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There are some fascinating studies being conducted in the scientific community in regard to our "brains on God." I've been reading blurbs about this for some time now, but the momentum is gaining. As I've suspected for awhile, there are some major shifts in regard to understanding consciousness on the horizon, and finally science has decided to come along for the ride -- however begrudgingly, in some cases.

Why is this important to me, as a writer? Because I firmly believe that we are spiritual beings having a human experience, and the closer we come to this understanding, all the better. And that is the core motive behind everything that I write.

Here is an article on NPR (with some nifty graphics), about these recent findings. I'm taking one expanded sub-article from the many included, to highlight a point (emphasis mine; this speaks of a Dr Baime, also a practicing Tibetan Buddhist, being studied for brain activity while meditating):

When Baime meditated in Newberg's brain scanner, his brain mirrored those feelings. As expected, his frontal lobes lit up on the screen: Meditation is sheer concentration, after all. But what fascinated Newberg was that Baime's parietal lobes went dark.

"This is an area that normally takes our sensory information, tries to create for us a sense of ourselves and orient that self in the world," he explains. "When people lose their sense of self, feel a sense of oneness, a blurring of the boundary between self and other, we have found decreases in activity in that area."

Newberg found that result not only with Baime, but also with other monks he scanned. It was the same when he imaged the brains of Franciscan nuns praying and Sikhs chanting. They all felt the same oneness with the universe. When it comes to the brain, Newberg says, spiritual experience is spiritual experience.

(Note: this makes me think of all kinds of other topics, such as why some people seem to find such experiences of 'loss of self' as frightening, while others do not. Another time...)

Some people argue that these findings from the science angle are merely reductionist actions, attempting to disprove spiritual events and knowings into neuro-babble. The brain does it all, a wondrous machine that fires up these 'moments' in response to our actions and we merely interpret them as spiritual events. And while I agree that some Dr's may have such biases, often when I read the breakdown of the findings what I see, rather, is physical proof of the spiritual, like a Lover's imprint left on the body from the Other Worlds. As my old professor at JFKU would say, turn it around and look at it from the bottom-up, instead of from the top-down like everyone else. Sometimes you will be amazed and even learn something about yourself and the world.

Spiritual experiences and visitations from Holy presence can be profoundly moving and even life-changing. Why would we not want to know what happens in our brain and bodies when this occurs? Just because we don't see physical evidence present in ways we want to, does that mean that we negate these events part and parcel due to our own inability to prove them? And doesn't our obvious lack of education in this arena beg a bit more humility in regard to our own needs to be 'schooled' when it comes to understanding consciousness? Let's turn this on its head, and see what we can discover:

Think of all the vast amount of information and training that involves raising an infant into a child and eventual adult -- and at the inception it is all seemingly gibberish to them. A one year old may stumble upon a two-way radio, and simply not know what to do with it. That doesn't mean that the radio doesn't work, nor does it mean that it isn't real -- just that the poor child has no idea yet how to even work it, let alone the right questions to ask in order to learn. So you begin by showing her how to turn it on, listen to the sounds, engage with them in the operation. Over time (or rather quickly, if you have a little Engineer like my two year old) they start to get it. And then one day the light bulb goes off and they are using it with ease and understanding. Maybe they even decide to learn how to take it apart, and to put it back together -- they want to comprehend the structure of why it works, and not just how to use it.

I think that All That Is, consciousness, is that two-way radio, and we are learning how to comprehend the amazing power that it has. Some of us will think its just a useless toy and toss it around, never seeing it for what it is or the gifts it has (yeah, you know who you are), some of us will learn to use the radio and be at peace with it, in awe and appreciation -- others will want to understand even more, and look into all the ways that the pieces fit together, a numinous machinery that imparts the physical ability to share information between Here and There. To bring everything into a sacred marriage revealing that All Is One.

So when I read, for instance, in the article quoted above-- that the parietal lobes of Dr Baime's brain go quiet when he meditates? I don't see this as negative, or devaluing the experience or validity of meditation: I see this as the body responding to the spiritual event that is occurring, and highlighting for us what is happening, manifest in physical form.

From my perspective, those neurological events are not proof we are mere slaves to mechanical brains, but that our brains are responding and mapping a pathway to the amazing connection with One, All That Is. God. Goddess...

edited 9:53 AM, June 11 2009
edited later on that same day, because I realized I misquoted the title! aargh!
Yeah, that kind of pulled me in, too.

Alice Hoffman has a new book out, THE STORY SISTERS. Here's a recent review by Chelsea Cain from the NY Times.

I love Ms Hoffman in general -- she has a way of invoking Gods and breezes that reveal inner worlds like no one else. But she also can become quite formulaic, which can be at turns annoying or downright infuriating. (And no, I have not finished TURTLE MOON, in fact I only got to the 5th page. More on that later. Maybe.)

But based on this review and others that I've seen, this book sounds quite good. Let's go check out the first chapter, here.

What do you think? Let me know.