This is good news, because it validates ancient practices that many in the modern, left-brain-favoring world consider a luxury, or a leisure activity, or just plain 'California woo woo'.
Instead, the research is showing that these practices are very practical indeed.
I find it exciting to see modern neuroscience research that shows the beneficial effects of practices such as meditation or mantra on your brain function, for example.
Perhaps that's why His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been a strong advocate for scientific research on the effects of meditation, though he doesn't likely need to see a brain scan to prove it.
The same is the case with the research conducted by several major U.S. universities on kundalini yoga's Kirtan Kriya, a meditation done with mantra (sacred sound) and mudra (hand exercises).
The research shows a difference in the before and after brain scans of alzheimer's patients after a 12-minute Kirtan Kriya practice, for example.
People who meditate regularly, or practice centering prayer, or mantra and mudra, know from their own experience that such practices, done regularly, really do increase a sense of calm, reduce stress, rewrite neuropathways of conditioned 'negative chatter'.
A regular practice allows for a very different quality of experience and way of being in the world.
A new book, Power Up Your Brain**, by Alberto Villoldo, PhD and David Perlmutter, MD, continues on this theme.
Drs. Villoldo and Perlmutter -- one a medical anthropolgist and shaman, the other a neuroscientist -- debunk misunderstandings about the brain as well as some unfortunate biases against shamanic and other ancient knowledge and wisdom.
In addition, they explain concepts like neuroplasticity that show why practices like visualization, mantra, and meditation, along with other spiritual practices, help to rewire neuropathways, among other benefits.
Research has also been done showing the effects of visualization -- your brain doesn't register a difference between visualizing or imagining something and actually seeing or doing it. This is one of the reasons that peak athletes use visualization as part of their training.
Of course, this also shows why our habitual thought patterns and imaginings -- for better and worse -- are powerful in their effects on our experience of life.
So if you've been feeling guilty about allowing ample time for your spiritual practices, you'll have more and more evidence on why it's one of the highest priorities of your day.
Blessings & Love,
* The same may not be true when it comes to religion and science.
** More information and several excerpts from Power Up Your Brain.