In this week’s spotlight I wish to discuss spirituality and the brain. I posted a new study last week on my Facebook page regarding spiritual retreats. The article’s title tells us that spiritual retreats change feel-good chemical systems in the brain.
Now that should come as no surprise to those of you who follow my posts or catch our show Provocative Enlightenment. I have shared several conversations that I have enjoyed with researchers covering varying brain changes that occur as a result of meditation and other spiritual practices. Indeed, the author of the article I posted, Dr. Andrew Newberg, and I have talked on multiple occasions. He has repeatedly found that brain chemistry is altered during meditation and other spiritual practices. In the publication, Religion, Brain and Behavior, Newberg made this statement, “Since serotonin and dopamine are part of the reward and emotional systems of the brain, it helps us understand why these [spiritual] practices result in powerful, positive emotional experiences.”
Chemicals are not spiritual
Almost immediately a friend commented on my post with this remark, “I’m all in for this. I still question the definition of ‘spiritual.’ Dopamine and serotonin are not spiritual. I think we frequently mistake deeply emotional states for being some out of body thing.”
My friends point is an interesting one. I remember when another friend went through a period in her life where her thyroid was acting up. Thyroid problems can cause what sometimes is referred to as thyroid madness. Quoting STTM, “Low thyroid hormones, and the common occurrence of sluggish, poorly functioning adrenals, can play a role in a variety of emotional and behavioral symptoms and disturbances, including anxiety, excessive fear, mood swings like bi-polar, rage, irritability, paranoid schizophrenia, confusion, dementia, obsessive/compulsive disorders, and mental aberrations.” What worried this friend most seemed to be her inability to make her usual spiritual connection.
Chemistry is chemistry
Chemistry is chemistry, and we must be ready and willing to admit this, but it sometimes can become a sort of chicken and the egg dilemma. As I explained to my friend on Facebook, we know, for example, that meditation can alter activity in the parietal lobe. This leads to a sense of oneness since it is this area of the brain that functions to receive and process sensory information from all over the body. Diminish the activity and the sense of one melts into a oneness feeling. So the real question comes down to this, were we designed by a Grand Organizing Designer (GOD) in such a way that we could and likely would discover a spiritual connection—designed in such a manner that we could come to know that we are much more than the Darwinian meat machine that materialist make us out to be?
Hard wired for spirituality
Now some argue that it is evolution that made us this way, but that in itself is only a best guess from what I believe is a biased position. Nevertheless, you must decide for yourself what you will believe. For me, my life has confirmed that there is much more to life than the materialist is willing to admit and consequently I come down to this conclusion: You are hardwired for spirituality! That would suggest that you must teach yourself to become an atheist. There can be many motives for this, but it doesn’t alter the fact that you are hard-wired for a spiritual experience.
My thoughts, what are yours?
As always, thanks for the read and I’d love your thoughts on this one.
NY Time Bestselling Author of Choices and Illusions