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Shortly before I turned 18, a juvenile court judge strongly suggested I would be doing myself and the citizens of New Haven, Connecticut a big favor if I found a new town to live in. New Haven judges were notoriously hardcore – they lived in caves, afterall – so I wisely took this judge’s “suggestion” to heart.

Conveniently enough, some friends were taking a 3000 mile road trip to The City of Angels to begin school that Fall. I thought it might be smart to sign on and join them, only I had no job and no money. What I did have though, were friends and parents of friends. I went around to all of them and asked to borrow money to make the trip. I earnestly promised to pay each of them back, with interest. By summer’s end I managed to raise the princely sum of … $150, which I tucked neatly away into an A2 size envelope for safe keeping. A few days before I was scheduled to leave town, I wrote out Thank You Notes to all the people who’d lent me money. I tucked each of those notes into its own A2 envelope, addressed and stamped each and tucked them into my single backpack – the only baggage I would be taking with me to LA. Or so I thought.

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As my friends and I hit the outskirts of New Haven on departure day, I asked them to pull over and let me mail the Thank You notes. It wasn’t until 3 hours down the road when we pulled into a rest stop for lunch that I realized what I’d done with the $150 – I’d unconsciously made some postal worker’s day unexpectedly richer. $150 then was roughly worth the equivalent of $1100 today.

What I mostly remember about that incident is the feeling of loss, terror and dread that came with the realization that I’d dropped the money envelope into the mailbox along with the Thank You notes. It felt like my very survival was now threatened. Here I was, hundreds of miles from home – soon to be 3000 – with no job and no money – a stranger in a truly strange land. My friends thought it was haha funny, however: they nicknamed me, Markis J. Mynusmoney.

Fast Forward Fifty Years

After exploring holiday gift possibilities with my daughter this year a few weeks before Christmas, she convinced me that the best possible gift I could give her would be … money. This goes against all my holiday conditioning, but Amanda can be very convincing. So one morning I got up early and searched around for a gift envelope and a card to put some cash into. What did I find? An A2 envelope and a “Kick Butt Take Names” card that my friend Joanna designed. That felt like a suitable message matching my daughter’s general expressive holiday energy.

I decide to send Amanda $200. I go to my small cash stash to count out four $50 bills. Except … there are only 3 fifties there. What the heck: Let’s make it a $150 gift then. I put the three bills and the card into the envelope, address, stamp and seal it and lay it on my desk to take out to the mailbox later that morning.

The day unfolds with the usual work in my office – researching, writing, phone calls, bill paying. Around 9AM I gather up a bunch of papers and junk mail and walk out into the living room. As I pass the woodstove, I decide to toss the papers onto the fire that’s burning low. The papers instantly bring renewed energy to it, but I suddenly have a distinctly uneasy feeling. “I should probably put stuff like that in the paper recycling,” is the thought that goes through my mind in response to that body feeling.

It’s not until lunchtime, when I go looking for the gift envelope for Amanda that I realize what the distinctly uneasy feeling was actually about: all I can see are the 3 fifty dollar bills going up in flames. Suddenly, I’m sick to my stomach beyond all measure. Instantly, images of the experience of depositing my only $150 in the mailbox outside New Haven decades ago surface in memory. It feels like I’m in great danger all over again – with the future completely uncertain, and my ability to take good, conscious care of myself fully at risk. How could I be so mindless all over yet again?

In THIS Moment, Everything’s All Right

Fortunately, I have practices that I’ve been doing for years to help calm me down when accidents happen or traumatic memories resurface. Immediately, I leash up Olliebear and we head off to the Log Trail. On the way over, I take mindful breaths, exhaling longer than I’m inhaling. dog-walking1.jpgWhen we get to the trailhead, I immediately let loose with a long stream of invectives, cursing every thing and every one I can think to curse. Ollie doesn’t quite understand what’s going on, but he likes the energy. Off we go, jogging deliberately up the windy trail.

By the time we return back to the trailhead 40 minutes later, my brain and body have calmed down considerably. When we get back home, I take out another card and another A2 envelope and once again address it to Amanda. This time, however, I write out and enclose a holiday check.

This week’s Enchanted Loom looks at many of the reasons trauma often repeats and has it’s unfortunate way with us. Check out the review of Donna Jackson Nakazawa’a book, Childhood Disrupted here.

The first time a friend ever betrayed me stands clear in memory more than 60 years later. I was 8 years old. My sister Andrea, older by 7 years, had prepared dinner and called me to come in and eat. I refused. I wanted to stay out and keep playing with my friends. Ann became angry and frustrated. She began making threats: “If you don’t get in here right now, you’re not getting any dinner now or later.” “Don’t let me get ahold of you.”

I, of course, made faces and tantalized her until she suddenly sprang from the porch and came running after me. Naturally I turned to run, but the moment I did, the friend I was playing with – Junior Jackson – grabbed both my arms and held me until my sister got there. She took me from Junior’s grasp and holding one of my arms tight, slapped me hard repeatedly across the back as she dragged me toward the house. I can still feel her hand where she repeatedly hit me as I write this decades later: it’s mostly in my mid-back, just below my right scapula.

trump.jpgAlienation Is Not Integration

Junior Jackson and I never played together again after that betrayal. A year later, just as she was teaching me to dance, my sister Andrea would “abandon” me, literally tossed out into the street by our mother for becoming pregnant at age sixteen. And she and I were never close again.

For the incidents I just described, and for other reasons as well, neither of them felt safe or comfortable for me to be around ever again. They had apparently significantly altered my stress profile – how my body triggered and released stress peptides and hormones in their presence. They made my body and brain feel the way Donald Trump often makes my body and brain feel – tense, contracted and on guard. My face doesn’t spontaneously break into a smile when I see pictures or think of them.

A Frog Went a Urocortin

It turns out there is one specific stress peptide that appears to play a major role in the lack of joy, affection and affinity I feel for my older sister, Junior Jackson and Donald Trump. It’s called Urocortin 3. Urocortin 3 is different than 1 or 2. The main difference is that it is primarily responsible for the release of cortisol from the adrenal cortex. Cortisol and adrenaline are the two major stress hormones. It’s difficult to feel kindly toward or be friends with people who involuntarily and repeatedly trigger excessive amounts of stress hormones in us.

Difficult, but not impossible. Because, like many parts of the brain, which we know changes throughout our lifespan due in part to neuroplasticity, our stress profile can change as well. People, places and things that made us nervous at one time, we can come to feel real affection for or at least neutral about. We can actually learn to master the ability to prevent our adrenals from making us their bitch!

To Haven or Haven Not

One method that anecdotal evidence suggests might be effective in changing our stress profile is called “Havening.” It’s a treatment protocol recently developed in the United Kingdom that appears to be a creative blend of Emotional Freedom Therapy (EFT) and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR). Here are the 8 simple steps:

1. Find an exact word or phrase that represents your current emotional difficulty. Scale the word/phrase from 1-10, with 10 being the highest/most distressing score.

2. Clear your mind or think about something nice.

3. Use both your hands to tap on both your collarbones while opening and closing your eyes twice.

emdr.jpg4. Continue tapping, keep your head still, and move your eyes fully to the left and to the right, and then down to the left and down to the right, and finally in a full circle clockwise, and then counter-clockwise, keeping your head still.

5. Place your arms across your chest and close your eyes; while your eyes are closed, imagine walking up a flight of stairs and count out loud from 1 to 20 with each step you take.

6. Gently rub the sides of your arms, for the duration of the counting.

7. Re-scale the emotion 1-10. Repeat the procedure with the visual element and auditory element changed slightly; i.e. instead of climbing up stairs visualize skipping a rope and instead of counting 1-20, hum Happy Birthday.

8. Allow your arms to drop and relax, move your eyes in circles and then close your eyes, while stroking the sides of your arms again 5 times and speak the words “Let It Go” on the final stroke. Finally, open your eyes and scale the feeling 1-10 again. Repeat until the emotion is 1-3.

Does Havening actually work? There’s one way to find out. Try it with a friend to bear witness. If you begin to feel compassion towards sisters, friends and presidents with broken hearts and vulnerable brains just like yours, well, then you’ll know the answer.

Once again I’m up early and I’m feeling the all-too-familiar feeling of disaffection and disgust. I’m in the upstairs bathroom and I’m standing on the electronic scale. It measures weight in pounds or kilos, if I’m feeling especially European in this morning’s disgust. One third of the weight I managed to lose in order to teach my Weight, Weight, Don’t Weigh Me class have made a creepy, surreptitious return: the number 222 is flashing brightly back in my face! It feels like the Devil’s working hard to get me to 666!

koala-brain.jpg“It’s not you, it’s your brain,” I have to firmly remind myself. And it is: my structurally less-than-perfectly-functioning brain. I console myself by calling up and rereading this study, which serves to remind me that I’m in massively major good company with my weight management struggle: 99% of overweight people who gain weight and then lose it, gain it back and more over 10 years. 99%!

I also remind myself that my brain has once again allowed me to fall victim to The Empowerment Delusion.

The Empowerment Delusion

The Empowerment Delusion seduces people into believing that they can create health or wealth or anything material by willing it, declaring it, or petitioning God to make it so. A corresponding belief is the delusion that poverty or sickness is my own fault: my bad thoughts, negative ideas, stinkin’ thinkin’, lack of faith and such cause all my misery. These condemnations obviously fail to take into account not only the unfathomable complexity of my daily life and the environment I live it in – with all its compelling allurements – but the similar complexity of my own brain and body. An essential, critical fact that science reminds me of over and over is: Whatever I Might Believe … It’s Probably a Bit More Complicated Than That.

The multi-billion-dollar self-help industry (of which weight management is a hefty component) is largely driven by The Empowerment Delusion: the false belief that feeling empowered, or believing you are empowered, means that you are empowered. Prosperity preachers like the Reverend Ike or Joel Osteen sell you religion as a way to exploit this brain vulnerability. We buy the hope and the promise rather than the truth of just how much time and focus and commitment and hard work success requires. I’m frequently reminded of a statement by a member of Mahatma Gandhi’s inner circle: “It sure takes a lot of money to keep Gandhi living in poverty.” The corollary for me might be: “It sure takes a lot of calories to keep Mark working hard to lose weight.” As any knowledgeable neuroscientist will tell you, feelings are real, but they are also very fleeting. Just like your net worth will be if you fall victim to The Empowerment Delusion.

The Time of Our Lives

Most significant behavior change takes time. Acquiring knowledge and skill takes repetition and practice. Physical cells in our brain and body need to be born, grow wires, make increasingly greater connections. Other cells have to disconnect and die (old learning that no longer serves us) to make room for the new ones. You can see the actual physical process of that happening at the microscopic level in this 2 minute video.

36fb837799b72e5dcb7b6ec9687b713a.jpgOf course, one challenge with much of this material is to find the middle path
between increasing our sensory capacities to apprehend the multiple levels of the real world and falling victim to the Empowerment Delusion. Not an easy path for many of us to navigate skillfully. Reverence for the extraordinary beauty, complexity and intelligence operating in the world will probably serve us well as a part of that path. But first we have to grow the network capacity to fully apprehend it and then greatly appreciate it.

The Three C’s

What might truly help us accomplish this remedial growth? What might be most worth our time and our brain’s energy to pay increasing attention to? If we’re to believe someone generally recognized as safe and spiritually mature, Shinzen Young might have some good advice for us. He suggests we are well-served spending the time of our lives cultivating concentration, clarity and calmness. Just ten minutes a day he claims can end up allowing us to live twice or three times the life we might otherwise just in terms of the depth of meaning and fulfillment we’re able to attain.

Is Shinzen offering self-help? Actually, he’s offering pretty much the opposite, because if you sincerely take his guidance to heart, what you’ll end up with is a “self” that is left with little concern about getting help at all. The self you’ll end up with will be one mostly concerned with selflessly helping others!

Which is what The Enchanted Loom is all about. Check out the review of Shinzen’s unself-help book, The Science of Enlightenment HERE.

I was 19 years old, joyfully cruising my Triumph Bonneville motorcycle down Woodman Avenue in Van Nuys, California one dusky summer evening, when I suddenly smashed straight into a woman coming towards me driving a Chevy Nomad station wagon. She unexpectedly turned left directly into my lane. “I didn’t see you! I didn’t see you!” she screamed hysterically as I hobbled, bloody and broken, to the side of the street. I was blindsided by her blindsight!

How Blindsight Works

Try an experiment. Hold your left index finger directly in front of your face about ten inches from your nose. Close your left eye. Now, keeping your finger stationary, swivel your head to the right until your index finger becomes blocked by your nose and is no longer in view. Now open your left eye with your head still swiveled. With both eyes open now, you should be able to once again see your left index finger, along with everything in the peripheral view to the left of it. As I’m looking to the left of my own index finger, one object that stands out clearly is a 6” five-pointed crystal star that my sister gave me for my last birthday.

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Like this, only raise the finger higher

Now here’s where things get interesting. The optic nerves in each of my eyes send two signals to my brain through roughly 1,200,000 “wires” for everything they see. One bundle of wires transmits information about the shape and color of what I’m seeing – the clear glass star. That signal gets transmitted first to, and then from the visual cortex to my brain’s temporal lobe.

Another bundle of my vision wiring sends a signal that transmits information about where the star is – on the wall to the left of my office window. That signal ultimately gets delivered to my brain’s parietal lobe.

The What and the Wherefore

If an experimental lesion interrupts the wiring that connects my right temporal lobe and prefrontal cortex, suddenly the star will completely disappear. I won’t be able to consciously report its presence. The wiring delivering the “what” information to my prefrontal cortex allows me to cognitively identify what I’m seeing as a crystal star. Since it has been damaged, my ability to identify and name anything my left eye sees on my left side is compromised (my nose blocks my right eye’s “what” wiring from seeing it). Yet, if you give me a list of words – moon, sun, planet, comet, star, asteroid – and asked me which word feels most familiar, I will overwhelming choose – you guessed it – star. Why? Because my parietal – prefrontal circuitry, which hasn’t been damaged at all is still registering the “where” signal being transmitted from my left eye. It unconsciously knows where the star is, it just doesn’t know what it is. Kind of freaky, right?

If you’ve done the experiment, you now experientially understand the structural brain vulnerability called blindsight.

The Pros Knows

Professional photographers are intimately familiar with the blindsight phenomenon. Besides robbing us of memory, no collection of pictures ever comes back to a professional photographer that doesn’t contain images and details that they simply didn’t see when they mindfully framed the shot.

But here’s the thing – we don’t need to experimentally sever brain circuitry to be adversely impacted by blindsight. Acute stress or high levels of allostatic load or chronic fatigue frequently do it for us. Ever been “so tired you can’t see straight”? Well, you were telling a vulnerable, neurobiological truth.

gunpoint

Also, there are many anecdotal reports from people who’ve been held up at gunpoint. Time stands still and all they remember seeing is the big black hole at the end of the gun barrel. My friend Jana was once accosted at knifepoint. The memory of the shining knife blade and the angry eyes wielding it still lives strongly decades later in her brain’s threat detection circuitry.

Awakening From Zzzz-Town

Add in visual subliminal processing and our eyes’ pattern recognition filters and this vulnerability, as a consequence of stress, trauma or fatigue, often has us sleepwalking through a large part of our lives without ever realizing it. We often don’t see what’s right in front of us. What to do? Rumi had a suggestion that I’ve built a recent teaching “explorinar” around: “A thousand half-loves must be forsaken to take a whole heart home.” To forsake means “to renounce or give up for something better.” What the Explorinar (which currently has a waiting list) essentially invites us to do is begin addressing blindsight and many other neurobiological vulnerabilities. We begin paring away and paying attention to the world around us differently in order to clearly see all the many ways our life might actually truly be unfolding … as a Heroine’s Journey. This journey is generally designed to deeply capture our attention in order to reduce the amount of time we spend unwittingly sleepwalking through it.

Why We Stalk People

Come on, you know you do it. You meet someone interesting at a political rally or a museum or a zumba class (the key word here is interesting; specifically interesting to you, not necessarily to anyone else). nathans-winnnerYou find out their name or something identifiable about them – they were the first woman winner of the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest*) and as soon as you get home you’ll be Googling your brains out. What’s up with that?

Well, it turns out there’s a lot up with that, most of it neurobiological. And much of it unconscious for most of us. But none of this will make sense unless you first accept a fundamental premise: within each of us “healing wants to happen.” Another way to say this is: “Broken brain wiring yearns to reconnect” – disconnected parts want to rejoice and rejoin together to make an increasingly happy whole.

Another thing that will have to be accepted is this research and a lot more like it that indicates that the bulk of our brain’s ongoing daily activity is processed unconsciously. We are essentially … Strangers to Ourselves.

To Stalk or Not to Stalk

First showing up on the stalking scene most often is your brain’s Narrative Confabulator, you know – the part of your brain that does “scenario planning” day in and day out. Give it a little morpet (something between a morsel and a snippet) of something interesting and off to the races it will go, spinning one fantastic, made-up tall tale after another. After which your brain will begin working overtime in order to convince you it’s all true.

You used to be guileless at this when you were four or five. Remember? Now you’ve learned to be somewhat circumspect, usually editing for your audience. Which is, more often than not, only you (my own brain once got triggered by a woman working in a bookstore when I was in my thirties. I recruited several friends to go into the store to check her out. None of them could figure out what the draw was with to a rail-thin, bookish, crone type. Guess which of my parents she clearly resembled).

Similar to bookstore lady, something about a person I decide to “inquire about” sets a few network fibers in my brain atingling. While I’m often unconscious about it, the way a person looks, the feel of their energy, the way they speak, smell or taste, will activate action potentials (electro-chemical energy pulses) in my brain. Once, a woman I was standing behind in line at a Starbucks made a gesture with her arm that immediately grabbed my attention. Curious, I waited and watched until she did it again. In a flash I realized who she reminded me of – again, someone I had unfinished business with (contrary to popular belief, not all unfinished business is with mom or dad) – my best male friend in junior high school who betrayed me by stealing away my first puppy love after I’d confided my feelings for her to him.

Familiarity Breeds Connect

And that’s what seems to drive all of my stalking impulses. Somebody shows up in my life, triggers “familiarity circuits” in my brain and bingo!, off I go searching to find out more about them to see (again unconsciously) if they might be someone who can detonate buried memory explosives in my brain and bring them to the light of day for healing integration (which, more often than not, fails to actually happen, unfortunately. More is needed).

Psyches Descent.jpgIf you want to explore your own stalking fetishes further, Jane Wheatley-Crosbie does a compelling job of explaining the unconscious drive towards integrative healing in her fine article, “Psyche’s Return from Soma’s Underworld.” Even more importantly she suggests ways that we might actually engage in processes that stand a good chance at activating and repairing those buried memory networks. It’s probably a more prudent path to take than continually showing up as a stalker and unnecessarily triggering decent people’s threat-detection circuitry. You don’t want to be the weirdo who gets reported to the police needlessly, do you?

*In case you don’t want to look it up, the Nathan winner’s name is Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas. Where in that slender body she managed to put all those hot dogs  defies all belief, the laws of physics, and biology.

Finally, if you care to put a spiritual spin on your stalking behavior, check out the latest Enchanted Loom review of Mario Beauregard’s and Denyse O’Leary’s book, The Spiritual Brain.

I actually was expecting the bubblewrap mailer that showed up in my mailbox shortly after Halloween. Curious as to what the promised contents would finally look like, I cautiously opened the envelope. Once I saw what was inside, I actually let out a real, spontaneous, Laugh Out Loud – it was a navy blue lettered sweatshirt, and there, emblazoned across the front in beautiful sky-blue letters, were the words:

Keep Your F*@king Promises!

…spewed straight from the mouth of my Inner Herr Führer, in those moments I accidentally let him slip out of his bunker. Spelled recognizably right, of course.

Frankly, Scarlett, I DO Give a Damn

This was a gift of gratitude from Scarlett, one of the people who’d completed my one-on-one Money Relationships and the Brain tele-connection offering. She was expressing appreciation for the hard-won realization that so much of her struggles with money boiled down to this one simple, frequently failed “aspiration.”

Not only did she make and not keep all kinds of promises to other people, but Scarlett also frequently made and didn’t keep them with herself. Which made her inherently untrustworthy both in the eyes of others, but even more importantly, to the Vigilance Networks in her own brain. images.jpgIn addition to monitoring the world around us, our Vigilance Networks – rooted in our threat-detection circuitry – watch everything we say and everything we do every day of our lives, 24/7. But if all the Vigilance Networks did was only watch, it wouldn’t be so bad. It’s the stories they conspire to make up in cahoots with The Great Confabulator based upon what they hear us say and see us do that are the real problem. Why? Because those networks then go about the work of unconsciously convincing us those made-up stories are true and have us act accordingly. We then unconsciously go to work, squeezed down and pressed upon, living our lives to our own lowest expectations.

In our work together, Scarlett focused on one simple behavior – she agreed to defer making any promises to herself or anyone else, until she had sufficient time to coolly and deeply think things over. And then, once she said “Yes,” that promise became carved in hearthstone, powerfully akin to an Irrational Commitment.

Two Simple Commitments

Different than the one-on-one work with Scarlett, I asked our year–long Money Relationships and the Brain experimental group to make two simple commitments (simple, but not easy, as we came to find out). The first was: there are 8760 hours in a year. The expectation I expressed was that people would commit 52 of those 8760 hours – one hour per week – to meeting together every Friday at 7AM through the internet. The second invited commitment was intentionally set up ideally to take advantage of the Power of Ritual. Once a month I wanted the participants to commit to sitting down, taking out their checkbook and mindfully writing and then mailing me a check for $20. To insure they would almost certainly fail, I invited them to … make the $20 commitment … for life! The main reason I suspected they would fail is the main reason we fail at most everything in our lives: we don’t … keep our f*@king promises (me included – one more example of me teaching what I most want to learn and practice). Currently, however, I keep more promises to others and myself than I ever have – eight years of researching and writing this weekly blog being but one example.

Storyboarding

Most often the reason that I don’t keep my promises is: my brain makes up a story about why I can’t or don’t have to keep my word and then convinces me my reasons are absolutely true. And right. And best for everyone if I don’t, or at least best for me. It’s the way the teenage brain often operates. And mostly my brain doesn’t have to go to great lengths to get me on board with the promise-breaking program. It’s a good thing making and keeping promises has to be … a practice.

a-moneyMost often the excuses for why the promised $20 didn’t show up were always “reasonable.” Any list of more important expenditures is virtually limitless, all of which the Vigilance Networks love to get busy and storyboard. The problem is, if I make a promise and I make the relationship with the person I make it to important enough, there are very few of us in this country who could not come up with $20 given thirty days. Ultimately, though, the real person I’m making the commitment to – and for – is me. For many of us, that’s a hard dot to connect and keep connected: the promises we make to ourselves and to others matter. Greatly. To our own mental, spiritual and neurobiological health and well-being. And as Scarlett is finding out, to our financial health.

No Fault, No Harm, No Foul

Before we began the group, life experience, together with my knowledge of the brain’s vulnerabilities, had me expecting that lots of different circumstances might play out. I rarely took such occurrences personally (except occasionally when I did), and there was no “penalty” that needed to be imposed. No one had to run laps or do push ups or pay a higher interest rate. From my perspective, few of us have ever been taught about the need for, or even how to skillfully forsake Rumi’s half-loves – these are just life lessons needing to be learned. The penalty for not learning is unfortunately, a very steep one, neurobiologically, financially and spiritually self-imposed.

Because all of the above is confounded and compounded by the fact that in every moment of our lives each of us is doing the absolute best our brain and the surrounding environment will allow – when our brain works better we do better – each of us in our little group has now recommitted to continuing through a Year 2 of Money Relationships and the Brain! Wish us well, as we try to live into zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki’s wise, smiley-eyed advice,”We are all perfect just as we are. And we could all use a little improvement.”

“We are wonderfully creative at making tepid commitments and then finding endless ways around them.” ~ Walter Mischel, The Marshmallow Test, pg. 260

A good friend of mine recently went out on a second date with someone he met on the Buddhist Passions online dating site. He confessed to me that he’s already picked out the venue for the wedding, which room in her house he’s planning to remodel into his Man Cave and where he’s planning they’ll spend their winters. I’m avidly interested in seeing how this all turns out.

I don’t think my friend is getting ahead of himself or jumping the gun or putting the horse before the cart before the horse, or any other analogy that you care to use. I think what he’s actually doing is expressing a fundamental, neurobiologically-based need: the need to be in secure, reliable, irrationally committed relationships. The need to repeatedly reconnect with a “reliable, unguarded face.” This is one promise that new love often holds out to us, isn’t it? Only we mostly want others to make the Irrational Commitment to us – to present us with their reliable, unguarded face – in which case we DO have the horse before the cart.

brain-universe513The need for irrational commitment is with us from birth. It’s the thing that makes a healthy mother or father give up their self-centered lives, their consuming passions, many of their worldly pursuits in order to insure our survival. As Rumi counseled: “A thousand half-loves must be forsaken to take a whole heart home.” As I pointed out a few blogs ago, to forsake means to renounce or give up something for something better.

Being Entrusted with the Universe

Healthy babies arriving through healthy birthing practices come into the world with whole hearts. And healthy parents willingly forsake those thousand half-loves when they discover the extraordinary treasures that have been entrusted to them in their children. They get to safeguard and shape a heart, brain, mind and body more complex and divine than anything else in the known universe.

To my great consternation and surprise, my own daughter’s arrival completely rewired my heart and brain. The need to care for this divine miracle of creation, to provide for and protect her made me laser-focused in my work, and increasingly available and reliable at home. doctoralregaliacomic.jpgSignificant, meaningful projects that I’d been lollygagging and procrastinating with, I quickly brought to good-enough completion: I finished and published my first book. I wrote up my dissertation research, reconvened my committee (after a ten year hiatus) and delivered them a draft they agreed to award me a doctorate for. I submitted plans and had them approved to build a brand new, larger house that would accommodate our growing family. And I did it all with a focused joy and passion that was unknown to me before my daughter was born. My heart and brain began processing energy and information like never before in a completely irrational service to love.

Collaboration Makes It Happen

And I didn’t do it all alone. The biggest change for me in sustaining and strengthening my Irrational Commitment was – when I didn’t know what to do or where to turn – I asked for help. I asked for help with financing, expanding and running my business. I asked for help learning how to care for my daughter. I asked for help recognizing when my calendar was making me its bitch and in prioritizing daily activities needing my attention. I asked for help in identifying additional areas that I truly needed help with and didn’t even realize it.

There aren’t a lot of examples or models in modern culture that demonstrate the importance of or the possibilities that can result from making, getting help with, and keeping Irrational Commitments. One major benefit that is clear to me in hindsight is the change in brain and heart that such a process inevitably produces. It results in massive neurobiological integration. To integrate means to come to an increasingly greater whole. Having and raising a child is not the only way to integrate our neurophysiology, of course. It just happened to be one that took me totally by surprise in ways that I never expected and no one ever properly prepared me for.

Replace Half-Loves with Whole Lobes

If my Buddhist Passions friend above, ends up engaging with just another “half-love,” my bet is that few of his plans are going to come to pass. But if he can find ways to evoke and sustain his own Irrational Commitment in the face of so much in contemporary culture that works against making and keeping one, everything he dreams of and much much more will eventually come to pass. At least that’s how I would bet.

While I’m waiting to see how all that turns out, here’s another Enchanted Loom to chew on: what else, but award-winning psychologist Walter Mischel’s book on integrated brain development: The Marshmallow Test.