What’s a Spiritual Experience?

Spiritual experiences happen. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center on Religion and Spirituality, 49% of Americans say they’ve had one. While many cultures consider these experiences valid and valuable, ours does not. If we describe them to our physicians, we are likely to be met with a blank looks, if not questions probing for psychiatric disorder.

Many people are thus left on their own, unable to get the most out of spiritual...


Do Auras Exist?

My MindfulBiology project grew out of a desire to reconcile my understandings of science and spirituality, a yearning that began in adolescence. During a solo John Muir Trail hike at age sixteen, I felt dwarfed by granite spires looming above meadows sparkling with wildflowers. Geology, biology, and mysticism appeared inseparable. My upbringing and education had taught me to reify science and ridicule spirituality, but in the mountains it felt wrong to divide the two, and even more wrong to value them differently.

Another time I'll write...


The Body, In Relationship

The body is relational. This is true on every level. In an era of social media, we might be lulled into believing that relationships can be built between minds alone, without involvement of vulnerable, sensate bodies. But this would be a delusion. Electronic devices do not—so far—jack directly into our nervous systems; they connect with our thoughts through biological eyes, ears, and hands. And, lest we forget, online friends do not exist solely online; they...


The Sensitive Human Animal

We humans can't see our bodies clearly. Think of the lovely young woman, already slender, who looks in a mirror and sees ugliness and fat. Or think of the poorly conditioned middle-aged man who acts like a swaggering college kid. Or think of religious traditions that once dismissed the notion that humans are related to so-called lower animals, even though such kinship looks pretty obvious.

Why we delude ourselves is a topic for another time. Today, I'd like to focus on one tactic...


Suicide: A Symptom of Global Spiritual Malaise?

Recently my cousin wrote a brave letter to her local newspaper in response to two suicides that affected her children. Her message picked up a lot of attention because it addresses mental health issues with great open-heartedness and honesty. I felt moved to comment on her website, where she also posted the letter. Because my response looks at mental illness from the perspective I now consider most important, I am posting a slightly modified version of it...


Befriending the Body Intelligent

Last year awakened me to my life's purpose. A series of disappointments forced me to abandon paths that had seemed interesting but were not leading to my center. More clearly than ever, I saw how biology has always guided me. Every time life has grown supportive, meaningful, and healing, it's been because I leaned deeper into my love of life science.

It isn't a big leap from love of life science to love of life itself....


Married to Life

When do we commit to life? And how?

We commit when we see our situation in context and when, seeing all the treasures and terrors life promises, we embrace the whole of it.

Easy to say, but gaining such clarity can be a challenge. For decades I resisted the simple act of acceptance, and for decades I endured needless torment. Part of me knew my own attitudes rooted me in my suffering, but it seemed impossible...


Forgiving the Unforgivable

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.
--Mahatma Ghandi

Forgiveness. Few topics evoke stronger responses from victims. Should we forgive? If so, why, when, and how?

These are complex questions, and this essay highlights but a few principles I gleaned from forgiving the adults who raised me. I suggest visiting The Forgiveness Project for more comprehensive guidance.

My mother cared for me from my birth until her death when I...


Finding Pearls in the Muck of Trauma

The wound is the place where the Light enters you. ― Rumi

A reliable means for transcending hardship is to endow it with meaning. Biblical faiths point to the will of a loving but mysterious God. Eastern traditions invoke karma, viewing misfortunes as correctives for misdeeds in past lives.  Such explanations have comforted millions over centuries.

We can also make peace with adversity more prosaically. Anyone who watches human progress knows that challenges often spur growth. Resilience...


Is Suicide Painless?

A recent comment on an earlier post--The Shocking Truth of Suicide--sets me thinking. The reader's thoughts are quoted below, followed by my response:

"Unfortunately, our society still doesn't get it that suicide is a gift, it's a balsam of peace, it's a right, a human right exclusively. No other animal has the intelligence to say "rien ne va plus." We can stop suffering all sort of circumstances that life forces us to live....