If you’re a science-minded person, you may assume that you’ll never understand or experience the “touchy-feely” realm of spirituality. Accessing this side of yourself might just be as simple as following the scientific method.
By Thomas J. Strawser
You know you have a pretty good life. All of your basic needs like food, clothing, and shelter are met, as well as more than a few “wants.” But even as you take inventory of all that should fulfill you, you can’t shake the nagging feeling that something is missing. Or maybe you don’t feel that life is all that great. Perhaps you’re worn down by the stress of unemployment, or grieving a loved one, or dealing with crushing anxiety or depression. Either way, you can’t help but wonder: Would my life be better if I believed in God?
Sure, spirituality is supposed to be a source of happiness, fulfillment, and comfort. And it would be great to know your lost loved ones have passed on to something more than a box of dust and bones. But you’re a logical, science-minded person and, frankly, you like it that way. You just can’t bring yourself to believe in what you can’t see. Can you?
Actually, you can. In fact, you can use the scientific process to help you find and validate a belief in your own Higher Power.As a practical person, you know the scientific process helps us discover solutions that work. And you use the results every day: Just think about wind and electricity. We can’t see these things, yet we believe in them because we can observe their energy and power. Every person has a reservoir of unseen inner spiritual energy that very few ever use.
Using the scientific process to discover untapped spiritual reservoirs is like turning on a light. You don’t have to know how electricity works or even “believe” in it—you simply flip the switch and enjoy the results.
If you haven’t used the scientific process since high school, its steps are: observation, hypothesis, experiment, and conclusion/results. In my new book, Spiritual Engineering, I tell the story of how and why I used these steps to access my own spirituality after avoiding it for many years, and provide step-by-step instructions to help logic-minded readers do the same. Spiritual Engineering is a unique book within its genre because it doesn’t require readers to start with any sort of belief or “leap” of faith, or to adhere to any religion.
This is results-oriented spirituality. You follow the process, take the action (conduct the experiment), experience the results, and then form your own belief based on what you discover. Awakening my own spirituality via this process has enabled me to live a fulfilling life in spite of life’s problems and painful losses, and has provided me with a way to manage worry, fear, and stress.
Anyone who is open minded and willing to do the work can have the same experience. Here’s how:
Observe “spiritual” people. Do they seem to have a higher quality of life? (OBSERVATION) You may have friends and acquaintances you’d describe as spiritual (not necessarily religious). Over the next few days or weeks, consciously observe them. Ask yourself: Does this person seem to possess inner peace? How able is he/she to handle life’s problems and stresses? Is he/she emotionally resilient? Does he/she typically have a positive or negative attitude? Is he/she happy and fulfilled? (You might even want to question these individuals about the impact their beliefs have on their lives if you feel comfortable doing so.)
If you notice the spiritual people in your life seem happier and more peaceful than others, you’re not alone. Over the last 100 years, many psychologists have specifically studied why certain people handle life better than others, and their conclusions are astounding. For instance, William James, the father of American psychology, noted that people who had undergone a spiritual experience “changed from a state of tenseness, worry, selfishness, and morbid melancholy to one of calmness, receptivity, and peace—reflecting a paradise of inner tranquility and a feeling of safety.”
Likewise, Abraham Maslow, who spent his entire career studying exceptional people, called “self-actualizing” the apex of human development and estimated that less than 1 percent of humanity ever achieves this level. All of the self-actualizers had something in common: They had undergone a profound inner transformation that Maslow compared to a “personal religion.” My point is, if your own observations point toward spirituality being a life-enhancer, it isn’t just wishful thinking—you’re in very good company.
Now, ask yourself what makes them so different from you. (HYPOTHESIS) At this point, you might be looking at your spiritual friends and thinking, What good does this do me? Sure, these people may have found some answers, but what if I’m not like them? What if they have some sort of power or connection that I just…don’t? It’s okay (and even expected) for you to have doubts at this stage. All you need to do right now is form a testable hypothesis based on your observations—even if you aren’t sure that the hypothesis is true. Namely, you need to determine if spiritual people really are different from you, or if you too have an innate spiritual power that you simply haven’t learned how to tap into.
That hypothesis will probably be something like, “Humans have a spiritual energy inside themselves, and when tapped into, it can enhance a person’s life.” Now, you can work on proving or disproving that hypothesis. I can tell you all day long that you’re not inherently different from your spiritual acquaintances (which I do believe) but I wouldn’t expect a “science brain” to believe me without personally experienced proof.
Despite your doubts, odds are good that you’ll find you’re no different from your more spiritually aware fellow humans. Look at the people—many of whom identify as agnostic or atheist—who have found recovery in 12-step programs that are based on achieving a spiritual experience. Alcoholics Anonymous and over 45 other programs worldwide provide specific, step-by-step guidelines to help individuals “tap an unsuspected inner resource” that modifies the participant’s thinking patterns and alters years of destructive behavior.
Participants from all walks of life, all cultures, all races, and all educational backgrounds have responded to this process, discovered their personal inner power, and recovered from their debilitating addiction. Everyone has this inner power. You have it. You just have to make the connection.
Try flexing your spiritual muscles. (EXPERIMENT) Next, test your hypothesis by consistently performing spiritual “exercises” for a few months. (Remember, if nothing changes, nothing changes.) But don’t worry—there’s no need to move to a monastery or devote your days to study, prayer, and meditation.
Actually, the type of spiritual exercises I recommend require only about 15 minutes a day. Think of these experiments as a 30-day risk-free trial to completely transform your life; all you have to do is invest a little time. Even if you don’t believe in “spiritual stuff” or think it’s a bunch of “touchy-feely mumbo jumbo,” you really don’t have anything to lose, other than a few minutes you might otherwise have spent channel flipping, web surfing, or perhaps stressing about work.
Results depend on action, not belief or desire. Consistent, persistent action yields the highest rewards—just ask men and women like Franklin, Edison, and Curie, all of whom were heading into unknown territory and faced their fair share of skepticism. Or take a look at your own life experience: Sometimes, you must first change your actions in order for your feelings to improve. Later you may understand why your actions “worked,” but for those of us who are science minded, understanding is not as important as the results.
After a few months, ask yourself if anything has changed. (CONCLUSION/RESULTS) This is the (relatively) simple part: Check back in with yourself to see if the new patterns you’ve built into your life have impacted you: your attitude and outlook, how you view the world, even your belief in a Higher Power. Don’t be surprised if, unbeknownst to your conscious self, you find that something has changed. Even if you can’t categorically say, “I’m a spiritual person now,” you may have experienced enough that you choose to continue your spiritual exercises.
I remember the turning point of my own spiritual quest very clearly. I entered one of the first spiritual experiments I tried (it involved letting go of resentment and anger, if you’re curious) feeling very skeptical about spirituality and whether praying ever got results. But I followed the instructions I’d been given and was shocked to find that I got what I wanted: peace of mind and increased happiness. Because I was willing to test out a hypothesis that I hadn’t initially believed was correct, I experienced actual changes in my life that were real and valid. The same may be true for you!
While the steps of the scientific process may sound simple, in reality, starting an experiment like this takes an open mind and some willpower.
Don’t let your science-brain pride hold you back from potentially learning something important about yourself, and maybe even the universe as a whole. Remember, rejecting spirituality does not alter its reality any more than disbelieving gravity impacts this physical law. However, spiritual rejection can limit the depth and quality of your life.
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Spiritual Growth for the Skeptic:
Three Exercises to Sharpen Your Spiritual Muscles
You’ve decided to investigate the existence of personal spirituality using the scientific method. But how, exactly, do you conduct experimentation on something you can’t see or touch (and aren’t even sure is real)? Here, I offer a few simple exercises to help you get started.
For this particular experiment to work, you’ll have to do the exercises on a regular basis—one or two times won’t get results! Remember that you don’t have to adhere to any particular religion, or identify with one at all, for that matter, to connect with a Higher Power. The exercises I share here were developed with that truth in mind. They solely focus on enabling you to discover the reservoir of spiritual energy that already exists inside of you.
First, take your emotional temperature. First, fill out the Emotional Barometer chart below. It’s easy and straightforward, and will give you a baseline estimate of the areas in which personal spirituality might be able to help you.
Next, incorporate these exercises into your daily life. At the beginning of each day, perform this exercise to focus your mind on a spiritual place and establish a connection with your inner power.
If you feel upset or anxious during the day, pause and reestablish your connection with your inner power. This requires only a few minutes, so perform this exercise as soon as you become aware of the problem. A campfire is much easier to extinguish than a blazing forest fire; likewise, upset emotions are easier to alleviate when they’re small. Close your eyes for a moment, take three relaxation breaths, and mentally do the following exercise.
Periodically retake the Emotional Barometer test. You might want to do so every few weeks or once a month. Make note of how your scores change over time. Positive change might just be the proof of personal spirituality you have been seeking!
About the Author:
Thomas J. Strawser is the author of Spiritual Engineering. He is an international engineer with a master’s degree in psychology. Divorce, alcoholism, and numerous losses in his life led him to seek practical solutions to his despair. Combining his spirituality, knowledge of psychology, and engineering know-how, Strawser discovered the process he calls Spiritual Engineering. He and
his wife, Patricia, continue to share the transforming power of Spiritual Engineering with thousands in seminars around the world.
To learn more, please visit www.spiritual-engineering.com.
About the Book: