Improve the human condition? Start with the mind and spirit

Today I read a blog posting of my friend Ed on Positive Psychology and Authentic Happiness. His posting got me thinking. In the last few years it seems like a lot of clueful folks have concluded that the best way to improve human-kind’s lot is to work on understanding and enhancing the mind. A common observation is that people who have a lot of money and no material cares are often no happier (often less happy) than people who have no material goods. What’s the deal? Maybe there is something more important?

In recent weeks the Dalai Lama was in the news because he was speaking to the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience where some scientists were going to later present a paper on the effects of meditation.

Jeff Hawkins, of Palm / Handspring fame, and most recently the author of On Intelligence. Jeff helped found Redwood Neuroscience Institute which is now the Redwood Center for Theoretical Neuroscience at UC Berkeley because he believed that the best investment (the most good to be done) would be in understanding the mind.

There is a long tradition in the Christian faith which suggests that a communion with God changes everything, and that reflecting on and interacting with God transforms the mind. There are countless passages in the bible that talk about the importance of our mind such as Philippians 4:6-8, Colossians 3:1-17, and Romans 12:1-2. Organizations like Focus on the Family have written about a Christian approach to mindfulness.

Years ago there was a study done at Dallas Theological Seminary by Paul Meier reported in the book Renewing Your Mind in a Secular World. Meier administered the MPPI on a large body of the students and staff. He was looking to correlate a balanced score on MPPI with some aspect of a life of faith. At first he was disappointed. Time someone had been a Christian made no difference, but then he found a correlation. It was people who meditated daily on the scripture for three or more years. His conclussion? The transformation of the mind takes time, but continued focus make a huge difference. For a few more thoughts along these lines you might enjoy reading God’s Call to Christlikeness and an article on Biblical Meditation.

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