Agnostic Reporter Has Change of Heart: “I’m praying.”

How does prayer affect our behavior? Deeply, experts say …

This Is Your Brain on Prayer and Meditation

Agnostic reporter won over by science: ‘I’m praying.’

(Nicole Audrey, NBC News) As heartbreaking updates on tragic events pour out from around the world, I’m doing something I don’t quite understand: I’m praying.

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As an agnostic who does not identify with any organized religion, my version of prayer isn’t rooted in theology.

Sometimes I’ll just visualize a ball of light in my head — a collective conscious benevolence — and aim to contribute positive energy to it.

Lately I’ve been wondering just what the science is behind the act of prayer and meditation. What parts of our brains are activated or deactivated?

How might such a ritual, regardless of personal faith or intention, affect our behavior?

To learn more, I talked to several doctors including Dr. David Spiegel, associate chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine, who discussed what the brain looks like on prayer.

“Praying involves the deeper parts of the brain — the mid-front and back portions,” says Dr. Spiegel, adding that this can be seen through magnetic image resonance (MRI).

“These parts of the brain are involved in self-reflection and self-soothing.”

Spiegel notes that while these reflective regions of the brain are activated, parts of the brain associated with taking action are inactivated. It’s an interesting correlation that Spiegel says could play a role in why prayer helps people struggling with addictive urges.

“Prayer and meditation are highly effective in lowering our reactivity to traumatic and negative events,” says Dr. Paul Hokemeyer, a marriage, family and addictions therapist.

“They are powerful because they focus our thoughts on something outside ourselves.

“When engage in prayer or meditation, we are able to shift away from this frightened and stressed survival mode into ‘an intentional state,’ says Dr. Hokemeyer, and ultimately “re-engage the part of the brain that enables us to make intelligent mindful decisions.” READ THE FULL STORY AT NBC News. Also of interest: NIH Director Shares His Journey Of Faith