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God is great—for your mental, physical, and spiritual health. Based on new evidence culled from brain-scan studies, a wide-reaching survey of people’s religious and spiritual experiences, and the authors’ analyses of adult drawings of God, neuroscientist Andrew Newberg and therapist Mark Robert Waldman offer the following breakthrough discoveries:
 
• Not only do prayer and spiritual practice reduce stress, but just twelve minutes of meditation per day may slow down the aging process.
• Contemplating a loving God rather than a punitive God reduces anxiety and depression and increases feelings of security, compassion, and love.
• Fundamentalism, in and of itself, can be personally beneficial, but the prejudice generated by extreme beliefs can permanently damage your brain.
• Intense prayer and meditation permanently change numerous structures and functions in the brain, altering your values and the way you perceive reality.

Both a revelatory work of modern science and a practical guide for readers to enhance their physical and emotional health, How God Changes Your Brain is a first-of-a-kind book about faith that is as credible as it is inspiring.

Review

“To this musty debate, Newberg, perhaps America''s leading expert on the neurological basis of religion, brings a fresh perspective. His new book summarizes several years of groundbreaking research on the biological basis of religious experience. And it offers plenty to challenge skeptics and believers alike.”--Michael Gerson’s editorial dedicated to the book for The Washington Post

“The authors present an elaborate, engaging meditation program to reduce anger and fear and increase serenity and love. They embrace faith (not necessarily religious), diversity, tolerance, and “compassionate communication. . . . A substantial advance in the self-help/spirituality genre and an excellent choice for general collections.” Library Journal

“Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman give us a magnificent, comprehensive explanation of how spiritual beliefs and experiences enhance changes in our brains and yield better health and well-being. They bring science and religion closer together.”—Herbert Benson, M.D., author of The Relaxation Response

How God Changes Your Brain is a highly practical, easy-to-read guide on the interface between spirituality and neuroscience, filled with useful information that can make your brain and your life better, starting today!”—Daniel G. Amen, M.D. author of Change Your Brain, Change Your Life

“Not since William James’s The Varieties of Religious Experience has there been a work that so exquisitely integrates science and spirituality. Newberg and Waldman have written a book that is wise, up-to-date, scholarly, mature, and imaginative. At the same time it is a down-to-earth work that will surely inspire repeated readings.”—George Vaillant, M.D., author of Spiritual Evolution

How God Changes Your Brain boldly explores the relationship between the structure of our brains and our ability not only to experience but to cultivate innate compassion and deep inner peace.” —Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D., author of My Stroke of Insight

“The authors present an illuminating and encouraging view of the inner and outer workings of our neurological perception of reality and how profoundly it is affected by our spiritual practices. Their practical exercises for a brain tune-up are revolutionary, and I’m enjoying immensely including them in my daily spiritual regime.” —Michael Bernard Beckwith, author of Spiritual Liberation

“Stimulating and provocative. . . .The authors conclude that meditation and other spiritual practices permanently strengthen neural functioning in specific parts of the brain that aid in lowering anxiety and depression, enhancing social awareness and empathy, and improving cognitive functioning.. . . this forceful study could stir controversy among scientists and philosophers.” —Publishers Weekly

About the Author

Andrew Newberg, M.D., is the director of the Center for Spirituality and the Mind at the University of Pennsylvania. He is one of the founders of the new interdisciplinary field called neurotheology. He is an associate professor in the department of radiology, with secondary appointments in the departments of psychiatry and religious studies, at the University of Pennsylvania. His work has been featured on Good Morning America, Nightline, Discovery Channel, BBC, NPR, and National Geographic Television. He is the co-author of Why God Won’t Go Away, Born to Believe, and The Mystical Mind.

Mark Robert Waldman is an associate fellow at the Center for Spirituality and the Mind at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a therapist, the author or co-author of ten books, including Born to Believe (with Andrew Newberg), and was the founding editor of Transpersonal Review. He lectures throughout the country on neuroscience, religion, and spirituality and conducts research with numerous religious and secular groups. His work has been featured in dozens of newspapers and magazines and on syndicated radio programs.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter One


Religion and the human brain



Our time is distinguished by wonderful achievements in the fields of scientific understanding and the technical application of those insights. Who would not be cheered by this? But let us not forget that knowledge and skills alone cannot lead humanity to a happy and dignified life. Humanity has every reason to place the proclaimers of high moral standards and values above the discoverers of objective truth. What humanity owes to personalities like Buddha, Moses, and Jesus ranks for me higher than all the achievements of the inquiring and constructive mind.—Albert Einstein, The Human Side

Who cares about God? Prelude to a Neurological and Spiritual Revolution

God.  

In America, I cannot think of any other word that stirs up the imagination more. Even young children raised in nonreligious communities understand the concept of God, and when asked, will willingly draw you a picture-usually the proverbial old man with the long hair and a beard. As children grow into adults, their pictures of God often evolve into abstract images of clouds, spirals, sunbursts, and even mirrors, as they attempt to integrate the properties of a reality they cannot see. In fact, the more a person thinks about God, the more complex and imaginative the concept becomes, taking on unique nuances of meaning that differ from one individual to the next.  

If you contemplate God long enough, something surprising happens in the brain. Neural functioning begins to change. Different circuits become activated, while others become deactivated. New dendrites are formed, new synaptic connections are made, and the brain becomes more sensitive to subtle realms of experience. Perceptions alter, beliefs begin to change, and if God has meaning for you, then God becomes neurologically real. For some, God may remain a primitive concept, limited to the way a young child interprets the world. But for most people, God is transformed into a symbol or metaphor representing a wide range of personal, ethical, social, and universal values. And, if you happen to be a neuroscientist, God can be one of the most fascinating of human experiences to explore.  

The Science of God  

For the past fifteen years I have investigated the neural mechanisms of spirituality with the same fervor that a minister contemplates God. Some religious rituals do nothing more than relax you, others help to keep you focused and alert, but a few appear to take practitioners into transcendent realms of mystical experience where their entire lives are changed.  

Our research team at the University of Pennsylvania has consistently demonstrated that God is part of our consciousness and that the more you think about God, the more you will alter the neural circuitry in specific parts of your brain. That is why I say, with the utmost confidence, that God can change your brain. And it doesn''t matter if you''re a Christian or a Jew, a Muslim or a Hindu, or an agnostic or an atheist.   In Why God Won''t Go Away, I demonstrated that the human brain is uniquely constructed to perceive and generate spiritual realities.1 Yet it has no way to ascertain the accuracy of such perceptions. Instead, our brain uses logic, reason, intuition, imagination, and emotion to integrate God and the universe into a complex system of personal values, behaviors, and beliefs.  

But no matter how hard we try, the ultimate nature of the universe continues to elude our brain. So the bigger questions remain. Where does life originate, where does it end, and what ultimate purpose does it serve? Is there a spiritual reality, or is it merely a fabrication of the mind? If there is a God, does such an entity reach out to us like the hand that Michelangelo painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? Or is it the other way around: Does our mind reach out to embrace a God that may or may not be real?  

Neuroscience has yet to answer such questions, but it can record the effect that religious beliefs and experiences have upon the human brain. Furthermore, it can tell us how God-as an image, feeling, thought, or fact-is interpreted, reacted to, and turned into a perception that feels meaningful and real. But neuroscience cannot tell you if God does or doesn''t exist. In fact, as far as we can tell, most of the human brain does not even worry if the things we see are actually real. Instead, it only needs to know if they are useful for survival. If a belief in God provides you with a sense of comfort and security, then God will enhance your life. But if you see God as a vindictive deity who gives you justification for inflicting harm on others, such a belief can actually damage your brain as it motivates you to act in socially destructive ways.  

Having an accurate perception of reality is not one of the brain''s strong points. Indeed, as Mark and I pointed out in Why We Believe What We Believe,* the human brain seems to have difficulty separating fantasies from facts.2 It sees things that are not there, and it sometimes doesn''t see things that are there. In fact, the brain doesn''t even try to create a fully detailed map of the external world. Instead, it selects a handful of cues, then fills in the rest with conjecture, fantasy, and belief. Rather than being a hindrance, such neurological ambiguity allows us to imagine and create a world filled with utopian, utilitarian, and sometimes useless things-from eye protectors for chickens to electronic corneas for the blind.  

Likewise, when it comes to thinking about God, our brain creates a vast range of utopian, utilitarian, and sometimes useless theologies-from complex moral value systems to the number of angels that can fit on the head of a pin. But no matter how comprehensive our theologies become, our brain is rarely satisfied with its concepts and images of God. The end result of this remarkable contemplation has been the creation of thousands of differing spiritual practices and creeds.  

Indeed, the more one contemplates God, the more mysterious God becomes. Some embrace this emergent ambiguity, some are frightened by it, some ignore it, and others reject it in its entirety. But the fact remains that every human brain, from early childhood on, contemplates the possibility that spiritual realms exist. Believers like Isaac Newton, agnostics like Charles Darwin, and atheists like Richard Dawkins have all given serious consideration to humanity''s fascination with God, because the moment God is introduced to the human brain, the neurological concept will not go away.  

Recently there has been a spate of antireligious books-among them, The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins; The End of Faith, Sam Harris; and God Is Not Great, Christopher Hitchens-that argue that religious beliefs are personally and societally dangerous. But the research, as we will outline throughout this book, strongly suggests otherwise. Nor do we believe that these authors represent the views of the vast majority of scientists or atheists. For example, though I am not specifically religious, I''m open to the possibility that God may exist, whereas Mark, my colleague and co-researcher, prefers to look at the universe through a purely naturalistic and evidence-based perspective. Yet we both appreciate and encourage religious and spiritual development-as long as it does not denigrate the lives or religious beliefs of others.  

For the past four years, Mark and I have been studying how different concepts of God affect the human mind. I have brain-scanned Franciscan nuns as they immersed themselves in the presence of God, and charted the neurological changes as Buddhist practitioners contemplated the universe. I have watched what happens in the brains of Pentecostal practitioners who invited the Holy Spirit to speak to them in tongues, and have seen how the brains of atheists react-and don''t react-when they meditate on a concrete image of God.

Along with my research staff at the University of Pennsylvania and the Center for Spirituality and the Mind, we are currently studying Sikhs, Sufis, yoga practitioners, and advanced meditators to map the neurochemical changes caused by spiritual and religious practices. Our research has led us to the following conclusions:       

1. Each part of the brain constructs a different perception of God.     

2. Every human brain assembles its perceptions of God in uniquely different ways, thus giving God different qualities of meaning and value.     

3. Spiritual practices, even when stripped of religious beliefs, enhance the neural functioning of the brain in ways that improve physical and emotional health.     

4. Intense, long-term contemplation of God and other spiritual values appears to permanently change the structure of those parts of the brain that control our moods, give rise to our conscious notions of self, and shape our sensory perceptions of the world.     

5. Contemplative practices strengthen a specific neurological circuit that generates peacefulness, social awareness, and compassion for others.  

Spiritual practices also can be used to enhance cognition, communication, and creativity, and over time can even change our neurological perception of reality itself. Yet, it is a reality that we cannot objectively confirm. Instead, our research has led us to conclude that three separate realities intermingle to give us a working model of the world: the reality that actually exists outside of our brain, and two internal realities-maps that our brain constructs about the world. One of these maps is subconscious and primarily concerned with survival and the biological maintenance of the body. But this map is not the world itself; it''s just a guide that helps us navigate the terrain. Human beings, however, construct a second internal reality-a map that reflects our conscious awareness of the universe. This consciousness is very different from the subconscious map formed by our sensory and emotional circuits. We know that these two internal maps exist, but we have yet to discover if, and to what degree, these two inner realities communicate with each other.

Overall, our consciousness represents a reality that is the farthest removed from the world that actually exists outside of the brain. Thus, if God does exist, there would be three separate realities to consider: the God that exists in the world, our subconscious perception of that God, and the conscious images and concepts that we construct in a very small part of our frontal, temporal, and parietal lobes. It has been my goal to show that spiritual practices may help us to bridge the chasm between these inner and outer realities, which would then bring us closer to what actually exists in the world. I still don''t know if it''s possible, but the health benefits associated with meditation and religious ritual cannot be denied.  

Organization of this Book  


In the first two sections we will explore the neural correlates of spiritual experiences that our research has uncovered. The third section is filled with practical exercises that anyone can use to enhance the physical, emotional, cognitive, and communication processes of the brain.  

In Chapter 2-"Do You Even Need God when You Pray?"-we''ll describe our recent study showing how spiritual practices improve memory, and how they can slow down neurological damage caused by growing old. Our memory study also demonstrates that if you remove the spiritual references, religious rituals will still have a beneficial effect on the brain. We''ll also show you how to create and personalize your own "memory enhancement" meditation.  

In Chapter 3-"What Does God Do to Your Brain?"-we''ll explore the neural varieties of meditation and prayer, explaining how different parts of the brain create different perceptions of God. We''ll tell you how God becomes neurologically real and show you how different neurochemicals and drugs alter your spiritual beliefs.  

In Chapter 4-"What Does God Feel Like?"-we''ll share with you the surprising findings from our online Survey of Spiritual Experiences. Our data suggests that God is more of a feeling than an idea, that nearly everyone''s spiritual experience is unique, and that these experiences often generate long-lasting states of unity, peacefulness, and love. Furthermore, they have the power to change people''s religious and spiritual orientations, as well as the way they interact with others.  

In Chapter 5-"What Does God Look Like?"-we''ll show you what we discovered when we compared adult drawings of God with pictures drawn by children. We''ll explain why some atheists maintain childhood images, while others draw sophisticated renditions, and share with you how agnostics tend to react when they explore their notions of God. We will also explain why each of us may have a single "God" neuron or circuit that slowly expands the more we contemplate religious ideas.  

In Chapter 6-"Does God Have a Heart?"-we''ll describe how Americans project different personalities onto God, and how each of these perspectives affect the neural functioning of the brain. We will also explain how God culturally evolved from an authoritarian, punitive deity to become a force that is filled with compassion and love. This "mystical" element of God affects a very important part of the brain, called the anterior cingulate, which we need to nurture as we engage in a pluralistic world filled with different perceptions of the divine.

  In Chapter 7-"What Happens when God Gets Mad?"-we''ll delve more deeply into the neurological dangers of anger, fear, authoritarianism, and idealism. We will also explain why everyone-believers and nonbelievers alike-is born with a built-in fundamentalist framework that is deeply embedded in the neurological circuitry of the brain.  

In Chapter 8-"Exercising Your Brain"-we''ll tell you about the eight best ways to keep your brain physically, mentally, and spiritually tuned-up. Three of these techniques are directly related to the neurological principles underlying meditation, but I think several of them will surprise you, especially the one that we think may be most essential for maintaining a healthy brain. They are all relatively easy to do, and we will give you pointers on how to integrate them into your daily life. We''ll even show you how you can arouse your precuneus-which may be the central circuit of human consciousness-in less than sixty seconds.  

In Chapter 9-"Finding Serenity"-we have used the findings from our neurological research to create a personalized "brain enhancement" program that will help you reduce stress, become more attentive and alert, develop greater sensitivity and empathy, and generally improve the overall functioning of your brain. We''ll explain the three key principles of meditation and guide you through twelve exercises that you can practice at home. Included are three simple techniques to defuse anger, the emotion most likely to interfere with the normal functioning of your brain.  

In Chapter 10-"Compassionate Communication"-we integrate the techniques from the previous two chapters into a new exercise that can be done while you are engaged in conversation with someone else. In less than fifteen minutes a compassionate and intimate dialogue unfolds that undermines the normal defensive behaviors we usually employ in social situations. We are currently conducting brain-scan research to document the neurological benefits associated with this "Compassionate Communication" exercise, and we will instruct you on how to practice it with family members and friends. We''ll also enumerate twenty-one strategies that you can use to effectively resolve interpersonal problems.

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Top reviews from the United States

Steve Baker
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
” When I understood how my erroneous thoughts about God could be replaced with repeated truth about our good and loving God in f
Reviewed in the United States on February 9, 2017
I first read How God Changes Your Brain after checking it out my local library. The book informed me about my own thinking of how God interfaces with all human beings. I am not well schooled in neuroscience, but because of Newberg’s and Waldman’s clear and concise... See more
I first read How God Changes Your Brain after checking it out my local library. The book informed me about my own thinking of how God interfaces with all human beings. I am not well schooled in neuroscience, but because of Newberg’s and Waldman’s clear and concise explanations of a complicated subject, I understood more of what was at the root of my clinical depression.
I bought my own copy to mark up.
Dr. Newberg suggests paths to serenity, but it was on page 132 that I received clarity. “If you allow anger and fear to dominate, you will lose the neurological ability to think logically and act compassionately toward others. In fact, it is nearly impossible to find peace and serenity if your mind is preoccupied by negative, anxious, or hateful thoughts.”
When I understood how my erroneous thoughts about God could be replaced with repeated truth about our good and loving God in focused daily meditations, God began to restore my soul.
One year later, after taking to heart disciplines suggested in this book, my brain has changed. This book helped me start the healing process.
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Cristina Smith
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
If you own or operate a brain this book is for you.
Reviewed in the United States on July 8, 2017
"...every human brain, from early childhood on, contemplates the possibity that spiritual realms exist. " Take a moment and let that sink in. This book offers many such opportunities for consideration, philosophically, psychologically, spiritually and... See more
"...every human brain, from early childhood on, contemplates the possibity that spiritual realms exist. " Take a moment and let that sink in.

This book offers many such opportunities for consideration, philosophically, psychologically, spiritually and scientifically. A wonderful blend of not too dense facts and research and practical ways to help enhance and maximize whole brain functioning, it gives us a different way to think about thinking about God, the Divine, Source, All that Is, The Force, By Whatever Name You Choose.

The best part about it all? Thinking about the spiritual realm of life is great for our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. And...doing spiritual practices whether or not they are connected with religion or a belief system substantially benefits our brains.
33 people found this helpful
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Raghda Soliman
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Mind opening and life changing (to me)
Reviewed in the United States on July 9, 2017
Even though this book is not a Christian book, it still opened my mind on spiritual matters that can be carried out to evolve my life to the better. Andrew and Mark help us learn all the researches done on spiritual practices as meditation and the results that come out of... See more
Even though this book is not a Christian book, it still opened my mind on spiritual matters that can be carried out to evolve my life to the better. Andrew and Mark help us learn all the researches done on spiritual practices as meditation and the results that come out of such practices. They show us the benefits of carrying out such practices like meditation, compassionate communication... etc.
I found the book so insightful. It helped me learn a lot on how I can change my brain and therefore my character and attitudes by simply meditating. This triggered me to read more on Christian meditation and actually start practicing it. I am enjoying it, feeling calmer every time I finish a session and praying that with perseverance and the Holy Spirit, I will actually change to the New Creation God intended me to be.
I am so thankful that I read such a book and recommend it to every person living in Earth to read and practice the different meditations mentioned as their beliefs states.
I also loved the metaphor given on our relationship with God as dogs'' relationship with us.
Thank you Andrew.
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Dolores Campbell
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
MORE THAN JUST RESEARCH AND NOT ABOUT RELIGION
Reviewed in the United States on May 31, 2014
I gave this book 5 stars for it''s information and readability. I recommend it to anyone who wants to improve their brain function This is not a book about religion. It is about the neurological changes in our brain produced when we think about God. The authors are... See more
I gave this book 5 stars for it''s information and readability. I recommend it to anyone who wants to improve their brain function
This is not a book about religion. It is about the neurological changes in our brain produced when we think about God. The authors are researchers and have backed up their claims with plenty of scientific proof --- which they present in an easy to understand manner. This book is more than just a bunch of info collected by brain researchers. It presents clear and practical things to do to change the functioning of your brain. Most of these involve some form of meditation. The first meditation discussed is Kirtan Kriya. The Alzheimers Prevention Foundation funded a study to see if this meditation would help with Alzheimers. It did and he results were impressive.
I don''t have Alzheimers, nor am I particularly worried about getting it, but I am getting older and anything that causes me to grow new neurons is worth a try. I ordered the CD and find it fun and easy to do. I feel much more alert. Another simple thing they recommend is yawning. I incorporated a daily formal yawning session into my life and love it.
If you are willing to try new things to improve your brain function, relationships and life in general then this is a good read.
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Greg79
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A believer who sees great value in this book
Reviewed in the United States on September 14, 2014
I am a catholic, Christian, believer. For a long, long time, I have struggled with the problem how to find meaningful common ground with all faiths, and especially those with agnostic or atheist faith, who are genuinely interested in the real golden rule of treating others... See more
I am a catholic, Christian, believer. For a long, long time, I have struggled with the problem how to find meaningful common ground with all faiths, and especially those with agnostic or atheist faith, who are genuinely interested in the real golden rule of treating others with care, love and respect. This book explores what might be the ultimate common ground of being human and treating each other with all good intents, and none of the bad side of what warring beliefs bring.
Being a human being, inside each of our heads, is the brain wiring to take care of each other, to treat each other well, to be more than the savage animal beast, to be a higher being. Whether we choose to believe this is the created imprint of a higher power in us, or a highly evolved adaption for survival, it is undeniable it is present in each and every one of us. And our lives'' goal is to strengthen it, nurture it, develop it. Not to argue so much about how it got there, that is only our egos getting in the way.
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AKAsun&moon
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
words create ...our lives for what we experience
Reviewed in the United States on May 22, 2019
I understand our original design of DNA ...codes "GOD ETERNAL WITHIN THE BODY" ...the body, is designed only to express divine love..anything less than love, the signals to our bodies need to block the vibration of negativity from destroying the cells in our... See more
I understand our original design of DNA ...codes "GOD ETERNAL WITHIN THE BODY" ...the body, is designed only to express divine love..anything less than love, the signals to our bodies need to block the vibration of negativity from destroying the cells in our body...LIKEWISE, POSITIVE words do and will regenerate our cells to good health...as we are designed to use our bodies for expressing GOD''s TRUTH and DIVINE LOVE...this is a book to have on hand for everyone to consider the value of our DNA CREATIVE INTENTION...to express GOD''s TRUTH in our lives and deeds and assure ourselves to live in harmony with divine cosmic laws of our UNIVERSE...
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CoffeeDad34
2.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
How "meditation" changes brain
Reviewed in the United States on July 18, 2021
There are a few interesting pieces in this book, but it''s tough to wade through and pick them out of the mess of the rest. Most of the book is about the positive benefits of meditation. There are a few parts about brain scans of certain religious adherents, but the... See more
There are a few interesting pieces in this book, but it''s tough to wade through and pick them out of the mess of the rest.
Most of the book is about the positive benefits of meditation. There are a few parts about brain scans of certain religious adherents, but the rest is either the authors'' assumptions, guesses, or gross overextrapolation (a.k.a. exaggeration) of 1 study to most people.
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Sam
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Your brain on God
Reviewed in the United States on May 29, 2012
Twelve minutes of meditation or prayer a day will increase blood flow to your frontal lobes. Keep at it for as little as eight weeks and you will "take charge of your life," "more easily accomplish your goals," and live in more "loving and compassionate ways." This works... See more
Twelve minutes of meditation or prayer a day will increase blood flow to your frontal lobes. Keep at it for as little as eight weeks and you will "take charge of your life," "more easily accomplish your goals," and live in more "loving and compassionate ways." This works even if you don''t contemplate God. The meditation can be religious or secular.

How God Changes the Brain isn''t entirely about God (I''ll describe the parts that are about God at the end.) It''s about attention. The authors have conducted numerous studies on how paying attention to the virtues often associated with religion--love, joy, optimism and hope--changes brain chemistry. "[I]t counteracts our biological propensity to react to dangerous situations with animosity or fear," the authors write. The benefits are too numerous to list: less likelihood of depression, slowdown of Parkinson''s and Alzheimer''s, and stronger memory. Kids miss less school and don''t get into trouble as often. Your risk of death goes down 35 percent.

35 percent! Who wouldn''t buy a prescription to extend your life by 5 to 10 years? And every strategy in this book is free. Yes, the authors recommend DVDs and CDs in the appendices, but all the practices can be done without those.

My favorite meditation was Kirtan Kriya. You sit and chant four syllables, while moving your thumb across your four fingers with each syllable. The four syllables could be "sa-ta-na-ma," which is traditional, but it also could "peace, love, hope, and joy." Anything that gets you in a compassionate frame of mind.

The candle meditation was new to me as well. "Bring your focus to the flame. Let it fill your entire consciousness as you observe how it dances and flutters. What colors does it make? Does the flame grow taller, then retreat? Keep watching all of the qualities of the flame for three or four minutes."

Here''s a method for adding centeredness and compassion to conversation: "Bringing meditation into any conversation is surprisingly simple. All you have to do is maintain consistent eye contact and stay physically relaxed and mindful of your responses as you participate in a flow of spontaneous conversation. You say a few sentences slowly, then return to your breathing awareness while the other person responds. The unstructured conversation that follows will quickly move into surprisingly intimate areas. And, like the walking meditation we discussed in the previous chapter, the more you practice, the easier it becomes."

The authors are big on yawning. You might be too after reading about all the benefits of yawning on a regular basis, even consciously.

Finally, back to religion: The most explicitly religious portion of the book discusses the differences between different understandings of God. There is the authoritarian God, the critical God, and the distant God. About 72 percent of Americans believe in one of these three. "[O]nly 23 percent see God as gentle, forgiving, and less likely to respond with wrath." The authors strongly encourage us to embrace the latter God. Doing so is how we can tame our "selfish brain." "The more compassionate we become," they write, "the more generous those around us become. And when we perceive others as being sensitive to our needs, our brains respond with greater generosity, a condition known as reciprocal altruism." Even they admit, however, that their views are unlikely to be convincing to a "true believer." That truth, unfortunately, is what is preventing many from embracing religion, despite the benefits recounted in this book.
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Top reviews from other countries

Elizabeth
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
An amazing opportunity to better understand your relationship with yourself
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 7, 2014
Amazing book, gives you the opportunity to think outside the box, gives you better skills, (tool box) to understand how your thoughts, beliefs, and culture affects, and effects your life. very inspiring. Thank you Highly recommended.
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Mir madden
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How God changes your brain
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 1, 2020
Excellent book. God & science complimenting one another.
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Eddie Thomas
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Thought provoking
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 16, 2017
Excellent service
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SheenaM
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Five Stars
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 22, 2016
Took a while to come but am really enjoying it
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Steph
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Five Stars
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 14, 2016
all good
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