How your three minds work for you, Final
May 15, 2014
One of the big problems in spiritual life is heart idolatry. In the beginning, we are born wired to love, but if we do not feel loved (especially in the earliest months) we are automatically programmed for other things such as rejection or fear. These negative thoughts put our brains into protection/survival mode. This reduces the brain’s ability to grow healthy memory patterns.
God gave us the amazing ability to switch to protection mode, but we were never meant to remain there indefinitely. Protection mode is somewhat chaotic, as the hypothalamus gland in the brain releases more chemicals than it should, and the pituitary then does the same. We end up with brain chaos that may be good for “fight or flight,” but not so good for thinking clearly.
Each night the brain creates new nerve cells while we sleep, which act as computer chips to store memories when we awake. This is called neurogenesis. Those who worry all the time, or those who live in constant fear, fill those computer chips with negative thoughts and emotions. This has a cumulative effect upon our outlook on life and even affect our perception of God.
In effect, our thoughts are implanted in our brains, where they become physical substance. The soul (mind) thus controls the body (brain), in the sense that the mind programs the brain. Of course, when the mind needs to know what to do, it draws from the brain’s store of knowledge, and if that resource is polluted, the mind will make decisions accordingly.
But because the soul still remains in authority over the body (brain), all is not lost. It still has the authority to bring up those toxic thoughts and alter them according to new understanding. The mind can recall emotional trauma and add to it such things as “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28). Our traumatic experiences might be seen as part of intercession, having a positive outcome in the end. Such additional information then replaces the original memory with a more complete understanding. This can turn the unhealthy emotional trauma into a positive memory that results in wisdom.
Even if a negative or painful experience is not due to intercession, Scripture still admonishes us to react to it in a positive way. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “in everything give thanks.” Such meditation should apply thankfulness to each toxic memory that arises, because even though we cannot often control our circumstances, our minds can choose how to react to those experiences. During meditation, a toxic memory can be neutralized by mixing it with thankfulness (more than once, if necessary).
Dr. Carolyn Leaf says,
“In recent years, leading neuroscientists like Marion Diamond, Normal Doidge, Joe Dispenza, Jeffrey Schwartz, Henry Markram, Bruce Lipton, Allan Jones, to name just a few, have shown how our thoughts have remarkable power to change the brain. Our brain is changing moment by moment as we are thinking. By our thinking and choosing, we are redesigning the landscape of our brain.” (Switch On Your Brain, pp. 32, 33)
“Our consciousness—this phenomenal gift from God to be able to think—activates our genes and changes our brain.” (p. 34)
“Taking this to a deeper level, research shows that DNA actually changes shape according to our thoughts.” (p. 35)
“Our genetic makeup fluctuates by the minute based on what we are thinking and choosing.” (p. 50)
“You control your genes; your genes do not control you. Genes may determine physical characteristics but not psychological phenomena. On the contrary, our genes are constantly being remodeled in response to life experience.” (p. 52)
“So when we make a poor-quality decision—when we choose to engage toxic thoughts (for example, unforgiveness, bitterness, irritation, or feelings of not coping)—we change the DNA and subsequent genetic expression, which then changes the shape of our brain wiring in a negative direction. This immediately puts the brain into protection mode, and the brain translates these poor-quality, toxic thoughts as negative stress. This stress then manifests in our bodies. But the most exciting part of this study was the hope it demonstrated because the positive attitude, the good choice, rewired everything back to the original healthy positive state. These scientists basically proved we can renew our minds.” (p. 36)
In other words, toxic thoughts produce brain damage, but healthy positive thoughts is God’s way of doing brain surgery and reversing the prior damage. But this requires a conscious effort to make the change. The most effective way to do this is by meditation, which, if done correctly, focuses your attention on God or His word. By washing the toxic memory or thought pattern in the blood of the Lamb or in the word of God, we can know forgiveness and can change the memory to a positive learning experience.
People may be motivated purely by the soul to detoxify the brain. However, if the soul is merely led by the body (flesh) to do this brain surgery, the results will not be as complete as if the soul is led by the spirit (spiritual mind). In other words, non-believers can detoxify the brain, depending on the ability of their body and soul, but a complete renewal of the mind is only possible if the soul submits to the spirit’s counsel. And the spirit’s counsel must come from the Christ within—the New Creation Man—which alone has access to all the revelation of God that is needed in every situation.
Many have been helped by meditation, especially in changing toxic thought patterns. Yet the deepest change can come only by acknowledging the blood of Christ, which alone can forgive the soul that has sinned. Many have tried to obtain such forgiveness by removing the consciousness of sin, that is, by removing the memory. This is the method taught by Charles Fillmore a century ago, and it has been perpetuated by many others in the name of positive thinking.
Such people define sin as ignorance, rather than as an offense against others. Knowledge is their answer, rather than justice. They seek a remedy in the classroom, rather than in the courtroom. They see Jesus as a teacher, rather than a redeemer. Their belief system provides only an illusion of forgiveness, for such people have only rewired their brain to short-circuit to the embedded memory. As they say, sometimes a clear conscience is due to a poor memory.
Scripture teaches clearly that sin is the violation of the law. Sin is not merely a state of mind but an offense (or thought) against another person (or God). Sin always has a victim that must be recompensed or satisfied. Justice is not done until the victims are satisfied and peace (reconciliation) has been reestablished. Erasing the memory of sin from one’s consciousness is insufficient.
Here is where I appreciate Dr. Carolyn Leaf. Though her main focus as a communication pathologist makes her a specialist in the mind-body connection, she also understands that the spirit must take the lead if the mind is to know how to do surgery on the brain (the mind of the flesh). She says,
“Thus the person consciously chooses, preferably under the leading of the Holy Spirit, to bring the memory into consciousness, where it becomes plastic enough to actually be changed.
“This means the physical substances of the memory becomes weakened, vulnerable, malleable, and able to be manipulated. The person then chooses to replace the crushing mental event with the implanted word of God, which saves the soul (James 1:21). The person, as though an outsider looking in through a window, will observe the toxic, traumatic memory as a weakening and dying experience but, at the same time, observe the new healthy experience that is growing. In practicing this daily, the person wires the healthy new thoughts ever more deeply into the mind.” (pp. 63, 64)
“The billion-dollar self-help industry does not have sustainability because it misses the basic elements required for success and change: Primarily, it is not connected to the vine” (John 15:5). (p. 66)
“Research also shows that there is a negative side to positive self-statements and affirmations, showing that individuals with low self-esteem felt worse after repeating positive self-statements. Don’t become part of that statistic.
“The world may tell us that the mind is what the brain does, but God tells us that the brain will do what the mind tells it to do. And when your spirit, under the leading of the Holy Spirit, controls your soul, then the gold standard of thinking is achieved.” (p. 66)
As we remove brain toxicity by washing it with the blood of Christ and the water of the word, we are able to “hear” a clearer word from the inner voice of Christ. It is no longer distorted or colored by idols of the heart or by their first cousin, brain toxicity. Further, we begin to experience true peace and rest, for we are no longer harassed and driven by those past negative experiences.
One of most fascinating concepts that Dr. Leaf set forth is the concept of the “Sabbath in the Brain.” This is about entering God’s rest internally. This inner Sabbath, like the outward one, is not a state of idleness, as Jesus said (John 5:17), but a state of mind that is unhindered by inner conflict and unresolved trauma. For our brains to function with full intelligence, alertness, and balanced emotion, it must do so from a position of rest that is not disrupted by toxicity or heart idols.
“So when our brain enters the rest circuit, we don’t actually rest; we move into a highly intelligent, self-reflective, directed state. And the more often we go there, the more we get in touch with the deep, spiritual part of who we are. I believe God has created this state to directly connect us to Him and to develop and practice an awareness of His presence.” (pp. 82, 83)
“When there is a pause in your activity, a quiet state, that is a perfect time to connect to the spiritual part of who you are. In this state your mind can begin to understand what your spirit knows.” (p. 90)
From this state of Sabbath Brain Rest, the transfer of revelation from spirit to soul flows unhindered, and the body responds to the commands as a healthy, strong servant. No longer does the soul get its knowledge and instruction from the fleshly mind (brain). The soul looks to the spirit as the source of all wisdom, knowledge, and revelation, and the stream flows unhindered in the proper direction.
Each of our three minds have a purpose. When God created us this way, He pronounced it “very good” (Genesis 1:31). The brain is not evil in itself. Nothing in creation is evil in itself. The brain is a good servant, but a poor master. Yet in its natural state, the brain works best when the spirit-led soul is in authority over it. This is the natural order of things in creation. Understanding this can be of help, not only in rewiring our brains, but renewing our minds as well.
This goes a long way in assisting us in renewing our minds and in putting on the mind of Christ.
This is the final part of a series titled "How your three minds work for you." To view all parts, click the link below.