HIDDEN TREASURES OF DAILY SPIRITUAL PRACTICE
Changing your brain can change the world
Meditation and spiritual practice can have a profound effect on your health: decreasing blood pressure, lowering cortisol levels, smoothing out atrial fibulation. But recently brain scan technologies have given the world the ability to look more deeply at the effects of concentrating on a Higher Power and how developing a regular spiritual practice literally change the structure of our brains in several measurable and desirable ways.
Friend of the Feast, Sarah McLean, recently recommended a very interesting book: “How God Changes Your Brain” by Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman. The book was published in 2009 so some of what I am going to say here has found its way into the media and might already be familiar to you. In any event it is important information for us in our work together.
The most striking new fact for me was that there is a part of the brain known as the anterior cingulate that is strengthened with daily spiritual practice. Here comes the exciting part: as the anterior cingulated is strengthened, the activity of the amygdala slows down. The amygdala is the part of the brain that generates anxiety and fear and is responsible for the fight-or-flight phenomenon. The anterior cingulate generates a sense of At-One-Ment, unity, empathy, love and compassion.
As we engage in a most pluralistic world where people have differing perceptions of the divine, it is important to nurture and develop the anterior cingulate. Change your thoughts and you will change your world. If enough of us change our personal world we can have a profound effect on the larger world around us.
The journey that we embark on each year with Winter Feast is both personal and global. We honor all traditions and spiritual teachings, knowing that each came into being at a time and place in history when they were needed. Here at Winter Feast we celebrate the differences and uncover the similarities. All are searching for the same Truth of our existence. The danger occurs when anger and violence become a habit of mind that have the power to control a collective and to develop a sense of righteousness.
Our work is to balance that tendency with empathy, love and compassion and to bring that to the world as our peace offering.
We honor all traditions that create no harm and we express that in the opening candle lighting ceremony for the Feast. You will find the opening ceremony for the Winter Feast on YouTube:
Here we honor the unique place that each holds in our journey to global Unity and Peace.
One last thing that the work of Newberg and Waldman suggests is that practicing once or twice a week is not enough to cultivate the neurological shift that we need to make big global changes. Their work suggests that a daily practice of 40- 45 minutes are needed to produce the shifts in our lives and in the world that are so badly needed today
We are more than half way through the 40-day journey. If you are still with us, then you are beginning to feel the effects. If you have become lost, then don’t be afraid or reticent to start over.
Spiritual teachers through the ages have offered this guidance and many of you have heard their call and have already experienced the results in your personal lives. But today’s world is calling for more from us. Even if you have been at this for 40 years, it doesn’t mean that we can stand still. Our collaboration is critical.
Our favorite 13th Century mystic and poet, Rumi, tells us:
“Come, come, whoever you are … Even if you have broken your vow one thousand times, come, come yet again .”
Next year will be our tenth Winter Feast for the Soul. Our goal is to double our numbers and to bring you more powerful teachers to guide you on your way. Stay tuned and become part of the challenge as we set our course for the future. ~vjs