During my search to find the deep psychological processes that are part of long endurance races, I found Carl Jung extremely interesting. Especially since he brought spiritualism into psychology. But I would probably discuss this in another post. Anyway… “No one really teaches Jung in psychology classes,” Lilach told me. Freud, for his own reasons, was able to exclude Jung from the academic discourse in psychology. So far freedom of opinion in the world of research…
I find it difficult to accept this possibility, and seek reference to Jung in the world within the institutionalized academic world, and find to my surprise a course that teaches Jung’s teachings as part of the Spirituality, Mind, Body Institute. The institute operates (Heavenly Sky) at the prestigious Columbia University in the USA. It is headed by the founder Professor Lisa Jane Miller. As someone who deals with evidence-based science and experiments most of his life, it fascinates me to read that spirituality is a protective factor against mental illness, a source of resilience in cultivating relationships and a gateway to personal fulfillment. The more I read the more I am exposed to fascinating research, which relies on a long series of comprehensive clinical studies, pointing to evidence of the biological existence of spirituality!
The institute’s website states that:
“Science has shown that through suffering we can deepen our spiritual awareness to a more awakened understanding of life. Our work in mental health seeks to put that science into practice. An effective partnership exists between traditional mental health and the clergy for people who are deeply engaged in their faith tradition. However, there are many people who wish to integrate spirituality outside of a faith tradition into treatment, prevention, and wellness work. The Spirituality Mind Body Institute is a hub for the formation of innovation in spiritually integrated wellness work.
We have created the spiritual awareness pedagogy, which has been offered as a training in spirituality and psychotherapy through the American Psychological Association (APA). This pedagogy has become the basis for our Awakened Awareness program, which we have offered in undergraduate and graduate settings, at The Pentagon, and in industry settings. Delivered in the language of life, Awakened Awareness wakes us up to our own capacity, to knowing our brain as having the potential to be an awakened brain and our own inner life as the docking station for awareness.
… Research demonstrates that spirituality and religion positively impact health and wellness across the continuum of care. In prevention, treatment, and the experience of severe and recurrent mental illness, both primary and co-morbid outcomes are improved when the patient and their family receive spiritual and religious support. Understanding the critical intersections of spirituality and mental health can increase the overall effectiveness and quality of treatment across an individual’s continuum of care.”
Is this Cosmic timing – Synchronicity? – In 2021, Professor Miller published her fascinating book “The awakened brain” or in its scientific description “The psychology of spirituality and our search for meaning”. In the book she combines her research journey with the personal one to describe the advanced approach she has instilled in the analysis of spirituality and its importance to human health and integrity, using advanced analytical tools, and strong biological connections.
One of the questions that bothers her in the beginning is why even when we are at the height of success many of us still feel that something is missing there. According to her, when we wake up we feel more whole and “at home” in the world, and our decisions are made from a broader perspective. In her view, spirituality can be the same moment of amorous connection to someone or nature. Awe or a moment of inspiration from something bigger than you. It can be a force majeure, but also nature, the universe, a concert or even a sporting event. These connections, according to Miller, make us healthier: less depressed, anxious, and on the other hand more optimistic, mentally immune, and creative.
It is interesting to learn that part of her personal journey also included the world of running, where she tells how she learned that in order to finish a marathon “you just have to keep running” … how she was amazed by the variety of runners from all over the world. She describes her love for the long runs of many miles. The stage where enlightenment comes, worries fade, and how in a flash, in an instant, come insights and clarity, an answer to a question, a solution to a problem, or just peace. She describes running as a way of experiencing life in a different way from the achievement orientation of everyday life. How did the feeling become more like the wonder she felt as a child… here too she stops and asks: What floods these experiences? What is really going on in the mind? Why do these moments remove the stress and worries? Does everyone feel that way? … Here I stopped reading – these are questions so similar to my own! Prof. Miller adds and wonders if there are other ways to see reality in this way. What is the internal mechanism that fuels this joy of long runs?
Her early findings indicated a link between mother-child spirituality and an eighty percent lower risk of depression in the child. At the same time, a researcher named Kandler points out for the first time that spirituality is not necessarily related to religious belief. Moreover, it shows that there is an inherited connection of spirituality. Findings from other researchers have suggested a link between spirituality and suicide. Thus, the community of researchers who examined spirituality as a significant component expanded, and the findings also multiplied and indicated that people who are more open to new experiences are spiritual people.
To me, all of these were indicators, but as an experimentalist I lacked conclusive proof. And here came Prof. Miller’s fascinating in-depth study of the question: Is it possible to see the awakening mind, the same spirituality, also physiologically? And can we then help people by doing so?