In ancient Greece, the philosopher Socrates once said that an unexamined life was not worth living. When asked about the most important thing in a human lifespan his answer was “Know yourself”. There have been numerous discussions about what is meant by this, because it depends on what is meant by yourself.
For thousands of years ancient texts from India, the Vedas and more, have examined the mind of mankind. They have told us that we are not our body, or even our thoughts. We are life itself, that has temporary taken form in a physical body. That physical body, according to the same texts is part of a greater body, earth, which again is a part of a greater body, the universe.
With the advancement of physics, math and tech, scientists like Einstein, figured out that everything is connected in one energy field. Amongst their findings was quantum entanglement, or as Einstein said “spooky action at a distance”. It basically means the idea that particles that are linked to each other once, remains linked, even at great distance. Change in one particle, will affect the other.
Spirituality has for many years not been a topic for western science. And when brought up, scientists would quickly stop the conversation, stating, that spirituality is a private thing, that had nothing to do with science. Even perhaps pointing out, that it is for the uneducated. Still many holds this attitude, but now it is disproven by science itself. Spirituality most certainly is a personal matter, but the impact and necessity for humans have now been proven without a shadow of doubt.
In her brilliant book, the Awakened Brain, Lisa Miller, PhD, from Columbia University takes us through her own life journey and research in the last 20 years. The focus is the intersection between spirituality and mental health, specifically depression, lost connection and meaning.
In the book she takes us through her own battles with depression in college, and the seed that was planted for her own investigation. Based on the premise that here must be a better way of treating people with mental health issues. Her own internship to an inpatient care unit for people dealing with mental health issues, where the main focus was to get the patient to re-live the trauma, again and again, facing it, and patients being put on a lot of drugs. The fact that for many of the patients, they did not get any better, and treated the facility as a revolving door.
Through her research and that of others, such as Dr. Kenneth Kendler’s twin study, which she also mentions in the book as key to what lit her interest and following investigation into the awakened brain, we now have science backing the fact that spirituality is crucial not only to our mental health but much more.
As Lisa Miller mentions, the studies show the possibility that we are not only cognitive, physical, and emotional beings, but also spiritual.
Kendler’s research based on twin studies examined the genetic versus environmental basis for spirituality. It showed that:
- If you have a high degree of spirituality, you are less likely to be depressed.
- Personal devotion can act as a buffer against negative psychological effects of a stressful life.
- Having a spiritual path, you are less likely to develop addictions.
Also, that our capacity for spiritual life is 29 percent, heredity, and 71 percent environment. So, 1/3 is directly in our design, our DNA.
Lisa Miller’s research showed that there is a direct link in our brain, in terms of areas that are highly active for spiritual people, and very low for depressed people. Which indicates that for many depressed people, having access to a spiritual way of life, can help them tremendously, and that our brain is already wired for it.
She also goes on to talk about the new research being done through fMRI studies that is attempting to map human thoughts, feelings, and experiences to specific regions of the brain. The research shows two modes of awareness, the achieving awareness, and the awakened awareness. Both very crucial for a full and balanced life. The former being the perception that our purpose is to organize and control our lives, and in awakened awareness we make use of different parts of the brain, and thereby seeing more, and ourselves as an integral part of life.
Our society’s singular focus on the achieving awareness, is driving us as individuals, and our society at large to the brink of meltdown. Cultivating a spiritual path, thus enhancing our awakened awareness, the cure.
So, who are you?
Western science is starting to embrace what the indigenous people around the world, have known for centuries. We are not only physical beings, on a rock speeding through space. We are an integral part, and our adventure into our true nature, and possibility it holds for us has just begun.
All the best