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 you are at one with the universe. This reaction is less common than the feeling of the other presence, but it is also far more powerful. So powerful that it can make you feel like you are going a little crazy.
You are not.
That feeling of being one with the universe is a natural reaction in your brain that can be caused by psychotropic drug use, rhythmic drumming, heavily percussive music, dancing, prayer or meditation. It is a reaction that has been harnessed by religions all over the world, from the spinning mystics of the Sufis, to the Native American dancing, and even the rhythmic African drumming. Why do they do it?
BECAUSE IT FEELS GOOD.
The physical reaction that comes with that rhythmic meditation that can create the feeling of being at one with the universe 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 on a regular basis, it can replace your craving for food and you no longer feel the need to overeat.
I have only felt at one with the universe a few times. The most intense experience for me was at the end of a Blue Man concert. Mike and I were at the back of the theater, so we could see all the people in the audience below us. When it came time to pass the paper at the end of the show, the drums combined with the rhythmic movement of passing the paper above our heads snapped me into that spiritual state where I felt as if the music was part of me. I felt as if everyone in the audience was connected to me. I felt as if the entire theater was part of my body and I was part of the building. It was so powerful that it immediately brought tears to my eyes.
I’ve felt a similar feeling a few times before when I’ve gone dancing at clubs, at other concerts and even while running. It seems to me that doing something rhythmic like dancing or even the pounding of my feet on the pavement can pop me into that mind state.
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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At One With The Universe image via: Friday Inspiration – Being at One with the Universe