The Science of Spirituality … Who Knew?

A lovely woman in the morning meditation group drew to my attention yesterday to the work of Dr Lisa Miller, who wrote The Awakened Brain.  A little digging took me to the Spirituality Mind Body Institute at Columbia University, where they study the science of spirituality. 

The science of spirituality… how refreshing!  When I was in graduate school, the dominant culture in the Psychology Department was that science and spirituality were mutually exclusive.  If something could not be measured, it didn’t exist or, at least, it didn’t exist as a legitimate subject of study.  What a delight to discover that, in another place, Lisa Millar was devoting her life to integrating the deep core of spirituality to our understanding of human experience!

You can find out more about the work at the Institute website.

I have taken the liberty of copying a table I found there.  It shows the difference between life without a spiritual core and life with a spiritual core.  This seems to align nicely with the work of Richard Rohr – the False Self and the True Self that he speaks of in his book, “The Immortal Diamond”, and the spiritual development from the first half of life to the second half of life that he writes about in “Falling Upward.”  

If you want to learn more about Richard Rohr, look for the Centre for Action and Contemplation.  Here is the website link for the daily meditations

A Spiritual core shapes development, meaning, purpose, calling and connection

With spiritual core (True Self)Without spiritual core (False Self)
Self isInherent WorthAbilities Based
IdentityMeaning & PurposeAquiring Success
WorkCalling & ContributionTalents & Gains
RelationshipsSacred, Share Love & GrowPleasing, Meet Needs
PathAlways ConnectedUltimately Alone
Place in the worldPurposeful WorldRandom World
Existential RealityLove, Life-givingUnknown
Good eventsBlessingsDeserved luck
Bad eventsOpportunities. LearningRandom. Failure
From https://spiritualitymindbody.tc.columbia.edu/our-work/

Late February/Early March

#beingwith #presence #trueself

We meet ourselves time and again, in a thousand disguises, on the path of life.     Carl Jung

When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you.  A joy.    Rumi

May the forms of your belonging – in love, creativity, and in friendship – be equal to the grandeur and the call of your soul.   John O’Donohue

Words exist because of meaning; once you have gotten the meaning, you can forget the words.        Chuang Tzu

Collect your mind from its customary circling and wandering outside, and quietly lead it into the heart by way of breathing.    Callistus

You have seen beauty and know it for its transience.  Patricia Fargnoli

Anxiety and fear are only a brother and sister inviting you to belong to the strangeness of it all.     David Arthur Auten – The Nomad

Those undeserved joys which come uncalled and make us more pleased than grateful are they that sing.     Thoreau

Whatever our path, whatever riddles we must solve to stay alive, the secret of life somehow always has to do with the awakening and freeing of what has been asleep.     Mark Nepo

Reflections from early February

Compassion is a spirituality as if creation mattered. It is treating all creation as holy and as divine… which is what it is. Matthew Fox

May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children. Rainer Maria Rilke

To be in too big a hurry to get over our difficulties is a mistake because you don’t know how valuable they are from God’s perspective, for without them you might never be transformed as deeply and as thoroughly. Thomas Keating

And so remember this, life is no abyss, Somewhere there’s a bluebird of happiness. Emily Dickenson

“To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake it is necessary to stand out in the cold.” 

Plant so that your own heart will grow. Love so God will think, ‘Ahhhh, I got kin in that body! I should start inviting that soul over for coffee and rolls.’ Hafiz

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times.  Clarissa Pinkola Estes

The more agitated we are, and the more compacted our lives become, the more difficult it is to keep a space where God can let something truly new really take place. The discipline of the heart helps us to let God into our hearts so that God can become known to us there, in the deepest recesses of our own being. Henri Nouwen

What we reflected on the week ending January 8

I am no longer waiting to be recognized; I know that I dance in a holy circle.  Mary Anne Perrone 12-2-05

Surrender to the sweet bliss that is not part of this world.  Breathe deeply.  Love extravagantly.  Be all the parts of you that make you extraordinary.  Lihat Said Penh

let me remember to give more than i receive. to listen more than i speak. and to understand that everyone is searching for a little piece of fire.  may i take part in building that.   ullie-kaye

We are all complicit. … It’s a waste of God’s time—and our own—to try to prove who is more worthy, more holy, more blameless. Stop trying to be better than someone else! Just forget it! All that does is make us egocentric.  Michael Singer – The Untethered Mind

May God bless you with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart. 

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you really can make a difference in this world, so that you are able, with God’s grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.

Advent reflections: Hope Peace Joy Love

I asked for peace – You offered your presence. I asked for hope – You came to my side. I asked for joy – You lit my journey. I asked for love – You gave me yourself. David Adam – The Glory of Light

Hope is like a road in the country; there never was a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence… Lin Yutang

In the broken place where we live, hope can be found in the cracks….we too can bloom in our brokenness where we live and see more. Joan Taddonio

The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope…. Live right in it.   Barbara Kingsolver – Animal Dreams

Hope is the trust that God will fulfill God’s promises to us in a way that leads us to true freedom. The optimist speaks about concrete changes in the future. The person of hope lives in the moment with the knowledge and trust that all of life is in good hands. Henri Noewen

The hub of calmness — that’s your heart. That’s where God lives within you. So stop looking for answers in the world. Just keep coming back to that centre and you’ll always find peace. Elizabeth Gilbert – Eat, Pray, Love 

I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water.  Wendell Berry

Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone.   Alan Watts

Peace is not merely the absence of war, but the constant effort to maintain harmonious existence between all peoples, from individual to individual, and between humans and the other beings of this planet.  Haudenosaunee Declaration, 1979

True wealth … is the radiant joy of Being and the deep unshakable peace that comes with it. Eckart Tolle

I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy. Rabindranath Tagore

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. And how else can it be? Kahlil Gibran

Joy.. … is a spiritual engagement with the world based on gratitude. Richard Wagamese

Solitude and silence teach me to love others for what they are, not for what they say. Thomas Merton

Do you know that your fervent wishes can only find fulfillment if you succeed in attaining love and understanding of humankind, animals and plants, and stars, so that every joy becomes your joy and every pain your pain? Albert Einstein

Beyond the binary is love.

Call upon the help of those who love you.  These helpers take many forms; animal, element, bird, angel, saint , stone or ancestor. Joy Harjo

What we reflected on the week ending Oct 29

To be in acceptance is to have a relationship with what you are impatient about – what you usually run away from.  Acceptance goes beyond mere tolerance. (adapted from Gurdjieff – Talks on Transformation)

 The amount of happiness that you have depends upon the amount of freedom that you have in your heart. Thich Naht Hahn

Science tells me Gd must exist,  My mind tells me I will never understand god.  And my heart tells me, I am not meant to.  And that is okay. Dan Brown – Angels and Demons

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. Thomas Merton

Aging … invites you to become aware of the sacred circle that shelters your life. Within the harvest circle, you are able to gather lost memories and experiences, bring them together, and hold them as one. John O’Donohue

Without solitude, no plant or animal can survive, no soil can remain productive for any length of time, no child can learn about life, no artist can create, no work can grow and be transformed. Solitude is not the absence of Love, but its complement. Paulo Coelho

Don’t surrender your loneliness so quickly. Let it cut more deep. Let it ferment and season you. Hafiz

Each soul is a gust of God’s breath unfolding in the great energy that surrounds us like an ever-moving stream. The goal is not to cheat death, but to live in the stream with a humility and aliveness that only acceptance of death can release. Mark Nepo

What we reflected weeks ending October 22

#openness #growth

“Love is a form of death. And you have to learn how to die in order to learn how to love,” Dr. Cornel West

To learn and not to do, is really not to learn.  To know and not to do, is really not to know. Stephen Covey

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.                                                                                          Leo Buscglia

All the works of God proceed slowly and in pain, but then their roots are the sturdier and their flowering the lovelier.  Carolina Gerhardinger

It is beyond your control to cause any positive response from life and others based on your own inner work. This is why it is best to not expect any outer reward from your inner efforts. You are not that powerful.  Any positive response towards you should be a surprise and gift which sparks gratitude.  David Tensen

When you open yourself to the continually changing, impermanent, dynamic nature of your own being and of reality, you increase your capacity to love and care about other people and your capacity to not be afraid. Pema Chödrön

Joy unspeakable is that moment of mystical encounter when God tiptoes into the hush arbor, testifies about Divine suffering, and whispers in our ears, “Don’t forget, I taught you how to fly on a wing and a prayer; when you’re ready let’s go!”   Barbara Holmes

What we reflected on Weeks ending September 19

#mystery #openness

You alone can become yourself, but you cannot become yourself alone

If you ever feel like you’re the only one who doesn’t have it figured out, listen close. Life is not tidy. Growth is not linear. We are ALL wanderers.  We are all still learning. Erica Layne

We dredge up soil from the bed of mystery and build ourselves room to grow. And still the mystery surrounds us. It laps at our shores. It permeates the land. Scratch the surface of knowledge and mystery bubbles up like a spring.  Chet Raymo –  Honey From Stone

The divine mystery is not a collection of problems. As the mystics keep chanting, it is a light so bright that it blinds us, that we are bound to experience it as darkness.   John Carmody – How to Handle Trouble

If you want the moon, do not hide from the night. If you want a rose, do not run from the thorns. If you want love, do not hide from yourself. Rumi

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.   Psalm 23

What we reflected on in the weeks ending September 2nd


Last night as I was sleeping, I dreamt that I had a beehive here in my heart and the golden bees were making white combs and sweet honey from my old failures.  Anthony Machard – Heart of my Failures


Is there suffering upon this new earth? On our earth we can only love with suffering and through suffering. We cannot love otherwise, and we know of no other sort of love.  Fyodor Dostoevsky – The Dream of a Ridiculous Man 

That is my simple definition of suffering: whenever we are not in control.  Richard Rohr – The Naked Now

When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. . . . Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all. Hermann Hesse – Baume Betrachtungen und Gedichte


The eternal test of character — our great moral triumph — is the ability to face our own imperfections with composure, reflecting on them with lucid and luminous determination to do better. Maria Popova


The blending of light and darkness into beauty is love.

What we reflected upon in the week ending August 21st


Perhaps intimacy is the ability to be fragile and vulnerable.  You can love someone very, very much and still not be able to be intimate with them.  Judy T

According to the teaching of the Buddha, in true love there is no place for pride. Thich Nhat Hanh

In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you. Buddha

Love your neighbour as you love your coffee (Seed group wisdom)


Create a clearing in the dense forest of your life and wait there patiently, until the song that is yours alone to sing falls into your open cupped hands and you recognize and greet it.  Only then will you know how to give yourself to the world so worthy of rescue.   Martha Postlethwaite

You need to find what is genuinely yours to offer the world before you can make it a better place…. The offering of that gift—your true self—is the most you can do to love and serve the world. And it is all the world needs.   Bill Plotkin – Soulcraft

If you want the moon, do not hide from the night.  If you want a rose, do not run from the thorns.  If you want love, do not hide from yourself.  Rumi

Is it not true that somewhere deep down in the silence of our troubled hearts, we have always looked for God’s coming? Yet … we need only say our yes to who we are … we need simply to become more responsive to the secret yearning of our heart.  Johannes Beptist Metz –  The Advent of God 

May I have the courage today to live the life that I would love, to postpone my dream no longer, but do at last what I came here for and waste my heart on fear no more.  John O’Donohue

What we reflected on the week ending August 12, 2022


Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while or the light won’t get in.   Isaac Asimov

But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!  Matthew 6:23-24. 

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.  To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight, and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings, and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.   Wendell Berry

So let the darkness shape you, let it reform you, let it cradle you and birth you into a new life; a new way of being.  Let the spark flame again, in the darkness is where you will find it.    LJ Vanier – Ether: Into the Nemesis 


The kinder and the more thoughtful a person is, the more kindness he can find in other people.  Leo Tolstoy

Truth without kindness is cruelty.  Kindness without truth is pandering.

And now these three remain.  Faith, hope and love.  And the greatest of these is love.   Corinthians 13:13

It was humbling to watch a small bird work, singing as it went, leaving what it couldn’t use as it found it. If we could only treat each other with such simple kindness. Mark Nepo – Twig and Nest

It is a service to other human beings to look at them, confused and self-concerned as they may be, with the eyes of love and to resist for as long as possible letting the cataract of judgment occlude our view.  Maria Popova – Marginalian website

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  2 Corinthians 12

My still center, my True Self, does not need to oppose, differentiate, or compare itself. It just is and is content. Richard Rohr – Everything Belongs