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costas v

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Hello!I have been browsing for a few days now and I think it's time to jump in and introduce myself. I am very interested in the sciences and I read a lot about geology, astronomy, physics and also about philosophy, economics and politics. This group is even more appealing since I am an atheist like many people here. I don't have doubts about God's non-existence but I also have a sense of spirituality that I suppose many people express in religion. Lately I have been trying to see if I can cultivate it without sacrificing rationality or espousing mysticism. It is a tight rope to walk but I have come across a few interesting things in the process, booktalk.org being one of them. Looking forward to some stimulating discussions.Costas
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Chris OConnor

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costas vWelcome to BookTalk.org. Your areas of interest match ours very well, so I hope you get involved. Quote:Lately I have been trying to see if I can cultivate it without sacrificing rationality or espousing mysticism.Let me know what you come up with, as I've been searching for a means of experiencing the spiritual side of life without the silliness for a long time too. I guess it's all about how you define spiritual. A part of me cannot get rid of the idea that it only pertains to the supernatural, but many great freethinker authors have shared their spirituality, including Dawkins and Sagan.We're about to start reading a new book, so you've joined at an excellent time. Chris "The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them"
costas v

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Spirituality may not the best way to describe it. I am referring to experiences and feelings many people have in prayer and meditation: a sense of closeness to God, calm and happiness. The closest I have come to something like that is a sense of wonder about nature in particularly stunning settings or when out starwatching with my telescope. These experiences seem to have neurological underpinnings. There is plenty of research that shows activation of certain parts of the brain during prayer and meditation. I think that we ascribe religious meaning to these types of brain activity mainly because it is religious thinking that brings it on. I also think that the appeal of spirituality is due to these neurological effects although people tend to give higher meaning to it.I want to find out if one can get to the same place via a different route. If many different religious rituals activate the brain in that same special way then possibly some other practice, without a supernatural element, will work. Eastern meditation is not free of superstition and many practices are very cryptic and convoluted but it does show some promise if only in technique: at the very least one would have to sit quietly and contemplate something. I recently found a book by an ex Trappist monk ("Learning to dance inside", George Fowler) who suggests reading on spirituality as the actual act of meditating at least at the beginning. He recommends taking time to think about the nature of existence. He has books on quantum mechanics among his reading suggestions which I took (probably erroneously) as a clue on what he means by nature of existence. This is all a bit flaky but at least quantum mechanics is an interesting topic.Costas
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CostasIf you find the perfect replacement to prayer or meditation you ought to write a book and share it with the world. Actually, I think meditation shouldn't even be grouped in with prayer. Prayer is a submission to a higher power and completely irrational. Despite what some psychologically unsteady people will claim, prayers aren't answered.Meditation is another story. It seems if you can remove the mystical stuff from this practice, you might be onto something. What really is meditation? Why does it produce the results for so many people? Quote:If many different religious rituals activate the brain in that same special way then possibly some other practice, without a supernatural element, will work.I'm not sure there is an exact or precise means for every person to follow in order to experience the spiritual. Not everyone will be able to attain this state of mind in my opinion. I'll explain my thoughts.To me this enlightened and peaceful state is simply a state of awareness or relaxation and peace that is attained only when the practitioner can slow down enough free their mind of all that it normally is forced to process - just to get through our complicated lives.When people meditate they usually eliminate outside stimulation. I've heard of some people staring into candles or sitting in completely black rooms. Some sit on mountain tops and stare down into the valley below or the swirling clouds passing by. But all seem to have the common theme of removing the complex in favor of the peace and quiet of a stimulus-free environment.Maybe this is the key. Perhaps we're all so busy that we never really slow down and think about what we're doing on a deeper level. No wonder people like Socrates amounted to such profound thinkers. They succeeded in freeing their lives of all the trappings of business, the quest for riches, personal relationships, etc... They simply wandered and thought deeply. I suppose this isn't practical for most of us, but we can learn from it.I've heard of many people having religious experiences on recreational drugs such as Extasy, acid, or whatever else. What's really happening while under the influence of these drugs? Isn't it freeing the mind? Don't these people feel liberated and carefree while under the influence? Even alcohol can produce the desired results for so many people, hence the problem with alcoholism.This is the closest I've found to a religious experience...and it sounds like you can relate. I read your words about staring up at the stars or experiencing certain settings...Quote:The closest I have come to something like that is a sense of wonder about nature in particularly stunning settings or when out starwatching with my telescope.This is my method for experiencing the spiritual too. And what do we actually experience when enjoying the beauty and serenity of a sunset or mountain lake? ... I suppose it's a oneness with nature. When I stare at a sunset I'm in awe of my place in the cosmos and how I'm rather insignificant. It can actually make me chuckle to myself as I realize how all my worries are really so small and lacking in substance in relation to the big picture. Maybe just removing all the noise and monotony of our daily lives is what makes meditation so effective. I'm not sure. But to me...it's the process of changing gears that helps. Switching from the fast lane of daily life to the slow lane of personal reflection is what wakes up my soul.I saw you online Thursday night when a group of us were in the BookTalk chat room. Come on in next time. We have a chat session every Thursday at 9:00pm ET.Chris "For Every Winner, There Are Dozens Of Losers. Odds Are You're One Of Them"
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Hawks do it for me If you make yourself really small, you can externalize virtually everything. Daniel Dennett, 1984
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