The Science of Spirituality

dscn0019_2This 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:

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?

Lent and Social Media

A couple of years ago, I wrote an article about a friend who gave up email for lent (“Fasting from Email“). We’re just a few weeks into this year’s Lent and Lenten practices are getting a quite a bit of press, thanks to a number of religious leaders coming out with the suggestion that people consider giving up Twitter, Facebook, or texting for Lent.

I use Twitter, Facebook, texting, and email and don’t feel called to give up any of them for Lent. But I find this discussion very helpful and healthy. What is Lenten practice about? Why give up chocolate or Twitter? Or take on more prayer or a Lenten study? It’s about finding the things that block me from God’s presence and giving them up. Or it’s about taking on something that will strengthen my relationship to God.

It’s easy to hear judgment when I hear that church leaders are calling the faithful to give up technology for Lent. That’s why I found really helpful this conversation with Father James Martin, associate editor of the Catholic weekly magazine, America. Listen to this story from NPR’s Saturday Edition.