Science and Spiritual Practices: Transformative Experiences and Their Effects on Our Bodies, Brains, and Health

Written By Adam Drake

5 min read

Rupert Sheldrake - Science and Spiritual Practices: Transformative Experiences and Their Effects on Our Bodies, Brains, and Health

The effects of spiritual practices are now being investigated scientifically as never before, and many studies have shown that religious and spiritual practices generally make people happier and healthier. In this pioneering book, Rupert Sheldrake shows how science helps validate seven practices on which many religions are built, and which are part of our common human heritage: meditation, gratitude, connecting with nature, relating to plants, rituals, singing and chanting, and pilgrimage and holy places. - Amazon Description

In a nutshell description

In this book Rupert outlines seven different spiritual practices that are shown to bring many benefits to the individual practicing them. For each practice he dives into great detail offering insight into the origins of these practices and then scientific research which confirms the benefits derived from them.

Rupert explains this list of seven is merely a selection of practices and by no means is this list exhaustive. The seven practices are:

  1. Meditation
  2. Gratitude
  3. Connecting with Nature
  4. Relating to Plants
  5. Rituals
  6. Singing and Chanting
  7. Pilgrimages and Holy Places

Rupert practices all of these seven and provides great insight into each practice. For example he tells a story of how he gave his godson a birthday present once which was an experience and not a material gift. The experience was to walk the last ten miles of a traditional pilgrimage to Canterbury and then walk around the cathedral clockwise before going in. They lit candles and said prayers and then had cream tea and sang in the choral evensong. Since then they have repeated the pilgrimage every year.

Why I love this book

There are a couple of reasons why I really liked this book. Firstly, all of these seven practices are pretty accessible and Rupert even gives good suggestions at the end of each chapter.

One particular practice that stood out for me was connecting with nature and more specifically finding a ‘sitting place’ in nature. This is somewhere in nature where you can go and just sit and be. He advises to sit there at least once a week throughout the year and to just be present. To become aware of the constant change, become aware of the noises, the animals and trees. He then goes on to explain the scientific studies that show the enormous benefits of spending time in nature such as elevated mood levels, less anxiousness and less worry. This example is just one of many very simple examples.

This is the basic premise of this book. By incorporating simple spiritual practices into your life you can greatly enhance the richness of it and there is science to back this all up.

Quotes to make you think

“I cannot pretend that I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved. I have been given much and I have given something in return . . . Above all, I have been a sentient being on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.” ― Rupert Sheldrake

Read this book if…

If you are tired of the relentless pursuit for more and more in your life and you have tried to be more and more ‘productive’ then this book could well be for you. This book is more about nourishing one’s soul and this is something that is greatly needed in our society at the moment.

If you are feeling some sort of disconnect or lack of something in your life then these seven practices could well help you fulfill some of this lack. The beauty of these practices too is that you can start very small. If you live near a forest you can simply go for a short walk through there. If you live near a church you can go and sit in on an evensong. If you live in a city then you can visit a park and just sit next to a tree for a while and just be present with the tree.

Also if you think these things are a bit too ‘out there’ you can just concentrate on the science. The research is there that shows these things are surprisingly good for the human condition and it’s no coincidence that these things have been practiced throughout our ancestry.

What others say about it

"I have personally adopted many of the practices Rupert Sheldrake describes in his book and experienced more love, joy, empathy, gratitude, and equanimity as a result." ― Deepak Chopra, MD

Some good further reading/watching/listening

This is a very interesting discussion between Russell Brand and Rupert Sheldrake:

Where to get it

About the author

Rupert Sheldrake, PhD, is a biologist and author best known for his hypothesis of morphic resonance. He studied natural sciences at Cambridge University, where he was a Scholar of Clare College, took a double first class honours degree and was awarded the University Botany Prize (1963). He spent quite a few years research abroad including as principal plant physiologist at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics in India until 1978. He has authored a number of books many around his hypothesis of morphic resonance.

Publication Date:

October 8, 2019

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