Friday, June 5, 2009

What, In This Moment, Is Lacking?

By Marilyn Kirvin

Insecurity and fear are all part of the human condition -- perhaps heightened by the current economic downturn, but in truth they have always been with us. Though we are created with a basic core of Goodness, our True Selves, which are not separate from God, in our day to day experience we often don’t feel an ongoing sense of being in union with the Divine. Rather, we feel separate and alone, and we struggle to trust that God is with us.

I recently read something that has helped me to understand this phenomenon better from the perspective of brain science. Life Coach Martha Beck, in her book Steering By Starlight, writes that research shows that there is a neural structure that is wrapped around the cortex of our brains that evolved from the earliest vertebrates -- she calls it “Lizard Brain.” The purpose of this structure is to send signals to us about our survival fears. Martha writes, “The entire purpose of your reptile brain is to continually broadcast survival fears -- alarm reactions that keep animals alive in the wild. These fears fall into two different categories: lack, and attack. On one hand, our reptile brains are convinced that we lack everything we need: we don’t have enough time, money, everything. On the other hand, something terrible is about to happen.”

She goes on to say that while this mechanism is very helpful out in the wild, it is not so great for we humans who can lie in bed at night and conjure up fears of things that may never happen that can feel far worse than the actual crisis itself. That lizard voice is the one that can shake our foundations by telling us, “No one will ever love me,” or “I’m going to die homeless on the streets,” or “Can I really believe God cares about me?”

Once, after I had recited a litany of my own favorite lizard fears, my spiritual director said to me, “You are living out in the future, and God is not in the future. God is only here, right now, with you in this moment . . . so reel it back in.” His encouragement to me to live in the present was like the message of the Zen teacher Suzuki Roshi, who would ask his students, “What, in this moment, is lacking?” It is what Jesus meant when he said, in Matthew 6, “Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life?” And we see it in the commitment St. Francis made to a life of evangelical poverty – of not storing up riches, but trusting that what was needed for each day would be given.

We can cultivate our “present moment awareness” with spiritual practices that will help us to still our anxiety, and tap into the deep interior wisdom that shows us the next step to take, the next loving thing to do. These include Centering Prayer; meditation; breathwork; Bioenergetic Focusing; as well as The Presence Process, by Michael Brown. And, we can go to the many places in the Scriptures that remind us of God’s presence and care for us, such as Psalm 23: O God, you are my shepherd, there is nothing I lack…. Even when I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm for you are at my side; your rod and staff give me courage.

1 comment:

  1. Such a timely commentary as just this morning in our staff meeting we talked about the role of pre-frontal lobe brain development. SPiritual practices, meditation, and do forth development the pre-frontal lobes and that brings us closer to God, opens the possibility for experiencing God that of course isn't available via the reptilian brain. I am fortunate to work in an organization whose mission is Transforming Lives and who bring access to support technologies such as neurofeedback that are available to us in this crucial time in which our humanity is, as it were, in a crucible.