Your Brain on Prayer: It’s Like Taking Acid
Yes, you read the title of this article right. Clever, wasn’t it?
The concept of “your brain on drugs” is typically a series of symptoms and effects that your mind experiences when you are under the influence of narcotics, but what about when you are under the influence of spirituality?
Some people say they are “high on life” or “high on God”, but what does that even mean? According to one neuroscientist, it can mean a lot more than you think.
Science and the Spirit
Neuroscientist Andrew Newberg, who is the director of research at Philadelphia’s Jefferson Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine, believes that the human brain can get a euphoric stimulation from praying almost exactly like it does when you trip on acid.
Newberg recently recorded a video where he offers scientific explanation as to why people have this idea that ‘tripping’ on hallucinogenic drugs, like Mushrooms or LSD (acid), provides an experience so many correlate with a “spiritual” experience. Newberg expands on the science behind it, and shows why it has more to do with our brains and less to do with the drug being a tool for spirituality.
Newberg’s focuses in on a study that observed the brains of nuns engaged in “centering prayer.” Centering prayer is a powerful practice meant to help them achieve what is described as “oneness with God.” One website described center prayer as-
“a method of silent prayer that prepares us to receive the gift of contemplative prayer, prayer in which we experience God’s presence within us.”
Using slides Newberg shows various similarities between the brain activity of these nuns during their centering prayer practices and the brain activity of people using psychedelic drugs. Through this comparison Newberg stated both experiences actually have a remarkable trend of resulting in very permanent changes in the way in which the brain works. According to him this kind of trip or spiritual experience can result in people changing “their entire way of life,” including jobs and relationships.
Newberg believes that these experiences can actually hold some value.
The Value to You
Some have even created recovery and trauma related therapy programs based on hallucination-inducing drugs, believing creating these experiences with these substances to be aligned with cultures which use similar drugs in spiritual rituals and cleansing practices. There are even churches in America sprouting up claiming to use marijuana as a religious tool for meditation.
I would argue that every experience holds a value, but the only meaning anything has is the meaning we give it. Some might twist these words and turn it into an excuse to use these types of drugs to achieve their own brand of “oneness,” but my question is that if prayer does the same thing, why risk the drugs to get the same rewards.
Don’t get me wrong, when I tried LSD it was an experience unique to say the least, but my experience with prayer and altruistic service has been a far more rewarding and manageable one, and it is done without the risk that is present with ingesting chemicals.
It has been said in recovery from addiction that a spiritual experience of some kind is a crucial part of the process. Without requiring us to devote ourselves to any specific God or denomination it is suggested that we simply seek a means of spiritual evolution in whatever form we perceive it to be.
Taking into account Newberg has told us this level of a profound experience can change someone’s entire way of life, it is very reassuring to know we can achieve this kind of life-changing euphoria and oneness without any drugs at all simply trough mindfulness and meaningful spiritual conquests. Stone cold sober we can meditate and/or pray, seeking sobriety and enlightenment without man-made substances and chancy chemicals, and it can create a holistic transformation in our brains to infinitely inspire us.
Prayer has the value we give it, same as everything else.
Having a spiritual connection can be just one part of an amazing adaptation of the mind to a new way of life without drugs or alcohol, and once we are willing to make a change, that change can last a life-time. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-777-9588