Spiritual Experiences and Change

I am reading How God Changes Your Brain by Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman. A fun aside is that I bought it second hand at the Friends’ of the Library book shop not far from my home. After bringing it home I was delighted to see that it had once been owned by a member of the Contemplative Body to which I belong. I am pleased that I will be able to share my reflection with my friend.

The authors share their findings after researching various types of religious experiences that people reported having. Some people said that they felt that “their religious experiences were not adequately addressed by religions in which they were raised. and so they turned away from them to engage in more individualized pursuits.” This is true of my own experience.

“America,” they write, “is gradually becoming less religious but more spiritual and …the quality that governs this shift is influenced by the use of spiritual practices that integrate meditation and prayer into one’s daily life.” This makes me feel hopeful.

Lest one thinks this is shift is simply a superficial fad, here are some things shared by those who talk about their spiritual experiences:

60 percent felt that their family relationships improved as a result of their spiritual experiences.

53 percent felt that their health was enhanced.

76 percent said they now felt less fear about death.

63 percent said that their spiritual experience was more real than their normal experience of reality. Some of these feeling dissipated over time and then, only 46 percent said that the feeling lingered.

Many felt a sense of oneness with others: “I…felt an openness, positive feeling, gratitude, unconditional regard, etc. for all things and people. As though I encountered the Golden Rule, love of neighbor as myself, concretely within this moment.”