22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
"God... I cannot think of any other word that stirs up the imagination more.",
This review is from: How God Changes Your Brain: Breakthrough Findings from a Leading Neuroscientist (Hardcover)
The title of this book may give some people the wrong idea. 'How God Changes Your Brain' discusses Newberg & Waldman's latest neuroscientific research into how the brain is affected by various spiritual practises - particularly meditation, prayer & contemplation of God or a positive secular image. The tone is objective & the authors are not interested in pushing either a religious or anti-religious agenda.
Whether or not God actually exists is not discussed. For the authors, whether someones' beliefs are factually correct is secondary to whether or not they are actually good for their physical & mental health. Which for the most part, they are - apparently different methods of meditation & prayer have different, yet universally positive, effects on our neurological functioning & physical & emotional health. According to the authors, "even minimal religious participation is correlated with enhancing longevity & personal health". Conversely, there is a chapter on the damaging effect of beliefs in a punitive, wrathful God (increased stress & paranoia) but the main message is a positive one.
A sizeable seciton of this book outlines practical exercises for enhancing various mental processes, which have been scientifically proven to work. These mainly consist of different forms of meditation but bizarrely include yawning - which is apparently so good for improving alertness & creating feelings of empathy that the authors recommend 10-20 forced yawns before meditaiton or prayer.
This an inspiring book on a number of levels. For instance, I personally don't believe in the literal existence of God & while this book has not changed my opinion, the authors' respect for people with different beliefs has rubbed off on me. In fact, they emphasise that spiritual/religious beliefs will always differ widely because how our brains physically experience 'God' or trascendent states differs considerably from person to person. It has further encouraged me in my meditation practise by prooving that it has tangible, measurable benefits. Plus it has provided some fascinating, clearly-explained insights into how the brain actually works. Whatever your viewpoint, everyone has strong feelings on this subject, making this book essential reading.
I also recommend Newberg & Waldman's Born to Believe: God, Science, and the Origin of Ordinary and Extraordinary Beliefs which covers their earlier research in this fascinating field.