Very interesting article:


Rudeness Is A Neurotoxin

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This is good to know, and it's a continuation of the work that Sam Harris and other neuroscientists are doing studying the brain under the influence of Zen and other Buddhist meditators to develop what he calls 'a science of contemplation' that produces psychological wellbeing.

I consume mood-boosters like raw cacao (very popular among raw-foodists and living-foodists) which contains theobromine and anandamide (the chemical of bliss), which is the same chemical in cannabis and produces a natural high similar to the runner's high.  Also, yerba mate in small amounts produces mood-boosting effects.

People who are subjected to the opium of religion should consider natural alternatives like raw cacao and yerba mate.

Also, music affects the brain and moods.  There are studies that demonstrate that upbeat music give athletes much better resistance when they work out, and there are many 'shamanic' traditions that use sound to alter consciousness, to create trance and for healing.  Studies have shown that trancelike repetition of a mantra or rosary does have calming effects on the heart and nervous system.

The Gnawa of Morocco are considered African shamans who heal through music, their music creates a trance that is healing.  I've experienced their music, it's very magical and I think the key here is that it creates a sense of the transpersonal. 

Bradford Keeney, author of Shaking Medicine and other books, considers himself a Christian shaman and considers primitive Christianity a form of Shamanism and he says that the shaking and the quaking that people engage in under the 'Spirit' are signs of possession.  He claims that spiritual healing can only happen when one reaches out and is touched by another, in other words healing is transpersonal.  I do see some truth in this: touch releases endorphins.  This is why massage is considered therapeutic and studies have shown that when mothers rub the bellies of kids who have a stomach ache, there is an immediate calming effect due to the release of endorphins, the feel-good hormone.  Maybe this can explain the bhakti yoga experience (the yoga of devotion) and its positive effects on moods of devotees: these experiences induce a transpersonal awareness and release endorphins.

As for other religious practices that are effectively used to change the brain's activity and chemistry, consider this study: 

Incensole acetate, an incense component, elicits psychoactivity by ... 

I don't think there's a religion that doesn't use incense in some way during their sacred moments.  The study demonstrates that incense, by itself, produces a psychoactive effect on the brain, reduces anxiety and depression and therefore it's medicinal.  All of these practices, because there's empirical evidence that they work, can be incorporated into a secular, naturalist system of spirituality.

And then there's my favorite: kava, the sacred drink of peace of the Polynesian Islands.  These are all legal, natural highs that are associated with beneficial psychological effects comparable to what we associate with religious experiences.

I emphasize raw cacao and other living foods personally because I did get into the living foods lifestyle in 2009 and I can attest to the change in moods and states of consciousness when one eats living foods and avoids processed foods.  This is a whole other topic.

Many religions have dietary restrictions or traditions, like the ital foods that the Rastas eat, the halal or kosher traditions of Islam and Judaism, and of course the vegetarianism of Hindus due to non-violence but none of them make specific SCIENTIFIC claims as to why they follow their sometimes irrational dietary restrictions even when the scientific explanations are sometimes there.  I do think these traditions are sometimes legitimate, but not because of supernatural agents.  I believe there is a direct link between the foods we eat and our states of mind, and that this can be the subject of a scientific discipline and dietary traditions outside the bounds of superstition.


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