Archive for the ‘Awareness’ Category

Grow Your Brain

April 22, 2019

Myth: You only use 10% of your brain.

Myth: Your brain stops growing after you reach adulthood.

Your brain can continue to grow until you die. And you have influence over either growing or atrophying.

I’ve read several books on brain science. Some get pretty involved and technical.

Here is a book that combines brain science written by a PhD neuroscientist who has devoted a lifetime (so far) researching the brain with practical advice for your own personal brain development. The book is approachable for anyone. Younger students, even.

Healthy Brain, Happy Life: A Personal Program to Activate Your Brain & Do Everything Better, by Wendy Suzuki, PhD.

Here’s a hint about a great deal of the story–she is both a leading neuroscience researcher as a full professor at NYU and a certified fitness instructor.

The foundation of the story is neuroscience. But the real story is one of personal development about how she discovered how exercise leading to better eating leading to meditation leading to developing a spiritual side all played a part in her growth. And led to more research in the lab on brain plasticity–how it continues to grow.

It goes to show scientifically that spiritual practices must involve the entire body. And, in so doing, your brain can retain some youthfulness and you can have a better life.

Perhaps we could think of these bullet points as sort of a progression layering upon each other for personal development:

  • Knowledge
  • Exercise
  • Healthy eating
  • Meditation
  • Spiritual development
  • (Iterate)

Get the book, digest it, pick some of her practical tips for implementing the lesson. Grow your brain and grow your life.

Understand Desire

February 28, 2019

We see something. Maybe a picture in a magazine or online. Maybe as we are walking at a shopping center.

Suddenly our attention focuses and we are overcome with an emotion of really wanting that object. That is called desire.

Some continually give in to desire and rush out to buy.

Then we have it. Now what?

Maybe we have yielded many times, and our credit card accounts are filled.

So maybe we have enough awareness that when we have the feeling, we see it and try to suppress it. But the feeling remains just below consciousness waiting only for a trigger thought to jump right back into consciousness. It refuses to go away.

Then we awaken. We become aware of the entire scope of the situation. We can see the object. Study it. Evaluate the joy or happiness that it might bring. Or not bring.

Maybe we buy. Or maybe we don’t. But we see reality. We see that something external to us won’t really bring a change of life. They don’t bring happiness. And then awareness brings happiness along with it.

Restful Awareness

February 27, 2019

We have paused our busy-ness. Restful, we become aware.

Aware of the space we occupy. Aware that there are feelings, thoughts, emotions within us. They are not us. Aware even of God.

We can see, perhaps, where our words and our actions diverge. We see clearly saying we love everyone as we are taught in church. Yet, we see our actions where we do not love everyone. We can see where we treat some others as less than human. They are not like us.

Perhaps we become aware that our anxieties are just something within us. We can study them. Under the microscope, they slowly or quickly melt away.

The practice of meditation slowly transforms the mind just as it physically transforms the brain.

Philosophers, theologians, and poets for millennia have revealed the power that comes when we can see ourselves for what we are and thereby achieve a life of awareness.

People Who Live In Glass Houses

February 25, 2019

While deep into our spiritual practice of study, isn’t it curious how some verses of the Bible just seem to be as if in bold, 24-point type while others seem to be in fine print italic to our eyes?

We will see a verse that applies not to us but to other people and say to ourselves (and often anyone who will listen), “Ah, ha! See how the Bible says those people are sinful and engaged in sinful practices!”

Then there is the verse that applies to ourselves. Yet, we cannot see. It’s as if the print were so small that we just scan right past it.

There are Christian leaders who have divorced a woman and married again–often to someone much younger. Jesus expressly told us not to do that. Yet, is there a church that preaches against that? (I am not saying that is a bad thing, mind you.)

Yet, these same people who have been forgiven by the church point to other people about whom Jesus was silent and deny them the humanity of leadership and sacrament.

We humans are so representative of the person described by Jesus who is so concerned about the speck in another’s eye that they ignore the log in their own.

It is time to pray ourselves out of such hypocrisy. Pray for self-awareness. The first step to repentance. Perhaps our study needs to be more focused on those verses that apply to us and less on those that apply to others.

Spiritual Practice of Giving

February 11, 2019

Why do we practice acts of charity? Giving money to people or organizations?

This is definitely a spiritual practice.

Jesus told the rich young man who followed all the commandments (one wonders if he was as perfect as he let on) and who still felt far from perfect, “Go, sell all your possessions, give the money to the poor, and follow me.”

The young man didn’t want to be that perfect!

I discovered the Jesuit priest and therapist Anthony de Mello more than 30 years ago. Recently one of his books was recommended to me, so I am reading Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality again.

De Mello can be brutal. He says to face it. We give out of two motivations. One is selfishness of feeling good about ourselves as helping people less fortunate. Or, we help others by giving to charity, but then we feel good about ourselves doing good.

Awareness of our motivations can help us to notice this trait. Then we can give with the intention of following Jesus. I say that awareness brings us to realization that we are far from perfect but that we are practicing the right things.

When Jesus later explained his story, he pointed out that only God brings the grace that leads to perfection.

Getting Into Balance

January 14, 2019

Personality type testing once again becomes a fad.

Are you and “ISFJ” or a “9”?

(The former being one of the types on the Myers-Briggs Types Indicator; the other one of the 9 types on the Enneagram.)

One use of the Myers-Briggs I have seen is for leadership teams to take the evaluation in order to figure out how to work together. [I have never seen that actually work…]

I took the test as part of someone’s doctoral research on how school board members work together. It didn’t help us any, but the guy received a doctorate.

Once I walked into my pastor’s office. “Our Emmaus team just took the Myers-Briggs to help us work together. We are all ‘FJs’ “(feeling-judgementals-look it up). I replied, “I’m a ‘TP’ ” (thinking-perceptive). He said, “How can you call yourself a Christian and be a TP?”

[Mis]use of the profile, for sure.

The Enneagram is getting popular in some Christian circles right now. It’s not “what’s your sign” but rather “what’s your number”.

Another [mis]use of the evaluation.

I’ve studied both Western and Eastern philosophy. I got rather deep one time into Ayurveda. It does “mind-body” types.

The thing of it is, you don’t study it to find out your type…and then stop. You study it so that you can change some ways you eat or exercise to bring your mind and body into balance. If you are a “pitta” then maybe eat some “kapha” foods to bring yourself into balance.

If you read deeper than your M-B or number, you find a lot of ambivalence. No one is 100% a “9”. There’s a little of every number in all of us. Maybe you are called E (extroverted) but you’re maybe only 16 out of 31 on the scale. One question differently answered and you’d be labeled “I” (introverted).

If you are going to go this route, do yourself a favor and use the tool to bring your personality (and your life) into balance.

How Is Your Spiritual Stamina

June 25, 2018

The score is tied. The game is in “stoppage time”, that time allotted by the referee to make up for time lost during the half to assure the players get their full 45 minutes of playing time. This is the end of the match. The players and referee have been running intensely for 90 plus minutes.

We are taught as referees many games are decided in the final two minutes. When the players are tired, one side or one player, may kick in a little extra for the win. If the referee is not fit he won’t be in the proper position to see the play and physical exhaustion leads to mental exhaustion and mistakes are made.

Germany attacks. Sweden makes a fatal error and commits a foul about 20 yards from goal. The German kicker bends the ball precisely around the defense, past the diving goal keeper, and the winning goal is scored.

Spiritual life likewise requires training for the long haul so that we do not falter at the end. A society long ago developed Yoga as a way of training the body so that it could withstand the rigors of prayer and meditation.

We need to be careful what we eat and drink to not overindulge lest it turn our brains into befuddled mush. Eat primarily vegetables with some meat and fruit. Drink wine in moderation.

Get some physical exercise every day. Perhaps just walking briskly. Or running. And add strength training and Yoga.

Don’t make fatal mistakes because of lax training. Keep body, mind, and spirit alert and strong.

Remembrance of Wrongs

June 22, 2018

Do you carry grudges? Do you dwell on past hurts? The times someone metaphorically stabbed you in the back? When someone promised and didn’t fulfill or broke a contract?

We’ve heard forgive and forget. But can we really forget? More importantly, do we continually think of them?

John Climacus says, “Remembrance of wrongs comes as the final point of anger. It is a keeper of sins. It hates a just way of life. It is the ruin of virtues, the poison of the soul, a worm in the mind.”

Whom do you know with a ruined life because of the poison in the mind that just cannot get over the wrong done? I hope that isn’t you–or your spouse.

John also says, “The man who has put a stop to anger has also wiped out remembrance of wrongs, since offspring can come only from a living parent.”

Think on that sentence. There is deep meaning.

Such is the ninth step. Let him who has taken it have the courage henceforth to ask Jesus the Savior to free him from his sins.

Including A Wide Spectrum of Acquaintances

May 14, 2018

“Meanwhile [Peter] stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.”

It’s just a sentence that is a transition from one story to the next in the book of the Acts of the Apostles. Rest assured that it wasn’t just thrown in to fill up space. But Luke’s purpose for including this little tidbit isn’t really known.

We, however, can look at this little sentence and get a glimpse of how we should be living.

This Simon was probably Jewish, but he was ritually unclean. Does that sound familiar to those who have read the gospels? It should. Jesus was often criticized for hanging out with people who were ritually unclean.

We read a lot of things into the writings of Paul the Apostle and use them to divide people. But try actually reading all of Paul sometime. Read those “afterthoughts” where he lists all the followers of Jesus.

These first groups of followers were quite diverse. They seemed to accept leaders from all walks of life. Women, slaves, tanners, whomever.

Is it time for a self-awareness check? How inclusive are your circles? Churches, business, social?

Maybe instead of trying to figure out ways to separate us, we should be looking around us figuring out how to be more inclusive and accepting.

Aware of Ourselves

May 4, 2018

The most common angelic greeting in the Bible? When a human meets the divine, what does the divine say?

“Don’t be afraid.”

Fear sometimes is right there with us. The first emotion upon meeting a stranger in the night in an unfamiliar place. We face an imminent weather event–tornado or hurricane, for example.

Sometimes fear is insidious. It enters quietly, like a thief in the night. We don’t know it’s there.

But fear influences our thoughts. We fear change. We fear the unknown. Worse, we project our fears on other humans who become the personification of those fears.

Fear breeds hate. We grow to hate those other humans–those other children of God.

We don’t even realize it. These evil emotions don’t just greet us like the angels in the Bible do. “Don’t be afraid.” They sneak in and capture the heart and mind.

Awareness brings things to light. So much of the theme of the Apostle John’s writing concerned bringing light into the darkness.

Sometimes in meditation and prayer, we must listen to God expose these thieves who have crept into our life and captured it.

Fear and pride–two things that will corrupt your life. Bring the light of the world to shine in those dark and web-infested corners, expose them, and expel them.

The light is called awareness. Pray often that God will expand awareness within us.