was made by researchers in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.
It makes me wonder if the use of measurement equipment in modern day ghost hunting (electromagnetic field detectors, thermal imagers, and digital voice recorders, as well as new tools that translate digital voice recordings immediately --those that are not picked up by the human ear), will constitute or are constituting now scientific evidence of the possibility of non-physical beings or activity or even communication with a non-physical world. One writer noted that there is no "proof" (or should we say evidence) that spirits emit high electromagnetic fields so we cannot say that unexplained high EMF levels are evidence of spirit activity. What I believe Ghost Hunters personnel usually say is that "the theory is that..." high EMF readings that are not attributable to anything physical may mean there is spiritual activity.
Monday, October 6, 2008
She would often visit me in my Long Island home and I used to say to her that when she died she should come and stay with me forever -- in spirit. I don't have any crisis apparition stories to tell (where she would have appeared to me at the time of her death), but as is reportedly the case with people who have passed trying to communicate with their families and friends, there have been interesting signs that lead me to believe she is around. Often, people report smelling a scent associated with the person, or hearing a song, or seeing that person's name in an unlikely place. After my grandmother died, my mother would smell my grandmother's favorite scented powder, even though my mother had given away all that powder when she died. My grandmother loved perfume and covered herself heavily with scented powder or lotion. The scent of the perfume was so strong in my grandmother's old bedroom that my mother was sure she was there. Now, my mother smells cigarette smoke and has seen a mist in the room. No one else will smell the smoke at the time my mother smells it.
For me, the signal that I gave my grandmother to let me know she is around is to let me hear her favorite piano music "Claire de Lune". She used to play it on the piano, and when I made a video of her life, that was the song I used as the introductory song. It is very interesting that I hear this song in many iterations in so many unique situations.
I broke my wrist and my mother had to come up from Florida to help me for a couple of weeks right after my grandmother died. I said to her in my mind, "If you are with us, play Claire de Lune when my mother and I are together." While driving me home from the doctor's office one day, my mother said she did not like the radio station we were listening to and asked me to change it. I said, "Okay, I'll put on the classical station" not even thinking about Claire de Lune. I was chatting away when my mother said, "Oh, listen, they're playing Claire de Lune." I was amazed! I had not even told my mother about the request I made to my grandmother before she came to stay with me.
After that, Claire de Lune was my signal. When I got a Fulbright to go to Germany, I was so grateful and astonished at having that experience. I thought it would have been so wonderful to be able to tell my grandmother about it. On the plane ride home, while watching the movie, Oceans 11, the song came on during the scene of the fountains at the Bellagio Hotel. Since that time, almost every time I go to Europe, I hear that song. The first time I was in Hungary, my friend was changing channels on his television when we saw a woman with a harp preparing to play. When she began playing, it was Claire de Lune. One time, I mentally told my grandmother how amazing it was that I was in Budapest every year -- the home of her parents -- and I said, "Hey, I haven't heard the song!" The next evening, I was walking down a Budapest street that I had not been on before and I noticed a comedy club. Thinking I should go there sometime, I walked past and inside was someone playing the piano, and the song they were playing was Claire de Lune. I even asked her to call me on the telephone (I had read that people claim to have gotten phone calls and messages from dead relatives -- so I asked her to call me). The next day, I got a message on my phone at work and there was no one on the line. Only the song Claire de Lune playing on the other end.
Only one time did I wonder about not hearing the song in Hungary and instead I heard Ravel's Pavan for a Dead Princess, which we played at her funeral, because it is one of my favorite pieces of music, which I hope will be played at my own funeral. (I know, morbid, but I am, after all, a princess).
My last story regarding Claire de Lune relates to a dream I had recently in which I was at a party and saw my grandmother there, sitting in a large upholstered rocking chair, as she always had in life. She was animated and laughing and nibbling on something (probably a mint). A woman at the party said it was funny that the rocking chair was moving on its own. Astonished, I said, "No, my grandmother is there!" The woman did not see her, and at that moment, my grandmother became transparent to me with a bright white light around her. She kissed me and laughed that the woman could not see her. I then partially woke up and said in my head, "Was that a dream or a vision of my grandmother?" And then I asked her to give me a sign if it was really her. When I got out of bed I went in to my living room and turned on the television. It was tuned to a PBS station on which a special about Victor Borge, the pianist, was on. At that moment in the program, he began to play Claire de Lune.
My brother has more vivid visits -- in his dreams -- from dead relatives, who bring him messages or show him they are still around and in good "spirits".
Sunday, October 5, 2008
I believe in spirits, spirits being non-living human entitites; and I believe in angels and demons. I also believe that each of us has a team of spirits who work with us as we go through life. I've begun to rationalize it as a sort of group project -- one of us goes into the physical plane and the others remain in the spiritual plane and we have certain tasks and lessons to accomplish through this experience. How I do here affects all of us, and they provide me with guidance and energy to assist me in the journey.
I truly believe that in the past, when I was half believing in this guidance, that I ignored some strong signals not to do something, and now I know why I got those signals when I did. I believe that my lack of attention to those signals also caused me to create problems for other people in my life, which sets not only me (and my spiritual team) back in growth, but others to whom I was responsible at the time. As a result, I try to be more aware of guidance that is leading me forward in my life to whatever it is I am supposed to do here. And being open to messages and "spiritual help" I believe has allowed situations in my life to unexpectedly develop in ways that I do not control, but are nevertheless for my benefit.
It is difficult to be completely open -- when someone betrays you, when someone is difficult to deal with, when seeming unfairness prevails--but it is like the story of the man with the horse...
it could be a bad thing, or it could be a good thing -- or it could just be the way it is.
I believe in ghosts and poltergeists. I have very little personal experience with them, myself, but I do have some experience and I know others who have seen ghosts. In one friend's house in Sag Harbor, Long Island, many people said they had seen spiritual apparitions, and had heard footsteps, saw lights, and had drawers open up by themselves, I only saw one thing--I was sitting on my friend's bed waiting for her to come back to her room from the kitchen. As I sat there I was watching the door to the attic which was across the hall. The doorknob was turning back and forth by itself. No one was on the other side of the door doing that. I was so amazed that it did not even seem real. When I told my friend, she said, "Oh yeah, that happens all the time."
I believe in my home on Long Island there were some ghostly or poltergeist experiences, as well. Several times while I was in bed in the mornings on the weekend (maybe a little later than I should have been) I either heard my name called or actually felt someone shove me in the back as I lay there. I also felt my bed go down as if someone had sat down by my feet, and once, as I lay on my stomach, it felt as if some invisible body had climbed on top of me and was holding me down.
One evening, my younger son came into my room after I had fallen asleep and said to me, "What are you doing in here?" He said he was in the room below my room and it sounded as if I were jumping up and down on the floor making loud banging noises. I had been sound asleep and heard nothing, and when he came in, I woke up and the noise had stopped.
On another occasion, when his girlfriend was living with us (these experiences seemed to have increased when she was there -- there is a theory that females in a house contribute to poltergeist experiences), I had gotten up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. It was about 3 a.m. when I went back to my bed and lay there trying to get back to sleep. As I lay there, I heard what sounded like someone else go into the bathroom and open and shut the drawers loudly, and then what sounded like plastic laundry baskets being thrown down the stairway which was on the other side of the wall where my bed was situated. I got up to see what was going on, and as I opened my door and looked in the bathroom, no one was there, but at the end of the hall, both sons were coming out of their rooms. The older one, whose room was directly across from the younger son's room, thought that the younger son was banging loudly on his door. The younger son, and his girlfriend, said they heard banging, but then the door to their bedroom slammed open and then shut again. He thought it was his older brother coming in late and waking them up deliberately. I told them what I had thought the noise was, and I looked down the stairs and saw nothing at the bottom to explain what sounded like something being thrown down. To this day we do not know what caused those noises, doors banging open and shutting.
What I believe (to be continued)....
This is the other side of the fear related to death -- scientific proof -- scientists are afraid to take any kind of report or research related to death and the dying experience as a serious account. But these scientists have had their own experiences and are documenting their observations and analyses related to their experiences. Note how the person who posted below is using a pseudonym -- and many of the scientists on this site do the same.
Here is William's:
William (pseudonym) has a Masters degree, when that was sufficient to begin in a field of science, and is now a Director of a research and development facility in Aerospace Engineering. This experience with a deceased friend happened to him as a teenager and totally changed his attitude toward life and death.
"My best friend, Mike, was in a car accident and for approx. a month was in a coma. One night I dreamed that he came to my parent's house. The dream was extremely vivid. We sat and talked for what seemed about an hour, about all kinds of subjects. Mike told me about the wreck, that his girlfriend had not died instantly (like the papers had reported) but that she was okay now, and that he was fine and would see me again one day. The odd thing about the dream was that it was completely real, but not surreal like most of my 'vivid' dreams. It really felt like reality. When Mike got up to leave, he mentioned that he wouldn't see me again for a long time, but that I wasn't to be upset, because he was fine. As he walked out the door, he looked back and said that his mom was about to call, and to let her know everything would be okay. I awoke with a start from the dream, and sat up in my bed. About one minute later, at around five in the morning, the phone rang. I had a room downstairs that had been a family room, and it had a phone. I got to the phone before the third ring and answered it. It was Mike's mother. She simply said Mike had died earlier that morning. I was still quite groggy from my sudden awakening, and all I could think of to say was, "I know. He told me." She started crying and hung up the phone.
"The thing that struck me about this incident was that at the time, it did not seem odd at all. It was simply a fact that Mike and I had talked prior to his leaving. It did not surprise me that Mike had died, because we had talked about that in our conversation, and Mike had told me that his mom would call, so the call did not even seem notable. I did notice a sudden change in my attitude after this event. Prior to Mike's death, I had been consumed by fear of death, often crying myself to sleep worrying about dying, even though I was brought up in a church environment that taught that death was not to be feared. After this incident, I lost my fear of death, but more than that, I gained a love of life, the absence of which had stifled my childhood.
"I never considered this a case of transcendental experience, in part because it was so normal and natural. However, had I not had this experience, I don't believe I would have had the courage to follow my creative scientific thoughts that lead to my leading an R&D team."
Copyright 1999 by the Institute for the Scientific Study of Consciousness. All rights reserved except as noted.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
"I don't wanna die, I wish sometimes I'd never been born at all" --Queen
I think I was born for this work. It seems to be my life's purpose -- to explore death. From the time I was five I suffered from thantophobia -- a strong fear of death -- which I don't have now, but it's been a long journey to get from there to here. What could POSSIBLY trigger such a fear of death in a five year old?
My father's father was riding to work in Manhattan on a LIRR train one morning in 1962 when he realized he had lost his wallet. At the time, I was a five-year-old sitting in my den watching television. My mother, of course, was vacuuming -- her favorite pastime -- and could not hear the phone when it rang. So I hopped up off the couch and picked up the phone in the hallway. It was my father's sister, Bette, asking to speak to my mother. I could tell my mother was upset while talking on the phone and did not really understand that my aunt was telling her that my father's father had suffered a heart attack on the train when he realized he could not find his wallet, and that he was being taken to the hospital. I think my mother called my father at that point.
The next phone call came in, and I answered it again. This time it was my father's step-sister, Carol. When I handed the phone to my mother, I heard my mother start to cry and say, "He was such a nice man." My next memory is of sitting in the same place on the couch in front of the television, this time at night with a babysitter next to me as my parents, dressed in black, were going out the door. Sometime later, possibly the next day, I recall that I was kneeling on the living room sofa looking out the front picture window at a gray day with a heavy rain, while a Rachmaninoff symphony played on the stereo. Everything just felt sad -- the music, the weather, the atmosphere in the house.
I was always the curious child who asked all the difficult questions. What was going on, I wanted to know. Grandpa H. had died. What's that? What does "died" mean? It means he is gone and will not come back. What? Why did that happen? His heart stopped and he died. I hope that doesn't happen to me.... It will. It happens to everyone. What????????? Don't tell me ! THAT is going to happen to me? And not just to me but to my PARENTS? And my BROTHER? and my OTHER grandparents?
That’s where it began. The fears, the sleepless nights, the sense of dread…who says childhood is innocent and carefree?
My older brother was the scientific type who read all the books about the planets and bugs and rocks and chemistry. I must have been about seven when we had a discussion about the end of the world. I said, “I’m afraid that the world will end during my life, and I’m afraid of what that will be like” Well, I said it in my seven-year-old voice and thought process. He told me, “No, the way the world will end is that the sun will die out and the earth will freeze and that won’t happen for a long, long time.” (so much for Global warming). “You will already be dead,” he said. There was that word again. So what was worse? Being dead before the end of the world? Or living UNTIL the end of the world. Either way, there was no way out of it. It just boggled my mind, and affected my ability to live without worrying about everything. At church, when the priests would talk about judgment day – how we would all rise from our graves to be judged by God on how we lived our lives – my seven-year-old mind saw that as the ultimate horror show. I ran out the door of the church on several occasions and threw up in the parking lot.
As a teenager, my fears became more real. I had heard about more people, even my own age, who had died. Frequently, my perceptions about being dead and being buried and no longer existing would overwhelm me in the middle of the night and I would go to my mother’s room literally screaming in fear that I needed someone to help me. Get me out of this situation! But she couldn’t. How could she? She was in the same boat. She stayed awake with me as long as she could and tried to help distract my thoughts – normally through a creative outlet like drawing a picture or a distracting one, watching television or reading a book. What did NOT help was when she tried reading the Bible to me – something that allayed her own fears, but stirred mine.
For a time I became excessively religious – almost superstitiously religious – and read the Bible on my own from front to back, listened to Christian radio stations and read every popular fundamental Christian book I could find. I became fearful of not following the rules that were set forth in those texts lest I not make my way to an after life in paradise. When I decided that I had allowed myself to become a doormat to those less concerned with being good people, I had had enough. The fear of death gradually became repressed, surfacing only briefly in the middle of the night through my early marriage, but the curiosity about it became stronger. I had to figure this out my OWN way in order to be able to put the subject to rest and get on with my life.
Today I will say that I have no fear of death itself, but perhaps the process of dying is scary – or the unknown hour of the event itself in my life. While I am more comfortable with my own demise, I have had only limited experience with other loved ones dying – and when my grandmother, to whom I was very close, died at 92, six years ago, it still felt wrong that she was no longer physically here. I dread to think how I will feel when my own mother dies or if I were to lose someone else I am close to. My eldest son is a fireman, and people ask me if that scares me. It does not. But I cry when I see mothers of firemen who have died holding their sons’ photos or helmets and mourning their loss. I can imagine their pain of loss, but think that what I have come to believe about death will make future loss of that kind in my life easier.
So how do we learn to come to terms with death? I can’t possibly have been the only child to experience that dread. My younger son said to me one day as a child that he did not want to get old and die. I knew what he was feeling. But he has had close friends die at young ages – 14, 19. He’s seen classmates die in car accidents. It scares him, and he does not want to talk about it openly to me. But he knows that I have strong beliefs about life after life and if he needs to he can come to me.
Americans tend to ignore death’s reality. Doctors don’t like to tell their patients they are likely to die. At funerals, the dead are positioned to look as if they are asleep, and there are even drive-in wakes – where you drive up to a window to pay your last respects. Death is not treated realistically in movies or television shows. More than sex, it is the great taboo that people don’t want to hear about or witness or think about in any realistic way.
Religion is supposed to provide the answers, but as a society we look more and more to science to give us the REAL story. And in religious circles, what is written about in a book for one group can differ from what is written about in another – and on top of that interpretations by religious leaders and scholars bring more variation to the answers.
Science looks at death from THIS side of the coin. What can they find out up until the point of death, and what do they observe happening to the body. They might look at what people say before death, or how they act. (Do they talk about knowing they will die? Do they see or hear things that are related to their possible imminent death?) Even Near Death Experiences (NDEs) have been investigated, but are controversial. If it can’t be proven, documented or replicated, can it be scientifically sound evidence? (a TIME magazine article in September 2008 notes that Dr. Sam Parnia of NY's Weill Cornell Medical Center will be doing a study to investigate claims of outer-body experiences during operations, taking the lead from numerous patients over the years who claim to have knowledge of what was going on in the room while they were being operated on, from a point of view near the ceiling of the room).
In the early 19th Century, scholars and psychologists, and physicists (see Ghost Hunters by Deborah Blum)were looking into claims of psychic experiences, ghostly apparitions, communication with the dead, and with powers that defied the normal realm of experience for most human beings. These visionaries saw a need to investigate claims by the masses to assuage fears and defy exaggerated claims while determining the legitimate experiences from the fraudulent.
What is interesting about the death phenomena is that people tend to choose a belief and stick with it no matter what may be presented as evidence. Their belief may be what you see is what you get – you die and it’s over—or the faith-based religious claims to what they can expect. No matter that the ideas presented by religions are not evidence based or proven scientifically, people are willing to buy into that. When television or the internet provide experiences surrounding death or life after life as an alternative way of documenting the idea of death, people often weigh that against their scientific or religious dogma, without seeing it as a source of information about what other people are finding out or experiencing in their lives about these issues. OR, they watch the shows or go to the sites and find it hard to believe that the things claimed to have happened, really did happen. And then there are those who take those personal experiences of real people and make their own judgments about what is really happening.
These are the issues I want to explore. Because, as the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying says, we are here to prepare for the afterlife. And to prepare for the afterlife, we need to know what to expect or it will overwhelm us. I liken it to preparing for childbirth – when I was pregnant with my first child, I read a book about childbirth in which one woman described it as “feeling like being run over by a train.” Ugh! Again. No way out of this—that baby was coming out of me one way or another, just like I was going to leave this earth someday, one way or another. But a nurse told me that not knowing what to expect in childbirth made the process so much more scary than it had to be. And I believe that not knowing what to expect in death – or not knowing what one believes about the afterlife – makes the reality of it that much more difficult. And the way we as individuals deal with that knowing is what I am exploring, especially in its iterations through popular culture.
In my life I have great luck with money and achievement--sometimes more than most other women. Where I do not have luck is with relationships -- and sometimes it seems in that arena I also have more (lack of luck) than other women. At one point in my life I decided to take ballroom dancing in lieu of therapy for depression -- depression brought on by said lack of luck in relationships. Over the five year period I danced with my teacher, John, it became apparent that the lessons I learned on the dance floor could possibly constitute a philosophy of life.
For a woman on the dance floor, as my teacher told me over and over, it is imperative to the success of the dance that I let the man come to me. "Don't be so anxious to do the next step that you anticipate his next move or mess up the rhythm by rushing through the move you are doing together." I had to stop my natural urge to take the reins and make the dance my creation. Until I learned to do that, I could not truly enjoy dancing at its best. For years, other male partners I danced with at social events would say to me, "When are you going to learn to follow?" It's a hard concept for a woman like me, one who had learned in life to take charge of a household and situations that needed handling, to give up “contributing” my management of a situation, even if it were only a dance.
What I finally learned, to the extent that I DID learn to follow, was that I had to provide the man with a ready form – a dance position indicating that I was ready to take his lead and one that would make it easy for me to know what he wanted me to do. I had to be patient and not rush the steps and not crowd him so that he had to take a step back or move out of my way.
While John and I would joke that perhaps I should use what I learned on the dance floor in my relationships, I said that it didn’t always work that way in real life. But I HAVE found that in many ways it does. Particularly at the beginning of a relationship—when things are new and not clear about what direction they will take. It makes me cringe to say it, because the 1970’s feminist doctrine I grew up on is fighting that notion, but it seems that it works much better to wait for things to happen than to make them happen. And maybe that is not true for generations that follow mine – they were brought up in times past that when only men would be the leaders. Perhaps that is the key to the cougar phenomenon – younger men liking the cougar (feminist era) women taking the lead with where things will go. Somewhere in there is a desire for a balance of movement, leading and following, and enjoying the dance.
LIFE AFTER LIFE LESSONS -- "Look for the Ringpop"
An interesting philosophical/spiritual side to the idea of taking the lead and learning to follow is emptying the mind. “To look for reality is delusion. Not using the mind to look for reality is awareness. Freeing oneself from words is liberation,” says the Bodhidharma. I first learned about this concept in the half sleep-half awake state early one morning before work about 11 years ago. I was counting the minutes to the time I had to force my weary body from the warm secure comfort of my bed and in my half sleep – or possibly in not using my “mind” but my unfocused awareness—I realized something that is actually hard to put into words. The thought, if I can call it that, that I had at that moment was that while on the clock there were four minutes until the time I would be getting out of bed—there actually was not a certainty that I would be getting out of bed in four minutes. That each of those moments was an eternity in itself for whatever I was experiencing in that moment – that while I was lying in bed, that was the reality of my experience and that in less than four minutes, when I was expected to get up, anything could happen to change that future reality. I could suddenly die and never get out of bed, or an explosion could occur making it impossible for me to get out of bed. So that my true reality was that for that moment I was in bed, perhaps for eternity, until I actually would get out of the bed. And that I should experience that fully for the time it is my reality. I later came to learn about that as a meditation skill of "being present in the moment. "
Akin to that concept was the fact that actually experiencing it as an awareness happened while not thinking – but perceiving the eternity of the moment – perceiving that there is a reality beyond what my mind creates as reality. And what I later learned that to be, in reading The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, was that perceiving my life as being on one side of a veil beyond which lies the true reality – the rigpa—is a lesson necessary in life to prepare oneself for death. To see the reality beyond the veil, to look for the rigpa, the true reality behind what is happening in my life.
This had been a concept that came to me in other times of my life, often quiet and pensive moments that I could sneak in during highly stressful times that made me wonder why life had to be so hard. I would see the light from a window shining onto a tabletop and it would trigger in me a realization somehow that the things happening around me were not the important thing to focus on – that there was an ongoing higher level to everything I was experiencing.
I was explaining this concept to my friend on a subway, after I had read about it in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, and in straining to hear me over the background noise of the train, she asked, “Look for the what? The ringpop?” We laughed at the thought of that – ringpops are lollipops shaped like gems atop little plastic rings that kids can wear on their fingers. While shopping soon after that I came across a bin of ringpops in a store and bought two for each of us to hang on our bulletin boards at work to remind us to “Look for the ringpop” in our daily experiences to keep things in perspective.
Moral of the story? Letting go of control and preconceived notions and experiencing things beyond our idea of reality.
Friday, September 26, 2008
My work includes marketing and public relations for Teachers College. In this role social media and having an effective online presence is an important skill. We are debating about whether we want to have a Wikipedia for our unit.
Additionally, I import Hungarian Wine, and began a blog at some point that described my experiences in becoming a wine importer and why I chose Hungarian wine to import. My web site for my company, Kristof Wines, is being used to educate and provide interactive feedback on the wines. I plan to include video clips, blog entries, and chat boards to bring interactivity to the educational site. Perhaps I will create a Wiki for my company.
My goal in this class is to learn how to take the various social media and web features and put them together to create the possibilities described above for my business and my role as Director of Marketing.
I may also like to find ways to publish my ideas on paranormal-based reality television as well as to possibly conduct interviews with people who watch these shows to add to my data collection.