Saturday, December 18, 2010

Report and Video on Paranormal Research Presentation

Here is a small piece of a talk I gave during Halloween week on Research and Musings behind Paranormal Television. (click on link to read article and watch video). I was hoping to show how traditionally schooled scholars have explored things like telepathy, communication with the dead, crisis apparitions, near death experiences, and more. My next talk at Teachers College looks at Death in Popular Culture on or around February 3rd in the Gottesman Libraries.

Ruminations on the New Year

Christmas is a week away, and New Year's Day, two weeks. My 18-plus months of unemployment has kept me focused on the spiritual, the paranormal, the dead and the meaning of life, mostly through my readings and writing for my dissertation: How Do Fan/Viewers Use Paranormal Television and Related Media to Interpret Death and the Notion of an Afterlife.

In between, I have watched television and dvds related to these topics, as well--obviously television is the research focus, but I really am interested in finding answers and other ideas from cultures around the world.
I enjoyed watching a DVD called All is Made Beautiful: Native American Traditions with Oh Shinnah Fast Wolf and, after consulting the related web site, began doing some morning prayers of thanks, asking for blessings, and blessing my food. (Growing up, my parents said the traditional Christian prayer before meals--"Bless us, O Lord, and these, thy gifts, which we are about to receive from thy bounty, through Christ, our Lord, Amen"--which my ex-husband described to my then future sister-in-law as, "They say mass at the dinner table."). For many reasons I like Oh Shinnah's blessing of the food--first you rub your hands together to generate energy. John Edward does this prior to his readings. I wonder if Reiki master's do it, as well.

Second, you create a mudra with the forefinger and thumb of each hand and hold your fingers wide open over the food, picturing a green healing light penetrating the food. I've always heard of green as a healing light. In relation to Archangel Raphael, the healing angel, and in relation to other "New Age" traditions, as well as the heart chakra emanating a green light. And the heart is the strongest source of energy in the body. So this felt right to me.

Third, you circle the food three times saying three times per rotation, "to help and to heal" for a total of nine recitations. 3 x 3 = 9 Three in the Bible is completeness. Nine in numerology is a complete cycle. So three threes, three cubed, total completeness. It makes sense numerically. It makes sense, spiritually to bless food and recognize its value to life.

Fourth, you take some of the food and give it back to the earth. It feeds the earth as the earth as fed you. It's the basis of composting, it's balance, it feeds the insects and creatures that keep the earth healthy which keeps us healthy. It's the cycle of life.

My family members think I've gone off the deep end by seeing things this way, but if we don't all begin to see things this way, WE will be the ones who are eliminated so that the earth and its non-destructive creatures can go back to the balance that its health requires. The planet won't die, necessarily, but we certainly will not survive unless we do the right thing.

About eight years ago, I had read about another Native American tradition in the book Write it Down, Make it Happen. It was a Native New Year ritual for eliminating things from one's life and bringing in new things. I really wanted to do this ritual when I read about it, but there were challenges. First, I needed arrows with black feathers and arrows with red feathers on them. Not something you can pick up at the corner store. I also needed tobacco. No one in my family smoked, thank goodness, but that meant finding a place that sold loose tobacco leaves. And third, I needed to be up before dawn on New Year's Eve day to do this ritual, which was best done on an uneven area of land. I could have easily done it in my own backyard, but my yard was flat without even a mound of dirt. So the creative side of me kicked in and I fashioned six arrows from long, pointed wooden skewers and I taped blackened paper to three of them (to represent feathers) and red-colored paper to the other three. I stopped at a cigar store in Huntington, NY, to get some loose tobacco. (I actually could have gone to a shop with Native American spiritual items in Huntington, too, but I guess it hadn't occurred to me then).

I then wrote down the things I wanted to eliminate from my life and wrote down the things I wanted to bring into my life. There was something about doing a drawing of it to keep. And something about writing each request on a slip of paper.

On New Year's Eve day -- December 31, 2002--I got up around 5 a.m. and drove, in the frigid morning hours, to a nearby state park, which was gated. However, while I couldn't drive into the park, I could walk around the gate, which I did. I went in just far enough to be away from the road but not too far in to be at a safe distance from my car. I could barely see. But I found an area that had a low spot and a slightly higher spot of land. I sprinkled tobacco in a circle on the low area and stuck the three arrows with black "feathers" into the ground with the requests for what I wanted to rid my life of. At that point I was supposed to say a prayer and burn the arrows. Not wanting to be arrested for starting a fire in a public park, I instead, as the writer of the book did, buried the requests in the circle near the arrows. I then moved to the higher ground area and did the same ritual with the red arrows and the requests for what I wanted to bring into my life. I said a prayer and buried the papers. I then hurried back to my car and drove home, back to my warm bed with the hopes of fulfillment of my requests dancing in my head. The Great Spirit instead of the Great Santa (or Santini) doing the work.
The next day, New Year's Day, I mentioned my early morning ritual to my mother-in-law, whose ideas of the world were more along the mundane, everyday expectations of most Americans. Why I mentioned it to her, I don't know. I think she asked me what I did for New Year's Eve, expecting to hear something about champagne and partying. When she heard I drove to a state park before dawn, her first response was, "Weren't you afraid of being raped?" (Not in that cold weather that early in the morning in the suburbs--but you never know, I suppose). When I told her about the ritual I had performed and why I had done it (to ask for change to come into my life for the new year), she said, "Why don't you just pray to Jesus like everyone else does?"
Cracked me up. I'm sure people do pray to Jesus with the same intention, but the act of actually making the preparations, writing down what I hoped for, and making the effort to go out into the cold in a natural setting kind of stirred up the intention within me. And I believe it is not the ritual or the words, but the INTENTION and the level of FEELING surrounding it that matters most. And apparently, that's what all the New Age writers are saying these days.

I doubt I will go out into the early morning hours to be planting arrows in Central Park in a circle of tobacco leaves this year. But I would like to continue bringing in new ways of seeing the spiritual side of life and bringing its possibilities into my physical reality.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Experience Your Good Now!

Louise Hay's new book Experience Your Good Now will be out on Tuesday, May 18th, and with it a CD that lets Louise talk to readers with reinforcement of her philosophy and encouragement for maintaining a positive outlook every day. Hay House was kind enough to send me a copy of the book and CD to review.

I've been a fan of Louise Hay and her publications since I first listened to her book You Can Heal Your Life on tape about a decade ago. I have to admit that at first I was skeptical that just saying positive statements could change anything more than my mindset, and even that would take some doing--more than just saying something that I wanted to be true. I had been taking antidepressants and contemplating divorce for several years, and it seemed to me that it was the act of believing lot of fairy tale hype about love and the American dream that had set me up for the let down I was experiencing. So did I want to believe in this positive affirmation philosophy as the answer to my life's problems? This was before the success of The Secret and before I knew anything about the Law of Attraction or Napoleon Hill's Think and Grow Rich.

It's not a new idea to believe in and focus on what we want. In fact Louise often quotes biblical texts that make reference to the fact that everything we need is provided for us--Matthew 21:22, "And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive," and Mark 11:24 "Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them."This is the key, Louise says -- believing you already have what you want, what you are asking for, saying it with love in the present tense (e.g. "My income is constantly increasing" or "I always work in harmonious surroundings.").

To some people, this approach seems a bit too "woo-woo" to even take seriously. Why say things "with love"? But Louise's Hay House colleague, scientist Gregg Braden, supports the notion of emotional expression of what we want as a key to changing our circumstances, and at the very least, our health. He cites experiments that show that the heart produces much more electrical and magnetic energy than the brain does, and that if thoughts are energy capable of changing the web of energy around us, emotions are even more likely to do so. The human heart, he says, is designed to change the electrical and magnetic field far beyond the space around us, which can thereby change atomic makeup. What Gregg talks about provides the scientific basis for what Louise has been saying for decades--that our feelings can rearrange the essence of the world around us so that the world reflects the reality of those feelings.

What convinces me to take Louise seriously is her own story of being an incest survivor who carried a burden of low self-esteem for years, and a cancer survivor who, after having worked with AIDS patients in the 1980s to improve their health through positive affirmations, found herself faced with her own health problems and the opportunity to practice what she was preaching. Gregg Braden also experienced a similar serious health issue and healing which he credits with the use of positive emotional focus in addition to medical care. Louise's positive outlook, her beauty, self-confidence, and warm way of communicating with others is a testament to the fact that she has not succumbed to what could have been a negative outlook based on unpleasant experiences in her life.

While this book re-states much of what Louise Hay's New York Times best seller You Can Heal Your Life touches on, she brings in affirmations that address negative thoughts about aging and death, which is new to her repertoire and good to see addressed. Much of our culture ignores those two realities and many people suffer silently in denial, fear or uncertainty.

I really like the CD and the idea of hearing Louise's soothing voice and encouragement and her own personal experience. Even though I am cognizant of these principles and believe they have worked in my own life, I fall into the usual negative self-talk and thinking and forget to use these precepts. Experience Your Good Now was a good reminder to me in facing whatever challenges are in my life now to make those changes in my thoughts and feelings. It is a small, easy-to-read book and the CD lets me keep my mindset where I want it to be.

With the publication of this book, Hay House is also offering a chance to win a spot on an "I Can Do It! At Sea" Caribbean cruise in January 2011 to spend a week with some favorite Hay House authors. Click on the above link or go to to enter. Share it with your friends online and get more chances to win. People who enter the contest also receive several free downloads from Hay House and a coupon discounting the purchase of a Hay House publication.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Let the Deceased Decide

Check out my article TLC's Paranormal Court is in Session on Technorati about the newest paranormal show featuring medium Robert Hansen, from Long Island.

Here is a preview from YouTube.

A number of years ago I had gone to a Borders book store where Hansen appeared in front of a group of believers hoping to get a message from beyond. A good friend of mine did get messages from her brother -- or at least answers that fit the personality of her brother. I thought some of those answers could have been from the person I was hoping to hear from -- my grandmother--but I didn't claim them and my friend did.

I subsequently went to see Hansen give audience readings (a la John Edward's gallery), which he did at the time in his karate school in Wantagh, Long Island. I did not get a reading that night, though I paid to be there. I noticed a few years ago that Hansen was doing regular Saturday night audience readings for a reasonable price on Long Island, and never had the chance to go. It just bothered me to keep paying to go, and not to get a reading.

At least the Spiritualist church in NYC where I went to a seance gave everyone a reading who paid to participate -- don't know if that is a good or a bad thing -- makes you wonder if they are really getting a message or just making sure you get your money's worth so that you'll keep coming back.

Unfortunately, I was out of town the night this aired and I was unable to DVR it. I asked a friend to tape it, which he did, and he accidentally taped over it. So I guess I wasn't meant to see the show. However, I understand that he gave readings similar to the way Lisa Williams did on her show "Lisa Williams: Life Among the Dead" but that Hansen has a specific mission of solving disputes, and that when he gave the answer, everyone agreed to abide by the "ruling."

For a couple of reasons I hope Hansen's show succeeds -- one reason is the selfish fact that I am writing about paranormal television for my dissertation and the other medium shows have been cancelled, for the most part, except for Psychic Kids. The other reason is that I think Hansen is a good medium and a really nice person. I just don't know if the whole premise of the show will fly or at least be sustainable for the long haul. I think just doing a basic show about a medium's work is better than a medium with a gimmick, but this show is airing when the others are not (Cross Country with John Edward, and Lisa Williams: Life Among the Dead).

Good luck, Robert. Hope to see more of your show, and more of your peers.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Wayne Dyer's "The Shift" -- Nothing is Everything

Humans at every level of society, from renowned philosophers to ordinary individuals, have sought meaning in life and in death. What does it all mean? What is the meaning of my life? Is there a purpose, and if so, am I fulfilling it? How can I know?

We live in a time when meaning is primarily associated with what we do, who we are, or what we have accomplished, yet all too often a sense of meaning eludes us despite our best efforts. Is a job or career really the basis of a meaningful life? Is the kind of car we drive or the brand of clothes we wear going to ultimately make us or break us?

Wayne Dyer’s new book, The Shift (Hay House, 2010), and its related DVD, explore the concept of meaning as it relates to our place in the world as well as the universe. The thread Dyer follows throughout the book relates a sense of nothingness to where we come from – “It appears that nothing exists at the moment of the transition to something….we originated from something that has no form, no boundaries, no beginning, and no substance” – to where we belong—“[T]he most efficient way to know and experience where we came from is to make every effort to reconnect to nothing by creating the experience of no attachments, no things, and no thoughts…”—and where we are going--“That which is formless cannot be destroyed,” he writes. “[O]ur essence is eternal, and it is only the physical body that appears to come and go in a cycle of birth and death.”

As a writer and speaker who touches frequently on Taoist philosophy, Dyer often quotes Lao-tzu and the Tao Te Ching, and the philosophy that “by doing nothing, everything is done.” While we undergo an earthly experience, he says, we struggle while attempting to let ambition and achievement dominate our day-to-day lives. Letting go of everything and all our attachments rather than pursuing a sense of entitlement through ambition, brings us back to where we came from, and thus provides us with a sense of meaning and connection with the source from whence we came. Instead of continuing to strive without arriving, it is only when we let go, that we finally do arrive.

The “shift” refers to what Dyer calls a “quantum moment” in which an individual experiences a fall of some kind. It is a quantum moment in that its extraordinariness produces an epiphany and a sudden transformation. Again quoting from the Tao, he writes, “Hidden in all misfortune is good fortune.” Once we decide to make the shift, we go through a series of U-turn processes that change our focus from the external to the internal, from the world to the Spirit.

Dyer has focused on the spiritual perspective before in his books – providing us with spiritual solutions, insights into the power of intention, perspectives from the masters of philosophy. What this book offers for us today in a time when unemployment is at a peak, our sense of security is fragile, when earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes and other natural disasters plague us in ways we have not seen before in recent times, is the guidance to make the shift to find our way to the inner sense of security that we arrived with. The second part of the title of The Shift is Taking Your Life from Ambition to Meaning. When you’ve been thrown overboard, going from a six-figure job to serving beverages in a coffee bar, or driving a Lexus to taking the bus, does that loss of status mean a loss of self? Dyer provides the life preserver that allows us to find our way back to the shore.

It is, in a sense, the opposite of The Secret, which focuses on manifesting worldly wealth by creating our own reality. Rather the "shift" is eschewing a reality of worldly wealth and finding contentment in a world of carefree acceptance of what is. Letting go of ambition, to go from the role of a human doing to becoming, once again, a human being. Is it possible? How often do we hear of people getting to their deathbed only to realize they missed what they come to believe is the point of life. They “gained the world and lost their soul.” The Shift implores readers to re-examine things sooner rather than later, and to find that meaning now instead of wasting a lifetime looking for peace in all the wrong places.

Note: The blogger for this post received this book for free from Hay House in order to write this review

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Haunted on Animal Planet

I think it's great that just about every cable station has one or more paranormal reality show on it. When I saw that Animal Planet had a show about hauntings (The Haunted) I laughed. What could the rationale possibly be for Animal Planet to be showing a ghost show? Duh! Animals are more aware and sensitive to paranormal activity. Of course!

Which begs the question then why, if animals can sense things that we cannot, are they not brought in for these threats more? They are used to find bombs, bed bugs and bodies and other things that have specific smells. Even with the terrorist threat, they bring in expensive technical equipment to look at us naked. Instead, have a team of dogs each with its own special scent tracking capability and have them walking around the security lines at airports. Then pick the people off the line and forget about questions of racial and ethnic profiling, the dog would give reason for checking them out.

By the same token, we have a whole show about how sensitive animals are to the paranormal and ghosts and demons and spirits, etc. Why then do we have a gazillion paranormal investigation shows -- plumbers, cops, Texans, college students, mediums, private eyes, etc.-- and not ONE of those groups uses dogs or other animals to detect the presence of spirits. (the canary in the coal mine, so to speak). They have EMF detectors that MAY or may not reveal paranormal activity. They have digital cameras, digital voice recorders, infrared, full spectrum cameras, thermal imaging cameras. All kinds of man-made devices -- they even have psychic mediums who, I guess, could be called the "dogs" of the human race -- who are more in tune with these non-physical presences than the rest of us. But you have to PAY psychic mediums for their time. You can just FEED a dog and throw them a biscuit. Give them a place to sleep at night.
Last night's The Haunted on Animal Planet featuring Carrie, her sister and mother moving into a haunted house prompted me to wonder why, if people realize something is wrong, do they choose to ignore it? Obviously the dogs were barking for a reason. They were acting strange as if there were an intruder. They were acting afraid. Why do people ignore that? (on a side note, I read an article by a man who said that the behavior of the dog during the Nicole Brown Simpson murder should have been part of the evidence because that specific breed behaves in a different way around its master than it does around a stranger, and that dog behaved in a way that indicated the master was present at the murder scene--in other words a stranger did not commit the murder, OJ did). But I digress.
The other thought I had was that people do not believe what is happening because society tells them that these things are not possible or people who believe in spirits, ghosts, demons, psychic phenomena are kookie. We have no place to get legitimate information (other than these paranormal shows--which is another risk of being considered kookie, if we believe what's shown on these programs), so there is no place to really get such information on demons, spirits, and what is known and what is normally done. This family knew something was not right but thought by ignoring what they saw going on that life would be normal for them. When their dogs are barking and trying to protect them in the middle of the night from things they did not see, they go under the covers. They have no knowledge of how to get psychic and spiritual protection. Even religious institutions do not give much credence (publicly) to these encounters or make known what they would recommend in the face of a demonic haunting or a negative entity attacking someone. Paranormal media actually is the only place where one finds out about burning sage, the St. Michael prayer, excorcism or house blessings, demonologists (like Lorraine Warren), rescue mediums, Native American beliefs about the dead. What we don't know can hurt us, and it is what these people don't know that leaves them vulnerable.
Another question I had was about real estate -- trying to sell a home that is known to be haunted or have demonic activity. I wonder if there is a haunted real estate site that let's people who are interested in being in such a place know where they can buy one. If you are afraid people won't buy it because it is haunted, then figure out a way to market to people who WANT to live in a haunted location. Perhaps paranormal investigative teams could buy such a place and use it to train new people -- like Ghost Hunters Academy did in specific haunted locations. Once on Ghost Hunters a southern paranormal investigative team brought in TAPS to allow them to train a new investigator in a house they knew to be haunted. Why not buy up these places as training grounds for teams. An offsite training weekend for the paranormal.
On another note, I am seeking people who watch paranormal television to tell me their stories about why they watch and whether the programs have changed their views on the paranormal, and if not paranormal, death and afterlife beliefs.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

High EMFS on Ghost Lab vs. Ghost Hunters

Has anyone else noticed that when Jason and Grant's team members on Ghost Hunters are getting high EMFs around electrical wiring or pipes, etc., they do not attribute any of those readings to paranormal activity? They say that the high EMFs make people feel as if they are being watched or can give them hallucinations or make their hair stand on end. But they discount claims by people based on those traceable EMF readings.

On the other hand, Barry and Brad Klinge on Ghost Lab attribute those areas of traceable high EMF readings to being a cause of paranormal experiences.

So basically Ghost Hunters says areas that create high EMFs due to a high number of electrical connections cause a PERCEPTION of paranormal activity that is not valid, while Brad and Barry claim those areas that generate high EMFs are like a "nest" that draws out actual paranormal events.

ASSAP web site does talk about this on their website under "Ghosts, Baselines and EMF meters."
Here is an excerpt from their article about EMFs and hauntings:

Can EMF meters detect paranormal activity? Given the problems outlined above, it seems unlikely. In summary:

•EMF meters cannot show frequency data so that different readings cannot be compared
•there are many natural sources of variability and spikes in low field areas (including non electrical sources) which cannot be easily distinguished with EMF meters
•EMF meters cannot identify 3 phase interference
•EMF meters cannot identify fields capable of causing hallucinations (EIFs)
In addition, EMF meters are often not used in the best way they could be. Problems include:

•baselines at the start of vigils which are little better than random
•what constitutes 'paranormal activity' is often poorly defined making comparisons between different vigils and different sites problematic
•mediumistic information is sometimes included as 'activity' even when nothing is witnessed by non-mediums
•paranormal activity is not always investigated exhaustively to eliminate natural causes

Brad and Barry do an EMF "sweep" prior to the investigation -- getting an overall baseline reading of the entire area. Jason and Grant don't show that they do that (they might, but we don't know). ASSAP says that a proper baseline EMF reading should be taken over a 24-hour period prior to an investigation, and that there are other types of readings, called EIFs (varying magnetic fields), which may explain possible hallucinations that seem like a haunting.

ASSAP says the best way to do EMF readings is:

A single baseline measurement is therefore not very helpful. A much better solution is a 'positional baseline'. With this sort of setup you position a pair of EMF meters so that one is in a 'hot spot' (where lots of paranormal activity has been reported) and the other in a control area (somewhere nearby and as similar as possible but with no reports of activity). In this setup, instead of comparing readings to a more or less random baseline, you compare contemporary readings in different places. The 'control' instrument effectively provides a continuous baseline for the 'hot spot' one. It is then easy to spot if there are higher readings at the hot spot compared to the control.

I have not seen any of the paranormal investigation teams doing this or reporting this methodology being used in an investigation.

A new show called Paranormal Cops debuts this week on A&E, Tuesday night.

Keep up to date on paranormal reality shows being aired each week by following @dhdobry on Twitter.

SNL Parody of Celebrity Ghost Stories

I thought this would be interesting--a popular culture version of an officially produced popular culture program. SNL parodies Celebrity Ghost Stories.