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What that “Ah-ha!” Moment Looks Like in Your Brain

“Burning Bush” is a description used to communicate a sudden and profound spiritual experience, usually leading to an awakening or deeper understanding. In early recovery, the recovering brain is still impaired in its cognitive capabilities. Cognitive function is critical to creating knowledge. The ability to grasp big ideas, vague topics, and intangible concepts can be challenging to the recovering brain. Spirituality is unchartered waters to many entering recovery for the first time. Grasping and developing a spiritual manner of living without the ability to grasp and develop spiritual ideas can be frustrating. While others are experiencing mind-blowing “ah-ha” moments, others are struggling to remember what day it is.

Thankfully, as The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous points out in its Appendix titled “Spiritual Experience”, having a sudden and profound realization is not required. Most people’s experiences, the authors explain, “develop slowly over a period of time. Quite often friends of the newcomer are aware of the difference long before he is himself. He finally realizes that he has undergone a profound alteration in his reaction to life; that such a change could hardly have been brought about by himself alone.”

Much of that change does happen on it’s own in the brain, however stimulated by spiritual experience. Some call profound moments creativity, or “flow”. Spiritually minded people might regard such moments as when we allow our Higher Power to flow freely through us. Catching onto the constant current of the Universe, we witness just a small moment of it’s mystery. Director of Research for the Flow Genome Project, Steve Kotler, says that “flow” happens in a third brain wave state.

Specifically, being in the spiritual flow has to do with neuroelectricity. A daydream-like state is considered being “alpha”. Hanging between daydreaming and sleeping is “theta”. Alpha and theta refer to the oscillation of brain waves. Kotler found that in between those two states is the “gamma” state where flow and profound realizations happen.

In a gamma state, the brain is producing brainwaves at the fastest rate it possibly can, between 38 to 42 times per second. Staying in gamma all the time is unsustainable. That is why our “burning bush” moments are short-lasting. The brain can only connect in short bursts. Since the quick spike is so powerful, that is why spiritual experiences and profound moments feel so profound. At the climax of that moment, the brain is working at it’s highest possible capacity.

Enlightened Solutions sees the transformational power of the spiritual experience occur in our patients. Utilizing twelve step philosophy with spiritual practices and evidence-based treatment brings our patients to heightened states. Transcending the clutches of drugs and alcohol, along with co-occurring disorders, they learn to live new lives. For more information on our programs of treatment for addiction, alcoholism, and dual-diagnosis, call 833-801-5483.

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