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Research Library

Opening the Heart: Exploring the Interpersonal Neurobiology of Spiritual Practices Suitable for Public Education

    • Published: 2024
    • Mira Cataya Rodriguez
    • Journal for the Study of Spirituality, 2024. DOI: Department of Culture, Religion and Social Studies, University of Southeastern Norway, Notodden, Norway.
    • Download the complete paper, click here.


Modern education has prioritised the intellectual dimension, while giving insufficient attention to children’s emotional and spiritual development. This article offers an interdisciplinary understanding of how public education can nurture spirituality and the human capacities for compassion and love, also called the ‘qualities of the heart’. The paper explores the interpersonal neurobiology that underlies ‘heart opening’ spiritual practices, conceptualised as both spiritual and neurobiological phenomena. I discuss the scientific foundations for spiritual practices that can be suitable for education in secular public schools. Starting with my own empirical research in transpersonal psychology, the paper brings together research in interpersonal neurobiology with perspectives from spiritual traditions of yoga and meditation. The aim is to contribute to developing a framework for pedagogical practices that helps children develop their spirituality and loving and compassionate relationships, and feel more connected to themselves, others and the world, suitable for promoting children’s spiritual development through religious education, moral education, and life skills education in secular public schools.