Unfortunately, unlike author, painter and poet Christy Brown, my left foot has never done anything interesting on its own, but on the other hand, it has never gotten me into trouble.
The same cannot be said of my left brain.
My left brain still relishes its memorization feats in school – which even it acknowledges I can no longer perform. These included reciting aloud the 800+ line poem, The Hound of Heaven, by Francis Thompson in my college poetry class. I was, apparently, the first student to take up what Fr. Coleman said was his 40 year challenge to his students: recite the poem in class to get out of taking of the final exam and receive an A for the course. Secretly, Fr. Coleman must have realized that memorizing The Hound of Heaven would groove the poem – with its theme of being overtaken, however unwillingly, by God – into a person’s psyche far more deeply than my left brain, which had handled the mere task of memorization, could ever anticipate.
I count memorizing that poem, anchoring it deep in the silent recesses of my being, as one of the forces that sent me into ministry.
Useful as my left brain with its well-honed verbal and analytic reasoning skills has been, its understanding of the limitations of its own power is itself inherently limited. My left brain is quite inclined to think it can reason its way out of anything – and what else is there?
It cannot easily take into account the others facets of my being – the longings, perceptions and intuitions of my physical, emotional and spiritual being that are also in play. It would like to forget that there are stories and beliefs deeply embedded in my unconscious which are coloring everything I “think” I see.
My left brain simply has an overweening opinion of itself – which the rewards of the achievement oriented social location in which I was raised highly encouraged. It does not easily yield control.
The obstacles and conflicts in our individual and collective lives are made so much more difficult by the dominance of so many left brains yammering at each other and presenting their (unassailable to themselves) arguments for being in the right. Situations open to resolution when we remember – and have spiritual practices for – contacting and yielding to the wisdom of the heart space within us. It is at the heart /soul level that we can connect with others without surrendering our own core needs. It is at the heart level that we can hold it all.
My left brain is also overworked. No wonder it thinks it can solve everything when I rely on it so much! I need to once again ground myself in the deeper knowing that, “reason is a good “servant, but a poor master.”
There is a larger Wholeness to live from. There is a wholeness of our own being that is far more than our reasoning left brains can never encompass, and there is a Oneness of Being of which we are ineluctably a part. That Wholeness has to be felt, sensed, lived into. When we can renew this felt connection to Wholeness, our connection to the wholeness of each person and to life changes everything about how we interact with one another.
This summer I am taking my left brain (and the rest of me) on vacation – a summer sabbatical in Italy. Feeling into the Oneness of Being – and the wholeness within myself are what this time is about.
Painting, staring at beauty, swimming in warm water, meditating, walking, savoring good food, poking around charming places with no goal in mind, maybe noodling around with poetry, and simply being with my beloved – slowing down the pace of life – are what I want, and these are also ingredients for the balanced life I want to bring back with me.
My left brain is anxious.
It argues that there is so much to do, so many needs to be met, and the clock is always ticking. It points out that we will not be there for loved ones and others in case they need us for support.
The deeper truth is, my left brain isn’t sure what to do with itself if it isn’t trying to figure a problem out.
I am telling it to pipe down and trust. It points out that trust is not its department. Making Good Things Happen is its department. I acknowledge this, and I remind it that I am not consigning it to some dungeon where “thinking” cannot have any part of our experience this summer.
It is tentatively reassured.
My left brain spent so long being the only thing about me that was valued that it still has fear that if is not constantly performing Impressive Accomplishments, my whole being will cease to matter. There is a deeper wisdom within me that knows better, and it is to that voice that I want to attune my listening this summer.
I wish you a summer of attuning to the deeper wisdom within your being – the whispers of your heart and soul where your true Essence resides. Feel into the Wholeness in whatever ways you find meaningful. Make time to drop into letting it hold you. You are never alone.
See you in September.
With You on the Path,