Monday, December 16, 2013

REPOST: 'Before I Die' walls turn dreams into words

Candy Chang created the first ‘Before I Die’ wall in 2011 after experiencing grief and depression. Today, more than 400 walls have been created in 60 countries and in 25 languages that let people share their hopes and dreams on public spaces. CNN’s Emanuella Grinberg discusses further what has become a global art project.
(CNN) -- After losing a close friend to liver failure, Candy Chang spent a lot of time thinking about how she wanted to live out her days. Contemplating death brought clarity to her life, but she struggled to maintain perspective amid the daily grind.

She wondered whether other people went through the same struggle, and what mattered to them. She decided to invite others to share those thoughts by painting a chalkboard on the side of an abandoned house in New Orleans stenciled with the sentence "Before I die I want to ________."

What began as an experiment in making a public space into a shared space has become a global art project, with more than 400 "Before I die" walls in 60 countries and 25 languages. It's been quite the journey for Chang, who did not launch the project with plans to expand beyond New Orleans. But it resonated among pockets of passionate people around the globe.

Image Source:

"Our public spaces are as profound as we allow them to be," Chang, an artist, designer and urban planner, said in an e-mail.

"Our public spaces are our shared spaces, and they have a lot of potential to offer us a more valuable and meaningful kind of life. I think about why we came together in the first place. Some of the earliest gathering places were graves and sacred groves. We gathered so we could grieve together and worship together and console one another and be alone together."

Many of the walls disappear a few months after they're "born," just like Chang's did, after someone bought the building and renovated it. Then, others pop up. Such is life.

In honor of the release of the first book celebrating Before I die's global footprint, we asked Chang to reflect upon the most common themes expressed in the walls. Hopefully, they inspire you to reconsider your hopes, dreams and aspirations.
James Van Praagh is a spiritual medium whose messages of hope and love have brought personal and spiritual growth to many people around the world. Visit this website to get your daily dose of inspiration.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

REPOST: Recalling Painful Lessons in Forgiveness

Forgiveness inspires people to become better human beings. A former drug addict writes on The New York Times of her mother has ceaselessly nurtured and forgiven her despite causing her sadness and disappointment for decades. "All I need to do for my mother, to restore her tarnished dreams and mend her broken hopes, is to take care of myself," she realizes.

Image Source:

My mother started screaming, and I whipped around fast enough to see her staggering from my car, hunched over, hugging her arm to her belly.

“He bit me, he bit me,” she wailed, her voice deep and hoarse with shock.

I ran over and held her small shoulders, then cradled her head in my hands as if she were a child. How many times had she held me the same way over the years, trying to absorb my pain and fear?

She rocked her body, sobbing quietly. “I can’t look. I can’t look at it.”

Her hand had disappeared into the sleeve of her quilted jacket. For a second, I wondered if my dog had bitten off her entire hand, and I was relieved when I peeled back the sleeve to see all four fingers and thumb intact. Blood was dripping from somewhere, though.

I shielded her hand from her view and turned it over. Bright blood pulsed out of a deep puncture wound in the meat of her palm, and little purple dots around the front and back of the hand formed a diagram of my Rottweiler’s jaw.

“It’s going to be O.K.,” I said. “Let’s go inside. I’ll clean you up.”

As she took the long way around the garage and through the garden to avoid passing my car again, I felt the gnawing simmer of heartburn in my throat and a deep hollow sadness in my chest.

At the door, my father took my mother by the arm and brought her in while I picked up the sandal she had lost during the fracas. My inability to turn back time, to close the window or warn her not to reach her hand into the car, was sucking the air from my lungs.

It is so perilous to love people because eventually you will hurt them, and in my mother’s life it seems as if I have too often been the cause of her pain. How many times has she felt this much pain over something I have done or not done, or been or not been?

“You were our dream,” she wrote years earlier on a scrap of loose-leaf paper during a family-day exercise at one of my rehabs.

My stomach lurched when I read it. Even writing about it now, years later, makes something old and deep twinge inside me.

I have dreams for myself. I know how much they matter to me. I know how fiercely I want and love, and how much it can hurt to love someone. Which is why the timing of my mother’s bleeding hand seemed so unfair, after she had let down her guard and allowed herself to dream for me again.

She doesn’t have to worry anymore that I will die of self-inflicted wounds or doses. She no longer has to lock up her valuables when I am visiting, or worry about me making my money in ways she considers unseemly, or wonder if everything I am saying is a lie. She can mostly trust that I am a functioning adult human being who may still flounder but doesn’t violently flail anymore.

I brought her some peroxide, poured it on her hand and then began hastily packing my car. I wanted to leave as quickly as possible, to remove all evidence of my sloppy, destructive existence from my parents’ calm, sweet Connecticut home and protect them from me by getting in my car and disappearing.

I grabbed an empty pack of Marlboros I had filled with cigarette butts and left on my parents’ deck. This is what I leave in my wake: tears, blood, garbage, a mess to be cleaned, a doctor to be seen, emotions to be processed and restorative actions to be taken.

I started my car and drove recklessly down the street to a place I could park, smoke and cry. I thought of my mother hunched on the toilet with her hand in the sink, of her dreams for me, and how I always have smashed them. How I began stealing from her before I was 10, how she had to sleep with our food locked up because I might binge eat too much of it during the night and then throw it all up by morning.

I thought of my mother on her hands and knees, scrubbing up my messes, wondering if I was ever going to be O.K. I thought of the time I ran away from our New York City home in the middle of the night at age 17, leaving no trace, and of how in her search for me she had gone to some of the S-and-M clubs downtown — my sweet mother, whose cheeks glow red when she has a little wine, walking into an S-and-M club looking for her missing daughter, her dream, among the hookers and johns and addicts.

I remembered her standing on the steps of the fancy Connecticut rehab center she sent me to, commiserating with the other parents over the frustrations of the insurance system. I thought of the many favorite sweaters of hers I have taken over the years because they were soft and cozy, and how she searched for them, wondering if her memory had failed her, never turning them up because I had left them at the bottom of one of my purses.

I thought of her arriving at the hospital while I was getting an overdose pumped from my stomach, of her knowing I had tried to throw away the life she had given me. I remembered how angry she was but how she always took care of me, how she never told me I was beyond repair or that she couldn’t help me.

I turned so many of her dreams for me into nightmares. And as I think, at 30, about my own dreams; about the fantasy of having a beautiful child who will love me and grow strong, proud and capable; and of the family I could have, I realize what I have taken from her — decades of hopes, expectations, plans, ideas and desires. I took them all.

I took them with my stealing, lying, alcoholism, eating disorder, drug addiction and suicide attempts. Because of my theft, the blood coursing out of her hand feels as if it is pouring from my own heart. I am unable to give her back those years or restore those hopes. I can’t do that anymore than I can turn back the clock to before I let her stick her hand in my car window.

As I sped away that afternoon, with sheets of rain pouring onto the windshield, images flashed through my mind of all the sweet and tender things my mother has done for me. The ice cream cone she bought for me to share with my dog just that afternoon. The backpack and travel clothes she gave me before I left on my trip to Asia. The newspaper clippings she regularly mails to me, and the special food she always has in her cabinet when I visit. She is always thinking of how to make my life easier and better.

I probably would have lost my life along the way if my mother hadn’t been there to pick me up and help me get back on my feet. Remembering all of her hopes and kindnesses filled my eyes with hot tears until I was unable to see the road and had to pull over.

I turned around and looked at Max, my Rottweiler, and tried to dredge up anger toward him. I tried to want to yell at him, to hit him and to call him a bad dog. But I couldn’t. I felt only compassion for him, for how scared he must have felt to lash out like that.

The truth is, I understood him. I understand the creature that hurts someone irrationally and unnecessarily. I know that feeling and have caused that pain — not with my teeth but with my choices, my life.

Max stared back at me with his guileless eyes. He wagged the stump where his tail used to be and licked my hand when I reached back. He had already moved on from that sorry episode even if I had not. And my mother probably had moved on, too; she is like Max in that way.

And I realized that all I need to do for my mother, to restore her tarnished dreams and mend her broken hopes, is to take care of myself. Her hand would heal with a scar just as my life has. It would never be undamaged again, but it would hold a memory, a story.

Beyond those stories and scars, and despite the sadness and disappointment I have brought my mother over the years, all she wants is for me to be happy, decent and settled.

I can do that, I thought. I can do that today. And I have.

James Van Praagh is a conduit of love, comfort, and healing who believes that life's experiences expand people's souls and make them the person they are. This website provides media resources on inspiration and meditation.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

REPOST: Choices in life

Celebrity psychic James Van Praagh writes about how personal choice has a profound effect on one's destiny.

Image source:

Every day people all over the world share a several universal experiences, and the most common one of these is CHOICES. Life is made up of choices. I believe life is just a series of decisions we make and depending on our choice, must live with the result of that decision. The choices usually consist of a multitude of possibilities and, whether real or imagined, we must recognize that in some way the decision will change our life forever. Therein lies the rub. Because there are so many factors involved with our decision-making and with its unknown result, many of us hesitate to even make a choice, thinking it would be safer and that we’d be better off where we are instead of delving into the unknown. Just think of how many events in history would never have occurred if someone did not make the choice to do something different, unknown, unproved or un-experienced? How many relationships would never have been realized without making a particular choice? Many would say that we have no control over our world or what happens to us. I say perhaps you cannot control the world, but you can certainly control how you chose to react to various situations and how you will handle them. Depending upon the type of choice it is (such as a lifestyle decision) if we don’t have a multitude of possible options, we seem to become anxious and confused. So how can you be reassured that you have made the right choice especially when it affects a major aspect of your life? Well, I am a firm believer that we as souls have various destiny points we must live through in this lifetime, which we have designed prior to our incarnation before we ventured back into this three-dimensional world. But with these destiny points firmly implanted in our soul make-up, we also have “free will” and can choose how we will live through the situation at hand. For instance, before making a knee-jerk reaction and judging someone, instead, you can take a moment and attempt to understand why this person is behaving a certain way and you than may choose to react to the situation in a healthier, constructive way and demonstrate some compassionate.

When making a choice one must be aware of how their choice will affect the future ramifications of their lives. Of course there are different types of choices; some are easy to make, while others are more difficult. For instance, an inconsequential choice is easy, such as if I should buy that new piece of clothing. But other choices which will affect other people’s lives are more difficult. Still, as I mentioned earlier, the choices regarding life decisions such as career, moving, etc…are very difficult because in many of those cases the response to that choice will be longstanding.

In assist you in making these decisions, I have put together a criteria which you can use while making a choice:
  • What is important and valuable to you? What you value may not be of much import to someone else. So know what you value most.
  • Don’t lose focus of your future. Many people tend to make choices based on life as it appears right now instead of looking to the future. Does your choice and its ramifications stay within the goals that you have set for yourself for the future?
  • Have you looked at all the alternatives and considered different scenarios? Sometimes you just might consider a different outcome.
  • How important is this decision and are you willing to work on it? Don’t get caught up with how important a choice is but, better yet, what a positive impact this has on my your life.

Don’t forget to use your “intuition” for your choice instead of your head.

I always find that the more one knows about themselves and their place in the world, the easier the choice. One must always make a choice which is the best for their “highest good”. In saying that, the only right answer would be the one your “highest good” will tell you. Before making any major choice in life I gift myself with time to sit and contemplate. I bring myself into a meditative state and bring myself into the stillness of the silence. It is in that silence, where one communicates with their soul’s needs and understandings. Just putting forth the question to our higher self while in mediation, you will receive a clear indication what is right for you and in alignment to your highest good.

Always remember and bear in mind that life is a series of choices and mostly all choices are based on two things, love or fear. Both can masquerade in different ways along your path, but love what you do and do what you love. Make the choices in your life that will make your soul sing and sustain a happy life during your earthly mission. Just think: the choice you make today could make not only your life happier, but make a better world in which we live.

Visit this website for more updates from James Van Praagh.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

REPOST: Does Transcendental Meditation Actually Work?

Transcendental Meditation is a specific form of meditation that promotes a state of relaxed awareness with the aid of Vedic mantra. Jeff Halevy discusses in the article below the purported health benefits of this meditative practice and reveals the secret to reaching the state of pure consciousness.

Image Source:
Transcendental Meditation (TM) is easily one of the most hyped forms of meditation. Since The Beatles first tried it decades ago, it's garnered the following of a bevy of celebrities and high profile individuals, like Russell Simmons and Jerry Seinfeld.

TM also has one of the largest libraries of scientific research supporting it, substantiating claims of everything from increased cardiovascular health to decreased violence to increased creativity. But celebrity endorsements and even the best academic studies can hardly be relied on as conclusive proof.

So why has this method of meditation endured the test of time and received a stamp of approval from doctors and celebrities alike?

In short, because it works.

This writer recently learned the technique at the New York City TM Center and has been pleased with the results. Here's one reason why it may work so well.

Without going too in-depth, the TM technique is relatively simple. One sits comfortably, closes his or her eyes, and repeats a mantra (in Sanskrit) without moving the lips or making a sound for about 20 minutes, two times a day. Yes, that's just about it. The only other crucial piece of information one must know to do the technique correctly is to not 'force' anything. That is, allow thoughts to come and go – and if one realizes he's stopped repeating the mantra in his head, to just gently come back to it.

But wait – that can't be all there is to it, right!? Actually, that really is most of what it boils down to. So how can this simple method improve cardiovascular health? And how could it possibly make you more creative?

The key here is conditioning, and in fact, the TM technique can be thought of as a conditioning technique.

Conditioning, or programming, is a phenomenon that must take place in order for us to live our lives. Conditioning can happen over time, or in an instant. We learn that a flame is hot, for instance, and condition ourselves to fear making contact with flames. We develop what we believe are "natural responses" to specific stimuli – not all that different from Pavlov's dogs.

When we practice TM, we're conditioning our minds to have a completely new response to thought itself. When we have a thought, we'll usually have one of two reactions, or a combination of the two:

1) Emotion: We'll think of something that triggers some type of emotion. This reaction isn't necessarily extreme, but it's always there. For example, we may think of a relationship or business deal gone bad, and as a result – even if only mild and temporary – we'll have a shift in emotional state. In this example it could perhaps be sadness or anger.

2) Action: Another reaction to thought is action or planned action. The simplest example: You think "I'm hungry," and as a result, get something to eat or make a plan to get something to eat. Note that the action needn't be immediate. For instance, haven't you ever, out of nowhere, thought about an old friend and made a mental note to call her at a later point? "Action" here can also mean internal physiological responses, tied to emotion, such as elevated blood pressure, sweating, increased heart rate and so on.

Now, if you're practicing TM correctly and have an upsetting thought, how will you react? If you answered "You won't," bingo!

As mentioned above, when one practices TM, she gently returns to the mantra once she realizes she has drifted to a thought. This means no reaction. One doesn't dwell on the thought, take the time to invest emotion or carry out action – one simply just returns to the mantra.

And, again, what does this do? It completely changes our standard reaction to thoughts – our 'conditioning' or 'programming,' if you will.

The two 20-minute sessions of TM one practices daily are no different than practicing for a particular sport. If you've ever tried a combat sport for instance, you have to completely recondition your "natural" response of turning away from – or turning your back to – an attacker. This takes time and repetition, but after a while, you've completely reconditioned a "naturally programmed" response.

TM helps in much the same way: If our "naturally programmed" response is to be reactive, either with emotion or action, TM helps us practice being non-reactive to thoughts.

And this is exactly why it can help lower blood pressure or even increase creativity.

Just think, if you're able to either eliminate or mitigate your action (internal or external) or emotional reaction to thought, wouldn't that lower your blood pressure? If you've been practicing TM consistently, when a thought that may spike blood pressure or the emotions or actions that lead to a spike in blood pressure comes along, your reconditioned, non-reactive response should ensue, thereby averting the emotion or action response that would normally take place.

In the case of creativity, imagine thoughts not disrupting the creative process when you're trying to write, paint or play music. Again, the reconditioned non-response allows you to focus on what you're doing, and not get distracted by thought – for example, "Will people like this song?"

The good news and the bad news is we're not so different from Pavlov's dogs. If we use the ability to condition our response to thought, we can reap tremendous benefits; if we allow ourselves to simply play into existing conditioning, we know just how detrimental that can be. From a neuro-psychological perspective we can see why TM really does work. And while learning the method can be a bit on the expensive side, it may be well worth the long-term return.

James Van Praagh helps people expand their awareness of the world outside and beyond through workshops, meditation techniques, and other activities that encourage spiritual learning. Visit his website to learn more about the various states of consciousness and awareness and how they affect your emotional and spiritual self.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Reincarnation and the reason for being, after death

Image Source:

As a concept, reincarnation is like the Zodiac—not many understand it and yet many claim to believe in it. It has been interpreted in many ways, mostly by pop culture, but its true adherents believe it to be no more than a journey that the soul takes towards a higher status.

Reincarnation appears in many belief systems, although it is most well-known as a feature of Hinduism. It is believed to be a form of life after death, wherein a person is reborn as a completely different being after passing away. In Hindu belief, a person may take on a different form in the next life depending on karma, a process that leads toward the highest form of existence. For the Hindu gods, this may not be the case. In fact, Vishnu, the Preserver, was believed to have had several reincarnations in order to save humanity from one form of problem or another.

Image Source:

Medium Joseph Tittel considers reincarnation the soul’s way of acquiring lessons before becoming whole. He believes that every lifetime, the soul takes to heart one big lesson, only to learn another in a future existence. If the soul decides to give up—as in suicides—or does not learn its lesson, then it will be reincarnated to patch the failure to do so.

There are many believers of reincarnation today. Among them are the adherents of Tibetan Buddhism, who believe that their leader, the Dalai Lama, is the reincarnation of all previous Dalai Lamas. Additionally, the newest member of the British royal family is even believed by some to be the reincarnation of his grandmum Princess Diana.

Image Source:

Reincarnation is actually more complicated than it sounds. Medium James Van Praagh conducts seminars on the subject. Visit this website for a complete list of workshop schedules.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Dreams as portals to creativity and intelligence

“Dreams are communication from your unconscious mind, a vast source of creativity, and your connection to the cosmic forces,” writes James Van Praagh on his Facebook page. The author and spiritual medium believes that legends have mastered their craft through dreams.

Image Source:

His reflection holds truth. Even in the scientific community, there are many researches that prove the potency of dreams to improve memory and creativity. A 2010 study led by psychiatrist Sara Mednick reveals that people who recall vivid dreams performed better on creativity-oriented word problems than those who seldom remember theirs. The creative edge of dreamers, according to the researchers, lies on vivid dreams’ potential to improve the “ability to see connections among seemingly unrelated things.”

Science aside, it is almost a universal experience that bright minds create ideas through visions. Mental imagery of situations that may not exist in reality have guided some of the most innovative and groundbreaking creations.

Image Source:

Dreams also connect people to God. In the Bible, for instance, great men, like Joseph (Israel’s son) and Paul (the Apostle) shaped the fate of humanity by relaying the message of God from dreams—Joseph through fortune-telling, Paul through writing.

In modern times, people still experience vivid dreams. However, most of them are too distracted by “real world stuff” that they ignore the messages of their subconscious. Little do they know that their dreams could hold the answers to their daily tribulations.  

Image Source:

James Van Praagh advises people to write down their dreams in order to relive them through creative visualization and unravel their message. Visit this page to better understand how dreams change lives.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

REPOST: Why 'The Conjuring' could be James Wan's Scariest movie yet

Not all true stories translate well in the silver screen, unless they were created with utmost care and accuracy by their filmmakers. In the poltergeist film "The Conjuring," the good old-fashioned suspense element has worked to the movie's advantage, earning it numerous plaudits from critics. Hollywood writer Kelsea Stahler even called it as probably director James Wan's scariest film to date.

Director James Wan is synonymous with blood-curdling horror, thanks to his work on the first Saw movie. His creepy vision introduced us to the world of Jigsaw, a serial killer so terrifying, audiences can't stop coming back to him. Then, he terrified us even further when he played guide to a story about a young, comatose boy whose family was trying to prevent evil spirits from taking him. Now, he's on the trail of two famous ghost hunters. It's a tale steeped in elements of reality we haven't seen in his other films, yet it's the one that had the potential to scare us the most.

At his New York Comic Con panel for The Conjuring the somewhat true story of famed ghost hunters, Ed and Lorraine Warren, Wan was joined by leads Patrick Wilson (Ed Warren), Ron Livingston, and Lili Taylor (Livingston and Taylor play a haunted husband and wife), and they all proceeded to terrify Con-goers with the never-before seen trailer and a clip that was both hilarious and panic-inducing.

Step one was to express how real these ghosts are to the subjects of the film, the real-life Warrens. Wilson spoke about visiting the couple along with his co-star Vera Farmiga (who plays Lorraine Warren), who keep a room of haunted artifacts they swear are capable of bringing destruction. "We love [ghost stories] and yet we're always trying to debunk it... So it's a tough thing when they believe it so strongly," says Wilson of the Warrens. He adds an anecdote about touching "the Annabell doll" and how both Ed and Lorraine swore it would bring harm, and even cited an incident in which a man touched the doll, and when he was leaving, crashed his motorcycle and died. While it's easy to write all the ghosty nonsense off, all it takes is a small detail like that to give the film enough credibility to do some serious scaring. And between that story and the fervent beliefs of two very real people, Wan may just be onto something.

Plus, it scares him. A lot. And if he's to be believed, that's a sign he's onto something good. Wan says the way he chooses to do films is by picking things that terrify him. "I'm a chicken s**t, that's how I can make these films," he says. "That's kind of like my therapy."

It shows. In the lengthy clip Con-goers saw from the film, it's the simple things that can be most terrifying.

In the full-length scene, we find Taylor's character playing hide and seek with her daughter, a game in which the daughter hints at her location with a simple "clap, clap." But when Taylor follows the clapping to an empty wardrobe (the one we saw the witch-ghost jumping off of in the trailer) as her daughter walks up behind her, confused as to why her mother would be looking in there, it's clear the ghost games have begun. Taylor still hears the claps later that night, and as she follows them, jarring phenomena continue to startle her. All the family photos along the stairs come crashing down as if someone is walking along the wall and thrashing them, one by one. Then, as she wanders through the house, turning lights on as the claps lead her toward the desolate basement, the sense of terror is at an all time high. Then she actually looks down into that basement chasm, and braving the cloudy darkness, reaches for the light switch, breathing a sigh of relief when nothing appeared. That is, until the light bulb shatters and goes out. Alone in the dark, Taylor lights a match, and for a moment, it seems she was imagining it all. Until, in a flash, and right next to her face filled with terror, come two, grimy, ghostly hands. Clap-clap.

To be perfectly honest, I just got scared writing that description. And that's because sometimes, the stories that are the most terrifying are the ones that prey on your simplest, most common fears. We've all gone creeping through our homes, seeking the source of a strange noise, and the longer we go without an answer, the more we imagine the sound is coming from something horrible. In minutes, it can go from a raccoon snooping in the trash, to a burglar, to an ax-murderer, to a blood-thirsty ghost. And in this case, all that ghost did was have a little fun, and yet, that scene is mind-bendingly terrifying. Wan may be onto something here.

James Van Praagh is an author, producer, and television personality known for his alleged ability in clairvoyance and as a spiritual medium. To know more of his most recent activities, visit this website.

Monday, July 22, 2013

REPOST: A New Explanation for Loch Ness Monster?

In 1933, a certain Mr. and Mrs. MacKay reported seeing a massive creature frolicking in Scotland's fabled Loch Ness. But scientists, to this date, remain skeptical about the occurrence of such a large monster. Recently, however, new “sightings” of the beast are again surfacing in the news. Read this article for more details.

The legend of Scotland's Loch Ness Monster is getting a good shakedown.

The elusive plesiosaur known as "Nessie," who is said to have first appeared in Britain's largest lake 13 centuries ago, may be nothing more than an illusion caused by earthquakes, according to an Italian scientist.

Luigi Piccardi, a geologist at the Italian National Research Center, presented his theory today at the Earth Systems Processes conference in Edinburgh.

Piccardi deduced that seismic activity in the Great Glen Fault, which runs underneath Loch Ness, releases gas bubbles, resulting in a violent commotion on the water surface. That commotion, says Piccardi, could be mistaken for sightings of Nessie.

A Small Sample of Reports

Although there are more than 3,000 known reports of Nessie sightings, Piccardi analyzed fewer than 40 of those incidents.

"When you look at the reports of people who saw the monster, they say we heard a great noise, saw a large commotion in the water, and that the waves rocked," says Piccardi. "They say we couldn't see the beast because the water hid the creature. The usual sighting is humps moving in the lake and normal waves, which can be related to the seismic effect."

Even the earliest account of the monster, from the seventh-century Life of St. Columba, pointed to an earthquake as the source, according to Piccardi. While walking along the shore of Loch Ness, the saint, who warded off the monster by "forming the saving sign of the cross in the air," experienced strong shaking.

But Piccardi will have a hard time swaying the staunchest Nessie-believers. Gary Campbell, president of the Loch Ness Monster Fan Club in Inverness, Scotland, disputes Piccardi's findings.

"Most of the sightings involve foreign objects coming out of the water. There's two most common — one's a hump, and the other is a head and neck," says Campbell. "At the end of the day, there's still sightings that are inexplicable. There's something physical in there."

The first locally recorded sighting of Nessie took place in 1868 and spoke of a huge fish, but the phenomenon of Nessie sightings didn't take off until 1933, when a Mr. and Mrs. MacKay reported seeing a massive creature frolicking in the lake.

Piccardi points out that the spate of sightings in 1933 and 1934 took place just before the last major earthquake in 1934.

The researcher, who specializes in finding seismological explanations for ancient myths, believes that the magic of the Loch Ness monster will live on, despite scientific explanations. "This will demonstrate an important side of human culture. It shows how myths can be so easily believed in, because people still believe in them today."

James van Praagh’s books on clairvoyance and mediumship, particularly “Talking to Heaven,” have reached the New York Times best seller list several times. Visit his website to know more of his works.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

REPOST: The Biology of Kindness: How It Makes Us Happier and Healthier

Kindness does not only beget friends but also good health. Read this article from Time magazine and start taking your daily dose of kindness.

There’s a reason why being kind to others is good for you — and it can now be traced to a specific nerve.

When it comes to staying healthy, both physically and mentally, studies consistently show that strong relationships are at least as important as avoiding smoking and obesity. But how does social support translate into physical benefits such as lower blood pressure, healthier weights and other physiological measures of sound health? A new study published in Psychological Science suggests that the link may follow the twisting path of the vagus nerve, which connects social contact to the positive emotions that can flow from interactions.

Image Source:

The researchers, led by Barbara Fredrickson, professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, recruited 65 members of the university’s faculty and staff for a study on meditation and stress. Roughly half were randomly assigned to take an hour-long class each week for six weeks in “lovingkindness” meditation, which involves focusing on warm, compassionate thoughts about yourself and others.

In the class, the participants were instructed to sit and think compassionately about others by starting to contemplate their own worries and concerns and then moving out to include those of more of their social contacts. People were taught to silently repeat phrases like “May you feel safe, may you feel happy, may you feel healthy, may you live with ease,” and keep returning to these thoughts when their minds wandered. They were also advised to focus on these thoughts, and on other people, in stressful situations like when they were stuck in traffic. “It’s kind of softening your own heart to be more open to others,” says Fredrickson.

The group not assigned to the meditation class was placed on a waiting list for a future class. For 61 days, all the participants logged their daily amount of meditation and prayer (those in the class were encouraged to practice every day) as well as their most powerful experiences of positive and negative emotions. They were also tested before starting the six-week class and again after completing it on their heart-rate variability, which is a measure of how “toned,” or responsive, the vagus can be.

The vagus regulates how efficiently heart rate changes with breathing and, in general, the greater its tone, the higher the heart-rate variability and the lower the risk for cardiovascular disease and other major killers. It may also play a role in regulating glucose levels and immune responses.

In addition, and relevant to the study, the vagus is intimately tied to how we connect with one another — it links directly to nerves that tune our ears to human speech, coordinate eye contact and regulate emotional expressions. It influences the release of oxytocin, a hormone that is important in social bonding. Studies have found that higher vagal tone is associated with greater closeness to others and more altruistic behavior.

More of the meditators than those on the waiting list showed an overall increase in positive emotions, like joy, interest, amusement, serenity and hope after completing the class. And these emotional and psychological changes were correlated with a greater sense of connectedness to others — as well as to an improvement in vagal function as seen in heart-rate variability, particularly for those whose vagal tone was already high at the start of the study.

“The biggest news is that we’re able to change something physical about people’s health by increasing their daily diet of positive emotion, and that helps us get at a long-standing mystery of how our emotional and social experience affects our physical health,” says Fredrickson.

Simply meditating, however, didn’t always result in a more toned vagus nerve. The change only occurred in meditators who became happier and felt more socially connected; for those who meditated just as much but didn’t report feeling any closer to others, there was no change in the tone of the vagal nerve. “We find that the active ingredients are two psychological variables: positive emotion and the feeling of positive social connection,” she says. “If the practice of lovingkindness didn’t budge those, it didn’t change vagal tone.”

More research is needed to determine how large these changes can be and if they can be sustained, as well as how the feelings of social connectedness interact with compassionate meditation. But, Fredrickson says, “We’ve had a lot of indirect clues that relationships are healing. What’s exciting about this study is that it suggests that every [positive] interaction we have with people is a miniature health tune-up.” Being a good friend, and being compassionate toward others, may be one of the best ways to improve your own health.  

James van Praagh is a conduit of comfort, healing, and love who helps people unlock the power to heal themselves and move on from the pain of losing their loved ones. This article explains how mediums help people develop their spirituality.

Friday, April 26, 2013

REPOST: Mindfulness meditation lowers stress hormone cortisol: study

This article reports on a new study by the Shamatha Project at the University of California, Davis, which shows the direct relation between mindfulness meditation and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. 

Image Source:

Making an effort to be mindful, whether by practicing meditation and breathing techniques or focusing on the present moment, can lower the levels of stress hormone in the body, a new UC Davis study found

A new study adds to a growing body of evidence that mindfulness meditation could be the elixir to the ailments of modern life. The latest study finds that focusing on the present -- or being mindful -- can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

"This is the first study to show a direct relation between resting cortisol and scores on any type of mindfulness scale," said Tonya Jacobs, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California Davis Center for Mind and Brain. Findings were published this week online in the journal Health Psychology.

The new study is the latest to come from the Shamatha Project, a comprehensive controlled study of the effects of meditation training on mind and body. The project has drawn the attention of both scientists and Buddhist scholars including the Dalai Lama, who has endorsed the project.

In the new study, the team used a questionnaire to measure aspects of mindfulness among a group of 57 volunteers before and after an intensive, three-month meditation retreat. They also measured cortisol levels in the volunteers' saliva.

At the retreat, the participants learned mindfulness skills such as breathing techniques and "observing the nature of consciousness," the researchers explained. Individuals who scored high on the mindfulness questionnaire also had low levels in cortisol, both before and after the retreat. Subjects whose mindfulness score increased after the retreat also showed a decrease in cortisol.

Another recent study published in the journal Brain, Behavior & Immunity in 2012 finds that mindfulness meditation can help older adults battle feelings of loneliness while also boosting health. A prior study also found that mindfulness meditation, along with moderate exercise, was linked to a reduction in the severity of colds and flu during winter.

Allow James Van Praagh, renowned psychic and meditation expert, to assist you on your way to self-healing and discovery. Visit this website to know how you can reach your highest spiritual potential using a unique and enlightening meditation program.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

REPOST: Compassion Made Easy

Compassion is not only a way to please God.  A social psychologist elaborates how people can cultivate compassion to foster social harmony.

ALL the major religions place great importance on compassion. Whether it’s the parable of the good Samaritan in Christianity, Judaism’s “13 attributes of compassion” or the Buddha’s statement that “loving kindness and compassion is all of our practice,” empathy with the suffering of others is seen as a special virtue that has the power to change the world. This idea is often articulated by the Dalai Lama, who argues that individual experiences of compassion radiate outward and increase harmony for all.

Image Source: The New York Times
As a social psychologist interested in the emotions, I long wondered whether this spiritual understanding of compassion was also scientifically accurate. Empirically speaking, does the experience of compassion toward one person measurably affect our actions and attitudes toward other people? If so, are there practical steps we can take to further cultivate this feeling? Recently, my colleagues and I conducted experiments that answered yes to both questions.

In one experiment, designed with the psychologist Paul Condon and published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, we recruited people to take part in a study that was ostensibly about the relation of mathematical ability to taste perception — but that in actuality was a study of how the experience of compassion affects your behavior.

Each experimental session consisted of three individuals: a real participant and two confederates (i.e., people who secretly worked for us). First, the participants were told that they had four minutes to solve as many of 20 difficult math problems as they could and that they would receive 50 cents for each one they solved correctly. Twenty was far more than the typical person could do; the average number solved was 4. After time expired, the experimenter approached each person to ask how many problems he or she had solved, paid the person accordingly, and then had the person place his or her work in the shredder.

The situation was rigged so that the experimenter would run out of money just before paying the last person, Dan, who was a confederate. While the experimenter left to get more money, Dan dumped his work into the shredder in full view of everyone. When the experimenter returned, Dan reported that he had completed all 20 problems and had already shredded his work to save time. The experimenter paid him the full $10. But it was obvious to all that Dan had cheated. (There was also a “control” variation in which Dan did not cheat.)

Everyone then moved on to the “taste perception” phase. Here, participants prepared taste samples for one another, and the real participants were assigned to prepare the taste sample for Dan. The sample they had to prepare required them to pour extra-hot hot sauce into a small cup. They were led to believe that whatever they poured into the cup would be placed in Dan’s mouth in its entirety. What did they do? They did exactly what you would expect: those who saw Dan cheat poured more hot sauce into the cup — three times more, on average — than did those who did not witness the cheating. In so doing, they were intentionally acting to cause him pain.

Image Source: New Pathway to Healing
But what of compassion? In a third variation, we had Dan cheat, but before preparing the taste samples, the other confederate, Hannah, began to sniffle and tear up. When the experimenter asked her what was wrong, she said that she had recently learned that her brother had received a diagnosis of a terminal disease. With increasing tears she asked to be excused and the experimenter complied. The participants and Dan then continued as before, though with quite different results: participants who saw Dan cheat poured no more hot sauce than did those who did not witness his cheating.

Before preparing the taste samples, we also had the participants fill out a questionnaire about their present feelings (among other items). The degree of compassion they were feeling directly predicted the amount of decreased hot sauce they poured for Dan.

It seems, then, that the Dalai Lama is right: the experience of compassion toward a single individual does shape our actions toward others.

In another study, published in the journal Emotion, the psychologist Piercarlo Valdesolo and I conducted an experiment ostensibly about music perception — but that actually investigated how feelings of compassion might be increased.

Our hunch was that compassion is easiest to feel when you have a sense of commonality with someone else. So we paired up participants in teams: one real participant and one confederate. First, they had to tap their hands on sensors to tones played over earphones. In some cases the tones led them to tap their hands in synchrony; in other cases, the tones led them to tap their hands in a random mismatching manner.

WE next had the participants watch their tapping partner get cheated by another confederate, which resulted in the partner’s erroneously being assigned to complete a stack of onerous word problems. As our participants were leaving, they were informed by an automated message that if they desired, they could help complete some of the work assigned to their partners. If they did so, we timed how long they spent working on the task.

The results were striking: the simple act of tapping one’s hands in synchrony with another caused our participants to report feeling more similar to their partners and to have greater compassion for their plight: it increased the number of people who helped their partner by 31 percent and increased the average time spent helping from one minute to more than seven.

What these results suggest is that the compassion we feel for others is not solely a function of what befalls them: if our minds draw an association between a victim and ourselves — even a relatively trivial one — the compassion we feel for his or her suffering is amplified greatly.

What does this mean for cultivating compassion in society? It means that effortful adherence to religious or philosophical dictums (often requiring meditation, prayer or moral education), though clearly valuable and capable of producing results, is not the only way to go. There is nothing special about tapping in synchrony; any such commonality will do. Increased compassion for one’s neighbor, for instance, can come from something as easy as encouraging yourself to think of him as (say) a fan of the same local restaurant instead of as a member of a different ethnicity.

Simply learning to mentally recategorize one another in terms of commonalities would generate greater empathy among all of us — and foster social harmony in a fairly effortless way.

Psychic and New York Times best-selling author James Van Praagh encourages spiritual learning, grief support, and friendship through his books. Visit this website to get inspiration.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

REPOST: The Power of Love

Many people consider love as the strongest force on earth, able to move mountains and cross vast distances.  In this article from Omega, Cheryl Richardson explains how the power of love may be tapped to attain healing for the self.

Stronger than anger, hatred, or revenge, love is the force that has the ability to heal everyone, because love is an act of self-care.

Much like electricity, love is the energy that runs through each one of us. You share this energy in many ways. For example, reaching out to hold a hand or touch a shoulder passes the energy of love through your touch. Speaking kindly to another passes the energy of love through your words. The deliberate use of this force—this energy—produces predictable, powerful results. People feel your love and are healed.

A few years ago, I experienced how the power of love can heal even the most challenging situations. One summer day, my friend Max and I were driving to a supermarket to pick up food for lunch. Traveling down our favorite beach road, we came upon a young man backing out of a driveway. As I stopped to let him out, I was surprised when he continued moving backwards until he hit my car. Because he gently tapped the bumper, I thought nothing of it, until he stepped out of his car and informed me that I had hit him. He proceeded to beep his horn until neighbors came to the scene.

I stood by my car, in a state of shock, as I heard him request an ambulance for his injured neck. Had Max not been there as a witness, this stunning act of injustice would have made me question whether or not I really hit him. In the next few months, I wound up in the center of a lawsuit for injuries, pain, and suffering.

I was angry. I felt betrayed and I wanted to hurt this young man. Truth be told, I really wanted to hurt him. My mind and heart couldn’t understand why someone would be so blatantly dishonest and manipulative, and I felt compelled to fight back. But, after getting caught up in the slow-moving legal system, I decided to try something different: I sent him love. I asked God to send this young man whatever he needed, so that he would not need to get it from me in this unlawful way. After all, I figured that if he would go to this extreme to get money and attention, then he must have needed it pretty badly.

For two months, every day, I imagined him surrounded in love, getting all of his needs met. Now, trust me, I'm no saint. And I’m not suggesting that sending love is easy in the face of injustice or betrayal. (Nor am I suggesting that you do so in place of taking firm actions to protect or care for yourself). I am suggesting, however, that for those circumstances that are beyond your control, sending love can be a powerful healing act. As I sent this man love, I noticed something miraculous: I felt better. I relaxed about the situation and was better able to let it go and allow the process to play itself out.

One day, out of the blue, I received a phone call from the police, telling me that a mysterious witness had appeared and the case had been dropped. In that moment I understood the power of love. Stronger than anger, hatred, or revenge, love is a force that has the ability to heal everyone involved. Sending love is also an amazing act of extreme self-care. Because of this experience, I've made the act of sending love my "default button" in any challenging situation. You can, too. Is there someone right now who needs your love?

Each day you receive messages of love. Sometimes you're awake enough to notice them and sometimes, in your busyness, you can sleep right through them. There are very direct messages, like an, "I love you," from someone close. And there are the more subtle messages, like the driver that lets you into traffic, or the person that holds the door for you as you enter a building. Why not become more conscious of your ability to be a messenger of love?

Each morning, imagine you are given a large pocketful of love to share with others throughout the day. Your mission is to empty this pocket daily. You might decide to simply say, "I love you," to your son or daughter (it's usually the people closest to us that need to hear it the most). Or, you may want to send love to someone that has caused you harm. Regardless of the situation, stop right now and choose someone. Then, pick up the phone and tell them. Or, sit quietly and imagine your energy of love radiating outward and touching another’s heart.

Medium James Van Praagh supports self-healing through the use of emotions.  This website offers more insight into the philosophy of his works. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Haunted by the living: Famous PK phenomena

Accounts of hauntings are a dime a dozen throughout human history. While most of them feature the same characteristics (e.g., moving and levitating objects and unexplainable noises), not all of them are wrought by the dead. Indeed, experts of paranormal phenomena recognize another case of “hauntings” caused by living people with a unique gift called psychokinesis (PK).

Stanislawa Tomczyk

Image source:

A renowned medium, she experienced supernatural activity akin to a poltergeist haunting as a young girl. It was later discovered that she was causing objects around her to move using her mind. She became the subject of many experiments which yielded remarkable results in controlled test conditions. It was found that she could move objects only when she was under hypnosis and under the control of an entity called “Little Stasha.” Her abilities included producing movements even without physical contact, such as stopping a clock inside a glass case and influencing a roulette to turn out the numbers she chose.

Eleonore Zugun

Image source:

She became the subject of vicious supernatural activity as a young girl. Her grandmother’s house was showered with rocks one night. Small objects began floating around her. Eventually, her family sent her to a convent, but it didn’t do anything to stop the incidents. She was then sent to a mental asylum but was later adopted by a wealthy benefactor who became witness to objects that levitated, shattered, and disappeared. The haunting later stopped when she reached puberty. Under careful study, it was determined that Eleonore was convinced that she was being attacked by a malevolent entity and is unaware of her abilities. Hers was considered a case of repressed psychokinetic abilities.

Image source:

Psychokinetic phenomena do have a lot in common with ghost hauntings. Hence, psychics, mediums, and priests are often called upon to cast light on the mystery. The veracity of psychokinesis has yet to be established, but for those who actually experience and possess it, it cannot be any more real.

James Van Praagh is a renowned psychic medium whose works have opened minds about the various capacities and limits of the human soul and mind. This website provides more details about his work.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Queensland Australia Cruise Workshop

The Queensland Australia Cruise Workshop is a fourteen-hour program running in March 2013. James Van Praagh and Mavis Pittilla teach participants to blend their minds with the Spirit World.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Communicating through time: Some famous mediums in history

Image Credit:

Mediums have always elicited fear, awe, and reverence all at the same time. Throughout human history, many have called them quacks. They have faced staunch scrutiny and criticism from the academically and scientifically learned. Yet for their supporters, they are people gifted with the ability to reveal answers, and to connect the intangible to the tangible. Indeed, throughout history, many mediums have manifested truly extraordinary capabilities, earning them renown among audiences, their critics, and even their peers. Below are some of them.

Daniel Douglas Holmes

He is known as the most famous medium of all time, well-recognized both for his capability to talk to spirits and his psychic abilities. As an infant, his cradle was said to move on its own, and he has demonstrated acumen in predicting future events. He travelled around the world, conducting séances in public places. In August 1852, he gained fame for defying gravity and levitating.

Image Credit:

The Davenport Brothers

Ira Erastus and William Henry Davenport were born in the state of New York. Their feats included levitating objects and demonstrating their capabilities through physical objects like automatic writing. Some Harvard professors conducted tests and used various forms of restraints but were unable to find scientific explanation for the brothers’ work.

Leonora Piper

Her husband, William James, professor at Harvard and one of America’s greatest psychologists, called her the “the one white crow.” She started her career during a visit with clairvoyant J.R. Cook, whose touch led her into a trance. She later attended a home circle sitting with Cook. She went into a trance and delivered a message to one of the participants, who claimed that it was the most precise message he had received in his years of interest in Spiritualism.

Image Credit:

They are just some of the many mediums who have etched their names in history with their uncanny abilities. Today, individuals like the Jamison twins, John Edward, James Van Praagh, and Sally Morgan, among others, continue their legacy. Through their various works, they share their abilities with the world, offering comfort to grieving souls and hope of life after death.  

For more information, visit this website.