Speaking on the psycho-spiritual process of change, I pushed the boat out a little further than my workshop at Cumbria Change Fest, having grown in confidence that people actually connected with and liked what I presented! I talked more about the role of spiritual disciplines as the means to effective change or transformation, and tried to give some practical insights into the false self or egoic self.
We all know that change is difficult and anyone trying to change encounters obstacles and roadblocks in the soul. Things in the mind and emotions that wage war on your best intentions and prevent you from being the change you want to be. Without a change of mind (thinking and feeling), there can be no change of behaviour. Neuroscience now presents to us an understanding of the limbic brain which helps us to see why change is so difficult. Literally the brain structures have to be effected, new neural nets fired so that new behaviours can ensue. For a long time, I have thought about this in terms of the scripture in Romans Chapter 7 which puts it this way: “the power of sin keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realise that I don’t have what it takes, I can will it, but I can’t do it….My decisions don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time!”
Looking at the limbic brain or the emotional brain explains this sabotaging to me very well. When my amygdala (a small almond shape structure in the brain) is triggered because it feels threatened by a person or situation, it immediately sends me into reactive behaviour, usually of the fight, flight or freeze type. Fear sends me into self-preservation and/or avoidant re-actions. Consequently my frontal lobes in the higher cortex of my brain don’t get a look in to make any reasoned decision. (the heart has its reasons for which reason has no understanding, Pascal said). The emotion governs the action. Emotion hijacks my will!
The spiritual life invites us to transcend and transform these states of being that are ruled by fear. To transform, I need vision of my true self and Jesus provides me with the model, I need some awareness of my false or egoic self and how it operates. I can do this through developing an observer self. Then I need the intention to change…but intention is not enough to get you through to the change you want to be and see. Why not? Because willpower is not enough, will power gets hijacked by the emotional attachments and subjective beliefs governing your view of reality. So I need some other means? Yes you do…and the spiritual disciplines are it. Why? Because you have to admit that you by yourself are not all sufficient and all capable to do it yourself. You are effectively powerless, although your ego will rise up to resist this assertion. You need a greater power to act within, upon and without you, and that takes you into learning how to do things spiritually, not carnally or if you like not limbic brainly! The great thing is that Jesus is the higher power in the spiritual realm and he can transform all things: water into wine; bread and fish into an abundant feast, sick bodies to healthy bodies; storms into mill ponds; death to life. Perfect Love cast out Fear, and when we progressively come to live in the power of his loving presence, we can live in the here and now, free from our past experiences, patterning or conditioning.
For an interesting perspective on the limbic brain and society take a look at this link on utube which I came across…..makes you wonder…..