My wife, Paula, often tells the story of her grandmother who would visit when Paula was quite young. When it came time to take a nap or even go to bed for the night, her grandmother would adhere to that misguided maternal notion that lying down with a restless child would somehow calm that child and cause them to fall off to sleep.
In my wife’s case, she suffered from an actual medical condition called “Restless Leg Syndrome” which resulted in her constant tossing and turning and kicking her legs any time she tried to go to sleep. If you think I’m making this up, Google it. I can attest to the reality of it because she suffers from that condition to this day although it has been significantly tamed by modern medicine.
Meanwhile, back to grandma. Paula’s grandmother would inevitably fall asleep, only to be repeatedly awakened by the wiggle-worm in the bed next to her. After the third or fourth round of dozing off and being kicked back awake, my wife’s grandmother would pick up her old-lady walking cane and whack my wife’s young legs — as if this would solve the issue. Needless to say, my wife did not look forward to naps with granny.
Does anything ever change? If you’re like me, when you lie down at night, that wiggle-worm in your brain starts kicking. All the tasks you left undone at work today wedge their way back into your thoughts. Irritating personality quirks of your co-workers defy your every attempt to ignore them. Those onions you ate for dinner, make their presence known in your stomach. Those onions your spouse ate for dinner make their presence known in an even more noxious manner.
Everything in life seems to conspire against us at the end of the day. Even good memories dance in our brains and do battle with the Melatonin that seeks to calm our frantic neurons. In his book, “The Power of Neuroplasticity”, Shad Helmstetter spends an entire chapter discussing meditation as a means of banishing the noise and re-training our brains to relax when necessary.
If your sole experience with meditation is encountering some pseudo-tranquil person, sitting in a cross-legged pose and pretending to be asleep while holding an invisible closet-rod, then you’re like me. The only thing I can tell you from experience is, “Don’t give into the temptation to toss pebbles at that person.” They aren’t really in a trance. They’re just like my wife’s grandmother, holding back their smoldering temper until you get within whacking range.
Real meditation is tough. Try holding a single thought in your brain for even three minutes without veering off into related issues. It’s a serious exercise in brain control. Experienced practitioners can manage to do it for fifteen to twenty minutes. My personal record is seven seconds, but, I do still believe in the practice of getting away from every distraction — jerks at work, pebble-tossers, onion-farters — and just focusing on one single topic. It allows our brains to somehow heal themselves and gear up for the next challenge.
I once spent an hour, sitting alone on the dock at a friend’s lake house and contemplating Psalm 46:10 — “Be still and know that I am God”. I cannot say for certain that at the end of that hour, I had a better understanding of the Creator of our universe…or the chaos caused by free will…or of the universal brokenness of humanity. But, when I did finally get up and stretch the creakiness out of my body, all my problems that had seemed overwhelming only an hour before, fell into perspective and I experienced one of the best days of my life. I hope you’ll give it a try.
The more we attempt to prove we are better than the broken culture around us, the more we confirm our participation in that brokenness.
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The Power of Neuroplasticity
— Shad Helmstetter
When I first read this book a year ago, I thought it held some pretty amazing concepts, but my natural skepticism led me to read a series of other books that might disprove it. As it turns out, a LOT of scientists and doctors agree with what Shad Helmstetter says in this book. I’m reading it again with a fresh set of eyes and I must admit, it’s even better the second time around. Maybe you should try it too.
A meeting of great minds who think alike