By: Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge
This Sunday, July 22, 2018, we continue our Via Positiva theme of Yes! In Deed! exploring the various ways that we can embody our “Yes!” our “Oh, Yeah” in the world.
This Sunday we used music from Dobie Gray to learn why we need to rest and refuel if we are to effectively embody our YES! in the world.
Psalm 46:1-3, 9-10: Be still and know that I am God
Mark 6:30-34: Come away … and rest awhile
A Course in Miracles, Lesson 109: I rest in God.
Song used in the sermon: Drift Away – Dobie Gray
This “default mode network” part of the brain, while it can bring us to profound thoughts and help us form memories and connect the dots in our lives to make meaning, it is also known as our “monkey mind.” That’s because this part of our mind, when not disciplined, swings from idea to idea, from neural branch to neural branch without much thought as to where it’s going or what it’s doing. When left unchecked, it can lead to feeling scattered or anxious.
This is why both the Psalmist and A Course in Miracles counsels us to be still and rest in God. It is through this rest – whether we choose to do prayerful contemplation or meditation practices – that we discover the gifts of the monkey mind and how, when disciplined, it can help us transcend our ego and reach that higher, holy consciousness.
The Course tells us that this one thought, especially when we find our monkey mind zooming from one neuron to the other without direction, can help us to be born again and recognize our true self: “I rest in God.”
“Completely undismayed, this thought will carry you through storms and strife,” the Course assures us, “past misery and pain, past loss and death, and onward to the certainty of God. There is no suffering it cannot heal. There is no problem that it cannot solve. And no appearance but will turn to truth before the eyes of you who rest in God.”
And before you think that’s just some new age mumbo-jumbo, the scientists have backed up this assertion. Research has shown that meditation does, indeed, change the makeup of our brains. In 2011, Harvard Researchers found that study participants who did 8 weeks of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction meditation had increased cortical thickness in the hippocampus, which governs learning and memory. They also found that cell volume decreased in the amygdala, which is responsible for how much fear, anxiety and stress we feel.
One of the best things about meditation and contemplation is this: Researchers found that there were changes in the areas of the brain that regulate emotion and self-referential processing, as well as diminishment in what’s called the “me center” in the brain. All that means is this: Taking time to drift away decreases activity in the areas of the brain that are devoted to the ego.
Whatever practice you choose in those times when you drift away, you’re not choosing to escape the world and its problems. Instead, as theologian and author Richard Rohr writes, you’re preparing yourself, as Jesus did, to become a more compassionate and loving force within this bodily world.
“Contemplation is meeting reality in its most simple and immediate form,” Rohr writes. “The only way you can do this is by getting rid of your usual mental grid—your practiced ways of judging, critiquing, and computing everything. That’s why the mind has to be placed to the side. It just operates in its habitual neural grooves, and nothing really new can get in. God, who is always new and mysterious, has very little chance of breaking through.” He continues: “Finally, ‘you,’ that is, your small mental ego, is out of the way!
“Once you experience this more oceanic awareness, you’ll never finally be satisfied with anything less. You now have ‘the mind of Christ’ (as Paul says in 1 Corinthians), as presumptuous, arrogant, and scary as that might sound.”
That “mind of Christ,” Jubilants, is just your higher, true, divine self that you always are even as the ego’s tumultuous thoughts and action try to keep you off balance. The world outside may look so unkind but it’s in those moments that we can choose to drift away, to free our souls and become the embodiment of joy and peace in a world sorely in need of freed and well-meditated souls.