The Spirit within a Body

We say as Christians that the Spirit of Christ dwells within us. But how do we gain greater access to the Spirit? Here’s one possibility.

Image courtesy of Lauri Nummenmaa, Enrico Glerean, Riita Hari, and Jari Hietanen

These body maps were designed by researchers in Finland who asked 700 volunteers from Finland, Sweden, and Taiwan to think about 1 of 14 predetermined emotions, and then paint the areas of a blank silhouette that felt stimulated by that particular emotion. They were then asked to paint the areas that felt “deactivated” while experiencing the emotion.

I particularly want to draw your attention to the stark contrast of happiness and neutral. As you can see, happiness is marked by much greater and widespread bodily sensation, while neutral is felt as something of a body-wide numbness, or you might just say unawareness. Someone who says they experience no emotion is simply disconnected from emotion. It is not that they are not experiencing emotion, but there is some kind of blockage that makes a person unaware of what is going on inside.

I am not a scientist, so the conclusions I am drawing are just my own mere wondering. I hope you will wonder with me.

One of the main goals of mindfulness is bodily awareness. One of the techniques for developing bodily awareness is through a meditative body scan. One begins by relaxing, breathing, and closing one’s eyes. Then you start with the top of your head and work your way down or start with your toes and move up. The goal is simply to become aware of what you are feeling in each part of your body.

Psychiatrist Daniel Siegel uses this technique with his patients not only to teach them a relaxation technique, but to assists them to look into their bodies for the buried emotions. These emotions are connected to either conscience or unconscious memories. Numbness can point to a detachment between emotion and consciousness, which could be a sign of forgotten trauma (for more check out his book Mindsight)

Another psychiatrist Curt Thompson took things into the spiritual realm by claiming that this emotional disconnect is also an indication of a spiritual disconnect. The body’s circuitry (primarily in the brain but also through the body, particularly in the gut and the heart where neurons are also found) is not hooked up properly. This happens as a result of a lack of loving and affirming parental connection while very young. This interferes with our own bodily, emotional, and spiritual awareness as well as our ability to build relationship with other including God. (for more check out his book The Anatomy of the Soul). These connections can be restored as we are loved and affirmed by others in our life, regardless of age.

If Siegel and Thompson are right then the  body scan above that corresponds to the emotion “happiness” would show a person who is both emotionally and spiritually healthy. It’s not that we will not and should not experience other emotions, but the greater our ability to experience  and be aware of sensation in our bodies and therefore emotions, the great our ability to connect with ourselves, others, and God. We might call this happiness: the ability to connect with others. Certainly alienation from ourselves, others, and God would be the opposite of happiness.

My reasoning for this is that in a state of happiness our bodies and their senses are in a better position to receive information from its environment and from within. Whereas in an unaware or depressed state we are relatively closed off to both the world around us and the world within us. Siegel and Thompson go so far as to say that the better attuned to our own inner world the better we can perceive and actually feel the emotions of others.

When Siegel meets with a patient he feels inside himself for an emotion that was not there before the person entered the room. He then check’s his own emotional state against the new emotion to determine what is his own emotion versus the emotion of the other person. It’s really a very remarkable thing. Ultimately we call this empathy.

My main claim throughout my blog is that through the perceivable presence of the Holy Spirit we are able to tap into the mind and emotion of Christ. So when we are able to tap into our own emotional state, which begins with bodily awareness,  we then we might find in addition to our own emotion the very emotion and mind of Christ (and therefore God) placed within us. This is what I would call a personal relationship with Christ.

I don’t believe this relationship, that has been championed by many evangelists over the years, is simply a proposition to be considered, but it is one that must be learned over time. We learn by practicing. And how can we have a relationship with a Spirit that is dwelling inside our minds, emotions, and even our bodies?

By seeking to become as fully aware as possible about what is happening within us and around us.




Cultivating the Fertile Soil of the Brain

Is your brain fertile soil for growth and change? Or is it rocky, thorny, or too hard for the seeds of transformation to take root?

According to psychiatrist Curt Thompson, the key to spiritual growth is having an integrated mind. He has applied the latest neuroscience to understanding how spiritual lives develop or not. He wrote, “Neuroscience research has discovered that people with a reasonable balance and level of helpful integrated communication between the different areas of their brains tend to have reduced anxiety and a greater sense of well-being. In other words, they have put themselves in the position to be available for the Holy Spirit to create those very characteristics that we so long to spring forth in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
Thompson suggests that an integrated mind is a prerequisite to having any deep relationship with anybody including one with God. If a person has a broken trust system (a disintegrated mind) then it will be very difficult for that person to have a relationship to God. Having an integrated mind does not mean that faith in God will naturally happen, but it can open up a person to God.

Having a dis-integrated mind is a mindless way of living. When our minds are dis-integrated we are unaware of our own emotional and bodily signals as well as the emotional signals of other people. And since God communicates to us through all these channels we become disconnected from ourselves, other people, and God.

The good news is that “through our redemption, this inclination can be reversed, making it possible for each of us to live with an integrated mind and play a larger role in God’s redemptive plan.” At the core of redemption is knowing that you are loved by God as seen through Christ.

To be known by God is to know that God chooses you to be his child and that he loves you. This allows us to be affected by God and others. And allows us to affect others in a deep sense. To do this we must trust ourselves with another. Being known and then being accepted allows our brains/minds to become re-integrated.

Anyone with the desire to do so can contribute to a person’s brain to become more fully integrated just by listening well, responding empathetically, and offering encouragement. Dis-integration happens when a child does not get these things from a parent. The result is that the person can get stuck in unhealthy and growth inhibiting patterns of thinking and behavior. It is as if there are thorns that choke the mind.

Judith Glaser writes in her book Conversational Intelligence “without healthy conversations we shrivel and die…” It is the basic of human interaction and it is so much more complex than we imagine. Conversations trigger certain parts of our brains and can cause us to either freeze up or open us up to a totally new experience. We can positively or negatively impact anyone we come into close enough proximity to have a conversation. A conversation can literally change our brains. Therefore, how we have a conversation is of great importance.

The key development that must happen for a person to change in neuroscience terms is to “stimulate neuronal activation and growth”. This means that we can actually grow new neurons and we can create new networks of neurons which enable us to be and behave differently. One might consider that neuronal activation and growth is related to new life in Christian terms. There is a new human being capable of changing that is emerging with each new neuron.

Thompson lists three activities (or in a sense conditions) that are necessary (or at least very helpful) to stimulate neuronal activation and growth: Aerobic activity, focused attention exercises (such as meditation), and novel learning experiences.

How many preachers have listed any of these things as necessary for one’s mind to become the mind of Christ? Usually we stick with the basics: prayer, Bible study, missional activity, worship, and fellowship. And all these things are necessary as well but they won’t necessarily produce any results without the above mentioned activities.

Scott Eblin in his booked Overworked and Overwhelmed asserts that American workers are overworked and overwhelmed and therefore less productive and less fulfilled. Being overworked and overwhelmed keeps our faith from going deep like rocky soil.  The clutter of our minds must be removed as much as possible. The solution to this problem is mindfulness which Elbin defines as awareness plus intention. He says, “By awareness, I mean awareness of what’s going on both around you and inside of you in any given moment. Being aware enables you to act in the moment with the intention of creating a particular outcome or result.”

We are all essentially in a tug of war between two parts of our automatic nervous system: our sympathetic nervous system (SNS), where our fight or flight response resides and our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), where our rest and digest response resides. When fight or flight is activated by our SNS our higher prefrontal cortex brain functioning is hijacked and suspended or at least impeded. We are in survival mode, overworked and overwhelmed. If our SNS is engaged it is like thorns that choke the possibility of new life to thrive. The key to regaining your higher brain function is to activate your PNS and enter into a rest and digest state.

This state allows our brains to take in much more information from our environments included the emotional states of others and our own emotional states, which are key to making good decisions and performing well. Included in that environment is the Holy Spirit.

Pastor and author Charles Stone takes “knowledge gleaned from neuroscience” and applies it “to the art of Christian leadership.” However, I would say the main idea of the book, at least the one that interests me, is that Stone takes the theological concept of sanctification and traces it in neuroscience terminology. “God’s spirit changes us to become more like God in belief and behavior through a process called sanctification, but only as we choose to cooperate with him. Through the process of sanctification, God changes not only how we think and behave but also our brain structure…We have free will, and by exercising that free will, we can actually change the wiring in our brains, a process called neuroplasticity.”

Through neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin, the brain essentially lubes itself for change. It gives it motivation, reward, and allows us to build trust. God uses these things to shape our brain, our thinking, and our behaviors into the mind of Christ. The Holy Spirit give us the  power and freedom to lift ourselves upward.

We can actually begin to reshape our brains by changing our habits. Neurotransmitters can enable us to shape our brains for better or worse. The Holy Spirit urges us toward the better.

The soil of your mind, soul, heart, and body are hungry for the seed of the Gospel. All you need is a little cultivation!










Do you feel me?


This is the sermon I preached July 10th.

Luke 10:25-37

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”


The word translated as pity in this passage can also be translation as compassion. The word literally means for one’s guts to be moved. It’s a strong feeling that moves one to take action in order to alleviate the suffering. The Samaritan sees a man on the side of the road who has been beaten and robbed. The sight stirs his guts to pity. And he takes action.

In the past week we have witnessed a bombing in Bagdad, two young black men shot by police officers, police officers are shot dead and others wounded, and two officers shot in other cities. If you watched any of the footage captured most likely you experienced strong feelings in your gut: pain, sadness, outrage, disgust, fear. Perhaps, though, the worst thing would be to feel nothing; to be so numb to the violence that we lose all compassion.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images


Psychiatrist Dan Siegel asserts that the key to being able to have deep and trusting relationships including our relationship with God is to feel that you are felt by another person. It means that you feel that another person understands you. This feeling gives you reason to be able to trust another person. If you do not feel you are understood by someone, it is hard to trust them because you feel you may be misunderstood or worse, ignored all together.

But being felt by another goes deeper than understanding, it gets down to our emotional bedrock, our deepest fears and anxieties and need for healing. When we are deeply felt by another and accepted by them even when we expose the things we are afraid to reveal to others, healing takes place.

The priest and the Levite show no evidence of feeling empathy for the beaten and robbed man on the side of the road. Perhaps they did but were afraid to help. Or perhaps by helping they felt they would become ritually impure. Or maybe they were just in a hurry. The bottom line is that these two men were considered to be deeply religious and they did not stop to help this man. They showed no compassion, pity, mercy, no evidence of empathy at all.

Research shows we tend to be partial with our compassion. We tend to have more empathy for the people who are most like us. Therefore, if an enemy suffers not only are we less likely to have feelings of compassion or pity, but we might even have some slight joy, which indeed would be a sickness of the soul. So this is what makes the compassion stirred in the Samaritan by seeing a beaten up and robbed Jew so significant. Jews and Samaritans were enemies. They hated each other.

So for a Samaritan to help a Jew, one who wished him dead probably, is beyond human understanding of compassion. We all struggle with showing compassion to others particularly for those who are different than us.

When I led a summer neighborhood basket ball ministry, there was a 14-year-old African-American boy named Ronnie who came sometimes. He had some trouble getting on a team, which is a shame because he could really play.  So instead he just hung out with the other boys and talked to whoever would listen, which wasn’t many people.

As we were eating, he asked if I could take him home afterward.  I agreed.  I needed to leave early to get home in time for dinner with extended family that was in town to see our new baby. If I had any feeling of compassion for Ronnie it had been overridden by my desire to get home. I was in a hurry and I have to also be open to the possibility that the color of his skin played a part in my feelings. None of us want to admit that, but racism runs deep and often outside of our consciousness.

“Ronnie,” I said. “Please hurry up and eat.  I need to get home to my family.” He got up and tossed his half-eaten plate in the trash. Uggh.  “Ok. Let’s go,” he said with some anger in his voice.

He walked on ahead of me. We got into the car.  He erupted with the words, “I tried to call you, but you didn’t answer.”  I had noticed he had called, but I was in the middle of something. I had ignored him. “My mom had to have surgery.  She lost a baby.  It got stuck in her tubes.  I wanted you to come and pray with her like we do at church.  You feel me, Pastor Paul?” Up to this point I had not been feeling him. But I was aware that my compassion was being stirred now.

Family could wait.  “Is she at home now?”

“Yeah, I been takin’ care of her.

“We could go pray for her now.”

He led me up the stairs and he went in the door and signaled for me to wait.  He came back, “She on the balcony.”  He led me to her. She had the look of dulled pain and grief that I have seen many times.  She smiled faintly when she saw me.  “Hey, Pastor Paul.”

We talked a little about what had happened.  Ronnie stood by her.  Then I offered to pray.  He took my hand with his right hand and his mother’s with his left.  I took her hand and we prayed. After I said amen, Ronnie looked at me and said, “I feel you, Pastor Paul.”

And that’s what is needed at this time. We need to gain some feeling for one another especially people who are different from us. It is this lack of feeling that allows an armed man to take aim and pull the trigger and take the life of another person.

And we have be willing to listen to Jesus like this Jewish lawyer in the passage. And we have to gently correct each other like Jesus corrects this man. Jesus doesn’t come down hard on the guy, but he corrects him through the story. And in the end the lawyer relates to the Samaritan over his own people. Something happened here. The lawyer felt Jesus feeling him. He felt Jesus’ compassion for him and his acceptance of him. He was able to trust Jesus enough to give up his defensive posture. And I believe he was beginning to tap into Jesus’ feelings which were on display in the Samaritan in the story.

To learn to act as Jesus calls us to act we must also learn to feel what he feels. He places these feelings within us of pity, compassion, and mercy. He says, “Do you feel me?” And Jesus shows no preference of one race over another, because Jesus has the heart of God who loves all people. It is not our nature to feel the same way, but when we take on the nature of Christ we take on his feelings.

This past week the world lost author Elie Wiesel, a Jewish concentration camp survivor during WWII. Once in the camp three people were hanged and they were forced to watch. One of the victims was just a boy and because he was so light his death was slow.  Wiesel described the horrifying scene, “And so he remained for more than half an hour, lingering between life and death, writhing before our eyes. And we were forced to look at him at close range. He was still alive when I passed him. His tongue was still red, his eyes not yet extinguished. Behind me, I heard a man asking: ‘For God’s sake, where is God?’ And from within me, I heard a voice answer: ‘Where He is? This is where–hanging here from this gallows…'”

(This picture hanging on my study wall by Polish artist Stefan Mrozewski, who was part of the underground resistance in WWII)img_20160711_115734831.jpg

Jesus suffers with us and for us. I want you to help me out with the end of this sermon. When I say, “Jesus says, ‘Do you feel me?’” You say, “I feel you Jesus.”

So when young black men are shot down in the street or in their cars, Jesus says “Do you feel me?”

When police officers are shot and killed as they protect the public, Jesus says, “Do you feel me?”

When Muslims in Bagdad are bombed to death by fellow Muslims, Jesus says “Do you feel me?”

When gay and lesbian people are mowed down in a night club, Jesus says “Do you feel me?”

When young girls are sold into slavery, Jesus says “Do you feel me?”

When teenagers take their own lives because of bullying, Jesus says, “Do you feel me?”

When senior citizens sit alone feeling utterly abandoned, Jesus says, “Do you feel me?”

And when you find yourself in the midst of suffering, when you mother has died, when your husband has been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, when you lay in bed at night wracked with fear, Jesus says to you, “I feel you. I am with you. Do you feel me?”

Unhijacking the American Mind

photo by Thad Zadjowicz


“When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

This is the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence (you knew that!).

Jefferson did the first draft, but this final version required the clear thinking  and cooperation of several members of the Continental Congress.

Think about this. This was written while British troops battled their way through our rag-tag army of American militia forces. I am not sure (m)any of us can fully appreciate what it is like to have war being waged within our own land. Now imagine the level of fear and pressure that the congress was facing. And yet, they produced one of the greatest and clearest products of the American mind or even the human mind period.

I am not suggesting to you that these men were Buddhist monks, but they lived in a world where the mind was not totally hijacked by busyness and anxiety. Their minds were free to think and reflect and they had time to do so. Most of them lived in rural settings where time was governed by the light of the sun. They were free to think. They were not pacing around a situation room with TV monitors and computers screens, smart phones in hand with def-con colors flashing.

Fear, pressure, multi-tasking, information barrage, and a high level of anxiety and distrust all contribute to brain hijack. Your brain gets reduced to a small almond shaped part of your brain called the amygdala. Your amygdala takes over when your oldest and least evolved part of your brain, the brain stem, senses that there may be danger. And when this happens your amygdala draws all your brain and body’s resource into itself to prepare to run or fight.

This means that the part of our brains that can have the kind of clear and creative thinking that our Founding Fathers had is inaccessible when our amygdalas are in control.Think of a wild animal living in the wild that has only one thing on its mind: survival. It can’t think or sleep in any significant way. Always wary of any movement or sound. Everything is a potential threat. To some degree, that is the world we live in.

from Caters News Agency


Evidence displays itself on the floor of congress when every argument seems to be expressed in absolute, life or death terms. Or throughout the presidential compaign where every sound bite revolves around fear and distrust. Or even locally where mosques are being protested by angry (fearful) local residents.

And yet, we live in a safer and more stable world than the world our early American ancestors lived in.

The American mind is hijacked by fear.

Today, 240 years later on the celebration of our independence as a nation, we have a golden opportunity to unhijack our minds. A holiday allows us to take back our brains and our thinking. Here are just a few ways to reduce your fear and anxiety and allow your brain to function well again:

  1. Have fun! Whether it’s a dip in the pool, throwing a baseball, or just laughing it up with friends, having fun relaxes your amygdala and allows your brain to experience emotions like joy and peace.
  2. Relax and rest. Nothing like a good nap or lounging around with no obligations pressing on you to unhijack your brain from stress.
  3. Get physical. Pick your pleasure. Whether it’s a good jog, lifting weights, or a roll in the hay, exercise releases great chemicals in your body like serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin (especially when romance is involved😉
  4. Enjoy a delicious and healthy meal with friends (regardless of political affiliation). When you are in a state of relaxation, you’re appetite is much better. Also, sharing it with others builds the kind of trust (oxytocin- chemical underlying trust) we need in America. Along with your meats, eat some good fresh vegetables and fruits. They help lower the stress produced cortisol in our system.(Foods that reduce your cortisol)
  5. Remember that you are free. Our ancestors helped win that for us. But all real and lasting freedom comes from the mind of Christ. As we free ourselves from our fears and stresses, our minds become open not only to what is going on around us and in ourselves, but to Christ and his mind. Through his mind, you are free to use your mind and your whole being to accomplish his will, which is to establish peace and freedom on earth.

Now, go out there today, declaring independence from the tyranny of your amygdala and do your part to help unhijack our American Mind!

photo by Robert Linder

The Problem of Neck Up Living

photo by Mario Trejo

If you’re like me, most of your life is lived neck up. The main thing I intentionally use my body for at work is to sit and type. I use my brain, my voice, my ears. When I preach, I use my legs to hold me up and I wave my arms around a bit when I get excited. Sometimes I lay my hand on a shoulder and I shake hands and for some who are more touchy feely, I will offer a hug.

Outside of work I use my hands, arms, and right foot to drive. My phone and radio are hands free. I supposed I could write this blog hands free if I wanted to. I guess I am still a bit old school. I use my thumbs an inordinate amount flipping through pages with my phone. I use my jaws to eat food, but once it gets down my throat, my unconscious, neck down body takes over…until it has been fully processed and then there is some business to take care of. And yes, there are bedroom activities, but let’s say I am modest.

But for the most part my neck down body is something of a barely animate object or at least that’s how I think about it. I don’t exercise much, nor do I even really stretch much. I worry that I, along with the human race, will become like it did in the movie Wall-E. The people spend their lives in floating Papasan chairs. They have these little lifeless legs and  are all just big blobs. Life is all mindless and bodiless entertainment and then you die. AAGGH! I’m not there, yet, but I feel like I could get there if I work at it. Or rather never work at it.

Perhaps the best thing that ever happened to me was having an anxiety attack. It was as if my neck down body was screaming at me, “We are still alive down here!!! Pay attention to us!!!” One of the things I have learned through my journey of anxiety is that emotions are experienced throughout our bodies, not just in our brain. In fact, our brains are part of our bodies as well, not just some disembodied collection of thoughts. Our thoughts, our movement, our emotions, our internal processes, and our spiritual lives are all caught up in our whole bodies.

We were not created for living exclusively neck up. And if you neglect the rest of your body, it will start to rebel, I promise. But there is also a problem with just thinking about the rest of your body as some burden we must give attention to or die.

Living a full-body life will connect you with joy and a whole hosts of other wonderful emotions, feelings, and sensations.

photo by Mario Trejo

I began gaining a sense of this when I started taking my son to the neighborhood pool. Something about playing in the pool with a four-year old opened up great feelings of joy and peace.

My skin celebrated the wonderful sensation of emersion. My muscles shouted for joy as I threw my giggling son up into the air.  My joints seemed to sing a song as I glided through the water. And low and behold, my anxiety departed. My soul began to emerge down from the depths of my body, traveling up my spine, through my neck into my brain’s stem and then through the emotional center, and probably an unconscious smile before it finally made it to my prefrontal cortex–the place of awareness

In reality our entire bodies are places of awareness, not just our prefrontal cortexes. Our bodies are how we experience  the world around us, the world within us, and even the world beyond us.

photo by Penny Matthews

God put us in bodies for a reason. He speaks to us through our bodily sensations, our stomachs and chests, through our emotions, not just the space between our ears and above our necks.

And maybe that’s why God came to us in a body, one we call Jesus Christ. Maybe he wanted us to know that our bodies matter. I am not asking you to get out of your head, but to get below your neck as well and experience a full-bodied life.

Live in your body! Give thanks for it! Celebrate it by  engaging it fully!




“Calm” Meditation App

If you are like me, you might need some help in learning how to meditate and maintain your practice. A friend of mine turned me on to a fabulous guided meditation app called Calm. You can use it on your desktop or phone. The voice on it is sooooo soothing. I use the beach setting. The sound of waves gets me to a happy place quickly. This app has greatly enhanced both my spiritual and emotional life. Give it go!




Sharing the Mind of Christ through Emotional Resonance

My daughter🙂

I’ll bet you are smiling right now. She wasn’t smiling because I smiled at her. This smile was just a pure gift to me. And yes, it made me smile. Still does.

Perhaps you have noticed how when certain people walk into a room they seem to have the ability to change the whole emotional climate of the room for better or for worse. Some dampen the spirit of the room while others put a smile on everyone’s face. Charismatic speakers also have the same ability to move a crowd. You might also experience this just through a one on one conversation. Has anyone ever said to you, “I feel better just talking to you!”?

One major explanation for this is found in the concept called limbic resonance (or for the sake of this blog, I will call it emotional resonance). The limbic system is the region in your brain that is the home for emotion, behavior, long-term memory, and motivation. Without getting into all the science (of which I am no expert), neuroscientists have discovered that this part of your brain runs on an open loop rather than closed. In other words, our limbic systems affect other people’s limbic systems and vice versa. It’s kind of like an electromagnet field except it can travel through emotions. It can even span great distance through electronic media such as TV or Radio. Although, it resonates most powerfully up close and personal.

Here’s what happens (again, this is the kindergarten version-I’ll do my best): You have neurons in your limbic system called mirror neurons. Mirror neurons fire when a person (any mammal) acts or is acted upon, but it also fires just by witnessing someone else acting or being acted upon. This is what we call empathy. When we witness another person in pain our mirror neurons fire up and we empathically feel their pain.

photo by Benjamin Pop

When we think of empathy we usually think of pain and suffering, but the same is true for joy and excitement. We smile or laugh or feel elated when we witness these emotional states in other people.

When you live or work in close proximity to people over a period of time, your emotions become linked to them. Children, in particular, are wide open to your emotional states. If you are depressed and not able to manage your depression well, your children are vulnerable to your depression. And on the other end, if you are joyful, your children are more likely to be joyful. Believe me as a parent of young children, knowing this stuff can make you a lot more sensitive to your emotional states.

Now, let’s shift gears. As I have mentioned in previous blogs by becoming more emotionally aware of what’s going on inside of us and around us (or we might say mindfulness), we become more open to the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit gives us awareness of the mind of Christ.

Think of the Holy Spirit as radio waves and your brains receptors as an antenna. I realize that this will be hard for many of you to believe unless you’re Pentecostal, but this Presbyterian believes that the Holy Spirit is a perceivable entity. And I also believe that Christ is also a living and perceivable entity through the Spirit. (As a side note, let me say that believing something doesn’t make it real, nor does disbelieving something negate its reality.)

Now, if we have access to the mind of Christ, we have access to both his thinking and his emotional states. Does that blow your mind at least a little? It does mine. Perhaps being a spiritually mature person from a Christian standpoint means that you are in a state of emotional resonance with Christ. Emotional resonance is science. Having emotional resonance with Christ is faith.


At the very least, can we agree that Jesus, as he was on earth, had an emotional impact on his followers? Why, then, would it be any different for his followers today? How do you think Christ feels when he sees great suffering or injustice? How do you think he feels when a baby is born? What if what you are feeling IS what Christ is feeling?

Not that I have proven anything to the skeptics, but if you accept what I am saying as at least a possibility, then let us consider how we might impact the people in our lives. If you are in some way in emotional resonance with Christ, then your brain from its limbic system can impact the brains of the people you have influence on or even proximity with. The very mind of Christ can be projected through you into the brain of someone else through their mirror neurons residing in the limbic system. And it also means that you might find Christ smiling at you through someone else. Maybe even through an 8 month old child.

That’s some hands-free Vulcan mind meld evangelism going on!

I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my limbic system!

Think about it.