There’s a saying in the neuroscience field, “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” The idea is that what we see and hear and feel makes a lasting impression on us that determines how we experience things. It’s used to explain everything from love to post traumatic stress disorder and why medical students sometimes manifest the symptoms of the disease they are studying. It is used by marketing groups trying to sell us things and by psychologists who hope to help patients form new, healthier thought habits.
If the mental organization of our perceptions is causative, it would seem a no-brainer to learn how to manage the process to encourage what is best and to avoid what is not.
Scientific theory that begins with the concept of the brain as the physical generator and preserver of what we experience has not worked out why the firing, wiring neurons of one person are different from another’s. Why, say, Harry in a lions’ den has a different experience than Daniel.
Having spent time in prayer – consciously stepping away from reacting to mental images in order to remember and cherish the primacy and power of Spirit – I can say that what we actively recognize as most real and meaningful is key to determining how we live our lives. You can talk about adapting the brain, but only God has the authority to truly transform, reform, and heal. God is spiritual, divine good – what remains when partial, temporal understanding fails. God is the ever-present Love that bases what is best in humanity and overcomes the fears that thwart and sicken us.
Because divine good trumps lesser claims of mere belief, turning to God not only provides relief from mental stress, but also uncovers the underlying, overriding Truth that we live in relation to. Such profound encounters with the spiritual foundation of our lives are indeed transformative. Even small experiences of this kind are life-changers.
Some years ago I was going through a rough patch. Little things piled up. Our elderly dog needed to be walked about every 45 minutes, including through the night. Our neighbor would work on his motorcycle below our bedroom window at 2 a.m. Everyone was tired and cranky, and this led to more stress.
One night, I lay awake wondering how I was going to cope with the next day’s demands. My thoughts ranged from one problem to another; and there were many, erupting with annoyance and despair as I considered the neighbor’s rudeness, the dog’s condition, and my own limitations.
Then a thought arrived that was not part of the despondent train I’d been caught up with: “Nothing is either good nor bad, but thinking makes it so.”
I recognized the words; Hamlet says them to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in Shakespeare’s play. But they had greater resonance for me as an epigraph in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” by Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science. And they reminded me that the things I had been mentally adding up were not, in themselves, capable of making me angry or sad or even tired.
That was a light-bulb moment, because I realized that those thoughts were all trumped by a larger, more fundamental Truth: the presence and power of divine Love. This brought great relief, and I began to relax into sleep.
And then the baby started to cry.
I headed to her room, half smiling. I was no longer taken in by the notion that the good in my life was at the mercy of circumstances. Rather, God’s good was always with me. My daughter had a fever, and I walked the room with her in my arms. I felt we were together in the light of God’s love. I sang softly to her, “O gentle presence, peace and joy and power; / O Life divine, that owns each waiting hour...” (Mary Baker Eddy, “Christian Science Hymnal,” No. 207).
The baby soon fell asleep and was no longer feverish. I tucked her back in bed and returned to my room. With only an hour left until dawn, I had a brief, but peaceful, sleep.
The next day went smoothly. More than smoothly. It was as if, having become the witness of the innate goodness of all life, my own life kept turning up examples of God’s control. Contacts were made, work got done, appointments were made and kept, the family’s needs were met, all in an effortless procession of order and harmony. I hadn’t created it, but by acknowledging the real source of good, I was able to see more of it.
That night I felt like a new person. My daughter was well, the dog no longer needed hourly walks, but more than anything else, I knew I wanted to keep living in relation to the pervasive fact of Truth and Love. It makes all the difference.