Daisies (c) JAT 2014

Daisies (c) JAT 2014

In my last post (Four Basic Practices to Get You Started), I introduced the idea that every day you need to repeat the promise you’ve written to yourself for yourself. Today I’d like to talk more about the promise part, since it’s the promise part that’s so central to the healing of your brain.

One thing that’s very important to understand so you can get yourself solidly planted on the Spiral Path is this: you’re only being asked to write and repeat one promise. The problem today is that almost everybody has too many ideas and too many lists and too many “shoulds” in their heads. This is a big part of the reason for the brain’s overall lack of coordination and balance — there are too many sets of instructions, and the biological brain can’t make sense of it all.

As I mentioned in the last post, you need to provide your brain (or rather I should say the semi-autonomous sectors of your brain) with some sheet music so your brain as a whole knows where it’s going. Your brain would really appreciate some consistency and simplicity! This is why it’s crucial to choose only one promise for now. After about a year (yes, a year) you can think about changing your promise. But if you’re like almost everyone else walking around on Planet Earth these days, you’ll need at least a year to get your brain committed to the new path you’re choosing. It’s a form of self-discipline to stick to only one promise. It’s also a form of integrity.

The promise you make to yourself for yourself will be the cornerstone of the new foundation you’re building for yourself, and you’ll be returning to it again and again in the way that people return again and again to a favourite prayer or mantra. In fact, your promise to yourself will be a positive, uplifting form of prayer — something for you to hang onto with all your might when the going gets tough.

Your personal promise doesn’t have to be long. In fact, shorter is better.

To give you an example, this is the promise I made to myself in the year 2000, the promise I made and stuck to no matter what: “I want to learn to love unconditionally the way you do.” The “you” I refer to in my promise is my guardian angel, whose intense and perfect love I was (and am) able to feel. I was awed and inspired by his love, by his ability to forgive, by his ability to guide me patiently and devotedly even when I was being a shithead. With his help it finally dawned on me that he actually believed I, too, was capable of remembering how to love and forgive! I had no idea exactly what it would feel like to be a loving and forgiving human being, so I decided the sensible thing to do was copy my guardian angel. I made a promise to myself (not to him, but to myself) that I would keep trying every day as hard as I could to learn how to love. I tenaciously held to this promise. There were days when this promise spoken morning and evening was the only thing I did that made any sense at all. But slowly, gradually, I started to notice some positive changes in my thinking patterns. (And, oh, thank God for that!)

What I didn’t know at the time, but what made a huge difference to my journey, was the focus of my promise. Somewhat accidentally, I made a promise to myself that my own soul could “get on board with.” Although the promise I made was very short in terms of the number of words it contained, it carried a lot of punch. It carried a lot of punch for the following reasons:

  • The promise was focussed on improving my relationships — no talk of status or acquisition of “health and wealth”.
  • The promise was positive and uplifting in tone — no talk of sin, salvation, or unworthiness before God.
  • The promise was honest — I was implicitly acknowledging the honest truth that I wasn’t being as loving and forgiving as I could be, but at the same time I was being honest about my ability to change.
  • The promise was clear and specific — no beating around the bush, no cliches, no vague spiritual talk of enlightenment or raising my vibration.
  • The promise showed that I myself was taking personal responsibility for my own thoughts, feelings, and choices — no victim mentality, no passing the buck to God or God’s guardian angels.
  • The promise was focussed on something “doable” and “learnable,” something realistic and non-magical/non-mystical.
  • The promise was easy to remember — there’s no point in having a 5-page promise you can’t remember in a pinch.

At first glance it’s hard to believe so much stuff could be packed into such a short promise, but when you compare it to some other well known prayers (such as the Lord’s Prayer, which I don’t use at all), you can see the basic underlying differences. The promise I made to myself was built on a rock-solid foundation of trust in God’s love, whereas traditional Christian prayers have been built on a foundation of fear and self-entitlement. (Have you ever noticed that the Lord’s Prayer contains nary a “please” nor a “thank you”?)

The promise you make to yourself for yourself could be something along these lines:

“I want to learn to be the sort of person my children can be proud of.”

Or . . .

“I want to understand the meaning of the Serenity Prayer.”

Or . . .

“I want to understand what it means to be a person of courage, devotion, gratitude, and trust.”

Or . . .

“I want to understand what changes I must make in my own life in order to hear the voice of God in my heart.”

Or . . .

“I believe in myself the way God believes in me.”

Or . . .

“I trust that I am a child of God and that I can make a real difference each day by trying as hard as I can to be kind towards others.”

Or . . .

“I want to learn to let go of my anger and perfectionism.”

These examples are only that — examples to get you started as you try to find the right words for your own promises. However, if one of these examples feels right for you, please embrace it and make it your own. Remember always, though, that your promise is your promise. It isn’t your neighbour’s promise or your child’s promise. Each person must find the words that work best for him or her. There is no single set of sacred words anywhere on the planet that has magical properties of transformation and healing for all people. What matters for you is that you find the words that make your heart light up with hope. These are the words of your heart and soul, your truest vision of yourself in relationship with yourself.

Each of these promises has the potential to gradually change your life and your relationships for the simple reason that each of these promises provides a clear, simple, uplifting, unified set of instructions for all the sectors of your brain to work on together.* It needs to be formulated in words, and it needs to be consciously repeated by yourself for yourself at least once each day (and preferably more often — ideally once when you get up for the day and once before you go to sleep — if possible). The reason it needs to be formulated in words is because a huge portion of your brain is devoted to language and communication. When you formulate your promise clearly and optimistically to yourself in words, it allows you to harness the language and communication centres of your brain to help coordinate the inner rewiring of your brain.

I want to emphasize that this brain-healing process takes a lot of time. Many spiritually-hopeful people have been gravely harmed by so-called faith healers who promise instant healing. I do not promise anyone instant healing, even though I personally believe that healing miracles sometimes take place. However, I do guarantee that your biological brain is not “carved in stone,” and that you have the ability to overcome great psychological and emotional adversity if you receive the right help and if you believe in your own truth as a child of God.

Just take it one day at a time. Stick with the Four Basic Practices for now. Remember that it takes about 42 days to grow a new neuron. If some arrogant religious-know-it-all tries to give you a hard time and tell you you’re “not going fast enough” or “not trying hard enough,” remember that you can only go as fast as your brain can build new brain cells. That’s the scientific reality, and you don’t have to apologize for it.

Take that, you Spirit-intoxicated evangelicals, you!

*(For a more detailed discussion of what’s possible and what’s not possible inside your biological self, please see “Foxes Have Holes, Canadians Have Gloves.”