Spiritual Research: Traditional and Modern
Once again science and spirituality came together at the Psychology Forum hosted by the International Association of Sufism, the Sufism and Psychology Forum and the Community Healing Centers. The panel presentation for the 11th annual Sufism Symposium was on "Spiritual Research: Traditional and Modern". Speakers from diverse background demonstrated that current research is verifying ideas which have been discussed for years by Sufism and other ancient traditions.
The Panel began with Dr. Ameneh Amelia Pryor who quoted the 20th century Sufi Master, scientist and poet Hazrat Moulana Shah Maghsoud: "It is for us to open the gateway of knowledge to the human being, and so make knowledge the light of the way and understanding the light of the aware heart". The gateway was certainly opened by these inspiring presenters who showed this search for knowledge is definitely present in both science and spirituality.
After the introduction Dr. Pryor encouraged us to pursue our own research in the laboratory of the self to find proof in our own lives. Amineh Amelia Pryor, Ph.D., MFT, is a student of Uwaiysi Sufism, co-director of the Sufism and Psychology Forum, an author and psychotherapist and spoke both as a psychologist and practitioner of Sufism. She discussed the importance of the message and teachings of Sufism in helping us discover our pure essence. Sufism has shown that we each have an unseen connection with the whole and it is up to us to do our own research to prove it to ourselves.
Following this recommendation to find our proof within, Bill Gough, co-founder or the Foundation for Mind-Being Research, discussed scientific studies which showed that mystical experience are biologically and scientifically real. Mr. Gough has over thirty years of experience in scientific research and in his presentation he explored the question of how we perceive God in our bodies. He discussed how each cell in our body is connected to the Absolute, which he defined as "the domain of unlimited, unbounded potential and is spaceless and timeless". Citing studies on plants and experienced meditators he showed the complete interconnection of everything (Unity).
Rollin McCraty, Ph.D., Director of Research at the Institute of HeartMath, continued this exploration of scientific research validating spiritual concepts. Dr. McCraty has an extensive background in systems engineering, radiation physics and instrumentation and with the Institute of HeartMath has collected amazing research on the heart, mind and emotions. This research disproves the popular belief that the brain is in charge of everything and indicates that 85% of messages actually go from the body to the brain with the majority of these messages originating in the heart. Even more remarkable, studies of individuals responding to emotionally charged pictures showed that the heart responded either positively or negatively 5 seconds before a picture was shown (1.5 seconds ahead of the brain). In other words, both the heart and brain showed predictive wisdom responding before the picture was actually seen by the individuals, with the heart responding before the brain! Dr. McCraty also showed slides of heart rate variability with both positive and negative emotions, with heart rates being more synchronized with emotions such as appreciation and less synchronized with emotions such as aggression. Studies have also shown that meditation focusing on the heart facilitated synchronization and is significantly different than other forms of meditation or relaxation. Dr. McCraty went on to describe that the heart generates a large electro-magnetic field 6-8 feet from the body which is related to both the heart and emotions. This field can be measured and it has been found that two people who are 5 feet apart have heart-brain synchronization which leads to empathy.
The conversation was brought back to the individual laboratory of the heart with Sheikha Sanaa Joy Carey, Ph.D., a student of Shah Nazar Ali Kianfar and counseling psychologist who for 26 years has helped people apply traditional wisdom teachings to their practical life situations. Dr.Carey told an inspiring story of a friend who was dying and had sought the truth through science throughout her life but did not discover God until her final breath. She then encouraged each of us to not wait until our final breath but to discover the truth through the divine principles of the world religions.
The final panelist was Arife Ellen Hammerle, Ph.D., MA, LMFT, JD, an author, a senior student of the Uwaiysi Tariqat of Sufism, the Clinical Director of the Community Healing Centers and Clinical Supervisor at Catholic Charities. Dr. Hammerle used qualitative analysis to research profound unitive experiences by Sufi practitioners. Her descriptions were inspiring, and as she stated, were a small part of the experience which is beyond words, beyond understanding from our limited perspective.
This panel on Science and Spirituality presented important individual and scientific research on the knowledge of the heart. Although in our society we are trained to want scientific validation, since the time of the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), the Sufi's have known about the importance of the heart, have differentiated between heart knowledge and mind knowledge and have been teaching heart meditation. As it says in the Qur'an: "Do they not travel through the land, so that their hearts (and minds) may thus learn wisdom and their ears may thus learn to hear? Truly it is not the eyes that are blind, but heir hearts which are in their breasts." (Surah 46-47). Fortunately science is beginning to catch up and verify this important knowledge of the heart. Nevertheless, rather than waiting for scientific research you are encouraged to follow the advice of several of the panelist and discover the truth for yourself through the laboratory of your own heart.
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