When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

—–

[excerpt from ‘When Death Comes’ by Mary Oliver]

Dungeon

He whom I enclose with my name is weeping in this dungeon.

I am ever busy building this wall all around; and as this wall goes up into

the sky day by day I lose sight of my true being in its dark shadow.

I take pride in this great wall, and I plaster it with dust and sand

lest a least hole should be left in this name;

and for all the care I take I lose sight of my true being.

Rabindranath Tagore

A Violinist in the Metro

From The Effective Club

A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the hat and without stopping continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written on a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats average $100.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:
If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?

A recent dream:

I am with a homeless man. I take pity on him, and I buy a lottery ticket for him, thinking that if it wins, I’ll give him the winnings. It turns out that the ticket wins $1 million. I give it all to him, but it comes in the form of water. I pour this into a mixing bowl of his. He lets it all slowly run away out of the bowl until there is nothing left. I can’t believe that he’s just let $1 million of water go away.

He tells me, “But it is flowing freely from the sky at all times, in all places, on all people.”  And I am shown an image of rain.

He has no need for me to give this water to him.

Brian Grady, Ph.D.

The University of Missouri-Columbia issued the following news release:

Selflessness, Core Of All Major World Religions, Has Neuropsychological
Connection

All spiritual experiences are based in the brain. That statement is
truer than ever before, according to a University of Missouri
neuropsychologist. An MU study has data to support a neuropsychological
model that proposes spiritual experiences associated with selflessness
are related to decreased activity in the right parietal lobe of the brain.

The study is one of the first to use individuals with traumatic brain
injury to determine this connection. Researchers say the implication of
this connection means people in many disciplines, including peace
studies, health care or religion can learn different ways to attain
selflessness, to experience transcendence, and to help themselves and others.

This study, along with other recent neuroradiological studies of
Buddhist meditators and Francescan nuns, suggests that all individuals,
regardless of cultural background or religion, experience the same
neuropsychological functions during spiritual experiences, such as
transcendence. Transcendence, feelings of universal unity and decreased
sense of self, is a core tenet of all major religions. Meditation and
prayer are the primary vehicles by which such spiritual transcendence is
achieved.

“The brain functions in a certain way during spiritual experiences,”
said Brick Johnstone, professor of health psychology in the MU School of
Health Professions. “We studied people with brain injury and found that
people with injuries to the right parietal lobe of the brain reported
higher levels of spiritual experiences, such as transcendence.”

This link is important, Johnstone said, because it means selflessness
can be learned by decreasing activity in that part of the brain. He
suggests this can be done through conscious effort, such as meditation
or prayer. People with these selfless spiritual experiences also are
more psychologically healthy, especially if they have positive beliefs
that there is a God or higher power who loves them, Johnstone said.

“This research also addresses questions regarding the impact of
neurologic versus cultural factors on spiritual experience,” Johnstone
said. “The ability to connect with things beyond the self, such as
transcendent experiences, seems to occur for people who minimize right
parietal functioning. This can be attained through cultural practices,
such as intense meditation or prayer or because of a brain injury that
impairs the functioning of the right parietal lobe. Either way, our
study suggests that ‘selflessness’ is a neuropsychological foundation of
spiritual experiences.”

The research was funded by the MU Center on Religion and the
Professions. The study – “Support for a neuropsychological model of
spirituality in persons with traumatic brain injury” – was published in
the peer-reviewed journal Zygon.

“Our research focused on the personal experience of spiritual
transcendence and does not in any way minimize the importance of
religion or personal beliefs, nor does it suggest that spiritual
experience are related only to neuropsychological activity in the
brain,” Johnstone said. “It is important to note that individuals
experience their God or higher power in many different ways, but that
all people from all religions and beliefs appear to experience these
connections in a similar way.”

Religious Beliefs and Devotion Linked to Sense of Personal Control

An individual’s level of commitment to religious rituals like praying
and attending service is directly linked to their sense of personal
control in life, according to new University of Toronto research.

U of T Sociology professor Scott Schieman interviewed 1,800 Americans in
a groundbreaking survey that examined the link between levels of
religious beliefs and sense of personal control over events and outcomes
in everyday life.

Among the study’s surprising results:

* People who believe in a powerful and influential God but aren’t as
strongly devoted to religious rituals like praying or attending service
report a lower sense of personal control in their lives;

*By contrast, individuals who believe that God’s will influences
outcomes in everyday life do not report a deflated sense of personal
control if they actively participate in religious rituals.

“One might think the most devout religious practitioners would feel a
lack of personal control in their lives because they have such faith in
divine control,” says Schieman. “Surprisingly, we found the opposite.
It’s those who believe in God but don’t dedicate much time to practicing
religion who feel the least in control of their lives.”

Schieman says these findings are particularly important in the current
economic climate, when many people are losing their jobs, their homes
and their savings.

“Some people feel unable to change the important events and outcomes in
their daily lives. Some people turn to a divine power or authority for
support. In some cases, this also implies a sense that one’s own fate
is influenced or determined by powerful external forces, especially
God,” Schieman says. “This notion of divine control is reflected in
common phrases like ‘It is all in God’s hands.'”

The study, entitled “The Religious Role and the Sense of Personal
Control,” is published in the October issue of the journal Sociology of
Religion.

Temple University released the following announcement:

Spirituality protects against depression better than church attendance

Those who worship a higher power often do so in different ways. Whether
they are active in their religious community, or prefer to simply pray
or meditate, new research out of Temple University suggests that a
person’s religiousness – also called religiosity – can offer insight
into their risk for depression.

Lead researcher Joanna Maselko, Sc.D., characterized the religiosity of
918 study participants in terms of three domains of religiosity:
religious service attendance, which refers to being involved with a
church; religious well-being, which refers to the quality of a person’s
relationship with a higher power; and existential well-being, which
refers to a person’s sense of meaning and their purpose in life.

In a study published on-line this month in Psychological Medicine,
Maselko and fellow researchers compared each domain of religiosity to
their risk of depression, and were surprised to find that the group with
higher levels of religious well-being were 1.5 times more likely to have
had depression than those with lower levels of religious well-being.

(more…)