There has been all kinds of research on the benefits of spiritual or religious practice, such as meditation or prayer, on various health and quality of life outcomes. Something I read very recently really intrigued me. Dr. Andrew Newberg has been studying spiritual and religious practices and the effects on the brain for years. I read his book, co-authored by Mark R. Waldman, titled “How Enlightenment Changes Your Brain.” (I would like to properly underline this book title, however I can’t find an underline button!!) Anyway….
Dr. Newberg describes that we can have little “e” enlightenment experiences that are our ‘aha’s’ we can experience about ourselves or life. And we can also have big “E” Enlightenment experiences that actually dramatically change us. The big E Enlightenment experiences change how we perceive life, how we show up in life, our reactions, our emotions, our interests, how we spend our time, and/or our opinions and viewpoints.
Now, what was so amazing to me about Dr. Newberg’s research was that there are changes in the brain that happen at the time of these enlightenment experiences and the changes continue after the experience. Get this, it doesn’t matter if you are a Franciscan nun, a Buddhist monk, or an atheist, the changes in the brain from these experiences are the SAME! Furthermore, the descriptions and words that people use to describe their spiritual experiences are very similar as well.
I find this information SO unifying! Too many people try to make others wrong for their beliefs or practices. I think this is really more about a built up defense they have in fear of being wrong. Ultimately it isn’t about ‘beliefs’ to me…. it is about creating the space for spiritual experiences that provide us more knowing and more light that change us and make us more freely authentic and loving.
So the question becomes, “HOW do we have experiences of life, God, the Universe, Love (whatever you want to call IT) that change our brain?” According to Dr. Newberg, in addition to prayer and meditation, the practice of open-mindedness is an effective way to encourage more spiritual experiences. Take a look at your beliefs, question them, and see if you can see the other side. I like how Dr. Michael Cotton, the creator of Higher Brain Living®, tells us to “let go of everything you think you know” when we are in brain changing retreats with him. Try that 🙂
AND guess what else?! In his book, Dr. Newberg tells us that the technique for most profoundly and rapidly changing states of consciousness and the brain is DANCING!! I would like to note that they haven’t researched Higher Brain Living® yet… 😉
Well then, let’s Dance, let’s Free Our Minds, let’s let go of our attachments to what we think we know so that we can open to more Love, more Light, more Wisdom, and more BLISS!
Much Love ~ Rev. Dr. Rachel Wetzsteon