Refrain From Tail Bonks as a Spiritual Practice

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In snowboarding terms, tail bonks occur when snowboarders intentionally hit and bounce off objects, either natural or manmade, with the tail of the snowboard. Spiritually speaking, a ‘tail bonk’ is intentionally upsetting a religious fundamentalist, mainstream religious literalbot,* or people who consider themselves to be more spiritual than religious by inserting a controversial, maliciously judgmental, and/or hurtful comment at the end of a conversation about religious or spiritual beliefs as a seemingly spontaneous after thought.

This spiritual practice encourages you to refrain from “tail bonking” someone’s choice to express certain religious or spiritual beliefs and values.

While there are differences in denominational beliefs, rituals, religious customs, and practices, etc., the intention of this practice is to remind you to respect another person’s right to chose his/her particular faith tradition. And it strongly emphasizes avoiding religism — which is expressing fear, hatred, and/or discrimination towards other faith traditions.

Faith and belief do not necessarily surrender to logic, nor do they acquiesce to ingrained religious and denominational biases. They can’t even be declared absolutely consistent in any given faith tradition. Believers differ in the nuances of their professed beliefs and hold on, white knuckled, to their brand of faith.

TInterfaith symbolshis spiritual practice simply asserts the right for people to believe as they choose when it comes to churchianity and spirituality. People are at liberty to retail their own beliefs for acceptance, and are plainly at risk when they seek to assault (bonk) the beliefs of others. When bonking other’s religious or spiritual beliefs escalates to wanting to harm people because of their religious convictions, it is time to demand tolerance and call for discretion and goodwill – and just plain courtesy.

It’s a 2-Way Street!

This practice also requires that you stay cool, calm and collected if you should ever receive a tail bonk from anyone intentionally bonking your spiritual beliefs. Your poise will speak volumes about your maturity and spiritual growth. Conversational tail bonks are politically incorrect ploys used to upset someone whose religious or spiritual beliefs are different from yours, and when they’re used in religious contexts they are disrespectful and flippant. And besides that, they are just impolite and uncivil rantings employed to be hurtful. Bonks are not part of a spiritually-attuned consciousness.

Learning about the major world religions, their belief systems and values doesn’t necessarily mean you will not bonk their beliefs. Going with friends of other faiths and attending a worship service with them, or going to a different church, mosque, or synagogue doesn’t necessarily mean you will not bonk their beliefs. Looking for similarities in faith traditions might not prohibit bonking either.

What does work is a consciousness of non-judgmentalness and tolerance for people’s rights to chose the religious and/or spiritual beliefs they feel led to adopt. You may not agree with how people express their stated religious and/or spiritual beliefs, but showing respect for their right to chose those beliefs and biases is what this spiritual practice is all about.
Let’s all practice what we teach about tolerance, understanding, respect, and love … as we walk the spiritual path on practical feet.

* (See the spiritual practice called Avoid Conversations With Literalbots in Vol 2).

© 2015 Bil and Cher Holton, YourSpiritualPractice.com

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Is Your Brain Wired for Awe? The Neurobiology of Spiritual Practices

brain and spiritual practiceThere is growing evidence that suggests our brains may be naturally wired — by experience or by design — for spirituality. Researchers pioneering the neurobiology of spiritual practices hope to answer questions that have challenged spiritual and religious thinkers for centuries, from the neural nature of revelatory and mystical experiences to the changes in brain function that register the neuro-chemical activity in our brains when we meditate, engage in yoga, and visualize our oneness with God.

It is becoming clear that spiritual practices have many neurological, biological, physiological, and psychological benefits. The exact neural basis of these effects is slowly coming to light, and different imaging techniques are showing the neural basis of spiritual practices. The evidence points toward the involvement of the prefrontal and parietal cortices.

Before we go too far, let’s explain the difference between spirituality and religion, as they are practiced today. Spirituality involves as its central tenet a connection to something greater than ourselves, which includes an emotional experience of that ‘something greater.’ The word religion is a combination of two words:

  • re’ meaning return
  • igare’ meaning to bind

We believe religions originated as a way of humankind as a whole meeting it’s innate need for spirituality. We also want to make it perfectly clear that spirituality and religion are not interchangeable. Spirituality is not a dogmatic religious path, nor is it a ‘worship a god in the sky who is an entity separate from you’ path. It is a path of Self-realization that acknowledges you are the human expression of the Eternal Presence (God) expressing Itself at the point of you.

A Closer Look at the Neurobiology of Spiritual Practices

Science-Spirituaity-ResearchThat said, let’s take a closer look at the neurobiology of spiritual practices. At the present time there is a paucity of evidence outlining the neural correlates of spiritual practices. Most of the current studies have concentrated on meditative practices and are using functional imaging as the investigative tool. They are actually peering inside the brain to find out what’s going on during so-called spiritual experiences. These imaging tools include the Positron Emission Tomography (PET) studies on Yoga, Tantric Yoga and Yoga Nidra; the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) study on Kundalini Yoga; and the Single Photon Emission Computerized Tomography (SPECT) study on Tibetan meditation.

Researchers are expanding their studies to include neuroanatomical and neurochemical imaging techniques to evaluate a wider bandwidth of spiritual practices such as prayer, religious singing, rituals, visualization, affirmations, mantras, etc.

Brain-imaging studies on long-time meditative practitioners and people doing contemplative prayer show their blood flow to the prefrontal cortex, which correlates with neuronal activity, revealing how their brain looks during transcendent and mystical experiences. Subjects describe being in a superior conscious state, having ‘touched infinity,’ or ‘being one with the universe,’ with the left dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, caudate, and the orbitofrontal cortex areas lighting up to record their experience.

Using a brain scanner, scientists eavesdrop on the mind of a meditating Buddhist monk. Using skin sensors, researchers measure the power of holy words by testing how brain synapses respond to sacred texts. Neuropsychiatrists assess the effects of prayer. Neuroscientists measure brain function among those who report feelings of union and oneness with God and the cosmos. Using radioactive tracers researchers probe the neurobiology of spiritual experience in search of a scientific perspective on the divine.

Researchers have even gone so far as to propose that a specific gene (VMAT2), called the ‘God gene’ predisposes us towards spiritual and/or mystical experiences, including the very presence of God. This purported ‘God gene’ appears to be involved in the transport of monoamine neurotransmitters across the synapses in the brain which produce feelings of self-transcendence.

What’s the Bottom Line?

Our own opinion is that our neurobiology registers in the brain what our mind perceives as spiritual experiences. In other words, our neurobiology doesn’t cause transcendent experiences, it just registers (records) them in our brain’s neural circuits as chemical reactions. Since we’ve been that emphatic, we may as well add that neurobiologists might want to brush up on spirituality and spiritual teachers ought to familiarize themselves with good science.

We are a tabernacleWe are convinced that one day, scientists and spiritual teachers alike will agree that each cell, every molecule, each atom in our physical bodies is a sacred tabernacle of Spirit. They might even agree these sacred tabernacles are quantumly and cosmically connected. They even might see that there is no denominational sparring and that our biology is our theology.

When they as scientists and we as spiritual beings realize the significance of this invisible connection, we will honor the human soul’s relationship to Spirit as a collective. And when we acknowledge this connection, from soul to cell, we will see that our body has always been the highly-charged sacred ground of our being.

When we achieve this perfect synchrony between science and spirituality, we will experience the inner peace, joy, health, and wholeness which are the truth of all of us as we skip down the neurobiological path of our spirituality together.

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A New Look at Affirmations: Glamour Grammar

SpiritualPractice-AlphabetThis Spiritual Practice is a great way to get in the habit of creating and stating positive affirmations emphasizing your Divine Nature.

Here’s How:

Step One: Go through the alphabet, and brainstorm several positive words beginning with each letter. For example:

A = awesome, amazing authentic

B = beautiful, bodacious, brilliant

C = creative, caring, confident

Step Two: Look back over your list, and put the words “I AM” in front of each of the words, stating the sentence out loud, with conviction! For example, you would be saying:

I AM awesome! I AM amazing! I AM authentic! I AM beautiful! I AM bodacious! …

Notice the impact this has on your energy level as well as your attitude and feelings about yourself!

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For example: T = Terrific; Triumphant; Thankful H=Happy; Hopeful; Heavenly V=Victorious; Valiant; Vivacious

Bonus Tip: A variation of this activity is to use it when you are stuck in traffic. Take a look at the license plates on the cars around you, and use Glamour Grammar with the letters on the plates! While it doesn’t change your frustrating situation, it does create a shift in your awareness which leads to a major shift in your attitude!

We affirm you experience powerful results with this spiritual practice … as you walk the spiritual path on practical feet!

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Spiritual versus Religious?

What’s the Difference Between Spirituality and Religion?

This question spawns a lot of late-night discussions and coffee-charged debates. But essentially it is more an issue of where we are in our journey to enlightenment! We wrote a blog article recently expressing the difficulty of attempting to merge both cultures, in which we compare Spiritual Emergence with Religious Emergency. You can read the entire article here.

Ken Wilbur, America’s most cited philosopher and founder of the Integral Institute, created an Info-graphic comparing his interpretations of spirituality and religion. We found it interesting and wanted to share it with our Spiritual Tribe, wondering what you think of his assessment. Share your comments and thoughts!  (Thanks to Mind Valley Academy for granting permission to use this graphic).

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Click here to take a peek at our newest publication: The Book of Revelation, New Metaphysical Version: A Manual Describing the Unfoldment of our Christ Nature.

Click here to learn about and donate to our project of creating a Cyber Community for Spiritual Folks!

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Spiritual Practice from the Beach: Grid Wire Grit

Gridwire-WrightsvilleBeachOn a recent business trip to Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina, we noticed some nylon coated wires running from the deck and pool areas up to the roof of the resort hotel we were staying in that were a novelty at first — and then became an interest. During lunch, we asked our waitress about the nylon wires and she laughed as she explained that those wires kept the seagulls and grackle birds from invading the area, stealing food and bothering tourists! Her explanation sent us to the Internet to investigate. Here’s what we found:

Numerous academic studies and the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommend grids of nylon coated wire and/or nylon monofilament lines as the most effective method to prevent seagulls from landing and roosting in resort areas, open areas like docks, restaurants, pools and ponds and flat roofs. These monofilament barricades are very good at getting rid of seagull and grackle bird infestations because they emit a sound caused by the wind moving them that disorients the gulls.

You’re probably asking the question, “Don’t seagulls learn over time to invade the space protected by the deterrent system?

In fact the opposite happens. Seagulls seem to teach each other to avoid the protected area. It sometimes takes a few days for seagulls to stop even trying to land if they’ve developed a strong habit or have used the area for feeding or nesting for a long time. However, over time the system is increasingly effective as seagulls find more gull-friendly places to roost and defecate.

The deterrent system does not injure seagulls or other birds. The Grid Wire Deterrent System is very uncomfortable for seagulls, making them feel unsafe because they prefer wide open spaces as their normal habitat. Other beneficial birds, such as swallows, martins and migrating land birds easily navigate around or through the lines (bats do fine too).

Everywhere we go, we think of everything we see as curriculum for our spiritual growth and content for our books, webinars and classes. The reason we have chosen this as a spiritual practice is that it is very similar to another ‘protection’ technique called the White Light technique, referred to by psychologists as ‘psychological shielding.’ (See the White Light Technique in Vol.3 of our series of Spiritual Practices).

The White Light technique involves visually surrounding yourself with a shield of white light, that will not allow any negative energy to penetrate it. It allows you to deny any power to someone’s negativity or sour attitudes, and affirm your oneness with your Higher Spiritual Nature!

This Grid Wire Grit practice invites you to visualize being protected by a shield of invisible grid wires that serves as a failsafe deterrent against someone else’s negativity, undue criticism, anger, hate, and overall sour attitude. It blocks all of those things from affecting you emotionally and draining the energy out of you. Like the White Light Technique it incubates you from harm. Mentally see the wire grid repelling all of the ‘slings and arrows’ thrown at you. You may even want to couple your mental image with the statement, “I believe these belong to you,” referring to the ‘slings and arrows.’

Like the White Light Technique, this practice is an excellent psychological shielding technique, as you walk the spiritual path on practical feet.

© 2015 Bil and Cher Holton, YourSpiritualPractice.com

 

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Lent from a Spiritual Not Religious Perspective: Fasting and Feasting

Bil & Cher Holton - The Metaphysical Website:

It’s Lenten season and those who consider themselves more spiritual than religious often find themselves in a dilemma about fasting. Here is a more spiritual approach, which we shared last year but believe is timeless and a great reminder. Plus a new addition: visit this link to download a special Feast or Fast Flow Chart. (http://www.yourspiritualpractice.com/spiritual-prac/fast-or-feast-tip-sheet/ )

Originally posted on Global Center for Spiritual Practices:

OakTree-acorn-ca9769811There are two ways to get to the top of an oak tree. You can climb it, or you can sit on an acorn! Both are perfectly viable ways, although one takes the patience of Job. There are also two ways to move through the Lenten Season: fasting and feasting. Both are legitimate expressions of spiritual growth. As a matter of fact, from a spiritual perspective, both are necessary.

Ash Wednesday is traditionally the first day of Lent. And traditionally during Lent, we are asked to give up things like chocolate, ice cream, soft drinks, high fat foods, doughnuts, potato chips, and so on. The phrase “deny yourself” is equated with “deprive yourself of pleasure.” And the focus is generally giving up certain types of foods even some luxuries like eating out in restaurants, reducing TV time, turning off house lights and using candles, and so on, throughout the Lenten…

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Spiritual Emergence or Religious Emergency

SpiritualPractice-candlesWe hear a lot of people using the phrase “more spiritual than religious” these days, causing us to ponder what they really mean when they label themselves this way. It has been our experience that there really is a soul deepening difference between spiritual and religious — a difference we have termed spiritual emergence versus religious emergency. Spiritual emergence is a gradual unfoldment of spiritual expression that causes a minimal ‘disturbance’ in our everyday functioning because we are somewhat prepared for it, given our disposition for the mystical. On the other hand, there are those who experience what we call religious emergencies, which can cause significant disruptions in their everyday living, because these folks are usually unprepared for mystical experiences since they consider themselves to be more religious than spiritual. 

SpiritualExperiencesEmergent spiritual experiences like visions, deeply felt meditations, out-of-body experiences, apparitions and precognitive dreams are usually exhilarating and life-changing and can be very transformative — for those who have moved to a place of being more spiritual than religious. These same experiences, however, can also be deeply unsettling for people who fall in the category of being more religious than spiritual.

People who are more spiritual than religious seem to have less difficulty with these types of transcendental experiences. Why? Spiritually-inclined people are usually more open to mystical experiences. They feel more connected to the transcendentalness of life. They have a spiritual, not religious, mindset! Their openness to the nonmaterial and ethereal dimensions of reality make them the perfect recipients for these life-affirming experiences.

Part of the challenge highly religious people face in transformative experiences is staying grounded after they experience these ‘higher octaves’ of reality. These ‘altered states of being’ are typically foreign, and even taboo, when it comes to handling their ingrained religiosity.

Because of their denominational inhibitions, mainstream religious people tend to be quite reluctant to integrate highly spiritual experiences into their religious practices. They may even feel they would be bedeviled by these experiences.

How to Use Transcendent Experiences

Great spiritual teachers and mystics alike assure us that these transcendent experiences are natural and healthy. They see these experiences as evidence of our evolving spirituality and enlightenment. They encourage us to willingly allow highly spiritual/mystical experiences to touch our lives and to use the memories of those experiences – and therefore the transformative value of those experiences – to flow into our everyday lives.

Living our lives based on embedded religious theology makes it difficult to allow spiritual and metaphysical teachings into our world view. What usually happens is the cognitive dissonance caused by the new mind-stretching ‘experiential information’ causes people to tighten their dogmatic reins so that any progress – and openness – to potentially transformative truths is shut down completely.

How This Affects Churches and Spiritual Communities

spiritualVersusReligious-ChoirAs a matter of fact, that’s the troublesome dynamic we see occurring in spiritual communities/New Thought churches/liberal churches today. If the leadership in those communities is stuck in embedded religious theology, it makes it very difficult for the membership that considers themselves to be more spiritual than religious to get a spiritual, not religious, message. It also makes it very difficult for the minister and music director to see eye-to-eye if the music director is hesitant to – or outright refuses to – change the song lyrics to complement the minister’s spiritually-oriented message. It’s an old story – you know, the one about pouring new wine into old wineskins!

On the other hand, if the leadership happens to be more spiritual than religious in a church setting (holding services in a church building characterized by stained glass windows and pews), the members who consider themselves to be more religious than spiritual demand a message and music that are more dogmatically religious than universally open and spiritual. The two factions behave like oil and water. And the ministers who serve those divided communities operate between a rock and a hard place because making both factions happy is impossible!

If you’ve ever been involved in, or are currently involved in, a spiritual/religious community that is comprised of a culture of religious-oriented and spiritually-oriented folks in the same sanctuary at the same time, you know it’s a recipe for conflict and division. Congregations tend to blame their difficulties on going from a family size to a pastoral size to a program size, etc. While there’s some truth to that perspective, the majority of the difficulty lies in the philosophical and religious differences between the spiritual and religious cultures who are at odds.

When people are the willing products of mainstream religion and experience mind-stretching – sometimes mind-blowing – spiritual teachings, transcendent experiences, and metaphysical truths, their default tendency is to rail against the ‘new wine’ no matter how tasty or transformative. On the other side of the aisle are the spiritually inclined who have outgrown the old wineskins and feel walled-in by the dogma.

Spiritual emergence doesn’t have to be a religious emergency! However, it means religious addicts will have to shed fossilized religious beliefs and biases, recalibrate deeply worn religious grooves, and willingly move from their amygdala-oriented mindset to a neocortex-oriented mindset. To put it simply they must be willing to move from a blunt edge to a growing edge. Of course, even if they wanted to, sharpening their perspective will take time. Unfortunately, it will take too much time for those who are more spiritual than religious.

What are the More Spiritual Than Religious To Do?

SpiritualNotReligiousGrouThe bottom line is those who are more spiritual than religious will have to find less religious settings to practice their spirituality. For example, the spiritually-inclined will find their enrichment and community through:

  • Small group meetings, locally or through Internet Membership sites;
  • Internet live-streaming events and TV programming;
  • non-church architecturally-styled buildings to hold spiritual education programs;
  • retreats, conferences and workshops;
  • individual meditative and self-study experiences; and
  • outings like cruises and guided tours to build spiritual community.

Many people are making the shift from religious myopia to spiritual broad-mindedness and receptivity. The key is an honest desire to leave religious staleness behind in order to embrace the transformative insights of spirituality and metaphysical thought, and a willingness to integrate mystical experiences into their lives.

We support that consciousness shift. And we unapologetically support those devoted truth seekers who bravely step into spiritual frontiers in order to raise the collective consciousness of humankind to a higher spiritual octave. ‘Amy’ (the amygdala) must become subordinate to ‘Neo’ (the neocortex) in order to turn a blunt, frightened, religious edge into a growing, transcendental spiritual edge! We affirm spiritual emergence as you walk the spiritual path on practical feet.

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