This week on NPR I listened to a fascinating series called The Science of Spirituality. NPR religion correspondent and author of the book Fingerprints of God, Barbara Bradley Hagerty, created the five-part series on All Things Considered.
Hagerty explored questions such as:
- “Is an encounter with God simply a chemical reaction in the brain?“
- “What’s going on in the brain when someone has a spiritual experience?“
- “Can prayer reshape your brain?“
- “Can positive thoughts help heal another person?“
- “What about near-death experiences?“
My favorite part was the description of how the brain changes when people engage in regular prayer and meditation. People become more connected, more compassionate. United Methodist minister, Scott McDermott, is featured in segment three. Researchers did a scan of his brain while he was engaged in intercessory prayer. Neuroscientist Richard Davidson said that after two weeks of meditation, there were distinct changes in the brain.
That’s what I want — for my spiritual practice to be such a regular part of my life that my brain actually changes. It takes “spiritual formation” or “participating in the mind of Christ” to a new level, doesn’t it?