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397: How to Benefit From Religion, Even as a Nonbeliever | David DeSteno

2021-11-15 | 🔗

Dr. David DeSteno has embarked on a project he calls “religio-prospecting.” In other words, he has been looking at the scientific evidence that many ancient religious traditions can confer all sorts of benefits, whether you’re a believer or not. He points out that many secular people practice mindfulness, even if they’re not Buddhists. His question is - what’s the next mindfulness?

David DeSteno is a professor of psychology at Northeastern University, where he directs the Social Emotions Group, and the author of a new book called How God Works: The Science Behind the Benefits of Religion, and is the host of a new podcast on PRX, also called “How God Works.” This episode explores David’s desire to study the benefits of religious practice in a scientific way and the evidence behind such practices as: sitting shiva, gratitude, the Apache sunrise ceremony, and Japanese Shinto rituals around childbirth.


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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is the ten percent happier by cast down Harris hello. My fellow suffering beings. Welcome to the show a lot of people think it's a very good thing that the western world is becoming increasingly secular. No matter where you happen to stand on this sometimes controversial question and no matter whether you're a believer or non believer. It isn't trying to consider that there may be some key benefits that many of us are missing out on, as organised religion fades in many parts of the world. My guest today, the scientist who has embarked upon a project that he calls Religio prospecting, in other words, he's been looking at the scientific evidence,
that many ancient religious practices can confer all sorts of benefits, whether Europe believe it or not. He points out correctly that many secular people practice mindfulness, even if they're, not buddhists- and his question is what is the next mindfulness David Descent, always a professor of psychology, northeastern university where he directs these social emotions group. I was reading his official the other day- and I like to be sir- these these sentences provide some nice color on on what he studies. His work examines the mechanisms of the mind that shape vice and virtue studying hypocrisy and compassion. Pride and punishment, cheating and trust his work continually reveal.
that human moral behaviour is much more variable than most would predict. David is the author of a new book called how God works and is also the host of a new podcast on Pr Ex also called how God works. In this conversation, we cover his desire to study the benefits of religious practice in a scientific way to neither treat religion like a supervision or to defended as an institution, but instead learn what practices work and why we talk about the evidence behind such practices as sitting shiver gratitude, the Apache Sunrise ceremony and japanese Shinto rituals around childbirth. That's coming up. First, were one quick item of busy If you are a regular listener- show. You may have noticed that we ve had a lot going on inside the ten percent happier app. This fall from meditation, challenges to the brand new twenty percent happier podcast. There has never been, I might argue, a better time to join. Our
merry little band, our community of Mediterranean in the EP, to make sure you have a chance to try it out for yourself. We are offering ten percent happier subscriptions at forty percent discount from now until December. First, we don't do discounts of this size all the time and of course nothing is permanent. So get this deal before it ends by going to ten percent dot com, slash forty! That's ten percent! One word all spelled out dot com, slash four zero for forty percent off your subscription. We will get to David distend, oh right after this When it comes to what truly matters at mega food, it's the power plants and nourishing soil for quality ingredients to help grow a healthier world they do what matters to them. So you can do what matters to you like being present, saying yes or maybe even taking some you time to listen to your favorite podcast and all
making the most of each moment big and small mega food supplements for what matters. when buying gifts for others. You know your choices, impact lives in ways big and small. Now, in forever your tasteful, thoughtful and meticulous the sea. Goes for your holiday gifts, when you choose to buy and give handcrafted items, they not only look great, they feel great because their high quality and not mass made celebrate the ones you love with a gift from Etsy home with unique one of a kind and meaningful gifts made by incredibly talented sellers. Etsy is giving first time shoppers ten dollars, often Etsy purchase of thirty five dollars with code at sea gift. Ten, that's ten dollars off a purchase of thirty five dollars or more with code at sea gift. Ten again, that's Etsy gift, ten offerings December thirty, first, twenty twenty one! This season give more than a gift shop, Etsy, DOT, com for thoughtful and meaningful holiday gifts.
Professor Dave, this steno they found on the show hi dad. Thanks for having me on to pleasure, we been trying to do this for a while you're new book. The subject is, is fascinating. I'd be interested to start with how you got to this, as I understand it, and not a particular Religious person yeah that's true, although in some way that's kind of full circle for me. So when I was an undergraduate in college, I was trying to decide between being religious studies, majored kind of not not to be a theological person to kind of a history of religions or psychologists, and we finally Tipp meter being a psychologist was that I can run experiments hi could get answers to things rather than sitting around debating their problems that too, but as I've spent time running a lab for that. Has thirty years a lot of things we focus on our are how people find connection. What makes people virtuous leads them to be resilient and happy
nagging sense of maybe refining, isn't so new because an we studied things like meditation and saw that made people kinder when we studied things I gratitude and saw how it made people more patient, more honest, more generous when we found people just kind of moving in time with each other with their bodies made them feel more connected. We thought that was great, but every kind of ritual or spiritual practice. You look You ve been doing this for thousands of years, and so I say humble because it's one thing, if you know somebody gets your idea. First our scientists is another if they ve been doing it for thousands of years ensure, They can scan brains or they can't run randomize control trials, but in the messy thick of life they realized ways to put packaged elements together to help people deal with grief to help people. stress to help people find meaning, and so my argument really is: let's not treat religion like its superstition,
my goal is not to defend religion as an institution, but to look at what they have discovered. That can make life better for people and to study it scientifically. and see how we can use that you know we ve been doing this of Medicine for a while, but MIKE question really is okay. We know meditation, helps. What's the next mindfulness its The out therefore willing to look- and I don't argue about whether or not God exists, because there is no scientific test for the fingerprinting, even even richard- Dawkins he's one of the best known kind of atheists and the world will say he can't prove for certain whether or not God exists. But if you look at the data people who regularly engage with spiritual practices and faith services live longer, there healthier their hand Your answer to me. It's very rational to say: let's put theology decide, but let's look at these practices and see what they do.
your intuition or maybe there's evidence here- is that faith itself. Belief in the dogma is not required to extract those benefits, some benefits required for, but I think many it's not and I think that's the quest that we as scientists have to look out. I mean, having believe, can command Zairian do lots of things, but there are a lot. ways that these practices, kind of leverage, mechanisms of her mind and body to help us in ways that can be separated from theological, believe- and I think it's there- that we have to look at think. People realise that, because you are, people are leaving traditional religions at a good clip these days and lots of good reasons institutional failures, cover ups of abuse and financial scandal, you're discrimination. Ye statement agree with what the beliefs, but of those people who
leaving a becoming nuns and and by nuns I dont mean women who were habits. I mean, I know any ass people who do not affiliate with any one type of religion. Many of them are becoming atheists, they are looking for other types of spirituality you know twenty percent, who people who say there nothing in particular still pray every day and two thirds still believe in some type of higher power, and I think what they're looking for are these tools that help them deal with the challenges of life once they if the institutionalize face that are causing them. Other problems are their folks. India He is community the non believing community, even maybe the humanists community- that don't like what you're up to we'll find out. I read about this in the New York Times a while ago. I think once they get the sense that I am not here to argue that that religion is all good which I'm
I'm not, I think, of it as these tools, the spiritual practice as kind of a technology of sorts. It can be for good or for ill, I mean, can motivate people to go to war. We ve seen that I think wants it. About it that way than their fully on board. I'm sure there will be something oh, who are very intensely religious, who will objective my taking a scientific lens to some other practices, but there also I have a friend whose rabbi who who tells me you know I want to know what science says about how some of these practices work, because it helps me led my flock. It helps me, give better recommendations to people for what to do and how to adapt its interesting to hear, because I've heard you know many different arguments coming from the relief side of the spectre, some people will hear you saying I believe you that use the term Religio prospecting here. Don't you go
in three religions in prospect, data find the nuggets that are scientifically verifiable and extract them from their context, some people really don't like that? They feel like it sculptural appropriation or it somehow, perverted the thing by taking it outside of its ethical context. I believe I hope I'm not getting this from the Dalai Lama's pretty explicit about not wanting people to become a Buddhist per se, but they should be training in what he calls secular ethics and doing embracing technology. meditation, etc, etc. That's right, he had, as you know, he actually funds a lot of that research and intimate my favorite saying of his is, is I heard in one say enough: science ever proves that mean carnation doesn't exist, then what have to give it up, but I'm not holding my breath and so bright tat. You know your point is is correct and it's it's not to engage in cultural appropriation, and I'm very sensitive to that, and my arm,
and is, since I dont Know- and I am fully happy to say- I have no idea. If God exists, you can see these practices as divinely inspired or you can see them is practices that people have designed and created through an experiment, of sorts in an the pain and joys of life and to me it doesn't matter, let us look at them and see how they work, but your other points, about a preparation is a tricky or one that is if we're taking a practice you know maybe is- is a jewish or a catholic practice, and from that we are trying to take secular elements. What does that mean- and I think that's a trickier question. My goal is to always give reverence in respect to the origins of these traditions, but then to study how they work scientifically and if No, how they work scientifically. It doesn't mean that we can't adapt them. So if we take elements of the way you breathe or chant-
if we take elements of the way ash, Wednesday or Yom Kippur. Poor reminds people that life slinked is is a gift. It's not a guarantee and we use that in other ways- I don't think that's kind of disrespecting the the religion if we take their ritual, exactly as it is, and then try and change the word and stuff or adopted in a way that does not respect the fate then yeah. I can see cultural appropriation but if we can see some wisdom in the strategies and tactics they use and we can prove they work scientifically. I don't see why we can't use them in a different context. What about the arguments and have share from people or critic,
what they call MIC mindfulness one of their arguments, and I dont want to pretend to know it chapter and verse. But one of the complaints you sometimes here is, if you take something like mindfulness, which is one very important concept within a vast treasure. He of insights into the human condition. If you take that out of its in particular out of its ethical context and place it in the mind of a sea? Sweet executive at a company with business practices are harmful or etc. All you're doing is making better more focused bad act Yours, as opposed to helping the world. No, I think that's exam we write and when I refer to these as technologies or tools, Thirdly, what I mean, because the reason they work is because you are
using aspects of training, the mine and leveraging the physiology of the body to accomplish a goal, if we're sitting in the songs and were meditating together getting all the other elements instruction, then that openness, greater attention were feeling is going to focus us in the right way. We can certainly take that tool and use it in another way, and so that's the thing to remember and that's why I say yeah religion can be used for good and bad. We seen that throughout history, but there are also a kind of elements to these rituals and practices that I think are robust. Let's talk about mindfulness, it's a good one. The purpose of meditation right wasn't so you could perform better worker or have a better memory. It was to reduce or is to reduce suffering world, both yours and and other peoples, and what we find when we study meditation is. It makes people more
compassionate it makes people kind or so there are a lot of labs that look at you know. What is it your grave verses white matter. What does it do for your memory, but that wasn't his purpose and so in experiments that we did we, actually showed. Not only that it makes people more compassionate to come to the aid of individuals who are in pain, but it even here she stopped lashing out individuals who would normally provoke you, and we do that in a completely secular way too, and so I think there are certain elements of these practices that push us toward the goals that religions have designed. Let's go through some of the practices that you ve looked at and written about part of Europe. Religio prospecting Jesus. I assume NEO Lodge ISM, that I can give credit to you for you, and just the people know where this comes from gives it is. It is a mouthful. Theirs is termed bio prospecting that that pharmaceutical companies use when they go and look for chores, many of which were working
national, and you know many traditional chores turned out not to do anything but some dead with develop many cancer drug from traditional cures and recommendations from indigenous cultures. Bermuda no plants, and so my argument in Religio prospecting as well. Why not? Look too kind of in a traditional spiritual practice is not just a biological substances, so that through that term comes from, but sure we can we can go through some of them. Let's start with the jewish practice of sitting shiver so you know one of the one of the biggest challenges we face. Everybody at some point life is losing someone will no matter who you are, you can escape grief and the John, is how to different rituals, help us deal morning one thing that they all doing it, putting ship and then I'll get the ship in particular lie. Think it's so beneficial there's always a eulogizing element, and if you think about
and we ought to feel like that's normal, but its kind, strange. Actually, if I lost a job or in a word or my singing other broke up with me, I wouldn't want to spend a lot of time about why they were so great. We always do this when somebody passes and there's wonderful work by the college, name's George Bonanno, who shows that if we can consider today positive memories of deceased purse that's one, major predictor being resilience in the face of grief and affect people who, have more anxiety, more depression are less able to do that are less able to to suggest and talk about positive memories of the person whose gone but the real trip with grief is not to deny it but to move through it in a timely fashion. That's not to and not letting it gets so intense tat. It is paralyzed and if you look at shiver
package together everything that science is kind of figured out in the past twenty years. That helps one big predictor of resilience in the face of morning is instrumental support now. What do I mean by that? It's not social support. It's not like how many friends you have on twitter, it's who shows up when you need them to be there in person to support you and sugar there's this idea of visiting the mourners and it's it's it's Miss V, which means it is a sacred obligation. It's not something nice to do. You have to do it. You have to go there. You have to bring food, you have to support where you can, when you are there for the seven day period, there are what called minion. Prayers were at least ten. People have to be together to say, prayers, and so the mourners are never alone. But when they say prayers, people are saying them in unison, in synchrony,
often swaying with little bit with each other. One thing that synchronous movement does That is the kind of moving and swaying in time with each other, and we ve experimental, dated this, is it not only makes people feel closer to one another? It makes them have more compassion for one another. And more and be more willing to help each other out. People cover mirrors Why do you cover mirror that seems kind of a strange customs? Well, we know from experimental research that, if you look into it, or whatever emotion you are feeling becomes intensified. If you're happy, you feel happier if you're so but you would be during a time of morning you become sadder and more depressed by cover mirrors is the way to reduce that people on low stools, why do you say he's really low, uncomfortable stalls around the floor. There's really interest work now showing that mild onsets in offsets of painter discomfort, as you would get from?
the kind of in a low crunched economic position and then getting up, reduces rumination and reduces depression, and so there are all these elements that are built in I'm sure no one understood the neuroscience behind them, but together create a package that is sign to relieve grief and help people move through morning. It's kind of brilliant package. I mean I've, I'm half jewish, I don't even know if I've, I think, I'd, probably sat shiver before it's been awhile, though, to have her the expression of a million times, but I had no idea, tat. It had all of these components that word knit together and that each of these component we're so ingenious in their own right? But what happened on one element that you said a few words about, but I think, might be nice to get you to expand on theirs. It firm. You use, I believe, motor synchrony niche
up in a lot of rituals that you write, a ban have looked at. Can you say more about motor synchrony sure the way I describe it is objects moving together in time you can think of flocks of birds. or schools of fish. You know when you see all of them moving in a coordinated manner. It looks like we're individual animals somehow becomes a larger entity and it's kind of an ancient language that that our brain uses to interpret things. And so we thought, when we are running a study on this trend, look at away to help people find it come in humans, it might help people feel connected, and so tomorrow, long story short when we brought a bunch of people into our lab, and we sat him across the table from each other two pairs of a pair of people at a time They couldn't talk to one another, they put on your phones and we played in those earphones in their only job, was to tap the sir in front of them as they heard those tones. Now we rigged it right so that for some pair tones were
synchronized? They were hearing them in unison, said her hands were moving in unison in their field of vision, others. They were round him and said they were completely out of sync. After that, we asked people how, in a how close through how similar did you feel to that of the person and if they had tapped in time, they reported feeling more similar, and it was weird because they couldn't explain why they had the sense that I was more similar, and so they were trying to explain it need, say things like. I think he was in my class. Last year. I started a party last week right you have this feeling, like you know it, you feel the fuel from the we can explain it, but then we kind of rigged, situation where one of the pair got unfairly stock. Doing this really long and boring and difficult task, and what we found is that the people who, if they attacked in time the part there was much more willing to come to that persons I mean, I think. I think that the rate of saying you know
help him out without we basically tripled the percentage of people who willing to do that data you'll badly from I wanna go help em out. They didn't know this person from Adam. But what it was that simple moving in time, was enough to make them connected in a way that they had compassion for each other and wanted to help one another. Thought. Well, this is great. Let's go. You know right up a paper about this which we did we discovered a new way to help people feel connected everywhere. I look kitchen uses it. again it was one of these humbling moment. I never realised that the reason we're doing it is to make people feel closer together and there's lots of data that suggest people who who attend service and worship together, feel closer together But again it's one of these things that which is running under the running under the radar and had we understood and look to religion and rituals we private to come up with this idea lot sooner. How can we operate?
analyze this insight in our daily life shall we start meetings with some sort of synchronize movement her What can we do this yeah? It's funny. You know I mean you'll, see this in some places. You know ex sports teams will do it before they go out or if you have ever seen the Maori from New Zealand yeah this hocker that this year, we we were starting to think about project that we never quite got off the ground. You know how did you uses in kind of anxiety, provoking situations where you want to feel some comfort with somebody new and some trust and some sense of compassion with them, and so we will protect going to do an experiment where we did this in doctors. This is where people were going in for a biopsy in meeting the radiologists too. You have no history wealth and you know you're oftentimes worried if it they get very negative news,
do you know even there? I can be the type of thing we're. A physician and patient takes two minutes together and just take deep, breaths, together or kind of raised their hands up and down. If they do this- and it sounds a little strange because we don't have the ritual for it- Text for it, but there's a lot of synchrony work out there, not not just the one experiment than I am suggesting. That shows that it makes people cooperate more, feel more comfortable trust each other more. Let the latest games on shiver for a second wave or let me go back to shiver, Khazars and theirs. I believe in The element of shiver that may not have come up yet, which is wearing torn garments. Yeah, so is often We are so traditionally people would tear garments when somebody path now oftentimes. What they'll do is in get me. My friends, you are who would use I'm, not jewish, so this is kind of what I ve learned. They will put a black ribbon with a pin on there. You know shorter Blausser Jacket,
and terror that, and the beauty of that is. It is a sign that you are morning. One of the most difficult things is to kind of nowhere. Somebody is in. Their emotional state and so and the victorian period they this wonderful custom, where, when someone guide them. We would wear black and then his time went on would wear grain and they in half mourning, which were several months later. They would wear a kind of violet and then would wear white. It was a way to know for people who were just coming to meet them. I have not seen them in a while they were in the morning process, and so you know The korean some ways is a nice way to see that, but it also serves another purpose, which is a reminder: people's ourselves post, not wear your best clothes more traditional observers will not where their best shoes are. There stresses and not worry about bathing or shaving and printing. The idea there is to lessen self focus to not before
It's time you yourself and worrying about how you are going to look or what you're going to do and again this goes back to cover the work I mentioned before, on mirrors, to the extent that people are self focused whither without mirrors, it tends to intensify the emotion feeling and at a time of morning, that's usually kind of grief and an anxiety. You know, the rule in sugar is when you come in you, wait for the mortar to speak to you and you. Let them set the tone if they want to talk about the person who passed that's wonderful. If they are not ready to do that, that's ok, you take your lead for them and again it is a kind of because that's the custom built into the ritual it helps people deal without thinking. Oh, my gosh would what do say. Should I try and lighten the mood today not try and lighten the mood is just a way of of easing the whole process, much more by conversation with David distend. After this one
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Thoughtful and meaningful holiday gifts hi. My name is rough farmer therapies and I am at ten percent happier user and I was a guess on the twenty percent happier protest. I'm excited to listen to twenty percent happier beakers listening to our people work through these with coach will help me normalize my own struggles on my own difficulties with my meditation journey. So when I first met Matthew was exciting. He did it. Ray job making safe space. I felt like I could be I kept. To him and he actually coming moved a little intimidation journey, with a made different issue was exciting and it was an powering. I ask all my clients to download the ten percent happier
I would definitely recommend the twenty percent happier broadcast to all my clients and you can find it on the temperate and happier move on to another aspect of your religio prospecting. The practice same grace before meals, which I think is a christian practice. I know it to be a christian practice. I'm sure there are other religions that give thanks and Judaism. The prayer said every morning is the first thing that you say, as is you thank God for free and you have a breath tat morning and for having, their day, but the idea behind these are their prayers of gratitude, and grace is just one example of a prayer of gratitude. There are many different types of prayers of gratitude. What did they do for you?
so there you another reason we have. Emotions is to influence what we're going to do. It wouldn't make As for the mind to have an emotion if it didn't serve a purpose, and so in there's lots of evidence that when we feel frightened, makes us more vigilant for threats and makes us more careful, but there are these kind of morally toned emotions. Things like gratitude. we found in our lab is: if we make people feel gratitude, they become more honest and make an example will have people count their blessings and for some people, that's a completely secular thing that they- Do this talk about what their grateful for in their life at this point for some people there I about religious things, United thanking God for my health, my family, whatever it might be? and then one thing we do is we give them the opportunity to cheat on something we give them the opportunity to flip a coin and tell us that it came up heads or tails, I came up had to get a lot more money, but if it came up to the house, but of course we can tell what they do with what the coin come up, because it's it's a computer coin that we were
so we know how it comes up and what you find is people who are feeling grateful become much more honest in one study we about twenty five percent of people who weren't feeling four lie to us, and so we gave them more money in the gratitude condition we had about two or three percent of people do that, so it's a dramatic reduction, In other studies, we give the money they can choose to split it fairly with other people are to keep more for themselves, people who just count their blood. in our feeling: gratitude are more equitable, there are more, likely to go out of their way to help someone even a stranger they ve, never met will make them feel gratitude in the lab will send them down the hall on their way out of the building. They think the experts it is over and then we'll have someone who they never met, come up to them and actor and ask them for help and we'll see whether they're willing to help this person and again it's the more gratitude they feel to it. Like a dose response thing, the more you feel it
the more effort you'll exert to help somebody there more money will give to sell, helps embodied the more the more ethical it will be on your own and so again all religions right, want people to be ethical and kind of give. You commandments to be ethical; but we all know we don't always live up to whether its religious. I yellow, even our own ideal, that we set for ourselves and sure if we all look back at our life, there are things we did that we're not proud of ethically but the fat of cultivating gratitude every day, whether it's you know the jewish prayer upon wakening, grace before meals or thanksgiving your gratitude, another religions every day. That's a boost to make you more ethical, more generous, more kind, and without you having to think about God even really I mean yes, your saying the prayer, but you know we can show and our experiments it's that feeling, thinking about God or not that changes your behavior, and so what does that mean you're, someone is not religious, it means take time.
Instead of thanking God for prayer, thanks before Amelia, when you wake up in the morning, be thankful for something that you have in your life, whether it be your parents, a friend, someone who did something for you. The day before and you get the same, benefits What about gratitude journals, yeah gratitude journals are a wonderful way of of doing it. Instead of saying prayers for every day of thanksgiving to induce gratitude, in our gratitude. Journalist, its own ritual right at the time that you set aside to repeat every day every couple of days on your own schedule to reflect and call that emotion to mind, and the call that emotion to mind is a nudge to make you more ethical and more generous and more helpful to people around you two hundred and two another religious ceremony. This one is the Apache Sunrise ceremony what'd, you learn about this
so? That falls into one of the categories of what we call rights of passage. It's when adolescents are trying to become adults, You know that's always really tricky time, because not only do you kind of have to convince yourself that that you are now in adults and unable to handle those responsibilities, but you have to convince them, unity that your worthy of that too, and so there are kind of two ways at these ceremonies. Often work again- and I kind of like stay by pain or by brain, and what I mean by pain is in a lot of cultures. People have doing door, grilling ceremonies and the Apache Sunrise, I ceremonies one of those it's for young women who are on their way to adulthood and its a ceremony where they have to dance in front of people, usually in an open field for hours on end, without breaks in ways that are incredibly gruelling
there are similar things in Central America for boys. There's something called the bullet aunt ceremony and they're called bullet ants, because their sting feels that you got shot by a bullet the panes been tested in this kind of equivalent. and they have to put on these gloves that are made out of plant Franz and leaves but they have the ants weaved into them. Stingers inside and so you have to wear these, and not only does it hurt like Hack- The venom of the ads makes you feel kind of nauseous and like you're, going to faint, and they have to endure these silently and all of these are experiences where you have to show some degree of self control. The idea is not to cry out.
And the Apache Sunrise ceremonies. It's it's to keep going and do not give up and is a way to prove to yourself and two other people that you have the self control to be an adult. But the important part about that is what comes next. The community has to kind of embrace. even by into it. So in our talk in a minute about kind of the more western versions of this, with things like confirmation or or bar mitzvah, and bought midst, as though you know when I was confirmed as a catholic, Nothing much change for me the day after wasn't like you know, suddenly everybody's thing: ok, you're an adult now huge and who can do it ever and I think the same thing happens for four bar mitzvah. Yes, you can now take part in certain ritual asp. acts of Judaism as an adult, but it's not like pain. Your own bills, you're you're out on your own. You you're doing things so in these more traditional cultures, as you do
things. You are given more and more responsibility, so the community suddenly has to see you in this role and is wonderful work by anthropologist, name, Demetrius, vague Alatas, who shows that these sir monies that induce a lot of kind of pain. They are also very as you can imagine, arousing for the audience to watch rate, if you're watching a young woman, dance upon hours and wondering if she's gonna keep making it. You can see that the sweat on her brow, she's, continued you're you're, watching these boys being done by adds that you know extremely hurt really well or fire walking he's like of studied fire walking. What you see is it's really interesting. He put sensors on people who were fire, walking and end people who were watching and what you find is that their heart rates synchronize right, because they're kind of almost in this together and that's an act not of
synchrony of movement, but a physiological synchrony, and it binds them together after the ceremony. People will say now we feel like we feel like brothers. Are we feel like the community? Now, if you look at bar mitzvah season and bonnets version, confirmations the promised What really designed is coming of age ceremonies? traditionally a bar mitzvah on a boy's thirteenth birthday. His father simply said in a blessed be here who has released me from being liable for this boy. and that was basically a father's way of washing its hands for responsibility for his son in Catholicism confirmation surely was given at the same time as Baptisma PETE we're converting when they were all adults, it wasn't really something that had to do with coming of age. Now both of these happen around the age of thirteen and so it's kind of, the time where we are starting to kind of become
in adult, but they dont work that way, because the day after nothing is really different, and so when I talk about in the book, is you know in complex societies like ours is probably not one age that makes the most sense for, but to adult to use that word, he looks at one end you can drink at one end you can vote, at another age. You know you do something else are open a bank account or use a credit card. There is no an age that seems perfectly magic to kind of being. Now you are an adult, and so what might make more sense is to do a number of kind of iterative ceremonies one for each accomplishment and in fact some of these national cultures do like that aunt ceremony. I told you about they do that multiple it's not one in done and so for us it might be worth while to have a ceremony when somebody reaches the
age at which they can go to college another at which they can vote another at which there getting their first job, after which people can really begin to treat them differently, because in your thirteen, yes, you can be firm. Yes, you can never bought midst. Our bar mitzvah, but nothing much chain Then your life right after and sulphur looking for ways to encourage teens to take on more adult responsibilities. The question of when the right time for each responsibility and what's the best way to market and the best way to market, is to have show some self control. Some ability of demonstration of competency no great way of thinking about this is the route to becoming an eagle scout. You you pass lots of different trials and at the and you are recognised as someone who can be a valued leader, responsible person, a member of the community, and so I don't have the answer to the magic age at which people should become adults, but I think
we should find rituals for that in our western society bit more than we have. It might help this problem of kind of helicopter parenting and and and when two kids get get the right age to be on their own laws, utterly fascinating, especially as I consider the life of my six year old. I could talk about my son all day and I don't want to inflict upon you, but let's keep going with these ceremonies. There's. Also, some japanese Shinto rituals that you ve looked at yeah. So neither talk about around childbirth and if you look at the ethnographic literature, what you'll see is that, on average, the closeness of japanese mothers to their choice I tend to be more than many other cultures in terms of time they actually spend together in terms of skin diskin, contact and and lots of other ways it it's so much so that they actually have this kind of unique emotion which is called
am. I in a MI, is kind of an emotion where you cherish someone. We have the idea in western culture, we don't have the word. So imagine your toddler coming over to you, while you're working and kind of tugging on your on your pants and looking up to you and saying you know, would you read me the story as that feeling, of course, can you put down your work and you put them in your lap and it's that kind of cherish killing. The reason we don't have a word for it is, could its modest frequent here and so there's wonderful work by the Dublin Barrett who I know you ve had your podcast and she argues that the emotion terms that different cultures- Were the ones that are most useful and happened most in those answers, so the quest is why might it be that the Japanese have with seems almost in increased reverence for their children, not Other people, don't I'm not saying that at all, but just if you look at it, they have this. This unique emotion, Shinto, which is a true
no religion of Japan in the first year has a ton of ceremonies that focus on care making it begins. When the mother is pregnant, were I won't? Try pronounced the rituals because I'm sure I won't do them justice family will come and they will tie a sash around her pregnant belly, which is a sign of their care for her, but also sign of protection and support for that child. When the child is born. there's a ceremony when they announced the name. There is a ceremony there's a a blessing that then It's a couple months later, where they go to the shinto temples. On the first birthday, there's a ceremony on the earlier years of life, there are multiple ceremonies and each ceremonies requires the parents to usually spend a lot of money to get nuke.
those worst national items to put on special meals for family and friends in what it does. Is it reinforces this idea that this child is valuable, so Allison Goblin accuse psychology step at Universal California. Berkeley has this misquote that I love from one of her books where she says. Sometimes we care for people, because we love But sometimes we loved them because we care for them and what she means by that is the act of caring and by simply having multiple times where you are publicly vetting this child were you are putting them. Before everyone has. The apple of your eye were yours, bending tie. money and resources to do this, it
minded to you and to your brain that this is something that you value and what we know. Everything from I hate to say and in terms of economics, but what we know from economics research, is the more we stand on something more attention. We give to something the more we we value it, even if its around, not with children, is certainly not a rational, but you know just if you have people you put them in experiments where there are talking about a wonderful something is insane his great. They start to increase the value they attached to. It What these rituals do is they are reminders, and because ritual eyes, therein it in your memory. More of how much we care and value our children and in those moments and we ve had them his parents when you're feeling overwhelmed and you're just ready how pull her hair out and not knowing what's going on there reminders that kind of non conscious tat.
Valuation that it gives to your child is a way to strengthen those relationships, and so what do you do? If you know Shinto. What's funny, what you do are exactly the things that pediatricians are now encouraging parents to do with their chilling biggest ill. Unfortunately, there are certain percentages of new parents who have trouble bonding with their shoulders much as they want some I understood anxiety sometimes is due to postpone depression or other things had since you're having a problem feeling like your bonding to your child, though say well, set a time every day to give the baby a massage or set a time every day to sit down and read your child or smuggle together, and the important thing is that you do it. What you're really doing there is creating a ritual right. It's completely secular, richer But it's a time where you show time and effort to value this lovely
it'll being who can be candid demand and many of you think about its hardened chins, your little. It's really kind of one re relationship. Yes, we have hormonal responses that make us love them, but we are giving them everything that they need and so by having these rituals it's just away too kind reinforce. to our minds home and they are and how much we love them in, and the rituals that pediatricians or giving kind of mirror, which it has been doing for thousands of years. There's so much here where to start. I love this Allison gap. Neck quote, and this is in- reuse. Phrases about to use on I've never met her up would love to have run the show of ours, and if your listening, you're invited, isn't it over use phrase, but that notion, which I've heard her tickled before changed my life. The idea that pudding in the work creates the affection, not the other way around. In my experience, this is scalable
well beyond your child. I've found being more systematic about mentoring relationships has created a difference in my relationship with my colleagues with my aging parents. The being thrust into more of a caretaker role has opened up a whole new. the realm of affection that I already had for them. I wonder if you have any it's about that it, whether you agree with what I'm saying and if so whether There is a way to systematized that for regular people. I think it's absolutely right, and this is why often I talk about why we can take elements of rituals. We see how they work and apply them in different ways and- and I dont think his lungs are not using the same- the same prayer the traditional elements, it's not showing disrespect, it's kind of honouring that with when applying a differently but you're, absolutely right. I have the same thing with with my mom, whose just turning one hundred and one is so. I hope I have your genes mom. I may have some of them, but I hope to have the super aging once it's absolutely its ups.
What we re, then you know the economists we'll talk about it and ended in this term sounds cold, but I'll use. It is called this cost fallacy yet right, which is, if you ve, time and energy into something very like I've. Already put three weeks into this course. I don't really like it, but I did you know I guess they have to keep going and rationally. That makes no sense cut your losses and go children or people How about are not some costs in that sense, but their kind, similar because with a child, you are putting in tons of effort now and you're going to enjoy that relationship as a child grows and an immune joy them on babies to, but I mean in terms of more give and take, it's a reminding yourself engaging in the care and with the ritual does, is it makes it so that you can forget it, because it's this big event that happens every couple months right, but to your point in any type of relationship. It will create that affection much more by conversation with David distend. Oh, after this these days, small business owners are busier than ever. Instead,
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terms and conditions apply. Just go back to this concept. I believe he used the term a my. The japanese word for the cherishing of a child, that's great that they came up with a word. I dont know. If this is useful to me. But it just val Di shared in case. It is when I do matter, Emmy, TT or loving kindness practice and your repeating these phrases to yourself like if you're sending method to other people, its may, you be happy, may be safe, etc, etc. Then, in practice also turn on yourself when I send, may I be happy the image or the felt sense that I generate is when I am hugging my son so that is careless tripling down on my because that is when I am most happy, that's beautiful so that useful to anybody, a shared ya, know! Thank you. You know I was talking with
we will share in Salzburg? I'm sure you know- and we are talking about our work on meditation in an and compassionate and it's funny another one thing she told me is often has been a lot of people start meditating, it's it's a. They can feel better themselves. They have some stress some pain, some difficulties, some anxiety that they're trying to work through the same was true for her, but as you learn to make space for that, to sit with it to have that that equanimity that space that you open up can't help, but then make you your room and desire to want stand that that matter and that care for others, and I think that the beauty and in practice, and I traditionally, if you're, starting with a buddhist teacher, you'll get a lot of the other theology and other parts of it that talk about the importance of kindness in and compassionate ethical Karuna for others. But the idea is the meditation is one tool to help.
prepare your mind to be more tuned in and ready for that anymore, That's where I think the magic is in a lot of these practices. more to say about what youve observed as the benefits of Michaelmas meditation. So the their thing I'll say- and this takes longer, of course, to to get to than some of the initial anxiety benefits and compassion benefits to come, and I certainly have not experienced this myself, but I know from many people it bring you to a transcendental state of sorts that state were, you feel a deep connection to kind of everything this one, this with universe and a lot of people are kind of seeking Transcending experiences- and you know I'm gonna talk about in the book. Are there are different ways to get their roughly speaking, people break him down
what are called the right handed in the left, handed techniques right, handed techniques or techniques like meditation that fit within traditional religions or practices, and in I never understood this Sudan. You said you weren't, you were half jewish, which the other half. bread all wasp. Are it's So for me, because I was raised catholic- I no idea that there is a whole slew of catholic meditation practices? But if you look at these practices and what you see is over time, as you become more proficient in meditation when you'd start getting to this transcendental experiences of states of oneness that often sense of your your own identity, in a way, the areas of the brain that that affects are the same areas that things like suicide in- and I was gonna effect now- those are kind of what people called the left handed techniques,
not in disparaging way, but in a sense that they are fast their rapid. You get those without spending me years of practice that you would need with meditation but because their fast they can also be kind and dangerous or risky rate. That is, you know about twenty percent of people who have some of these trips. It's not pleasant. Eight percent, I've seen Michael Pollen say, seek psychiatric help after because that experience of your ego, melting away, shattering something psychologists, call ego, death can be blissful or can be terrifying and what's important when we think about the rituals. Is they provide the scaffolding to help ensure that it's the blissful one and not the terrifying one? So if you're eating magic mushrooms are drinking, I Alaska, with your local Brooklyn Hipster, place there
probably not having all the rituals the chanting and what we know about those is when you hear chanting when you engage in chanting yourself, it slows your breathing, but does that slowed breathing? Do it slows your heart rate? What does that you put your brain in a state of calmness where it doesn't expect danger around the corner, and so when enter these transcendental states again nudging you toward a blissful safe one as opposed to a bad trip. So you may say about meditation. Is it's a route towards these transcendental experiences, psychedelic can give you two it's just a longer route, but on the psychedelic side, exciting thing think about is make sure You are doing it with someone who has something and whether there are showman or not, they have the kind of ancient accrued wisdom of what are the ritual the go around it: the chance not just window dressing right, the chanting and the prayer.
Are there to kind of scaffold your expense It's so that it is in mobile one and not a frightening one before let you got what a loop back to some? You brought up her very early on in the conversation and mentioned that you probably wanted to come back to, which is the benefits of belief. Just to remind everybody. You been talking along about how we can employ these practices, songs believe we can get the benefits of religion without being religious, but there are benefits to straight out leaf and I'd love to hear about that yeah. There's lots of work suggesting that one thing it as is reduced decision fatigue, so you know we all think that isn't life better, the mortar. As we have, because we can optimize things perfectly, but there's no wonderful trunk called the tyranny of choice. Sometimes, when you have too many choices to me, it can be anxiety provoke because you're like oh, my gosh too, don't you know that
this act to do that, and you know that's bad enough for trying to figure out what the best tyres and paralyzing if you're trying to figure out. Oh my gosh whats, the best preschool from my child go to or I have sixteen different therapies. I can pick for this malady I'm facing. What's the right one and we have to pick something wrong, and so there is evidence that people who have a belief in a higher power have less anxiety in the face of those choices? Now I don't mean to say that that means they're just going to I'm just going to give it up to God and not worry and not to be intelligent about the decisions you're making still want to make smart intelligent decisions, but there is evidence to suggest that people who have a greater bill if in a higher power, doesn't matter exactly how you conceptualize that power, but a higher power, tend to have less anxiety around decisions related to health career lots of other areas in life. An overall that adds up to a good deal of of reduced down
Eighty in your daily life now do you have to be religious? Maybe not. I mean in some Andrei, and I know this better than I do. A lot of the Buddhists Why worry about something that you have no idea? If it's going to ever happen, if there's a way to fix something fix it, If there is not well, then don't spend your time obsessing about it, and so the belief that things will just work out or even a belief that I shouldn't worry and have to accept what comes in some ways functions much as a belief in a higher power. Would it kind of takes the onus off of ourselves that we put on us that we ourselves have to optimize every decision, otherwise we're gonna regretted they terrible a terrible decision. I would imagine one of the benefits of belief is that you might feel like you're in a bit the universe and you're, not to worry about, what's gonna happen, you die you. I will that's another issue right is: is talking about belief in the afterlife individuals who have leaf in life after death
actually as they kind of get older and and and approached death, have much less anxiety, but it's funny Core atheists have more anxiety than to people who are hard core believers, but they have less anxiety than people who don't know what they believe and so my senses we don't know. No one knows what happens after were gone, given that their, is no proof that a belief the afterlife causes anyone any harm. Why be adamant against it? You know we don't know, and so yes, it can reduce your anxiety, which would only be a problem. There was some other downside of believing in an after life, but as far as I can tell, there is not just to make. The point is, as far as I can tell the real point of your book isn't really to debate. The pluses and right minuses of religion is to say that you can extract the benefits extract, not the pejorative enjoy the benefits of religious practices, whether you are
a believer or not. That is right. It is, in one sense, a push back against kind of the new areas. Movement which says a lot of religion is kind of folly or superstition, and you know I love the scientific method. I am a scientist I believe it is the best tool we have to study how the world works, but I'm saying is. We should humble enough to realise that when it comes to helping people thousands of years of thought, mine have some good ideas. There were actually slowing scientific progress if we're not willing to look at. It doesn't mean you have to buy the theology, but let's look at the practices in a respectful way and that's work together talk across the lines that normally divide a science verses, religion, one faith verses another. If we all care about making life better for people, let study these practices again. We ve done it with meditation. There has to be more out there, probably a great place to leave it gave before we go. Can you plug your new book?
any other books that you wanted to know about any other resources you might have out there. Can you just plug away? Please yeah sure my It's called how God works the science behind the benefits of religion. Out from Simon and sister and I also happy to say the the Danube inspired me. I'm working on a a podcast of the same name, we're gonna, explore these issues and bring some scientists and religious thinkers together. Awesome! Congratulations on the book and the podcast Thank you for coming on the show you did a great job. Thank you for the invitation. Thanks again to David love. Talking to him and over get David's got a new pod cast its now out in the world, go check it out. You can find it wherever you get. Your pod casts. It's called how works and will put a link in the show knows. The show is made by Samuel Johns Gabrielle Sacrament, Dj Cashmere, Justine, Davy Kim Bike, a we're, tell engine point with audio engineering from ultraviolet.
Audio will see while on Wednesday, four a conversation with LISA Feldman Bear
Transcript generated on 2021-11-15.