January 14, 2019

Ready for round three? If you’ve been following this series, you know not to set New Year’s Resolutions. Instead, you know to form strong habits, which demands that you start small and be consistent. You also know that, for this to be effective, you should rely on cues and rewards rather than motivation and willpower. So what’s missing? From a neuroscience perspective, what’s the final key to habit formation? The role of relationship The third and final key to habit formation is this:… Read more

January 10, 2019

Welcome back to my series on neuroscience and personal growth. At this point, we’ve established that New Year’s Resolutions are ineffective and often counterproductive. And we know that that the sustainable way to reach your goals is through building habits. Last week, we talked about the first science-backed key to habit formation: start small and be consistent. In other words, use microhabits. Today, we’re going to cover the second key to habit formation: cue and reward. We typically think about… Read more

January 6, 2019

I warned you – New Year’s Resolutions are ineffective. You may have ignored me and set them anyway. But even if you didn’t, you probably still want to change and improve your personal life this year. There are virtues you want to develop, skills you want to take strengthen, and vices you want to eliminate. In order to salvage our collective attempts at personal growth, I’m writing a series on how to effectively and efficiently build habits. This process changes… Read more

December 30, 2018

Here are four things you should read that have challenged, informed, and fascinated me lately. Is Anxiety Sinful? From America Magazine (here). One in five Americans suffers from an anxiety disorder; what is the origin, treatment, and morality of such disorders? And how can and should our human freedom be engaged? This great piece in America Magazine by Dr. Greg Popcak explores these complex questions. 2. Programs Help Incarcerated Moms Bond With Their Babies In Prison, from NPR (here). This essay covers… Read more

December 27, 2018

The New Year is almost here! Many of you are likely thinking about changes you want to make in 2019. You want enhanced productivity, more consistent prayer, stronger health. And this is great, we should always be striving to align what we believe to be important with how we act on a daily basis. But before you make New Year’s Resolutions, STOP. There is a better way to effect change! Three Reasons to hate New Year’s Resolutions January 1 is… Read more

December 23, 2018

“The people who walked in great darkness have seen a great light.” This promise feels unattainably distant in the bleak days of winter, when sunlight is weak and brief. it. And yet, four days after the Winter Solstice, the Church celebrates the coming of the Light of the World, the light which no darkness shall overcome. What is there for us in this juxtaposition? The Darkness of the Winter Solstice The Winter Solstice is the day with the shortest period… Read more

December 20, 2018

Can neuroscience debunk mystical experiences? Should we dismiss them as a matter of misfiring neurons, or are they something more something more? In the first two posts of this series (here and here) I reviewed novels that explore these questions with nuance and complexity. Here, I argue that neuroscientific explanations do not threaten mystical experiences, once we reject a false materialist framework. What is mysticism? First, we have to define our terms. Mysticism is the tendency of the human soul toward… Read more

December 16, 2018

What does it mean to feel God’s presence, and how is this related to brain activity? If psychopathology is involved, does this mean it’s not an authentic religious experience? In the age of scientific reductionism, it’s tempting to dismiss mystical experiences as mere abnormal patterns of neural activity. But is mysticism a matter of misfiring neurons, or something more? In the first post of this series, I reviewed a novel that explores similar questions: Ron Hansen’s Mariette in Ecstasy. But… Read more

December 13, 2018

What is the relationship between pathology and holiness? In recent years, scientific studies have sought to draw a link between psychopathologies — such as epilepsy and schizophrenia — and mysticism. And when science finds a mechanism, it seems to shatter an illusion of mystery. Does this relationship dissolve religious experience into disinhibited temporal lobes? Could altered brain states explain away the long and rich tradition of Christian mysticism? These are questions we must raise and explore; science alone will not… Read more

December 8, 2018

Turn off your Christmas music for a second, and listen up. Advent is a season of preparation in joyful hope for the coming of Christ. We remember His first coming 2000 years ago, anticipate His coming in glory at the end of times, and so make our hearts ready to welcome Him in the moments of each and every day. Advent is a season of preparation. But preparation is difficult and uncomfortable. It’s hard to listen to John the Baptist’s… Read more

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