I heard a brief news story on NPR that giving money triggers the dopamine reward pathway in the brain and therefore it feels good. Other things that trigger the reward pathway mentioned were chocolate cake and sex.
I believe that many people seeking enlightenment are not so much interested in God as in a massive dopamine influx of extended duration. AND I believe that the reward pathway is NOT hardwired but a result of societal and parental programming which begins at such an early age that we think it is hard wired.
In my divorce from society and non-participation in the norms, I am attempting to buck my programming and deny the dopamine reward pathway any involvement in my life. I do this because I want true spirit, true God consciousness; not a cheap biochemical substitute. Of course, this is an emotionally difficult thing to do. But I want to live a pure spiritual truth. I don't want my life to be controlled unconsciously and primarily by the dopamine reward pathway.
The spartan or austere life builds synapses which are different than the dopamine reward pathway. I am spirit. The state of being spirit is characterized by inner peace. The dopamine reward pathway has absolutely NO meaning to spirit. If I want to know I am spirit, I must choose inner peace instead of the dopamine reward pathway. Inner peace does not have an emotional reward. Inner peace does not have a productive component in this world. If I sincerely want to know I am spirit, I walk away from the dopamine reward pathway and accept inner peace.
Athletes are known for self disciplined and spartan lives. To live the life of an athlete, especially if it doesn't hold many worldly rewards, one has to forget the dopamine reward pathway. Its true that winning races is a dopamine reward. But that reward is not in and of itself enough to get one off the couch. To get off the couch and enter the athletic life, one must enable an inner spirit. You must choose spirit to find life.
Adult athletes buck societal programming to a tremendous extent. The adult who persevers at physical fitness on into advanced age is a huge inspiration. Take a look at a retired person with ripped muscles or who just won a long distance race, they did not spent the time training without choosing and harnessing spirit.