As an atheist, it was difficult for me to come to Overeaters Anonymous. I knew I was a binge-eater, but I also knew that the program was heavy into spirituality and that kept me suffering with my disease for ten long years. After reading The God Gene by Dean H. Hamer, it’s easier to see why OA (and other 12 Step Programs) work, even if you are an atheist.
There is a reward in my brain when I overeat that is triggered by dopamine, but even stronger than that reward is the one triggered by spiritual experiences. One of them is the feeling that there is another presence. Most people feel that other presence and assume it is God, which is fine for them if their faith is so inclined, but for us atheists, we are uncomfortable with that feeling. We want to analyze it and worry that it might be a sign of mental illness.
It is not.
That feeling of another presence with you is a natural reaction in your brain that can be caused by psychotropic drug use, electromagnetic fields, prayer or meditation. It is a reaction that happens so commonly in MRI machines that they literally warn patients that they will probably feel as if there is another presence in the room and to keep still despite that feeling. With meditation practice, one can conjure the feeling of another presence almost immediately with a deep breath, but why?
BECAUSE IT FEELS GOOD.
The physical reaction that comes with a deep meditation that can create the feeling of another presence makes your brain feel good. It feels even better than bingeing on the most sweet, salty or fatty foods you could imagine. If you do it every day, it can replace your craving for food and you no longer feel the need to overeat.
My favorite meditation for conjuring the feeling of the other presence is merely talking to it. I breathe deeply and imagine a part of myself that is all-powerful and in control of my actions. I thank it for the good things that have happened in my life. I tell it that I am completely incapable of controlling my eating and hand over all my food decisions over to it. I ask it for guidance on the things in my life that seem out of control. I send it all my love, kindness and affection. It doesn’t take long “talking” to that alternate part of my brain before it starts to feel as if there actually IS another presence there. THAT is the effect you are looking for. THAT is the reaction that you want to trigger within your brain to achieve a “high” that will be better than food could ever deliver.
OA depends heavily upon a spiritual awakening within its members for the program to work and the reason why is because that spiritual practice retrains the brain to deliver “feel-good” messages without eating too much food. It is the reason the program can even work for an atheist like me. If you have been avoiding going to OA because of the spiritual aspects of the program, read The God Gene and learn how spirituality is a physiological reaction that you can harness for your own benefit.
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Ghosts in the Wall image via: Ghost | A Faded Romantics Notebook