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How God Changes Your Brain: Breakthrough Findings from a Leading Neuroscientist Paperback – March 23, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Over the past decade or so, numerous studies have suggested that prayer and meditation can enhance physical health and healing from illness. In this stimulating and provocative book, two academics at the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Spirituality and the Mind contend that contemplating God actually reduces stress, which in turn prevents the deterioration of the brain's dendrites and increases neuroplasticity. The authors conclude that meditation and other spiritual practices permanently strengthen neural functioning in specific parts of the brain that aid in lowering anxiety and depression, enhancing social awareness and empathy, and improving cognitive functioning. The book's middle section draws on the authors' research on how people experience God and where in the brain that experience might be located. Finally, the authors offer exercises for enhancing physical, mental and spiritual health. Their suggestions are commonsensical and common to other kinds of health regimens: smile, stay intellectually active, consciously relax, yawn, meditate, exercise aerobically, dialogue with others and trust in your beliefs. Although the book's title is a bit misleading, since it is not God but spiritual practice that changes the brain, this forceful study could stir controversy among scientists and philosophers. Illus. (Mar. 24)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
“To this musty debate, Newberg, perhaps America's leading expert on the neurological basis of religion, brings a fresh perspective. His new book summarizes several years of groundbreaking research on the biological basis of religious experience. And it offers plenty to challenge skeptics and believers alike.”--Michael Gerson’s editorial dedicated to the book for The Washington Post
“The authors present an elaborate, engaging meditation program to reduce anger and fear and increase serenity and love. They embrace faith (not necessarily religious), diversity, tolerance, and “compassionate communication. . . . A substantial advance in the self-help/spirituality genre and an excellent choice for general collections.”—Library Journal
“Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman give us a magnificent, comprehensive explanation of how spiritual beliefs and experiences enhance changes in our brains and yield better health and well-being. They bring science and religion closer together.”—Herbert Benson, M.D., author of The Relaxation Response
“How God Changes Your Brain is a highly practical, easy-to-read guide on the interface between spirituality and neuroscience, filled with useful information that can make your brain and your life better, starting today!”—Daniel G. Amen, M.D. author of Change Your Brain, Change Your Life
“Not since William James’s The Varieties of Religious Experience has there been a work that so exquisitely integrates science and spirituality. Newberg and Waldman have written a book that is wise, up-to-date, scholarly, mature, and imaginative. At the same time it is a down-to-earth work that will surely inspire repeated readings.”—George Vaillant, M.D., author of Spiritual Evolution
“How God Changes Your Brain boldly explores the relationship between the structure of our brains and our ability not only to experience but to cultivate innate compassion and deep inner peace.” —Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D., author of My Stroke of Insight
“The authors present an illuminating and encouraging view of the inner and outer workings of our neurological perception of reality and how profoundly it is affected by our spiritual practices. Their practical exercises for a brain tune-up are revolutionary, and I’m enjoying immensely including them in my daily spiritual regime.” —Michael Bernard Beckwith, author of Spiritual Liberation
“Stimulating and provocative. . . .The authors conclude that meditation and other spiritual practices permanently strengthen neural functioning in specific parts of the brain that aid in lowering anxiety and depression, enhancing social awareness and empathy, and improving cognitive functioning.. . . this forceful study could stir controversy among scientists and philosophers.”—Publishers Weekly
From the Hardcover edition.
Top customer reviews
I bought my own copy to mark up.
Dr. Newberg suggests paths to serenity, but it was on page 132 that I received clarity. “If you allow anger and fear to dominate, you will lose the neurological ability to think logically and act compassionately toward others. In fact, it is nearly impossible to find peace and serenity if your mind is preoccupied by negative, anxious, or hateful thoughts.”
When I understood how my erroneous thoughts about God could be replaced with repeated truth about our good and loving God in focused daily meditations, God began to restore my soul.
One year later, after taking to heart disciplines suggested in this book, my brain has changed. This book helped me start the healing process.
This book offers many such opportunities for consideration, philosophically, psychologically, spiritually and scientifically. A wonderful blend of not too dense facts and research and practical ways to help enhance and maximize whole brain functioning, it gives us a different way to think about thinking about God, the Divine, Source, All that Is, The Force, By Whatever Name You Choose.
The best part about it all? Thinking about the spiritual realm of life is great for our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. And...doing spiritual practices whether or not they are connected with religion or a belief system substantially benefits our brains.
Or, except when you were told that noticing that North and South America fit nicely into Europe and Africa was a childish fantasy. That was before plate tectonic theory came along and we discovered that was what one was.
Or, except when you asked what was there before the big bang and were told you can't ask those kind of questions in science because such questions are meaningless and unanswerable. And then you were told maybe you should study religion of some fairy story like that.
Or, finally, to get to the point, when you were told that your brain started to decline after you were twenty or so and things never got bet, little gray cell-wise after a certain age.
Well, I am happy to report that neuroplasticity has arrived. Neuroplasticity? The brain constantly is making and reinforcing neural pathways, and, yes, abandoning or weakening unused ones. This is truly great news. Three cheers for the frontal cortex.
This book also discusses the area of the brain involved with fight or flight, a kind of reptilian consciousness concerned with threat, fear, and survival. It kind of sums up some of our older ideas about God and wrathful, judgmental, and damning.
The author shed light on another structure that moderates this old part of the brain when we think of loftier thoughts such as of God, the universe, or anything really grand in scale. This can lead to imaging a God of love, joy, and acceptance.
This reminds me of a "Pearls Before Swine" cartoon in which Rat asks Pig who he would like to talk with if he could talk with anyone living or dead and Pig say "The living one, of course. I'm not stupid."
I pick the loving and accepting one. I am not stupid either.