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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

Eckhart Tolle and the Kingdom of Heaven Within

Closer walk with theeA spectral projection from a stained glass window near the interior entrance to the Sisters’ Chapel, the oldest part of St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo by Gary Bridgman / Flickr)

To listen to Eckhart Tolle is to be reminded that anything is possible — for anyone.

I’m not talking about living a life of leisure filled with expensive cars, beach homes, and extravagant vacations, but an experience brimming with the kind of spiritual insights that not only make this life worth living but decidedly more fulfilling. The problem is, whenever you say “spiritual insight” there’s often the assumption that you’re talking about something too ethereal to be practical or too elusive to be achieved in this lifetime.

This is exactly the point that one of the world’s most well-known spiritual teachers and authors rebuffed during a talk he gave this past February at Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education:

"Some people awaken spiritually without ever coming into contact with any meditation technique or any spiritual teaching," he said. "They may waken simply because they can’t stand the suffering anymore."

Read more of Eric Nelson’s article.

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nprfreshair:

“More than 50 percent of the food dollar is spent outside the home now, and that’s a big difference [from] what it was several decades ago. People are eating outside because they’re on the move, they have crowded schedules, they want to take the family out for a treat – and there are so many restaurants out there now to cater to this need. … The problem is when you go out, you tend to eat more and you tend to eat worse than when you eat at home.” — Kelly Brownell

Oy, don’t I know it…
~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
nprfreshair:

“More than 50 percent of the food dollar is spent outside the home now, and that’s a big difference [from] what it was several decades ago. People are eating outside because they’re on the move, they have crowded schedules, they want to take the family out for a treat – and there are so many restaurants out there now to cater to this need. … The problem is when you go out, you tend to eat more and you tend to eat worse than when you eat at home.” — Kelly Brownell

Oy, don’t I know it…
~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

nprfreshair:

“More than 50 percent of the food dollar is spent outside the home now, and that’s a big difference [from] what it was several decades ago. People are eating outside because they’re on the move, they have crowded schedules, they want to take the family out for a treat – and there are so many restaurants out there now to cater to this need. … The problem is when you go out, you tend to eat more and you tend to eat worse than when you eat at home.”Kelly Brownell

Oy, don’t I know it…

~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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Apatheists, Spirituality, and Health

by Eric Nelson, guest contributor

Graphic: Percentage of Fewer Reported Mental Health Issues for Those Who Strongly Believe That:Source: Baylor University Department of Sociology

Although we’ve known each other for over 30 years, I can count on half-a-hand the number of times my best friend and I have discussed religion. Ask me to describe his interest in spiritual matters on a scale of 1 to 10 and I’d have to say I don’t really know.

Maybe the best word to describe him is “apatheist,” a term coined by blogger Hemant Mehta, better known as “The Friendly Atheist.”

Apatheists or “So Whats,” to borrow a phrase from USA Today religion writer, Cathy Lynn Grossman, aren’t necessarily people who don’t believe in God. They’re just not particularly interested in exploring the subject further.

Many reasons are given as to why, but the bottom line is that a lot folks are simply giving up on the search for ultimate meaning. Forty-four percent of those who participated in a recent Baylor University Religion Survey said they spend no time seeking “eternal wisdom.” Nineteen percent said, “It’s useless to search for meaning.”

That’s too bad, especially since there’s so much evidence to the contrary from people who have found that meaning and purpose and spiritual inspiration actually animates and empowers their life. But acknowledging this spiritual dimension does even more. It has a positive effect on health.

Just ask medical researcher, Gail Ironson.

Dr. Ironson conducted a study to determine the relationship between spiritual consciousness and the progression of AIDS. She looked at two key factors: viral load, which lets you know how much of the virus is in your body, and immune cells, which work to fend off the AIDS virus. Over a four-year period she noticed that those who were actively cultivating a spiritual outlook had a much lower viral load and maintained immune cells at a noticeably higher rate than those who consciously disavowed such activity.

As promising as this sounds, it may not be enough to get the spiritually apathetic to change course. For some, perhaps even most, it’s going to take a fundamentally different perspective on the underlying concepts of God and religion — a sort of cost-benefit analysis, if you will.

What might inspire such a shift in perspective depends, of course, on the individual involved. Regardless, it’s likely that more could be done on the part of those already engaged in spiritual pursuits in terms of sharing with others the benefits of their quest.

Not the least of which is better health.


Eric NelsonEric Nelson is the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California. He also works as a Christian Science practitioner, helping those interested in relying solely on the power of prayer for healing.

We welcome your reflections, essays, videos, or news items for possible publication on the On Being Blog. Submit your entry through our First Person Outreach page.

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The Echoing Silence of Your Mind

by Hudson Gardner, guest contributor

Separating oneself from the natural, real world is like uprooting a plant,
putting it in sandy soil,
watering it only to keep it alive:

you may find yourself growing,

and living,

and acting,

but there will always be something beyond,
another sort of subtleness,

Read More

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Into the Wilderness: Parenting a Terminally Ill Child

by Emily Rapp, guest contributor

Acubaby Ronan

"You feel your obligation to a child when you have seen it and held it. Any human face is a claim on you, because you can’t help but understand the singularity of it, the courage and loneliness of it. But this is truest of the face of an infant. I consider that to be one kind of vision, as mystical as any." ~from Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

I woke up and held my son for a long, long time. I’d been gone for three days at the National Tay-Sachs and Allied Disorders Family Conference and had missed him terribly. Driving through Boston on the way to the airport, I told my friend Kate that it was so difficult, so impossible even, so disastrous to imagine feeling that way forever. The missing, the ache.

We agreed that, say what you will about heaven or where we go or visions of the afterlife, the truth about someone being dead is that they’re gone from this life, right now, here on earth, with you. That particular person has been removed from your particular life. That’s the gut punch and there is no balm for that, no platitude, no prayer, and, I would argue, no belief even that will fix it. My son will be dead within three years and there’s nothing I can do about it.

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Expressions of Gratitude Improve Your Health

by Eric Nelson, guest contributor

58/365 apple or orange?Photo by Katie Harris/Flickr, cc by-nc-nd 2.0

Don’t worry. The article you are about to read has nothing to do with what you should or shouldn’t put on your Thanksgiving dinner plate. There’s nothing worse than having your hopes for the perfect holiday meal dashed by someone telling you that you might want to think twice before choosing this or that side dish.

No, this article is about the undeniable health benefits of thanksgiving — that is, the conscious expression of gratitude — itself.

Gratitude is extolled by every religion on earth as an essential virtue. Cicero, the renowned Roman orator, called it “not only the greatest of the virtues but the parent of all others.” Only recently, however, have medical researchers begun delving into the impact gratitude has on our mental and physical health.

One of the leaders in this field is U.C. Davis psychologist Robert Emmons, editor-in-chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology and author of the book Thanks! How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier.”

Considered a pioneer in the field of “positive psychology” — a discipline that focuses less on illness and emotional problems and more on health-inducing behavior — Emmons makes a convincing case for the upside of maintaining a thankful attitude.

In one of Emmons’ studies, participants were divided into three groups. At the end of each week one group wrote down five things they were grateful for. Another group kept track of daily hassles. And a control group listed five events that had made some impression on them. In the end, Emmons discovered that those in the gratitude group generally felt better about their lives, were more optimistic about the future and — perhaps most importantly — reported fewer health problems than the other participants.

Mmmmm… nothing like a little gratitude to balance that extra helping of mashed potatoes.

Like many others, I can relate to what Dr. Emmons is discovering about the connection between a grateful heart and a healthy heart. But for me it goes even further, deeper than that. Over the years I’ve found that gratitude grounded in my spiritual practice, and not mere positive thinking, is the real key to consistent health.

Emmons notes this himself in his citation of a 2002 study (McCullough et. al.) that found that those who attend religious services or engage regularly in some type of religious activity such as prayer are more likely to be grateful. This is not to say that you have to be religious in order to be grateful, only that our faith tends to enhance our ability to be grateful.

While I have no idea what I’ll be having for dinner this Thanksgiving, one thing I’m absolutely certain of is that keeping track of what and how I think is at least as important as what I eat. Experience has shown that putting first things first will keep everything else — including my health — in order.


Eric NelsonEric Nelson is the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California who likes to follow and write about trends in science, theology, and medicine.

We welcome your reflections, essays, videos, or news items for possible publication for the On Being Blog. Submit your entry through our First Person Outreach page.

Comments