Articles, Blog

Theological Virtues and Psychological Wellness: Cultivating Practices of Well-Being

September 11, 2019


[music playing] [Dean Thomas Stegman]
Good evening. I was in charge of the weather
yesterday and the day before. But I’m not sure
who took that today. [laughter] As our School’s
name indicates, it is our mission to educate in
both theology and ministry. And tonight’s program
is a prime example of the partnership of
those two disciplines, with two members of our own
faculty, one specializing in systematic theology and
one in pastoral theology. It’s my pleasure to introduce
them to you this evening. First, Dr. Dominic
Doyle serves the School of Theology and Ministry
as associate professor of systematic theology. Born in London, England,
Dominic is a graduate of the University of Cambridge,
of Harvard Divinity School, and also earned his doctorate
in systematic theology here at Boston College. Dominic’s theological
interests include the theology of culture,
grace, the doctrine of God, and theological anthropology,
with a particular focus on Thomas Aquinas
and Karl Rahner. The author of The Promise
of Christian Humanism: Thomas Aquinas on Hope,
published by Crossroad/Herder in 2012, Dominic has also
contributed numerous essays which have appeared
in such journals as Theological Studies,
Gregorianum, Irish Theological Quarterly, and Studies
in Spirituality. He’s also written several
chapters in books. His essay, “A Future,
Difficult, Yet Possible Good: Defining Christian
Hope,” is included in a collection on
Christian hope by STM faculty, which the bookstore
is selling this evening. Dr. Doyle is the recipient
of numerous awards, including the John Templeton
Award for Theological Promise, the Catholic Theological Society
of America’s Catherine LaCugna award to New Scholars, and
an Analytic Theology Course award from the University
of Notre Dame’s Center for Philosophy and Religion. Last year, Dominic won an
award for his contribution to an international
essay competition for reengaging science
in seminary formation, sponsored by John
Carroll University. His prize-winning
article is entitled “Theological Virtue and the
Psychology of Happiness.” I think most importantly,
he’s still number one in his mother’s heart. Dr. William Roozeboom is
a pastoral theologian, a pastoral counselor,
and pastor. Ordained in the Reformed
Church in America, Bill joined STM’s
faculty last fall as assistant professor of
pastoral care and counseling. Prior to coming
to Boston College, Bill taught as an adjunct
professor of practical theology and pastoral and spiritual
care and counseling. He served as a
clinical staff member and as a congregational
and community liaison for a community
mental health agency, and also led a congregation
as an interim pastor in Redlands, California. Do you miss Redlands
right now, Bill? Bill has served the
church in pastoral roles and has worked with
clergy, congregations, and higher ecclesial
adjudicating entities on conflict management, staff
relations, crisis intervention, restoration and renewal
processes, and ongoing health and wellness. Additionally, he has taught
on various topics in churches, community-based organizations,
hospitals, universities, and seminaries. Bill is also a certified
pastoral counselor, and for over 12 years, he has
provided pastoral counseling services to individuals,
couples, and families in both clinical
and parish settings. Dr. Roozeboom’s own research
is in the area of clergy, wellness, and neuroplasticity. In his recently published book,
Neuroplasticity, Performativity and Clergy Wellness:
Neighbor Love as Self-Care, published
last year by Lexington, he provides a model
of relational wellness and explores the potential
for a person’s practices to induce life-giving changes
to the structure and function of the brain, leading to an
expansive love of neighbor as oneself. Some copies of this volume
are available at the bookstore table in the back. So it’s my pleasure to present
you two accomplished faculty members who will explore
for us theological virtues and psychological wellness,
cultivating practices of well-being. I present to you Dominic
Doyle and Bill Roozeboom. [applause] [Dr. Dominic Doyle]
Thank you very much, Tom, for the introduction,
and thank you to Melinda. It was her idea to put
Bill and I together today, and it was a great idea. And thank you to you
all for making your way through the snow and the
rain on a cold night. The structure of the
talk is in two parts. The first part will
be half an hour of reflection from me on
what the tradition has meant by the theological virtues. And then I’ll just share
a couple of suggestions on how these traditional
virtues might connect with insights
from established ideas in psychology. And for me, there’s a handout. I don’t if you had a
chance to pick it up. Maybe someone at the back–
if you raise your hand, they could bring
around extra copies if you don’t have a
copy of the handout, if you want to just follow
some of the key points. Then, in the second
half-hour, Bill will take these ideas further
in light of more recent insights in neuroscience, with an eye
to how we practice and live out these virtues. So I’m just the warm-up
act, really, for Bill. [laughter] So three points
I’m going to make: first is, what do we mean by the
theological virtues, and then two reflections
on how they could be connected to psychology. First off, the theological
virtues are a big deal. Faith, hope, and charity are
the heart of Christian identity. I was reliably
informed by Tom when I prepared this part of the
lecture two minutes ago, First Thessalonians opens
with Paul reflecting on faith, hope, and love. The first writings we have from
Paul in the opening paragraph– the first Christian
writings we have– talk about faith,
hope, and love. And his most famous writings– Paul’s most famous writings in
First Corinthians, chapter 13, at their high
point, that you may have heard numerous
weddings, talk about, “Faith, hope, and love remain. And the greatest
of these is love.” Subsequent theologians like
Augustine’s Enchiridion, or his Handbook, is structured
around faith, hope, and love. And Aquinas’s
compendium that he wrote for a friend who said, “What’s
it all about in theology?” And he wrote about
faith, hope, and love. And even his Summa Theologiae–
his main, more systematic text– he structured the
main central part of it around faith, hope, and love. And as you know, the
recent papal encyclicals– Deus Caritas Est, Spe
Salvi, and Lumen Fidei are about the three
theological virtues. So the Church,
then, is a community of faith, hope, and love. And we can think of the Church
as a school of these virtues to train our desires and
imaginations to live in faith, hope, and love. These virtues, then, are
how we let our lives become part of God’s life, how
we let our stories get rewritten into the Bible’s
story of God’s steadfast love. So that’s the significance. What do we mean by these
three theological virtues? Well, first of all, it’s
important to remember that they’re a unity. Nicholas Lash, the
former professor of theology at
Cambridge University, had a joke that he
could never finish, because he cracked himself up. But it began like, “There
was a very devout couple who had three very pious
daughters called Faith, Hope, and Gladys.” [laughter] But really, we have to think
of these, like these sisters, as a unity. Pope Benedict poetically
described this unity as follows. “Faith is the light that
shows the way, or hope, to the goal of endless love.” Or if you prefer
prose to poetry, Aquinas puts it more
bluntly as follows. “Faith shows the goal. Hope moves towards the goal. And charity unites
us with the goal.” So when we talk about these
things, they’re a unity. But we can distinguish them
just for the sake of reflection. So what do they
mean individually? Faith, as Hebrews
11 puts it, “is the assurance of
things hoped for, the conviction of
things not seen.” Faith involves a
personal response to God’s self-revelation in
the person of Jesus Christ. It is the acceptance
of the offer to share in God’s
own life by following Jesus as his disciple. And so faith involves some kind
of assent to certain truths. It has a cognitive, if
you like, aspect to it. Aquinas argues that
these truths of faith that are contained in the Bible
are summarized in the creed. And anticipating Twitter
by several centuries, he said you can
boil down the creed to two fundamental truths– God is and God cares. So at the heart of
Christian faith, then, is the affirmation, the
reassurance of God’s existence and providence. Moving to hope– hope is
the desire for a future, difficult, yet possible good. For Christians,
hope, like faith, is two-fold, in
that one, it seeks to be united with God’s
eternal existence, and two, it relies upon God’s
help or God’s providence to reach that goal. And so hope then relates
to God as future goal and as present helper. In fact, hope is only
a theological virtue when it relies upon
God’s help here and now to reach
that future goal. Hope then is an attitude
of trusting expectation that moves the person towards
the goal that faith has shown. Hope is therefore
the point at which the believer becomes a pilgrim. If faith gives the
person conviction about the central
Christian beliefs, then hope convinces others
that that person really believes those
claims because they are held despite the
difficulties they entail. Charity is the culmination
of the theological virtues, since it unites
the person to God and to neighbor in friendship. What was previously separated– person from person and
humanity from God– now share– and this is
Virginia Woolf’s phrase that I can’t find, but I’m
sure she said it– “they share in overlapping
pools of consciousness.” It’s a lovely phrase. What ripples in ourselves
ripples over and affects our neighbor. In this relationship, which is
made possible by God sharing divine happiness, the
pilgrim can rest with God in mutual and benevolent
friendship, in Aquinas’s terms. In this union, the
person is, in a way, transformed to the goal
that was shown in faith and approached in hope. The pilgrim becomes,
in the words of 2 Peter 1:4, “participants in
the divine nature,” or sharers in God’s life. So that’s just a brief snapshot
of each theological virtue. And this allows us to describe
how they approach or relate to God in different ways. Faith encounters God in
the basic terms of truth, not in the sense of
certainty or proof, but rather in the sense of God’s
truthfulness or reliability. And we can quickly recognize
the importance of truth when you recall the last
time someone lied to you or evaded the truth
or withheld it. We cannot have a serious
relationship without truthful communication. And faith is the acceptance
of God’s self communication as the ultimate truth. And so that’s why,
for Aquinas, at least, faith is the first of
the theological virtues, for it shows a
meaningful awareness of God’s purpose for humanity. If faith encounters
God as truth, then hope approaches God in
terms of mercy and power, for we need a compassionate
and powerful helper to reach a difficult and distant goal. In hope, we realize that God
has the motive and the means to save. Hope relies upon God’s power
and is awakened by God’s mercy– a sense that God is
present to human misery. What is mercy? Mercy is the heartfelt
sorrow at another’s suffering and the desire to
remove the suffering. This loving kindness of hesed
is recounted again and again in the Hebrew Bible
and is embodied for Christians in Jesus Christ. Hope then involves encountering
God’s power and mercy simultaneously– a sense at once of God’s
exalted transcendence from, and intimate
presence in, creation. Finally, since charity unites
the person to God as friend, it relates to God in
terms of God’s goodness, not just self-referentially
as the good for me, my hope for salvation. The person with
charitable friendship loves God, not just for
what God has done for me, but simply on account of
God’s goodness itself. Charity does not seek
something else from God. It simply rests in God. God is no longer a
means to an end– something useful to me. God is now the end itself– intrinsically good. As such, Aquinas
says, “Charity makes us tend or move
to God by uniting the longing of the person
to God so that we live not for ourselves, but for God.” For Aquinas then, charity
is the form of the virtues, since it unites
the person to God, and thus gives shape and
purpose to all of human life– all the other virtues. It gathers the whole person
into God’s enveloping love, and so makes the person
a transparent agent of God’s love in the world– “an instrument of your peace,”
in the words of St. Francis of Assisi. And so if, through hope, we
receive God’s power and mercy in our own difficulties,
then in love, we are empowered to become
agents of God’s mercy to others in their difficulties. So that’s the basic elements of
the three theological virtues as Aquinas lays them out. And we can see now why faith is
foundational in Christian life. It assents to the basics of
God’s existence and providence, especially as
revealed in Christ. Hope then arises
from this assent as it moves the person towards a
future, difficult, yet possible goal of eternal life with God,
a journey “pioneered by Christ,” as Hebrews puts it. And finally, charity
unites the person to God– a union that is
modeled on Christ, so that we become, “by
adoption through the Spirit,” as Paul puts it, what
Christ is by nature– namely, a beloved child of God. In charity then, for
Aquinas the pilgrim can experience, even now,
something of the peace and joy that will come with
the journey’s end. So these are the three
theological virtues. And they’re called
theological because they’re infused or given by God’s grace,
not achieved by our effort. But they’re called virtues
because they change the person. They heal and elevate
our knowing and loving so that we can cooperate
with God’s grace to build the Kingdom. And so, as theological
virtues, they are divinely infused,
yet humanly possessed. They lead the person to God
and so perfect the person. Together, these three key
markers of Christian identity answer the three great questions
of a Christian virtue ethics, as Jim Keenan puts it: “Who are we, the Church? We are people of faith. Who do want to become? A people of love. How do we get there? By hope.” So that’s the first part
that I wanted to mention. What does the tradition
mean by theological virtues? And now, just a couple of
insights from psychology on how they could perhaps
shed some deeper light on what we mean by these virtues. The first insight comes
from Carl Rogers’s notion of the three core therapeutic
traits of a skilled counselor– that is, acceptance, empathy,
and congruence or authenticity. So this is one of the
foundational ideals of humanistic psychology. And I’m struck by a resemblance
between the key traits of the therapeutic caregiver–
acceptance, empathy, and congruence or authenticity– and the three theological
virtues of faith, hope, and love. Specifically, there seems to be
an analogy between the client’s psychological experience
of the therapist as accepting, as empathetic,
as congruent or authentic, and the believer’s
spiritual experience of the divine as
justified by faith, as compassionately
supportive through hope, as authentically
present in love. So the analogy lies
then in the similar ways in which the receiver– that
is, the client or the believer– undergoes a profound healing
of consciousness because of his or her experience
of the attitude and gifts of the provider–
the therapist or God. In a nutshell– and this is on
the handout if you want to see it clearly sort of mapped out– Aquinas’s account of the
believer’s differentiated experience of God as
re-assuring truth in faith, as empowering helper in
hope, as unwavering goodness in charity– is analogous to the
client’s ideal experience of a therapist as accepting,
empathetic, and congruent. So that’s the claim. Let’s spell it out in a
bit more detail one by one. The first key trait of
the therapeutic caregiver is acceptance. What does this mean? This unconditional
positive regard involves a provider’s
full, warm, and non-possessive
acceptance of the client, independent of her internalized
conditions of worth. It is a non-judgmental
and deep valuing of the humanity of the
person in need, even in the face of that person’s
reluctance or hostility. As such, the client’s experience
of the therapist’s attitude of acceptance resembles
the believer’s experience of God’s justification by faith,
for just as conditions of worth are irrelevant for how the
therapist sees the client, so the achievements of
works are irrelevant for how God sees the person. In both cases,
the receiver finds herself accepted
into a relationship without any judgmental reckoning
of her prior worthiness. The key terms of
acceptance and regard echo the cognitive
emphasis of faith, which concerns a
belief about how things are as distinct
from a decision about what needs to be done. Faith brings to awareness
God’s unmerited gift of grace, which cannot be
earned by any works. Faith, then, is the recognition
of a prior enveloping experience of God’s unchanging,
unconditional acceptance. It is a surfacing of a
basic truth about God. As with the realization
of acceptance in the therapeutic
relationship, it is more personal
than propositional, for at its heart is a
recognition of the dignity of the person as
accepted by God, and is able to be accepted
into eternal union with God. As faith reassures the
person of her great worth, it establishes the relationship
that itself constitutes the healing process. In this way, faith gives
a theological horizon within which the
therapeutic attempt to see and accept the client’s
worth comes into proper focus. So if faith and acceptance
regard the fundamental attitude that establishes relationship,
then hope and empathy describe the process through
which that relationship grows. Empathy is the ability
to feel the experiences and grasp the
meanings of the client as if one were the other
person, but without ever losing the “as if” condition. Precisely because of this
compassionate presence that is not overwhelmed
by suffering, the alienation of
persons in need gradually recedes as
they are accompanied by an effective helper
through their difficulties. Self-esteem, therefore grows,
and uncomfortable truths can now be faced rather
than denied or suppressed. Empathy thus involves
being with the client through this painful
process of healing past psychological damage
and undoing neurotic bondage to conditions of worth. The parallels with
theological hope become clear when one remembers
that hope is not simply about the individual
achievement of goals, but also, and primarily, about the
help we receive from others to reach them. In this broader interpersonal
understanding of hope, the believer relies upon
divine mercy and power to overcome the many
obvious difficulties that prevent the person achieving
the goal of his or her dignity that was revealed in faith. In a word, in hope the
person now experiences the empathy of God. Just as the ideal therapist
feels a deep somatic processing of the experience
of the broken person beyond mere reflection
on the client’s words, so God through Christ is truly
present to human suffering in the Cross, and so
grounds Christian hope. This redemptive
empathetic presence undoes human alienation
from others and from God because it enables one
to face and address the difficulties that are
at the root of alienation. If faith establishes
the relationship that reveals the transcendent
dignity of the person, then hope names the effects
of the dynamic empathetic interventions that support the
believer through the cruciform way that that dignity is one. In this way, hope opens up a
new and deeper relationship with God called charity. So if acceptance and faith
establishes relationship, and empathy and hope
enables it to grow, then congruence or
charity accounts for its healthy
flourishing as it draws upon the genuineness
of the caregiver. A congruent therapist
is one who is authentic, genuine, transparent. Her outward responses
to her client consistently match the inner
feelings and sensations which she has for the client. So whereas acceptance names
an attitude and empathy names a process, congruence
names a state of being. This threefold distinction
mirrors the awareness of faith, which assents to the truth– the reassurance of God’s
unconditional acceptance– the motion of hope,
which relies upon God’s empowering empathy through
life’s difficulties, and the union of charity,
which shares in God’s own life. When the believer is
united to God in charity, she experiences
God as congruent– that is, as God is– that is, as love (1 John 4:8). Of course, God is always love,
and so God cannot be anything other than congruent. The point of the analogy
is that the person experiences God as congruent. For if a person, for whatever
reason, fails to love God, then God is experienced
differently from how God is– for example, as wrathful for
the unrepentant, as distant for the indifferent, and so on. The therapeutic notion of
congruence or authenticity, then, sheds light on
the theological virtue of charity, which can now be
seen as the basic experience of God as how God actually is– as loving. So that’s the first
psychological comparison I wanted to mention. And now to move to the
second and final comparison with insights from psychology. I explore how– and I had
to look up on YouTube how to pronounce his name– Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s
influential notion of flow, enhanced by Jonathan Haidt’s
more recent and physiologically grounded notion of elevation,
can enrich our understanding of what we mean by charity. I’ve already tried to show
how the idea of congruence sheds light on this
idea of charity. But as with all elements
of that earlier correlation between therapeutic attitudes
and theological virtues, the prime referent was the
person’s experience of God as accepting in faith,
as empathetic in hope, and as congruent in charity. And so that correlation gave
psychological expression to how the person approaches
God in the journey from faith to hope and love. But since we’re
dealing with virtues, we must also ask how
these experiences of God transform the human. For although the theological
virtues are divinely given without merit, they
are also humanly possessed as excellences– hence, the term “virtue.” The goal, then, is
not just to describe how the person experiences God. We must also account for how
the person experiences herself in that encounter with God, and
how she changes as a result. So I propose to explore
the hypothesis, which is on the handout, that
if congruence names how the gift of charity allows the
person to experience God, then elevation names how the
person experiences herself in that encounter
with God’s love, and flow names how
the person experiences the ongoing consequences
of that love in her life. So let’s begin with elevation. Elevation refers to
the heartfelt emotion of being lifted up in response
to overwhelming and deeply impressive moral beauty. It combines the usually
separate experiences of personal intimacy and
hierarchical distance or awe. And so it makes
what is radically beyond feel personally close. As such, it, in a way, combines
our ordinary experiences on the horizontal level of
familial love and friendship and the hierarchical
level of belonging to a big organization,
a patriotic duty. Positively, elevation
results in deeper attachments and more benevolent
bonding with those who share in that experience. So we can see elevation, then,
as perhaps the subjective side of the encounter
with divine love. As the person touches an
encompassing sacred dimension, often through moral
experience of moral beauty in the lives of the
saints, their commitment to moral goodness now becomes,
as Lonergan would put it, “a spiritual holiness that
loves beyond the circle of personal friends,” and cares
further than the boundaries and obligations of one’s group. Human development thus
gains a new vector that breaks out of the
restrictions of the limits of a two-dimensional
plane that’s limited to the
comfortable, narrow circle of personal intimacy
and the group differentiating allegiance
to an impersonal authority. In theological terms, elevation
reorients a person’s life, such that they are open
upwards to new life with God and open outwards to new
belonging in society. In the catchy phrase
of Jonathan Haidt, “it inspires and rewires
from cynicism, resignation, and so on.” It establishes a
lasting disposition to grow in and
pass on this love. So let’s move on now
to the final point I want to make– the notion
of flow that comes out of positive psychology. If congruence names how
the person, with charity, experiences God,
and elevation names how the person
experiences herself in that encounter with
God, then flow names how she experiences the ongoing
results of that encounter with God as a peak experience
becomes a settled disposition. What does flow mean? For Csikszentmihalyi, flow is
the joyful and often creative psychological experience of
continual and total absorption in an activity that
is its own reward. In such experiences,
self-consciousness receives as action
and awareness merge. The sense of ordinary
time alters as one is deeply immersed
in a challenging task that matches one’s skills. Clearly, this concept can
apply to a broad spectrum of activities, many
of which are not directly relevant to
theology, such as gambling, unless you took Pascal’s Wager
as a good theological point. To make it theological,
one must therefore set it in the context
of a prior experience of some kind of elevation,
such that the flow we are now talking about is
spiritually recognizable and can extend the
discussion beyond neighbor love to include the love of God. This notion that I am
proposing of elevated flow can deepen our account
of the Christian vocation to love, and even cast some
light on some vexing issues. As an initial and
general justification for this comparison
between flow and charity, it comes from the
verbal similarity between the root
metaphors of flow and Aquinas’s term for
the gift of divine love, what he calls infusion, which
is just flowing in, Romans 5:5. And what flows must
come from a source. And for Christians,
that’s believed to be the source
of infinite love. Now that the blockages
of neurotic attachment to finite conditions of worth– a lack of faith– and of despairing
recognition of new life– lack of hope– are
overcome, the person may be elevated into
union with the divine. As a result, unrestricted love
can now flow into the world through the created
instrumental agency of persons who
cooperate with this love and whose character, as
a result, is gradually transformed over time. So this theological
experience of flow gives personal resonance
of the metaphysical notion of a non-competing relationship
between God and humanity. For persons who live in
charity are radically dependent on a source
beyond themselves, yet they flourish in direct
proportion to that dependence. We could also think
of flow as helping us address certain problems
in debates about charity. For example, since flow involves
a loss of self-consciousness in meaningful activity alongside
significant development of the self in a
challenging task, it helps address the problem
of a misconceived opposition between self-love
and other love– an especially important
concern for many psychologists who rightly question unhealthy
exhortations to self-sacrifice. Conceiving charity
as flow suggests a vision of altruistic love
that does not deplete the self, but, rather, elevates
and strengthens it. Interpreted theologically, flow
is not simply an end in itself, as it appears to be for
positive psychology, but rather is instead part of
the larger project of self-gift for the broadest
possible common good. As such, this flow
as “libation”– as Paul might put it– the
pouring out of the self, in 2 Timothy 4:6, allows us to
see that self-sacrifice is not the primary goal, but rather,
a side effect of losing oneself in meaningful activity,
precisely when that activity is defended nonviolently in
the face of opposition. That’s what I have
for you tonight. I’ll hand over to Bill now,
who can pursue these thoughts with more recent insights. [applause] [Dr. William Roozeboom] I
thought I’d put a PowerPoint up there, because if
I get too boring, at least you have
something to look at. And also, as Dominic
and I were sharing, we thought it would be nice
to have a little contrast. And and so we’ll be
going through the slides. We may have to move quickly,
because you were good on time. So I’ll try to do
my best, because we want to save some time for
discussion and questions and so on. And so hopefully, these will
dovetail well, especially, as Dominic was sharing, about
this idea of elevated flow. Because one of the
passions that I have– and why I wrote the
book, and why I’m doing the work that I’m
doing– is that I think that we’re called to
model a threefold love of God, or a threefold love in life. “Love the Lord your God with
all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And love your neighbor”– all of you who know it– “as you love yourself.” Although, in my
experience, a lot of us who grew up in the
Church stopped listening. We love God. We love neighbor. And somehow, the self gets
lost in the midst of that. And somehow, we equate self-love
to narcissism or unhealth or egoism. And I don’t think that’s
what Christ was really calling us to do. And so that’s what we’re
going to look at a little bit, is how practices of virtue
might help increase our capacity to love our neighbor as ourself. And so the beginning point
is to think about who we are as human beings. So Psalm 8:3-5 asks,
“God, you know, who or what are human
beings or human persons that you’re mindful of us?” And this is an
important question. Because understanding who we
are and who we might become is not just merely for our
own self-understanding. But it’s also for reflection
on the ethical implications of living together with other
human persons in a space of limited resources. So put simply, how one
answers the question, “who are we,” informs
and shapes how we enact and how we embody the question
of “how, then, ought we live amongst one another?” And these are deeply spiritual
and theological questions. And what I was
fascinated with is that neuroscience
provides new ways of thinking about the
human person and new lenses and layers for
understanding who we are, who we are called
to be, and then how ought we live together. Loving our neighbor as ourself. So we’ll go through
some of the slides. One of the starting points
for me is looking at, what do I mean by wellness? Because I think that’s
an important concept. And I intentionally use
that term “wellness” rather than the
more common term– although we’re
catching up nowadays– of “wholeness.” And I use that
because wholeness kind of captures what
Larry Kent Graham put in The Dictionary of
Pastoral Care and Counseling back in 1990, that
there was sort of a four-fold aspect using
the Hebrew term shalom. Graham said that there
is a bodily wholeness; there’s a mental and
emotional functioning; there is interpersonal
reconciliation; there’s spiritual aliveness. And then, ultimately,
it comes together in this dynamic wholeness of
body, mind, spirit, society, and the world being in
proper relation to God. And yet as I was
thinking about this, I thought, well, I hear
wholeness all the time. But what does it actually
mean to be a whole person? In fact, I might say the term
“wholeness” is pretty in vogue. It’s just everywhere. And I thought, you
know, there are things about the embodied
self that maybe are more well, and there are things about
the embodied self that maybe are less well. So for me, wellness means a
more nuanced, multilayered, and embodied construction
of well-being. So one is attuned with
one’s whole embodied self. We don’t disconnect
our embodied being. If I had more time, I would
go in throughout Scripture where we see that God
created us in these bodies, and it’s not just a container
for our soul or our self. It’s really who we are– that
God created us out of the dust and breathed life into us. And so we are more connected
with our embodied self, others, and God. We pay attention to what I would
call the agentic performative practices– that
this body can move, and based on some research
we’ll look at in neuroscience, that that constructs
who we become. We’re more aware of
our embodied self. We also can increase the ability
to regulate and integrate the communication of our
embodied brain ecosystem. That’s a term that I coined
because no one else wanted it. It’s too long. But my editor liked it,
so we kept it in the book. So the embodied
brain ecosystem– if you come up with a
shorthand, that’s better. Because really, it
captures that our brain, which I’ll talk about in a
few minutes, is embodied. It’s not the grey
cabbage in our skulls. But it also pays attention
to adequate sleep and rest and nourishment. It pays attention to meaningful
connections and relationships. It pays attention
to the capacity for empathic encounters with
others, taking seriously, love your neighbor as yourself. And really, it’s
an ongoing pursuit of living abundantly,
individually, communally, and globally. And, in a sense, we can
think about it theologically, as there’s an eschatological
quality to being well– that we are already whole,
and yet, we in our world are not wholly well. And so we’re in the process
of living into that wholeness. And so then I
started saying, well, how do we connect wellness to
these understandings of virtue and practices of virtue? And so I pulled out a
few of the definitions. And you see there that virtue
is a habitual practice. It’s a way of disposition
towards the good. It allows a person to not
only perform good acts, but to give the best
of him or herself. Virtuous persons
tend towards the good with all of his or her
sensory and spiritual powers. He or she pursues the good and
chooses it in concrete actions. And Dominic talked a lot
about the theological virtues. And what I found is that we
also have cardinal virtues or moral virtues. And we see the distinction is
that the theological virtues are bestowed upon us by
God’s grace as a gift to us, and then the cardinal
or moral virtues are ones that are acquired,
and I would say, maybe perfected or
performed in a way that increases our living
into the calling that Christ has placed upon
us, aided by God’s grace. So we co-participate with grace. And so the virtue ethicists
don’t ask the question, what decision should I make? But they ask the question, what
kind of person should I become, which fits into the
research and the interest that I have that our
practices essentially have a performative quality
and construct our identity. So I also draw on
James Keenan’s work. And his argument
is that we should modify the cardinal virtues from
prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude to the one
there on the right where we have justice, fidelity,
self-care, and prudence. And I don’t have time to go into
all of the different facets, but I think his
argument is done well, and he makes a valid point. And the research that I did
was on clergy well-being. But it could be expanded
to many people of faith– that we need to take
seriously “as yourself.” “Love the Lord your God, love
your neighbor, love yourself.” So what I’m going to
argue for is an addition to the bi-directional nature
that I think our embodied brain ecosystem communicates. I think our practices
of virtue could have a bi-directional nature. So we could have a
top-down approach. And that mindset might be
that the virtues and virtuous behaviors kind of flow
out of our character. So the good person produces
good acts and behaviors. And there’s also a
bottom-up approach, where our good acts and
behaviors create a good person. As Dominic and I were kind
of talking about this, it’s sort of the
chicken and the egg, double helix of is it behavior
that constructs character, or then character enables us to
behave and act in certain ways? And I would say it’s both. But I want to pay
particular attention to what I would call bottom-up
performative practices and how those will then form
and construct our identity. You see a quote
there at the bottom– Stanley Hauerwas–
basically saying that the virtues “in the
final living of our lives shaped by prudence,
anticipating, and responding to the
virtuous claims” that makes someone good. Again, it’s that behavioral
ongoing practice quality. We could also expand
the virtues to look more at spiritual practices. And again, if I had more time,
we could go into some of these. But I’m drawing on my esteemed
colleagues Colleen Griffith and Tom Groome. And they’ve written about how
spiritual practices have always been central to the
Catholic identity in faith. And in fact, they would
argue that if they’re not sort of a lived
daily experience, there’s not much to the
faith that we are professing. And they also
identify in the book that they edit together
practices of prayer, practices of care, and
practices of growth. And what I’m highlighting is, I
think that the important thing to pay attention to is, there’s
an embodied performative quality to our practices– our practices of virtue,
our practices of self. So now we get to what I
consider the fun stuff– fascinating stuff
with neuroscience. And how do neuroscience
and virtue come together? And I’ve already said I think
that we perform ourself. And one of the things
that fascinates me about neuroscience is
that there is harmony in this vast complexity
of our brains and how they communicate
together and communicate with one another. And again, we
could go on and on. But I will tell you that
neuroscientists don’t even have a number for the potential
neural connections that we can have– the synapses– because they can connect
in different ways, and they can connect
in different strengths. And so they just venture sort
of a hypothetical number that has a digit and then a whole
bunch of zeros behind it, because it’s so vast. And they said even the
volume of the known universe is only a tiny fraction of
the number of possibilities of neural connections
in the human brain. And what astounds me
is that most often, it functions fairly well. But as we’ll see, what
is more exciting to me is that it’s plastic. It’s malleable. It changes. And so neuroplasticity
is the scientific term to say that our brain responds. Every experience, every
moment, every action that we have changes
the structure and function of the brain,
because the brain has to adapt to meet
whatever the demand is of whatever the experience. And so this is how
persons actually reshape and rewire their brains
based on repetitive practice and experience. So if you didn’t believe
me, I’m sure you’ve seen some of these things. This is from pop culture. These are brain training games. So if you google “brain
training neuroplasticity,” you’ll see these. We have Brain Games,
Brain School, Sudoku, crossword puzzles, this
Nintendo DS Brain Training. Do you notice there
in the corner– 3+. So already, at age three, kids
can be training their brain. And of course, there’s
a marketing component to this, et cetera. But that the
neuroscience is there, the evidence is there that our
regular habitual experiences– our regular habitual practices–
will change the structure and function of our brains. Now if we think about, what does
that mean for people of faith? Well, if our regular
habitual practices are practices of
virtue, then we are going to become what
I would hope anyway, is people that reflect
Christ a little bit more– that the brain
will rewire itself in a way that maybe looks a
little bit more like Christ. It’s a little bit more
gracious, a little bit more understanding, a
little bit more empathetic in relationships. And this is all based
on Hebb’s postulate. The phrase is, “Neurons that
fire together wire together.” And what that means basically,
and this is fairly common if you read anything
in neuroscience– “neurons that fire
together wire together”– is stated over and over. But Hebb was the one who
came up with it originally. And basically,
what he’s saying is that as individuals learn a
new skill, activity, movement, or practice, the
neurons in their brain adapt and change to
meet the requirement. Over time, the new skill
becomes automatized into long-term memory, and a
new, increasingly efficient neural pathway is created. In other words, repetitive
practice changes the brain. And some of the examples that
the neuroscience literature highlight are London taxi
cab drivers, violin players, and folks who are bilingual. And what they’ve noticed
is, London taxi cab drivers, in the spaces and
parts of their brain that need to know
spatial awareness and getting from
point A to point B, their brains are much
more robust and efficient. There’s larger gray matter and
white matter in those taxi cab drivers, because day after
day, moment after moment, they’re navigating and using
those parts of their brain, and their brain is responding. The same with violin players. What they found is that the
digits of the left hand that use that fine motor skills
in violin players brains is much more robust and
efficient than in my brain. My digits to my left hand
would not be quite as robust. And the same for folks
who are bilingual. Because again, you’re creating
those new neural pathways as you learn new skills
and new language. What I’m trying
to do in the work that I do on wellness
and well-being is, I think, often we
look at neuroscience and we look at the
brain as skull-encased. And we have a sort of
a cognitive approach that we look at top-down
and we don’t pay attention to bottom-up. And top-down practices
are particularly helpful– prayer, meditation, silence,
breathing exercises, body scans and all sorts of things
where we’re using sort of the prefrontal
cortex of our brain to think about our
experience and pay attention. That’s why mindfulness practices
are really popular and really helpful and so on. But what you see
there is our brain– all of that. So it’s not just the
part in the skull. But the brain runs
through all of our body through our central and
peripheral nervous system. The other thing
to think about is that there’s no such thing
as logical, removed, rational thought, because
we are embodied. And what neuroscience has
showed us is, even the– I would call them more
the executive functions of the command center that
require our prefrontal cortex– so decision making, problem
solving, et cetera, et cetera– is used through the whole brain. The whole brain works
top-down and bottom-up. And so on the next slide, I’ll
give you more of a visual. So this is the autonomic
nervous system. And if you follow the
brain down the brainstem through the spine, there
will be connections to all of our organs and
out to our extremities. And what I’m arguing is,
all of that is the brain. The brain thinks ethically,
spiritually with all of it. And now we get to
embodied neuroplasticity. And essentially,
what this means– you see the brain with
the little weight there, and I won’t read the quotes, but
basically, the neuroscientist– John Ratey is one, and
Kolb is another one– is arguing that as we use this
embodied brain, as we perform repeated practices
and behaviors, it will change the brain. It’s almost as if we’re
strengthening our brain. And Kolb does a nice job of
saying the idea that activity might change the heart or
muscles is seldom questioned. We’re a little bit past January
1, but I go to gyms a lot. And a lot of times, that
first two weeks after January, there’s a lot of folks
there, because they know that if they go
to the gym and they take care of themselves,
they’ll be healthier. But what I’m arguing is that
our brain is no different, and that’s what Kolb
is also arguing. The possibility
that behavior could change the structure and
function of the brain is seldom considered. And what I will argue
is that, technically, we perform our identity
and we story ourselves. And I don’t want to get too far
into the philosophical weeds. So if you want more
information, you can email me and we can talk further. But basically, we look
at narrative theory. And then I’ll look at a
philosophical term called “performativity,” of how I
think the embodied brain stories ourselves neurophysiologically. So narrative theory basically
shows that we, as human beings, are meaning makers– that experience in and
of itself doesn’t really mean much until we connect
the dots into a coherent story or a coherent narrative. And so storying is not just
what we say about ourselves, but it’s the stories that
we actually live into. And the quote down there is
from two narrative theorists and therapists. And they say, “We think
that people’s experience of the meaning of their
lives and relationships changes through changes
in their life narratives. As their narratives change, what
they do and what they perceive changes as well.” So to take that a step further,
thinking about ourselves as embodied brain ecosystems,
the performative quality that we perform virtues
and practices of wellness will story ourselves
physiologically. Performativity picks up on
the work of Judith Butler and basically says
that we perform our acts and acts of
discourse, and that constructs our identity. What this looks like in
neuroscientific terms is that the capacity for
the brain to story itself relies on different
brain functions. David Hogue, who’s a
colleague and professor of pastoral theology,
care, and counseling at Garrett-Evangelical
Seminary says it this way: “We are our memories. The events of life
that we recall give us a sense of personal
identity and movement through time. For better or worse, we
are shaped and transformed by our experiences through
the synaptic patterns with which our brain
record those experiences. As we recall the stories
that have brought us to any given moment in time,
we are both rediscovering and proclaiming who we are.” And I would add the embodied
physical quality to that. It’s not just sort of a
cognitive linguistic story, but we perform our identity
through our practices of virtue and well-being. And so the way that I argue
that using neuroscientific terms is, again, as I argued that
virtues are bi-directional, I would say the way that we
perform and story our identity is bi-directional. So from the top
down, persons story themselves physiologically
and unconsciously from the bottom up
and from the top down. So linguistically, consciously,
how we think about ourselves, how we story ourselves,
but then also how we move ourselves stories
from the bottom up. And so the neuromotor
system, more commonly called the central nervous
system, is how we do this. So as we perform a
different practice– say that that’s
going for a walk– again, remember
Hebb’s postulate. As we are walking, our
brain is being required to connect our synapses in a
way that we can move our feet, et cetera, et cetera, and we
get more efficient at that. So as we do things
that are life giving, our brain changes,
and we perform, and in a literal sense,
we perform our identity. And in the research– I won’t go into all of that– I really argued why
this was important for clergy members is because
the statistics of clergy health and well-being lags behind
the general population. And I won’t go through
all the things– diabetes, hypertension, heart
disease, et cetera, et cetera. But I think part
of the reason is, we often don’t pay attention
to the embodied quality of ourself. Does that make sense so far? If you don’t agree, just
pretend you agree for now. [laughter] And then you can
ask a really, really difficult question later on. And so based on this, I
developed a wellness model, and I focused on clergy. But this can be
expanded to most of us. Many people of faith– we don’t
have time to go into dualism– but often, we disconnect
our embodied self and we sort of have
this lingering dualism in our theological
constructions, and so on. But basically,
what I tried to do is come up with a model
of well-being or wellness that drew on theological
understandings, exercise, physiology,
neuroscience, and so on. And what I came up
with is this model. And so in the next few slides– because I want to keep
track of our time– I might have to move
a little bit quickly– but the handout that you have
is basically the wellness model, the different areas, and
then potential practices that you might use individually
and then corporately if you’re part of a
community of faith. And so the way that this model
came up was in my research– my own experience drawing on
my previous degrees in exercise physiology and health
and well-being, and my theological degrees,
and my psychological degrees, and conversations
with clergy members, and so on and so forth– I basically came
up with this model. And if I was much more
skilled in PowerPoint– as you can see, I’m
at the bare minimum– this model would be more
fluid, and it would move, and it would adjust and shape. Because I don’t think it needs
to be in perfect balance– that we can focus on some
areas in a season of life, and then it can shift
and adjust, et cetera. But I think these are important
areas, and central to all of it is this sense of calling. That’s kind of what
integrates and holds these aspects of well-being. And I would say for most
of us– people of faith– whether we are clergy members,
lay leaders, et cetera– is that we feel a sense of
calling from God in some way– some vocational, some
charism, et cetera. And so that’s a central piece
of what it means to be well. And so basically what I did was
identified these five areas. Attunement is the area where
we connect with our self. It’s kind of inwardly focused. That could be practices of
prayer, journaling, silence, meditation, et cetera. And really, we’re
paying attention to our whole self– our
sensations, our embodied being, and so on. The next area is nourishment. And it’s not just physical
nourishment, but how are we nourishing ourselves
spiritually, intellectually, relationally, et cetera? A fascinating study that I
don’t have time to go into is called “The Nun Study”
done by David Snowdon and some of his colleagues with
a group of sisters in the Mankato, Minnesota, area
of the Sisters of Notre Dame. And what they did was,
they studied the brains of these sisters,
because these sisters were living longer,
healthier lives than the general population. They said, what is going on? I mean, do they have
the fountain of youth? Do they have some secret
formula that they’re doing? And so the sisters
allowed their brains to be studied after
they had passed away. And based on that research
and looking at their brains and hearing more about how
they lived and what they did, et cetera, what they found was
that they kept their brains and themselves fit and active. So of course, they had their
regular spiritual rituals of prayer and so
on and so forth, but they also had intellectual
debates, they did Sudoku, they did crossword
puzzles, they gardened, they were out in nature,
they were moving themselves, they laughed, they related
together, et cetera, et cetera. And so if you’re
at all interested, look up “The Nun
Study” and see how these sisters’ brains
adapted and adjusted to their repeated
experiences of what we might call
practices of wellness or practices of virtue. So nourishment is
one of those ways– physical activity and movement. Again, that’s one of
the most profound ways that our brain responds. That’s why I think the
bottom-up is so significant and why the embodied
brain is so powerful. Because it’s one of the
most significant ways that we produce
neuroplasticity, that we allow the brain to
respond to our behaviors. Rest and renewal,
getting adequate sleep, taking Sabbath, being still– being still long enough that
God may connect with us rather than– sometimes, I call
it spiritual hyperactivity, where we just keep going
and going and going, and we never just are
still and allow God’s grace to come and meet us. And then finally, having
meaningful relationships– connecting at more than
a superficial level in one-on-one, small group,
corporate, worship, and things like that. So that’s the model. And what I’m going to do now is
kind of skip through the slides that you have that
give suggestions. Because I want to come back
to some of the implications and save time for
some questions. So you have those slides. What I also was
thinking about is, although “love your neighbor
as yourself” and some of them are relational, I
think there’s things that we can do
communally, particularly in communities of faith. And what’s interesting
is that ritual talks about collective performance. So rituals, again, are
prescribed symbolic acts that must be performed in a certain
way and in a certain order, and may or may not be
accompanied by verbal formulas. So what David Hogue
again argues is, “Until a ritual is
enacted–” I would add, until a ritual is performed
with our embodied brain ecosystem– “it does not exist. It serves no personal
or community function. Reading about a
ritual is not the same as participating in it. Words are surely not enough. We need to find ways for
people to perform their faith.” So in short, rituals
are prescriptions, symbolism, performances,
repetition can be optional, and a public context
can be optional. You can have private rituals. But I think this is where
communities of faith can think about performative
practices of virtue. And some of those ways
are practices of worship. We might connect them with,
as Dominic was describing, virtues of faith. Regular worship, communal
practices, et cetera. There’s practices of
growth and development. Maybe that’s tied to hope. Accountability,
retreats together, engaging in dialogue around
difficult issues, Stations of the Cross,
collective fasting– again, these are in the
handout, so I’ll skip along. And practices of care and
connection– hospitality, visitation, communal
pastoral care, fellowship, eco-justice– you see a
community garden there. And as we wrap up, there are
a couple of implications. So I have a couple
of more slides. So bear with me and then we’ll
break into some questions. One of them is that there is
a neuro-spiritual at-oneness. Andy Newberg calls it
“absolute unitary being.” And what Newberg has argued is
that persons who are engaging in spiritual practices– we
might say practices of virtue– particularly those
who are meditating– but we could we could
expand that a little bit– perform practices
of mindful awareness and attunement in the
framework that I gave you. What happens in
those moments is they lose a sense of their
separateness between the self and others due to an inhibition
in the region of the brain, the left posterior
superior parietal lobe. You needed to know that
before you went home. But basically,
what he’s saying is that in meditation, as one
is centering with himself, attuning with oneself, the
area of our distinctness and separateness
kind of goes offline, and we have this experience of
being at one with one another, being at one with all of
Creation, being at one with God. And I think we can connect
that with this sense of elevated flow that
Dominic was talking about– that as we perform
these practices and we feel more connected,
our empathy goes up. Patrick McNamara talks similarly
about a de-centering process. So we might say
that as we perform regular practices of
virtue and well-being, we increase our capacity to
love our neighbor as our self. And the way we’re doing that
is, our brain is adjusting, and we’re becoming more
intra- and interconnected. So the last one that
I want to highlight is that I think what practices
of virtue and well-being do, is they highlight that we,
as embodied human persons, are intra-related. So that’s the
connection that we have to all the aspects of our
embodied self– mind, body, spirit, et cetera. But that ties to
our interconnection of interrelationality–
connections with others. And it’s really
those two together that I think is what
we are called to do and be as people of faith. So taken together,
intra-inter-relationality names how our ethical capacity to see
and connect with our neighbor depends on the
attuning and mirroring processes in our middle
prefrontal cortex. In layperson’s terms,
as we spend time loving and caring for
ourself, our brain responds. Our capacity to love and care
and connect with our neighbor increases love of
self, love of neighbor. And so what I would
leave you with is the threefold model of love. Love God with all your heart,
soul, mind, and strength, and love your
neighbor as yourself. Here are some other
wellness implications. I’m not going to
read through the list because you have
that in the handout. And so now what we’d like
to do in the remainder of our time, which I see is 20
minutes– so we’re doing okay. I think we’re doing okay. So we thought we’d let you talk
amongst yourselves for maybe three, four, five minutes– so break into a neighbor or
two, three, four, et cetera. And then Dominic and I
will both be up here. And if you want to
be brave and ask your question that will live on
the Internet forever and ever, do it. And if it’s a
difficult question, Dominic will answer it. [laughter] If it’s a
softball easy question– he’s more senior. He’s been here a long time. He’s much more acclaimed. So anyway, we’ll
give you some time, and we’ll call you
back together and see if you have some questions or
reflections for either of us, for both of us, and we’ll
kind of go from there. [participant] Is this live? For posterity. No, the question
that I have is that, having read so much in history
in theology of the tradition– but nowadays, with
the whole development of neuroscience and
neuroplasticity and the way we look at the human condition– and some of what the
ancients have said seems to be borne out by some
of the scientific research. And I guess one of the
questions I have– is there any sort of dangers
along the way or new developments
about the human condition that the ancients missed, or the
things that the ancients said? I’m thinking of maybe
Benedict and his rule, and what that did for culture– work and pray. It’s sort of using the
body, but also using the mind, and other
impacts, perhaps throughout the tradition
that might help us to understand things better. [Dr. Roozeboom] I’ll start, and
then Dominic can add to that. I always say, it is
interesting, especially when you’re talking about
theological anthropology. In fact, one of the
things that I argue is that we are
returning to a quote unquote more “primitive”
understanding. But I don’t really
think it’s primitive. It’s just that it’s an
earlier understanding. I think, especially if we
look at the Hebrew Bible, there’s a really
embodied human person that’s created out of the
dust, et cetera, et cetera. But I think that advances in
neuroscience and other cognate disciplines– behavioral
science, human development, critical theory,
gender studies– all the other
conversation partners, at least for me as a pastoral
practical theologian, I bring those together with
some of the classics, et cetera, to deepen and enrich
my understandings of human persons, of
God, of relationships, of what we’re called to do. So I don’t think we have
to choose one or the other. But I think we continually
reform and refine and expand, especially
in the neurosciences. I mean, there’s so much
development, where now we can look in real time using
FMRIs and et cetera, et cetera, at the speed of
thought really, where we get to see what is
actually happening. And in some senses,
it hearkens back to previous stuff and
research, and et cetera. But a lot of times, it
advances in some ways, or we ask new questions. And so I think there’s an
important constructive part of it. But I’ll leave it there, so
I don’t answer everything. But anything you want to add? [Dr. Doyle] No, I only had
one thought that came to mind as you were speaking. I went to a school run
by Benedictine monks– Worth Abbey in England. The EBC– the English
Benedictine Congregation– which people joke stands
for “every bodily comfort,” because the Benedictines
live life very nicely. [laughter] And I remember one line in
St. Benedict’s Rule which is, “idleness is the
enemy of the soul.” And I kind of
think for our time, it’s more that
actually, we could do with a bit more
idleness, a bit more time– Sabbath– you know,
that kind of activity. So I think there’s some things
that may have been appropriate then– that idleness is the enemy of
the soul– that now, actually, the importance of leisure– as
you know from Josef Pieper– the ability to cultivate
time for ourselves and a kind of
idleness or recreation is something we miss out. So we have to sort of pick
horses for courses, I guess. [participant] Just a question– based on what you’re
talking about– and as I understood it
was, we act ourselves– and I don’t mean act
in a pejorative way– but we act ourselves into a
particular person, if you will. I’m just wondering what
the moral implications are in a situation where
we’re encountering a person whose actions are– how do I say this– they’re not assisting
them in getting to a virtuous personhood. Do we does that do we
carry then, a greater burden of interacting
or interceding, and how does that how
does that interplay with your understanding or
explanation of acceptance? [Dr. Roozeboom] We’ll switch. You go. [Dr. Doyle] Okay. Well, I guess I think
of the classic notions of fraternal
correction– that there can be a correction of
particular manifestations of bad behavior or acts that
aren’t authentic or whatever. But underneath that can be– as Augustine said, you can love
the sinner, but hate the sin. So I think that there can be
that this is not acceptable– this behavior– but
you are acceptable. You don’t have to do this
playing up kind of behavior. Something that I’m
drawing on my two years of teaching high school now. This is the best I can do. And I remember the
monks at my school saying, my last resort
is, I pray for this kid. He’s so annoying. And usually when you
meet the parents, then that’s where
everything slots into place. It’s not their fault.
There’s no bad kids. It’s just sort of
inadequate parenting. So I think the
underlying acceptance– you’re accepted as you are,
but that behavior is not acceptable. That distinction is
helpful, as Augustine drew. [Dr. Roozeboom] Yeah. I think what I
would add, at least from the neuroplasticity
perspective, is that neuroplasticity
doesn’t really discriminate. So there are practices
that are more life giving and there practices that
are more not life giving, less helpful. And there’s some research on
neuroscience and addiction. And we know the
neuroscience behind that, and why addiction becomes such
a pernicious thing and people can get stuck in that
is that the brain will adjust and adapt and rewire so
that that pathway is much more efficient. So the first time someone maybe
does something that’s not well for them or others, it maybe
is a little bit more difficult, inefficient. But over time, with that
repetitive behavior, the brain gets more
and more efficient. So the neuroplasticity
can go either way. And so what I try
to do is encourage us to obviously choose things
that are more life giving for neighbor and self
and to help all of us remember that our behaviors
and practices are constructive. There’s a performative
constructive quality, and it’s not just a
throw-away sort of thing, to pay attention to
how the brain works. But that’s the best
I can do for now. But thanks for the question. [participant] I haven’t heard
much about dopamine physiology in all of this and
the reward circuitry. And is that a part of this
model as well, in terms of wellness and practices? [Dr. Roozeboom] Yes. Thank you for that question. And that’s why I’m really a
fan of bottom-up processing. Because one of the
really significant things about physical
activity and exercise in particular, is that it is
a natural way of producing dopamine and serotonin. In fact the SSRIs– selective serotonin
reuptake inhibitors– basically produce
artificially in the brain what we do when we perform
cardiovascular activity, et cetera. So if you lost all of that,
basically when we perform cardiovascular
activity, our brain is flooded with dopamine
and serotonin and things that help increase mood
but also stabilize mood. And then we didn’t
really go into how regular practices
of well-being can counteract the negativity
bias of the brain and all sorts of things. But if you’re
interested in that, maybe I’ll do
another one of these, or we can talk more about that. But yeah, I think that’s
a really powerful piece, particularly of why
embodied practices are so powerful for not
just neuroplasticity, but for well-being. Mm-hmm. [participant] Thank you. I have been very fascinated how
you two work with human being from the virtues, the
Christian virtues, and then sort of
mingled together with the intricacy of a
human being’s special brain. And some of the actions that
we do just take just one minute to happen, and how far the
journey that it takes and you have been able to break it open,
so that we can see almost what is coming. It is very fascinating. Especially I was
fascinated by the studies of the Sisters of Notre Dame– longevity. What makes them longevity
and connected with awareness? That is a very
fascinating thing. And they wish many
of us would learn how to teach and learn
how to live longer and what it takes to do it. Now one of the questions
that I have here written is about theological virtues. And the theological virtues–
it seems, obviously, you are emphasizing how Christians
practice theological virtues. And the question
that came to my mind is, how do you measure
the theological virtues of non-Christians,
especially those who are not in tune to Christianity? [Dr. Roozeboom] Do
you want to start? [Dr. Doyle] Yeah, I’ll start. The big million dollar question,
if I could answer that. But I guess in those issues
of inter-religious dialogue, I don’t, at first, think
of theological virtues. But what I think of is, I
guess, more generally grace, or what St. Paul called
the “fruits of the Spirit.” Do you find those experiences
of joy, of self-control, forgiveness, love, and
so on that St. Paul lists in Galatians
and elsewhere– do you find those and recognize
those in examples of holiness in other religions? And I think, obviously,
people do find that. And there is some resonance. And so when people share that
experience, we as Christians, might recognize that we, through
our Christian theological lens, see that as the
gift of the Spirit. It blows where it will. It’s distributed widely. And then as Christians
talk about Christ and hopefully try and live
somewhat patterned on Christ, then those other people
recognize that holiness in the Christian
story of Christ. And that’s what the Spirit
is forming people towards, is to be like
Christ in some way. So I wouldn’t, it’s
a good question about how do we
think about virtues in inter-religious dialogue? It would be a good
thing to explore. But I guess I’d take it
in a more basic level of, do we see the fruits of the
Spirit in other religions? Yes. And then when we
talk about Christ, does that resonate with
those experiences of holiness we see in other religions? [participant] So
I have a question about the mirror neurons
that you were talking about. So let’s say I just hang out
with my two brothers here, and they’re very virtuous,
and I’m not so much. This is hypothetical. This is a hypothetical,
of course. [laughter] So let’s say
I’m hanging with the bros, and they’re very virtuous. Would I become virtuous
just by being around them? Or would I, I’m sure
I’d have to practice. But would I be pushed
in some certain way to be more virtuous
just by being with them? [Dr. Roozeboom] That’s
an interesting question. I would say you
maybe would be more connected to their
experience of virtuous. So if they felt more at peace,
if they felt more connected, if they experienced the AUB– the absolute unitary
being– because of that, you might feel more connected
and more empathy from them. Oftentimes, we talk about
that feeling of feeling felt. So you might feel that. But I don’t think it’s
quite as simple as osmosis. The mirror neurons,
what they do is that they show that
we are interconnected. And particularly, when we
can anticipate behavior– I mean, sometimes, we talk
about emotional contagion. That’s the same kind of thing. So if a group is laughing in a
conversation, and you show up, you will feel lighter. You might smile. You might laugh
without cognitively thinking about, “I’m
going to smile now.” So your prefrontal
cortex will sort of get bypassed just by
your embodied brain, and you’ll smile when
you see someone smile. But I’ll have to wrestle around
with if there’s more to that. I would say that we need
to, then, co-participate with the Spirit’s presence. So it’s not a passive. That’s the agentic
performative part, is that we really need
to play a part in it. But I would say that, using
Dominic’s theological virtue lens, we are sort of predisposed
with the gifts of grace, and then we can participate
with that, if that makes sense. [Dr. Doyle] Other than
“steer away from Scott,” [laughter] I would just say it
would be a necessary but not sufficient condition. It’s necessary that you
have a community of friends that embody these virtues. But it’s not sufficient. You need to appropriate it for
yourself and make your own. [music playing]

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