I’ve been reading an awesome book lately by Rick Hanson called Buddha’s Brain – The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness. Hanson is neuropsychologist, author, speaker and meditation teacher. His book isn’t about Buddhism as much as the intersection of psychology, brain science and contemplative practices. I discovered him on my friend Scott’s blog in the article I referred to above.
I’m massively interested in brain science, because it gives concrete evidence and thus strategies for dealing with the nebulous emotional things of life. This has added to the foundation of CBT techniques I’ve been learning and practicing. Coming to understand the science of the brain and the inner universe has had as large an impact on my thinking as coming to understand the science of the physical world and the larger universe. Bill Bryson has a great book called, ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’, if that’s something you’re interested in exploring.
I’ve spent over half of my life exploring christianity. I ’found god’ at 24, married in to it, and it continues to impact me, though not always in positive ways. Although there are parts of it I love, there are also other parts that have stripped me of my ability to appreciate it overall.
These past years, I’ve deconstructed my belief system and in doing so, have become a dissenter within the circle I once belonged. Sadly, in such circles, alternate views have little place. If you’ve ever stepped outside or challenged the belief system or code of conduct of a religious community, you’ll know what I mean. It usually involves at least a questioning of your character and faith, and often far more.
As I’ve dissembled the thinking I once accepted, some big issues have come up. This is my philosophical shortlist, ignoring the other practical and relational impacts.
– If there’s a benevolent god, interested and acting on my behalf in the minutiae of my daily life – why then is that god seemingly absent in the daily lives of people in far more extreme circumstance?
– Would an all-knowing benevolent god insist we belong to an exclusive ’club’ of understanding or would that god take in consideration our differing cultural and religious upbringings and sexual preferences?
– Is truth really a narrow path or is it an encompassing one with room for the many positive contributions from other avenues of thought?
– How, given the vast scientific evidence for the evolution of the world and it’s species, can religion blind itself to such findings?
But perhaps most notably for me, is the question of how religion can claim to understand the complexities and mysteries of eternal life, when we can’t even comprehend the complexities and mysteries of this physical life. At least not yet.
A few years ago, I was taken with the book, ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ which was later made into a movie. The movie was dismissed as a chick flick, a romantic comedy. At the best of times, I can barely endure chick flicks, but Elizabeth Gilbert’s story is more than that. It’s a memoir, a personal recount of her journey in, an awakening of sorts.
Gilbert traveled a path of personal healing. faith and self discovery that began in Italy, progressed to India and concluded in Bali. Each of those parts of her life contributed to her evolving, broadening spiritual mosaic. I imagine her journey in continues still.
The idea of a spiritual mosaic is new to me and in some ways makes me a little uneasy. It’s not the well-traveled road I’m familiar with, but I’m liking what I’m learning. I’m incorporating into my daily routine meditation, mindfulness and visualization – because they literally change the physiology and landscape of the brain toward peace, love and self-mastery. Whether they answer the existential question of what lies beyond, is still, well, a question.
I have no idea what lies beyond this life. Is it jeweled streets? Is it the music of string theory? Is it one-ness with the universe? Is it nothing ? I don’t know. And neither does anyone else, no matter what authority they claim it upon. But I do know it’s within my power to live and love well.
My youngest son asked me anxiously the other day, ‘Mom are you still a Christian?’ And honestly, I’m not sure I am, except by my own definition. Just as I’m an art student, a student of philosophy, religious studies, psychology, literature and science – by my own definition.
Is that enough? Is a rose by any other name still as sweet?
I’m beginning to think so.
- The Real World (scott-williams.ca)
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