A recent study put out by the University of Missouri looked at the brain while people were having spiritual experiences. The researchers described a spiritual experience as one in which the participant felt as if they were focused entirely on what they were seeing, touching and experiencing, as opposed to cognitive concerns or even aches and pains. In a nutshell, researchers described as a feeling of “selflessness.”  While the participants were having that spiritual experience, the right parietal lobe lite up. In participants who had experienced injury to that particular lobe, spiritual experiences seemed to occur more frequently.

The yellow area is the parietal lobe.

There is some controversy surrounding this study, primarly around the defination of “spiritual experience.”  Some people would argue that awareness of the surrounding world cannot be defined as a spiritual experience.  In fact, it should be awareness of a god/gods outside our experience that defines spirtual experience.  Additionally, there is some hesitancy regarding the role selflessness should play in mental health.  The argument is that when people are experiencing mental health concerns, their focus should be on self-care.

What role do you think selflessness plays in mental health?  What do you think defines a spiritual experience?

American Psychological Association (2009, January 4).  Spirituality: Is it all in your head? PsychPort. Retrieved February 9, 2009, from http://www.psycport.com/showArticle.cfm?xmlFile=knightridder_2009_01_04__0000-0771-JM-Spirituality-Is-it-all-in-your-head-0104.xml&provider=