For as long as humankind has been alive, we have been trying to make sense of our existence. We often experience existentialist thoughts like “why am I here” or even ‘how did I get here?” We’re trying to impose meaning on what we don’t understand. For some of us, we simply are just trying to exist. We’re living in the moment. We’re in a state of gratitude for being here even if we don’t necessarily know when or how we got here, or how long we’ll be here for. Some of us have developed a spiritual ability to exist among the unknown and yet still feel connected to the universe at large.
It turns out this spiritual experience is powerful than we ever thought, according to science.
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Science Found That Spiritual Experiences Increase Selflessness
Science is suggesting that more than one part in the brain is activated when processing a spiritual experience, whether connecting with a higher being or the universe at large.
In fact, some of the studies even found that when spirituality was experienced and practiced long-term it actually decreased activity in the right parietal lobe which is what makes us stay focused on ourselves. This means that spiritual experiences seemed to increase our sense of selflessness in the brain.
Speech Is No Longer Generated From Normal Centers
When we practice a spiritual act like meditation, in a sense we surrender our will, even if just for a moment. We then replace our speech with thoughts, movements, hums or chants, even silence or other forms of speech. Science is finding that when doing so we also decrease activity in our frontal lobes. This finding suggests that speech at that point is generated from somewhere other than the normal speech centers.
The more the front lobes are decreased, the less activity we experience in the part of the brain that regulates the flow of incoming sensory information.
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It Actually Modifies Behavior
We have the power to actually change our behavior depending on the kind of spiritual experience that we practice. Let’s use meditation as an example again, because its focus on mindfulness and breathing encourages us to concentrate on something over and over again.
Doing so activates the frontal lobes, which is the area responsible for directing attention, changing behavior, and expressing language.
It Connects The Self To An External Presence
When are deeply immersed in a spiritual experience we allow ourselves to a strong feeling of connection to something bigger, even outwardly. We surrender ourselves to it. The person who meditates opens themselves up to experience a sense of oneness. In one moment, they are able to feel connected to all that is living around them. Scientifically this is because the reduced activity in the parietal lobes, blurs the perceived lines between the meditator and everything else.
Researchers write: “taken together, the present finding suggests that spiritual experiences may involve a perceived encounter with a spacious ‘presence’ or entity external to oneself.”
It Raises Awareness Of Ourselves And Others
How we experience the world is then up to us. We can play the victim and convince ourselves that everything and everyone is against us or we can cultivate a collective awareness that makes us feel connected to one another, and pushes us to want to treat each other well.
Since spiritual experiences reduce patterns of activity in the left inferior parietal lobe which is tied to a person’s awareness of the self and of others, science is suggesting that it changes the way we perceive and process ourselves, others, and representations of the world. Ultimately this can evenbuffer the effects of stress on mental health, especially when it is social.
It Strengthens The Brain Against Depression
Research by Prof. Lisa Miller, the editor of the Oxford University Press Handbook of Psychology & Spirituality, found that people with habits of spiritual practices are able to thicken their prefrontal cortex. Keep in mind that this is the same part of the brain that is weakened and thinned out by depression.
That means that spiritual experience can have the power to strengthen the brain in battling sadness and hopelessness.
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Higher Perspectives Author is one of the authors writing for Higher Perspectives