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The Spirit of Prayer

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The Curiosity

It was before starting Medical School. I was working in the area of Cognitive Remediation for a facility in Texas. I trained on administering various Neurocognitive Assessment tools and the use of cognitive remediation equipment. I used a number of available tasks and devices to help clients address various cognition deficits and/ or sequelae from head injuries. That was when I learned about the A620, a novel instrument for EEG biofeedback for analysis and therapy.

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A620 EEG BIOFEEDBACK

In order to move on to my discussion, let us just say that this device made it possible for clients to improve in their mental aptitude and skills by reflecting on their own brain activity, prompted by audio cues generated by the device which was connected to a pc computer. I would hook up the client to the computer program by two leads, a ground wire on the ear and probe wire on a particular area at the top of the head by a conductive gel. This allows the device to monitor a general EEG signal spectrum. The operator then sets up the device to filter for a particular frequency,. The device then provides an audio sound or feeds the computer a “moment-by-moment” reward score for an “attention” game or “reward” graphic. Now clients could play a simple computer game without using their hands. Just by “thinking” correctly, the client could earn points and therefore “learn to optimize focus”. It was rather brilliant. I had clients that were failing in subjects at their school that was able to begin making the high grade as clients improved their attention skills.

 

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After setting up the machine, and mounting the probes to the client’s head, one can bring up a spectrum display as seen above. It is through the initial set-up that one can choose a target frequency (e.g. Beta, concentration) for reward points. When the device is set to filter beta, the brainwaves for concentration, as the client concentrates, the computer beeps and gives reward points; the higher the score, the greater the percentage of time spent concentrating.

What waveforms show up when we pray?

One Friday evening after seeing my last client, I was about to close up the office. Then I began to think about how brain activity changes under different conditions. I began to think about prayer and how it was much different from other routine daily activities. My, curiosity had me in a corner. The more I wondered, the more curious I became. I decided to take this unique opportunity and find out for myself. After hooking myself up to the device and after calibrating the machine for a broad-spectrum view, I determined that I would have 3 goal activity conditions.

Testing Conditions

1) 20 minutes of reading

2) 20 minutes of Math problems

3) 20 minutes of Praying

This was not the correct way to run an experimental design and the validity would be lacking since I was the only control. Nevertheless, if I had just a chance to just “peek in the box” of what happens when we pray, how could I just pass this chance up? Well, after a disruption-free hour, and completing each phase I ran the analysis. The reading phase revealed what I expected. There was some artifact but the strongest activity was around the beta level, mixed with Alpha (typical for ADHD). The Math phase seemed almost the same, but with much more alpha across the spectrum (always a hard subject for me to focus on). But as for the Prayer phase, what I discovered was far more than I expected.  I had thought that prayer was mostly about concentrating, and therefore the beta wave was going to be the highest activity mixed with alpha waves. But No. What I found was two distinct patterns occurring at the same time, with minimal artifact. They were cleaner than the waveforms observed in the other conditions. But equally astonishing was the fact that these separate waves (Theta and Beta), were triple the amplitude of the other conditions! I felt a chill up my spine. What could this mean? I cleaned up the setting and left for home. I had some research to do.

Meditating like a re-chewing

So, beta waves are generated under concentration conditions. Theta waves occur in meditative states or when experiencing one a hypnotic trance. Was I inducing some form of trance when I prayed? I went to the scriptures and found a verse. “On thy law do I meditate (psalms)”. I explored the Hebrew meaning of this word “meditate”. It was a word to related to cattle, ; the groans or low “moo” sounds the cow makes, like chanting to oneself;, and also related to the activity of a cow bringing up consumed foods, re-chewing its cud. That was fascinating! Bringing up something again, recalling, and remembering while concentrating.

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Prayer is Unique

 

If thy brother has a matter against you…

When I returned to the office, I shared with one therapist about my experiment. He shared something with me that I was unaware. He told me that patients who were in a state of theta often broke into tears and relate the pains and traumas they have experienced years prior. He shared that theta allows for repressed memories to surface into our conscious mind. It was so well founded, that some therapist was trying to get their patients in a state of theta in order to shorten the duration of therapy since it helps break through defenses.

Then it came to my mind something I had read in the bible.

“Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go your way. First, be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift..”(Matt 5:23,24)

Instrumentally, prayer is not only recalling the “experience of God”, but it likely permits bitterness, hurts and pains to surface into our conscious mind. If such burdens are then addressed, it would surely bring more peace. It is almost as if prayer invites a sort of a mobile psychotherapist waiting to give counsel.  There is a verse for that as well.

Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, But the man of understanding will draw it out (Prov 20:5)”

 

Designed to Pray

Now I still had one more matter, which required attention.  Granted, two perfect wave signatures from theta and beta is incredible, but why would these waveforms occur at three times the amplitude? Aligned with the scientific approach, one has to admit the possibility that I was “practiced at prayer”. Yes, I learned to pray at an early age and grew up in a conservative, Christian home. But if I may speculate, I believe that this was not the full explanation. I believe the reason why prayer spiked in this magnitude of power is that “we are designed to pray”. Just like comparing a paper towel tube to a brass trumpet for producing music. Both items can produce sounds, but only the trumpet is designed for the music I intended to produce with the clean, pleasing song I desired. If we are designed to pray, then we are tuned for it; we were made for it. After all, Jesus himself, the second Adam and model of our humanity considered prayer as a vital part of living. So, it is an activity for us not to neglect. “In this manner therefore pray..(Matt 6:9)”. The article below prompted me to recall and write my thoughts on this matter of prayer. Prayer is a personal activity, and I believe there are particular neurological pathways involved. As we are spiritual beings housed in imperfect physiology, I believe the soft and hard wiring can overlap in some pathological conditions. But as a vehicle or channel of Gods revelation, we have a choice to either align with our God in discovering more about him or stand on the sidelines and avoid the experience of knowing God. However, as the fish cannot describe the watery environment separately from where it resides, one cannot describe the activity of God without some grasp that the first does exist and is involved in the discovery of Him.  Enjoy!

Greg

 

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“Thoughts  from far where I abide…”

“Thoughts  from far where I abide…”

 

The words from my title were lifted from a Shakespeare Sonnet, and they orbit the issue I wish to share today.  But in order to set the stage, consider this true story from my history.


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The Accident

I was about thirteen years of age, checking on what my mom was preparing for dinner when there was a sudden desperate knock at our front door.  I skipped down the stairs and opened it to find a neighbor’s daughter, a little older than me.  She seemed urgent with a message that she wanted to share.  “Are your parents home?”, she asked with a very desperate tension in her face.  “Yes”, my mom answered as she stepped quickly behind me.
The girl continued with a rapid, pressured speech, “one of your boys was hit by a vehicle about four blocks away while he was riding a bike!”  My mother let out a shout to my father, and quickly they were racing for the car to rush to the accident.  “Which boy was it?”, they asked as they jumped into the car.  “It is one of the older twins”.
“It was Craig, my twin brother”, I exclaimed as I flipped a leg over my bike, ready to race to my brother.
“Stop”, yelled my dad from the driver’s side window.  “Stay here, and do not take your bike anywhere!”, he ordered.  I watched the neighbor jump into the back seat and with a slam of the car door, my parents sped away down the county road.  I did not know what to think, but somehow I just knew he would be fine.
Later my parents returned briefly with only a few words, as a next-door neighbor agreed to sit with us, my two younger brothers my sister and me.  But before they headed off to the hospital I blurted out, without any doubts in my mind, “check his right leg, he has a bruise there”
My brother had to stay in the hospital overnight while some tests were carried out. He was conscious, and according to my parents, “he was lucky to be doing so well”.  Then my parents asked me, “How did you know he had a bruise on his right leg? Did you go see him after we told you to stay at home?
“No”, I answered, ” I stayed home like you told me. I don’t know how I knew.  I just knew”.


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For me, it was just a fact.  My twin brother and I have always been close.  Often, we finished each other’s sentences.  People were always confused about telling us apart.  We laughed and talked the same.  It was only over a course of years before we developed personal tastes and carved out a clearer distinction of habits.
I have revisited this event countless times, trying to unravel the mystery of my certain knowledge of my brother’s condition.  There have been a few times since then, when I had a particular sense of his environment, though many miles away.

 On one such occasion, I was spending time with a friend in Texas, walking around a mall when I stopped and turned to her and said, “My brother is at a ball game right now”.  She would just look at me with a puzzled expression, and said, “Okay, so he said he was going to a ball game today?”.  I replied, “No, I just sensed the crowd and the smell of snacks in the air”.  Later, I found this was truly the case.  He had never shared this with me, and he rarely attended games.  But when I had the chance later, I called to ask him, and he had confirmed my suspicion.
There have been many stories along with a similar theme popularized by those claiming to have “Psychic Powers”. I have never felt there was enough validity in the “circumstantial evidence” of such “after the fact stories”.  However, I could not explain this issue; I had no answers, even from my academic and professional education and experience as a Psychiatrist.
The nearest explanation I could come up with is through an article I had read once about particular moths that could pick out a specific mate over 1000 miles away from their location, just by their “smell like sense organs”.  I was not sure about this study, but it was the only nearest explanation I had to a theoretical framework. So maybe, our primary senses are acuter and finely tuned than what we have yet discovered.  It seemed too illogical to believe in the fuzzy pseudoscience of a psychic phenomenon.
This brings me to the point of this article, with which I would like to share.  I read a fairly recent study about an interesting topic known as  “brain-to-brain interfaces” (BBIs).  Here is an excerpt.


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” A TMS device creates a magnetic field over the scalp, which then causes an electrical current in the brain. When a TMS coil is placed over the motor cortex, the motor pathways can be activated, resulting in movement of a limb, hand or foot, or even a finger or toe…”


“..
We now know that BBIs can work between humans too. By combining EEG and TMS, scientists have transmitted the thought of moving a hand from one person to a separate individual, who actually moved their hand. The BBI works best when both participants are conscious cooperators in the experiment. In this case, the subjects were engaged in a computer game).


And Further:


“..
The latest advance in human BBIs represents another leap forward. This is where transmission of conscious thought was achieved between two human beings in August last year.    Using a combination of technologies – including EEG, the Internet and TMS – the team of researchers was able to transmit a thought all the way from India to France.  Words were first coded into binary notation (i.e. 1 = “hola”; 0 = “ciao”). Then the resulting EEG signal from the person thinking the 1 or the 0 was transmitted to a robot-driven TMS device positioned over the visual cortex of the receiver’s brain.  In this case, the TMS pulses resulted in the perception of flashes of light for the receiver, who was then able to decode this information into the original words (hola or ciao)”.

Sounds like a something Hollywood dreamed up, doesn’t it?


 So not only could thoughts be transmitted under experimental conditions, so could actions, even to the point of controlling the behavior of animals.

“..that a human could control the tail movements of a rat via BBIs”

Aricle: Brain-To-Brain Interfaces And The Science Of…

 

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What this article presents is how one subject in a remote location can directly influence the actions of another subject in a different location through changes in thought content. This seems too incredible to believe. Yet, because we all share some structural similarities within our brains, I can see how this can actually be plausible. First, we need to consider what we know of “mirroring neurons”.


mirneuronMirror neuron


“A mirror neuron is a neuron that fires both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another”.[1][2][3]

“..Thus, the neuron “mirrors” the behaviour of the other, as though the observer were itself acting. Such neurons have been directly observe in primate species.[4]

“..Birds have been shown to have imitative resonance behaviors and neurological evidence suggests the presence of some form of mirroring system.[4][5]”

“..In humans, brain activity consistent with that of mirror neurons has been found in the premotor cortexthe supplementary motor area, the primary somatosensory cortex and the inferior parietal cortex.[6]”

Article: Mirror neuron – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

One way to address this issue is to consider what is common to all of us, which already influences us beyond our “active knowing”. A case example can be understood in the context of yawning.  If we are around others who begin to yawn, before long we began to yawn.  The same is true for laughter.  If we are around others who are laughing, it becomes contagious. Others will start to giggle and laugh, just due to the presence of someone laughing. Such a design is important for us socially, though explanations are lacking.

 



 

 

 

So, if we have a similar foundational and interactive framework, isn’t feasible that thoughts could be conveyed to another person, especially those more similar or familiar to us, under the right conditions, having a very common reference point?  On a more spiritual plane, how much does this finding play a part in our prayer lives? When that loved one is suddenly dealing with a trauma, how often do we find ourselves  “thinking of them” and feel the need to pray for them without knowing why? Since I believe we were designed as social and spiritual beings, does it not make sense that such a mechanism must be in place? Maybe we need to rethink those moments and reach out to them when this happens. Maybe that is the optimal act of good to perform, given this design. After all, we are designed for more than we understand and we do have a great designer.

This study stirs up many questions for me about the implications and utility awaiting us.  It may also serve great potential for promoting skill set learning, as well as providing more effective means for a therapeutic alliance, which is yet to be revealed.  We live in such an incredible era!


 

PEDOPHIL


 

 

 

Pleasant thoughts coming your way, dear reader. (Can you sense it?)

Greg

 

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A Royal Meeting: A favorite from C.S. Lewis

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Twenty years ago I came across this writing from C.S. Lewis.  It has been a source of comfort for moments of reflection and at times of  quiet solitude.  Feel free to make this poem yours as well for your quiet time.

 

Royal Meeting

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