God and your Brain

This is your brain on God: Spiritual experiences activate brain reward circuits

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An fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) scan shows regions of the brain that become active when devoutly religious study participants have a spiritual experience, including a reward center in the brain, the nucleus accumbens. Credit: Jeffrey Anderson

Religious and spiritual experiences activate the brain reward circuits in much the same way as love, sex, gambling, drugs and music, report researchers at the University of Utah School of Medicine. The findings will be published Nov. 29 in the journal Social Neuroscience.

“We're just beginning to understand how the brain participates in experiences that believers interpret as spiritual, divine or transcendent,” says senior author and neuroradiologist Jeff Anderson. “In the last few years, brain imaging technologies have matured in ways that are letting us approach questions that have been around for millennia.”

Read more: God and your Brain

Oxytocin enhances spirituality: The biology of awe

Oxytocin enhances spirituality: The biology of awe

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Is there a higher plane of consciousness or spirituality that binds all people? Oxytocin makes men more likely to say so. Credit: © Oleksandr Kotenko / Fotolia

Oxytocin has been dubbed the “love hormone” for its role promoting social bonding, altruism and more. Now new research from Duke University suggests the hormone may also support spirituality.

In the study, men reported a greater sense of spirituality shortly after taking oxytocin and a week later. Participants who took oxytocin also experienced more positive emotions during meditation, said lead author Patty Van Cappellen, a social psychologist at Duke.

“Spirituality and meditation have each been linked to health and well-being in previous research,” Van Cappellen said. “We were interested in understanding biological factors that may enhance those spiritual experiences.”

“Oxytocin appears to be part of the way our bodies support spiritual beliefs.”

Read more: Oxytocin enhances spirituality: The biology of awe

We don’t have an energy problem. Raw materials are our problem.

Michiel Haas – the Netherlands 

The author is one of the initiators of The Elephants project; this initiative aims to renovate the Adyar Estate.

In this essay Michiel shows us that there is more than enough energy on our planet Earth. The sun provides us with 10,000 times more energy than is consumed yearly, worldwide. The challenge is to convert this sun energy into electricity and to discover other ways to harness sun power. To convert this power we need lots of different devises such as PV-cells, wind mills, and others. For these devises, we need raw materials, and there we get into trouble. Currently we don’t have enough of some kinds minerals to build enough devices to convert sun power into electricity. 

This issue brings us to another problem: scarcity of the raw materials that we need for the building industry. With the increasing world population, the need for houses, schools, offices and other buildings will also increase and with that the need for raw materials. In the article, some solutions for the raw material scarcity are offered. 

Read more: We don’t have an energy problem. Raw materials are our problem.

The Minds of Dogs

Psychological science explores the minds of dogs

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Dogs are one of the most common household pets in the world, so it’s curious that we know relatively little about their cognitive abilities when we know so much about the abilities of other animals, from primates to cetaceans. Over the last couple decades, researchers have been aiming to bridge this gap in scientific knowledge, investigating how our canine companions behave and what they know and why.

The October 2016 issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science presents an entire special issue dedicated to exploring all that psychological scientists have learned about dog behavior and cognition in recent years. Current Directions in Psychological Science is a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The table of contents can be found at:

Read more: The Minds of Dogs

The Mysticism and Persistence of the Druze

The Mysticism and Persistence of the Druze

Victor Peñaranda – The Philippines 

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The religion of the Druze is based on the unity of life and belongs to an esoteric tradition often misunderstood in a volatile region where the major religions have been invoked to wage wars. In their spiritual practice, the Druze do not have personal deity, but they believe that the divine incarnates itself in the human individual. The name by which the Druze like to be known is Muwahhidun (sing. Muwahhid) which reflects their central belief in a mystical union (tawhid) with the One.

Like several religious minorities in the Middle East (e.g. Yazedi and Mandaean), the Druze have been provoked to take political sides in historical conflicts that involve a complex cast of nations and factions with diverse motivations.

The Institute of Druze Studies once estimated that about 40-50% of Druze lived in Syria, 30-40% in Lebanon, 6-7% in Israel and Jordan. But due to the prolonged violence that has devastated Syria since 2011, a significant number of Druze have emigrated to North America, Europe and Australia.

There are about one million Druze in the world today.

Read more: The Mysticism and Persistence of the Druze

Focus – A simplicity manifesto in the Age of Distraction: Part 17

Leo Babauta -USA

A simplicity manifesto in the Age of Distraction: Part 17

Letting go of goals


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“By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won

by those who let it go. But when you try and try. The

world is beyond the winning.”

– Lao Tzu


One of the unshakable tenets of success and productivity literature is that you need to have goals in order to be successful.

And from this tenet comes all sorts of other beliefs:

  • You need to set goals the right way (such as the SMART method).
  • You need to break goals down into actionable tasks.
  • You need to have deadlines and timeframes.
  • You need to make goals the focus of your day.

I know this, because I’ve believed it and lived it and written about it, for a long time.

Until recently.

Read more: Focus – A simplicity manifesto in the Age of Distraction: Part 17

What Do Americans Fear?

What do Americans fear?

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Chapman University recently completed its third annual Chapman University Survey of American Fears (2016). The survey asked respondents about 65 fears across a broad range of categories including fears about the government, crime, the environment, the future, technology, health, natural disasters, as well as fears of public speaking, spiders, heights, ghosts and many other personal anxieties.

In addition to the set of fears examined in previous waves, the survey team took a closer look at two fear related phenomena: Americans' beliefs in conspiracy theories and fear of Muslims, sometimes referred to as “Islamophobia.”

In its third year, the annual Chapman University Survey of American Fears included more than 1,500 adult participants from across the nation and all walks of life. The 2016 survey data is organized into five basic categories: personal fears, conspiracy theories, terrorism, natural disasters, paranormal fears, and fear of Muslims.

Read more: What Do Americans Fear?

A visit to John of God

Nelda Samarel – USA

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João Teixeira de Faria – John of God

In 2011 I was scheduled to teach the winter school at the center for the Theosophical Society in Brazil, one hour from Brasília. It seemed an opportune time to visit Abadiânia, the home of the world-renowned healer, John of God. After all, I was “in the neighborhood” and, since I have been practicing and teaching the energetic healing modality known as Therapeutic Touch for over thirty-five years, my interest as a healer was keen.

According to Google Maps, the trip from the Theosophical center to Abadiânia should be two hours and thirty-two minutes. However, we took a “short cut” and the resultant four-hour ride took us through the bucolic Brazilian countryside.

Arriving in Abadiânia, my home for the next week, I was struck by the poverty of the rural town. As I learned the following day, most of Abadiânia is structured around and economically dependent on the Casa de Dom Inácio de Loyola or “the Casa” as the location of John of God’s clinics is known. Scattered throughout the small town are pousadas, inns where visitors to the Casa are housed; restaurants; Internet cafes; and shops selling essentials for travelers.

Read more: A visit to John of God

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