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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.

The Act of Praying Reminds Us We’re Not Alone

by Eric Nelson, guest contributor

Praying Handsphoto: C. Jill Reed/Flickr, cc by-sa 2.0

In honor of the 60th National Day of Prayer today, I thought it fitting to share a bit about what prayer means to me.

Most recently I’ve been thinking of prayer as an unmistakable reminder from God that I’m not helpless and alone in this world. These reminders come not just during moments of peaceful reflection but during even the busiest of days as I find myself appreciating qualities of God I see expressed by others — qualities such as patience, compassion, grace, wisdom, order, intelligence, and joy.

I find these reminders are essential, especially when circumstances leave me feeling utterly helpless. Most challenging, perhaps, are those times when I’m not feeling up to snuff physically, whether it’s something minor or a more serious condition.

For instance, a few years back I found myself lying flat on my back in excruciating pain. I had trouble getting out of bed, standing, sitting, walking — even thinking clearly. Although I was never examined by a doctor, all indicators were that I was suffering from a bad case of sciatica.

I’m sure I could have availed myself of any number of remedies. However, based on previous experience, it seemed to me that prayer would likely be the quickest and most effective of them all.

For some, I suppose prayer is about going to God and pleading for a miracle to happen. For me, it’s a reminder of God’s care; in this case the specific reminder — inspired by my study of the Bible and the teachings of Christian Science — that health is not a physical condition but the natural and perpetual expression of wholly spiritual qualities like strength, stamina, and flexibility.

I’d like to say my recovery was immediate. It wasn’t; it took at least a couple of weeks. But it was steady. And complete. And permanent. The really good news is that this healing left me feeling better physically and spiritually; that is, not only did my body feel more flexible but my thinking about others and myself did, too.

Regardless of one’s faith tradition, being reminded that you’re neither helpless nor alone can go a long way towards healing the ills of this world, both individually and collectively, mentally and physically. This, in and of itself, is a rather nice reminder as well.


Eric NelsonEric Nelson lives in Hayward, California and serves as 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 Being Blog. Submit your entry through our First Person Outreach page.

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A Little Bit of Mindfulness Meditation Can Reduce a Lot of Pain

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

MRI Scans of Brain of Novice Meditator with Pain MRI images of the brain of a novice meditator show signs of pain nearly disappear. (source: Robert Coghill/Wake Forest University School of Medicine)

"You might not need extensive training [in meditation] to realize pain-relief benefits. Most people don’t have time to spend months in a monastery."
Fadel Zeidan, neuroscientist

On the NPR Shots blog, Adam Cole highlights a study at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center showing that even novice meditators are able to curb their pain after a few training sessions. Cole writes:

In the study, a small group of healthy medical students attended four 20-minute training sessions on “mindfulness meditation” — a technique adapted from a Tibetan Buddhist form of meditation called samatha.It’s all about acknowledging and letting go of distraction. …

So how did the researchers gauge the effect? They administered a very distracting bit of pain: A small, thermal stimulator heated to 120 degrees was applied to the back of each volunteer’s right calf. The subjects reported both the intensity and unpleasantness of the pain. If pain were music, intensity would be volume. Unpleasantness would have more of an emotional component, kind of like how much you love or hate a song.

After meditation training, the subjects reported a 40 percent decrease in pain intensity and a 57 percent reduction in pain unpleasantness. And it wasn’t just their perception of pain that changed. Brain activity changed too.

Be sure to read Cole’s article for the details.

(h/t stotheb, via almaswithinalmas)

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Fasting on Facebook with My Beloved Baha’i Community

by Candace Hill, guest contributor

Baha'i Faith Facebook Page
Screen capture of the Baha’i Faith Facebook page.

Day two of fasting this year, and the egg salad on the sesame bagel was especially delicious this morning. This is the dichotomy of the Nineteen Day Fast — that while we don’t eat or drink from sunrise to sunset, the early morning meals feel more special and dinners more festive.

The Baha’i Faith has its own calendar of 19 months made up of 19 days. As in Islam, one of these months is set aside for fasting, just during the daylight hours. And much like the Islamic month of Ramadan, when it comes time for the sun to set, the evening meal feels like a party, a celebration, a time for truly giving thanks for our nourishment, be it a feast or bread and water.

This is all fine and well if you live in a community, neighborhood, or family where everyone is fasting. Although certainly not the children, the elderly, the sick, the traveler, or the pregnant or nursing mother, fasting is for the healthy, mature adults in the community, if you have a community.

In America, the Baha’i Faith is small in numbers. It is more likely that a college student will be the only one in her dorm who is fasting. The editor at his desk will kindly refuse offers of lunch outings. A coffee break with friends seems strange if you are the only one who is not drinking coffee.

But then there’s Facebook. If you are a Baha’i on Facebook, then you have the bounty of an in-gathering of friends from around the world. Baha’is tend to love conferences, summer schools, study circles, and potlucks. It’s not difficult to amass a list of Facebook friends of all ages and ethnicities, living in an exciting number of time zones.

On Facebook you can worship together, with friends posting excerpts from beloved prayers and meditations. On Facebook you can learn together, with friends posting photographs from Baha’i history. On Facebook you can laugh together, with inside jokes and stories that don’t have to be explained. On Facebook you can sing along, to songs from breaking artists like Andy Grammar to beloved standards by Seals and Crofts. On Facebook you can cook together, sharing recipes and shopping tips. On Facebook you can fast together, encouraging each other to make it through the 3 p.m. nap at the desk, and by cheerfully counting down the days.

Facebook allows the beloved community to chat with each other while working, on a mobile phone riding the bus to work, when the baby is napping, and even late at night when we should have all been in bed hours ago.

Fasting is a religious experience where we practice patience and restraint. It is also a community experience where we support and encourage each other. As enlightenment dawns through prayer and meditation, we reflect that light upon each other. It is lovely to be able to do that face to face. But, I also enjoy that same process on Facebook. The reaching out and sharing feels the same across the miles, now that we have the immediacy of the Internet.

Now, what to make for dinner tonight? My Facebook friends will have some ideas.


Candace Moore HillCandace Moore Hill lives in Evanston, Illinois and has recently published a photographic history of the Baha’i House of Worship in Wilmette. She is currently a volunteer community ambassador with One Chicago One Nation, affiliated with Interfaith Youth Core and blogs at Baha’i History in Postcards.

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

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Christakis and Fowler showed that even people separated from you by up to three degrees can influence your weight, your happiness, or even whether you quit smoking or are prone to loneliness.
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Time's Alice Park cites a study in "Religion’s Secret to Happiness: It’s Friend, Not Faith" that one’s social network can influence our health.

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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