When I was in my late 20’s I took a job remodeling the kitchen of a New York fashion model. Early one morning, while on our knees together inspecting a leak under her kitchen sink, Sinsira and I shared an electric moment so powerful it tore my tool belt, jerked both our heads up, putting a jagged crack in the bottom of her old porcelain sink. In retrospect it also apparently did some serious damage to both our brains, since that moment marked our decision to completely throw caution to the wind.
And there was great reason for caution. While I was living as a recently divorced isolate in a nearby town of 300 people (of whom I knew not a single one), she was unhappily married to a workaholic doctor. There were two young children to boot. She was also a leading light in a contemporary spiritual group led by a very charismatic guru, and my internal Yes-man desperately wanted some of that light for himself.
Rationalizations from the Gods
If ever there was a confirmation bias that two sets of genitals could ever love, our magical mystery romance was it. She was suffering from a painful, fiery rash on her arms and neck – not ideal for a modeling career. It cleared up completely after we spent our first night together. After a similar magical night, I had a case of shingles totally evaporate and a toe – seriously injured on the job – heal in real-time fast motion as we both looked on in wide-eyed wonder (There’s clearly more to medicine and healing than we know). I even won several thousand dollars in the New York State Lottery playing numbers delivered in a hypnagogic period of post-coital bliss. When I got a full scholarship to graduate school, the confirmatory evidence was undeniably in: ours was a Kismet relationship designed and delivered from the heavens above. And then that bliss would be radically transformed into soul-smushing confusion shortly after school officially started.
With the benefit of hindsight and a deepening knowledge of neuroscience, one mistake Sinsira and I made was assigning cause and responsibility for our ecstatic opening over to the other … and then adding spiritual and sexual accelerants to the fire. Not an uncommon mistake: the brain is an associative organ. Pair ecstatic experience with a specific person, and pretty soon that person alone can get our dopamine and oxytocin receptors rushing. But what Sinsira and I were both being given was the opportunity to experience some profound neuro-cardio possibilities: the power of head – awakened and aware – fully connected and networked strongly with heart. What we weren’t given was the instruction manual and blueprint for rebuilding the foundation necessary for sustaining that connected network. I say “rebuilding” because we each recalled a time as children when that foundation lay strongly formed and fully operational. Somewhere along the way, it fell into serious disrepair. It’s my strongest belief that keeping that foundation in good repair is Job Number One for today’s parents.
Restoring the Heart-Brain Bridge
I’ve already written about the suffering that ensued in the wake of Sinsira and my relationship dramatically changing form; of the backlog of grief buried within me that finally found its way to the surface. But what I haven’t fully spoken of is the apparently necessary part of openly addressing grief and loss in the work of foundation restoration. It seems to almost be a requirement for expanding Soul awareness. Grief exploration and expression appear to be part of a powerful growth and enrichment process for the mirror neuron system in the body and brain. Periods of great suffering worked through, seems to act as the structural cement required to stabilize that bridge between head and heart.
Mirror Mirror in the Brain
And mirror neurons appear to be significant mortar in that neurological mix. Mirror neurons are a pretty recent discovery, possibly because they appear to be in pretty short supply around much of the world (especially in those of us under great stress). While much of the research on mirror neurons is centered in Parma, Italy, Marco Iacoboni at UCLA is probably America’s leading expert on their existence and function. Iacoboni believes that mirror neurons play a central role in the development of human empathy beginning almost from birth in well-cared-for children. When the mirror neuron system goes awry, we either lose or diminish our interest and ability to understand what other people are thinking and feeling along with the ability to put ourselves firmly in their shoes. This diminished capacity is a surefire recipe for the spread of suffering.
All this is but a long-winded neuroscientist’s way of saying that there are greater and more complex forces at work in ours and our children’s lives than most of us are easily able to scope out. And just because there might be pain involved in opening to them, does not mean they aren’t operating for our ultimate benefit.