Science of the Spirit


Laugh today: Benefit your body, mind, and heart

"Laughter is part of the human survival kit." - Comedian David Nathan

Whether its Larry, Mo and Curly that tickle your funny bone or watching George Carlin, Amy Shumer, and Chris Rock standup on Youtube, there's nothing like a fit of laughter to make this crazy world better - but there's more. Your body, mind, and heart will benefit from that giggle-fit, too. Here are ten reasons to laugh however you may - fart jokes are not out of the question:

Laughter Cures Illness Faster. Hunter Campbell, M.D., the American physician whose life inspired the 1998 movie Patch Adams, took laughter therapy to a new level. He opened a free, full-scale hospital that actually used laughter as medicine, and it worked! It relieved tension and the fight or flight response of his patients, many of whom were in constant pain. If laughter can do that for patients in a hospital what do you think it can do for you?

Comment: Laugh your way to better health:


Soulful connections beyond generations

In most modern conventional belief the notion of a "Soul," if considered at all, is seen as a timeless nonmaterial property of a human being. New Age thinking generally talks about the soul expressing or manifesting throughout one's life, and then one returning to an ethereal soul state upon death.

In this context no effort is required or sought and everything simply happens at it should—"everything happens for a reason." This is often tied to Eastern concepts of great cycles and it is thought that simple acceptance of "what is" is sufficient for a life well lived.

Comment: Listen to the SOTT Talk Radio interviews with author William Patrick Patterson about the mysterious teachings of Georges Gurdjieff. After many years as a student of The Fourth Way and discovering no answer to the question that had gradually formed in him - what is the 'self' in self-remembering? - Mr. Patterson was called to explore Advaita Vedanta (non-dualism). In doing so, he realized the full significance of the ideas and practices of The Fourth Way and how this sacred and seminal teaching provided not only the necessary foundation, but was applicable on the very highest levels.


Researchers show meditation can alter your genes

With evidence growing that training the mind or inducing specific modes of consciousness can have beneficial health effects, scientists have sought to understand how these practices physically affect the body. A new study by researchers in Wisconsin, Spain, and France reports the first evidence of specific molecular changes in the body following a period of intensive mindfulness practice.

The study investigated the effects of a day of intensive mindfulness practice in a group of experienced meditators, compared to a group of untrained control subjects who engaged in quiet non-meditative activities. After eight hours of mindfulness practice, the meditators showed a range of genetic and molecular differences, including altered levels of gene-regulating machinery and reduced levels of pro-inflammatory genes, which in turn correlated with faster physical recovery from a stressful situation.

Comment: There have been numerous studies showing the benefits of meditation and yoga - for more information see: Meditation changes how genes are expressed - study and Reprogramming inflammation with meditation.

One type of meditation that is exploding in popularity is the Éiriú Eolas Stress Control, Healing and Rejuvenation Program. It is an ancient breathing and meditation program which helps to rejuvenate and detoxify the body and mind and can be learned here for free.

Face life with Éiriú Eolas, a stress relief program


Homecoming - The hero's quest to save the self

© Ryan Dunlavey
When you've seen as many movies as I have, you begin to see that they all follow a certain pattern. This is true not just of movies, but of all great stories ranging from those found in classic mythology and literature to modern TV series and video games. Joseph Campbell called it the monomyth or hero's journey. It's basically a series of steps that the protagonist must go through during the course of his or her adventure. In addition to this, there are also a number of spiritual principles that often find their way into storytelling. By combining these principles with the monomyth, you can pretty much figure out where just about any story is headed. While this skill has proven to be incredibly annoying to my wife, it's come in very handy for me. Not because I've continually annoyed her with my usually correct movie and TV show predictions, but because I've noticed that these storytelling rules apply to more than just fictitious stories. They also apply to real life.

One of my favorite moments of any movie happens in The Karate Kid when Mr. Miyagi shows Daniel that all his seemingly pointless wax-on, wax-off chores were actually for a higher purpose. Daniel comes to realize that he was learning and training in karate all along and didn't even realize it.

Comment: Substances designed to alter the senses impede one's ability to see and engage with the self and life as it is. They are a hinderance in the hero's quest to find their way Home.

Also see:
The journey from boy to man: A lesson from the Sioux


The uncontrollable hair pulling of trichotillomania

© Cavale Doom/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND
Many people look upon plucking the hair on their eyebrows or other body parts as a painful step of their grooming regimen. But some others have to fight the urge to do so. Their compulsive hair plucking sometimes leads to upsetting consequences. And scientists are still trying to untangle the reasons behind this condition, called trichotillomania.

The effects of trichotillomania have been written of since Hippocrates, but the condition didn't get a clinical definition until French dermatologist Francois Hallopeau recognized it in 1889. People with trichotillomania feel compelled to tug hair from their head, brows and eyelashes, or other areas. A subset of affected people also eat the hairs, which can build up into hairballs, causing gastrointestinal problems.Estimates suggest the condition affects up to 4 percent of the population (or about 12 million in the United States), and women arefour times more likely to be affected. Symptoms usually begin before age 17 and could last for years.

Comment: See also:


Neuroscience research reveals 4 practices that will make you happier

You get all kinds of happiness advice on the internet from people who don't know what they're talking about. Don't trust them.

Actually, don't trust me either. Trust neuroscientists. They study that gray blob in your head all day and have learned a lot about what truly will make you happy.

UCLA neuroscience researcher Alex Korb has some insights that can create an upward spiral of happiness in your life.

Here's what you and I can learn from the people who really have answers:


Researchers find frequent face-to-face social contact decreases depression risk in adults

Researchers find people who meet friends and family at least three times a week far less like to have depression than those who have only 'virtual contact
© Alamy
Among adults aged 50 to 69, frequent face-to-face contact with friends reduced the risk of subsequent depression.
Replacing face-to-face contact with friends and family with emails, text messages and phone calls could double the risk of depression, a major study suggests.

Research on 11,000 adults found that those who meet friends and family at least three times a week are far less likely to suffer from depression. Individuals who had such contact just once every few months had an 11.5 per cent chance of later suffering from depressive symptoms two years later. By contrast, those who met up with family and friends at least three times a week had the lowest level of depressive symptoms, with rates of 6.5 per cent.

The study by the University of Michigan, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, is the first to examine the impact of different types of social contact on depression. Adults aged 50 and over were tracked for more than two years. While strong links were found between face-to-face contact and depression, regularity of contact with loved-ones by telephone, email or social media was shown to make no difference.

Researchers reported that having more or fewer phone conversations, or written or email contact, had no effect on depression.
Dr Alan Teo, lead author and assistant professor of psychiatry at Oregon Health and Science University, said: "We found that all forms of socialisation aren't equal. Phone calls and digital communication, with friends or family members, do not have the same power as face-to-face social interactions in helping to stave off depression."

Comment: More on the benefits of social bonding:


Freeing ourselves from fear

If you ask most people what they want from life, they will probably tell you they want to be happy—they want to be loved.

Success, fame and fortune might come up, too.

But I think what we ultimately yearn for is freedom.

The freedom to be ourselves, especially in a world that is constantly telling us not to. The freedom of inner peace and feeling at home, and being able to take that feeling with us everywhere we go.

For me, the one thing that gets in the way of feeling free is fear.

Comment: Fear and Knowledge
Fear can only control us when we do not know in depth about the things we fear. When you fear a certain thing, that is the thing you should be learning about. You will then gain knowledge that is stored in your unconscious mind, so that when the moment comes, you make a better 'snap judgment' to protect yourself. It is very much like training your mind and body before facing the danger, without becoming paralyzed by sudden fright...

What it all comes down to is: don't give into your fears, try to know more about what you fear from all angles, and you will no longer be controlled by your fears.


Want to improve your self awareness? Correct your posture

Most people in the modern world tend to have poor posture. I'm sure that part of it is our general detachment from our bodies. We spending most of our days sitting in front of computers, TVs, on couches, in cars, or on punishing assembly lines. Perhaps if we were more in touch with our bodies, with nature, and with the natural functions that our bodies evolved to perform, our posture would be better.

I remember how sad I was as I watched my children's wonderful and natural child posture slowly deteriorate as they grew older. Slouching at their computer or while watching TV, I constantly tried to get them to "sit up straight!" To no avail, unfortunately. Gradually, this seems to happen to most of us. In fact, poor posture has become so much the norm that chairs, car-seats, and the like are now all designed in such a way that they foster poor posture.

Comment: See also: Why you should stop slouching: The posture-mood connection


Self-compassion, recognition of our common humanity

Most people don't have any problem with seeing compassion as a thoroughly commendable quality. It seems to refer to an amalgam of unquestionably good qualities: kindness, mercy, tenderness, benevolence, understanding, empathy, sympathy, and fellow-feeling, along with an impulse to help other living creatures, human or animal, in distress.

But we seem less sure about self-compassion. For many, it carries the whiff of all those other bad "self" terms: self-pity, self-serving, self-indulgent, self-centered, just plain selfish. Even many generations removed from our culture's Puritan origins, we still seem to believe that if we aren't blaming and punishing ourselves for something, we risk moral complacency, runaway egotism, and the sin of false pride.

Comment: More info:
  • Change your thoughts, change your health
  • Dr. Gabor Maté: "When the Body Says No: Understanding the Stress-Disease Connection"