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Spirituality and wellness. Is God in our genes?  Time Oct. 25, 2004  “Does our DNA compel us to seek a higher power?”  Do we seek spiritual outlets.

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Presentation on theme: "Spirituality and wellness. Is God in our genes?  Time Oct. 25, 2004  “Does our DNA compel us to seek a higher power?”  Do we seek spiritual outlets."— Presentation transcript:

1 Spirituality and wellness

2 Is God in our genes?  Time Oct. 25, 2004  “Does our DNA compel us to seek a higher power?”  Do we seek spiritual outlets because they are adaptive?  Does spirituality help humans cope and flourish?  Foster health and well-being?

3 Buddhist Belief  Existence of a spirituality “gene”.  Inherit a tiny fragment from a previous life.  This small “gene” merges with those we inherit from our parents.  Shape our physical and spiritual profile.

4 God Gene  Dean Hamer is a geneticist works at National Cancer Institute (NIH).  Ph.D from Harvard Medical School.  The God Gene: How faith is hardwired in our genes  Idea came from a study on smoking and addiction.

5 Temperament and Character Inventory  TCI designed by Robert Cloninger.  Researcher on genetics of addiction.  Self-transcendence trait made up of:  1) Self-forgetfulness: To get entirely lost in an experience.  2) Transpersonal: Connectedness to the larger universe.  3) Mysticism: Openness to things not literally provable.

6 Self-transcendence Gene  Hamer ranked 1000 subjects on Cloninger’s self- transcendence trait.  Got DNA samples from subjects.  Focused in 9 genes involved in production of monoamine neurotransmitters related to mood and reward (serotonin, dopamine).  Gene for vesicular monoamine transporter.  VMAT gene variation high in those with trait.

7 VMAT gene for spirituality?  Buddhists have found Hamer’s finding “amusing and fun”.  What do you think?  Is our tendency to believe in God due to levels of our brain chemicals?  Most religious leaders are not impressed.

8 John Polkinghorne  British clergyman.  Winner of the Templeton Prize in Science and Religion.  “You can’t cut faith down to the lowest denominator of genetic survival. It shows the poverty of reductionist thinking.”  Reductionist thinking: The nature of complex things can always be reduced to (explained by) simpler or more fundamental things.reduced

9 Spiritual inheritance  God “gene” may be a stretch.  But spirituality does convey adaptive value.  Could be inherited in a broad sense.  Might help us cope and flourish.  Promote health and well-being.  Those who possess this trait more likely to have productive lives and strong families.

10 Minnesota Twin Studies  MZ twins share more in common than do DZ twins.  Phobias, illnesses, habits.  MZ twins more likely to share spirituality but not religious faith.  Spirituality is search for meaning in life, need to relate to something greater than one’s self.  Religion is how spirituality is channeled by institutions, specific beliefs and rituals.

11 Spirituality and religion  Spirituality is found in all human cultures.  Expressed differently in religious faiths.  Common mechanism for transcendence.

12 Changes in Brain Function  Writing and speaking brain active now.  Processing language.  PET scans show language areas active.  Limbic system (emotional brain) is quiet.

13 Path to Meditative State  Begin meditation exercise.  Parietal lobe goes quiet: time and space.  Frontal lobes becomes more active.  Inputs from limbic system.

14 Deep Meditation  Powerful feelings begin to emerge.  Time and space disappear.  Feeling of peace.  Lose world around you.  Spiritual experience  Centering prayer.  Quiet, reflective state. A meditation class

15 What are the benefits?  Spirituality has a biological expression.  Benefits: Provides good stress reducer.  Neuroscientist Michael Persinger:  “God experience is a brilliant adaptation. It’s a built-in pacifier.”  Seek meaning in our lives.  Hope there is a purpose to it all.  Religion provides additional benefits.

16 Religion and Health  Most medical schools now expose students to spiritual issues.  Harvard Medical School: Armand Nicholi  Question of God  Contrasts Freud and C.S. Lewis.  Viewpoints about the role of religion in psychological and physical health.

17 Religion and well-being  Benefits of participation in religious behavior.  Not just beliefs.  Those that attend services on regular basis report greater well-being and better health.  More than just social association.  Six factors

18 1. Provides Social support  Social support strong predictor of well-being.  Community of like minded individuals.  Social psych: we strongest bond with others like ourselves.  Help others with problems in mind, body and spirit.

19 2. Support Health Lifestyles  Many religions urge moderation in use of alcohol and drugs.  Some prohibit use.  Others promote family guidelines.  Discourage other risky behavior.  Natural helpers: Referral sources.

20 3. Personality Integration  Deeper commitment helps people focus on goals and strivings.  Life-long path of discovery.  Meditation and prayer help us integrate our personalities.  Who we are and what we are about.

21 4. Increase Generativity  Erik Erickson’s Developmental Stages  Stage Seven – later adulthood, marked by generativity versus stagnation  In this stage generativity refers to the adult's ability to care for another person.  Not just your own children but the next generation(s).

22 5. Unique Coping Strategies  Providing hope, optimism.  Relief from stressors.  Place lives in a greater perspective.  Positive forms: Working with higher power to get through difficulty.  Negative forms (guilt and blaming) offer no relief.

23 6. Sense of Purpose  Life has meaning and purpose.  Religion provides framework for life’s journey.  Traditions and rites of passage.  Add meaning to events.  Good times and bad.  Sense of control: Not just pawns.

24 Not alone on our journey  Prayer: “You are close to us as breathing and further than the farthest most star.”  Provides moral code of conduct.  Most religions have a version of “do unto others as you would have them to unto you.”  Foster a sense of self-worth, shared meaning from the community.

25 Dark Side of Religion  Religion can become evil.  Religious wars.  Exclude and devalue others who don’t share your beliefs.  Ethnic cleansing.  John Lennon’s dream of a perfect world with “no religion too”.

26 Benefits from other sources?  Commitment to an important cause.  Examples: Promoting peace, protecting nature, securing equality.  Might provide sense of purpose, social support, generativity, personality integration.  Healthy lifestyle?  Unique coping strategies?

27 Spirituality takes many forms.  Have to be engaged.  Not just beliefs, but also actions.  Benefits come from active participation.  Walk the talk.  Generativity: Care for the next generation.  Amazing returns on your investment.

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