Thursday, December 13, 2012

Coming to Peace with my Brain

So, here's something else I've learned lately. I'm learning about how to get along with my brain.

It is rather rare and unusual for me to get into conflicts with other people, but inside myself, I am very hard to get along with. For me, I mean. They say that self-knowledge is absolutely necessary for making progress in the spiritual path, and I think I'm seeing the truth of this more and more.

I am a cerebral person. I think a lot. If I'm stressed, I can get just a tad obsessive. I'm not necessarily emotionally sensitive; sometimes I'm a bit of a dolt that way. But I'm sensitive to everything I hear, and, as one woman once put it, I have extremely sensitive spiritual antennae.

What this has tended to amount to is that I have a lot of data coming in to me that I don't know how to process. Usually this confusing data comes from other people. I can use my own cerebralness to try to figure it out, but eventually it overwhelms me and causes me so much suffering that I am forced out of myself into the world of someone else in order to get understanding, to try to find peace. And for a once-self-professed misanthrope, that's significant.

I realize the importance of the people with whom I surround myself. I find that when I spend a significant chunk of time with someone, or when I've had a conversation with someone, the next day that experience or those words will replay in my head. If that person or that conversation draws me towards the Lord and His movement in my life, I am edified. If not, I can get drawn instead to anxious thoughts or get easily agitated. I am finding that sometimes movies or idle chit-chat that I needn't have been part of can really act like brain-pollution, like a bad smell I need to then air out of my thinking.

Something that has been a profound help to me is praying the Liturgy of the Hours. Some years ago the Lord started impressing on me, in a way that both respected and required the kicking into gear of my free will, my dire need to meditate more on Scripture. I thought maybe just trying to dwell on the Mass readings or theological thoughts in general would be enough. But it wasn't. Nor was it adequate to start randomly reading the Bible, as I started to do more of. As a Protestant, I thought of meditating on Scripture as reading through it, and stopping when something struck me. But choosing what to read was either an exercise in picking what I wanted to hear or simple dogged determination. Suddenly it started to dawn on me that I should meditate on Scripture the way the Church instructs us to: liturgically. I had prayed the Hours on and off since the first day I decided to become a Catholic. But I've been doing so regularly for the last few years, and lately I have endeavored to pray all seven hours. (Which, for the record, does not mean I pray for 420 minutes a day. It is just seven sessions of prayer sprinkled throughout the day.) This has been spectacular in terms of being a reset button for my thinking. It is not without reason that Scripture itself teaches us to actually pray Scripture out loud. To sing it. Chant it. Mutter it. To rub it into your thoughts like oil into dry skin.

Dipping in to Scripture often throughout the day, not to exercise my intellectualization, but to find my life reflected there, is hugely valuable. God becomes the One I think about all day long. My idle brain noise is His praise instead of my anxieties. I get used to realizing that He always has something to say to me, and that my need for Him is constant, like my need for air and love. It gets my hyper-sensitivity working for me instead of against me. I am focused on truth, on reality. And I refocus throughout the day.

And slowly, I begin to not fret as much about the perplexities of who I am. The more I know who He is, the more I understand and can be at peace with who I am. Because I know I am not the main attraction. Knowing the One who holds everything, who creates everything, who is all powerful and all loving, and has been for all of history, lets me settle in to my life of service with peace. It lets me learn spiritual childhood. I don't have to have it all figured out, because I am beholding right in front of me One who is mighty and can handle it all. Praise God -- it's all right to not understand! It's peaceful to realize I am not in charge of the universe. 

I am freed to be available for service to the One who is in charge, and who knows all.

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