The more the ‘issue’ grips us, the more …
Our brain is plastic, in the neuroscientific sense of the word ‘plastic’, meaning it has the ability to change, to adapt, to learn new response patterns.
It is never too late to attempt enduring changes in the way we perceive, in the way we think, in the way we respond. The saying, ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ only applies to elderly dogs. It never applies to us, humans.
Truth is, we can always identify our emotional risk factors, our triggers, our weak spots. Accordingly, we can build up cognitive coherence and cognitive reserve through the awareness of our heart/brain connection. That, in turn, can be strengthened by an ongoing challenge to the ego-persona to step up, to be curious, to engage in lateral thinking that will help it cope better with disappointment, frustrations and failures. Why not coin a name for that positive mindset and call it Heart Stimulation Therapy?
For those of us not particularly prone to tantrums and over-reactive, destructive behaviour, the main hurdle to changing behaviour and reduce the risk of ‘heart failure’ destabilising our body’s systems, is the unavoidable lapse of time between what we wish to set up and not knowing whether it will bear rewards in an elusive, unpredictable future.
Our mind is not built for delayed gratification and even less when the objective is intangible and unquantifiable.
Now that I think of it, when it comes to our search for contentment in the fulness of time, the difficulty we have to sacrifice today for gains later is similar to the challenge people face in their 40s and 60s to alter their lifestyle in the hope of reducing risk factors that might lead to dementia in their older age.
Actually, it is the same resistance to delayed gratification that bars us, citizens of the world, politicians, economists and scientists worldwide from the will to concentrate -while we still have a narrow window of opportunity – on overhauling the world systems in every way and in every moment to forestall the massive climate catastrophe predicted, at the latest, for 2050.
It is generally accepted that natural disasters of ever-growing magnitudes are highly likely in the near future. We understand that there will be more famine in vulnerable parts of the world – more and higher rises in sea levels – and, therefore, more displaced persons and an ever-greater influx of refugees. But there are more urgent needs and problems in our homes and in our streets to tend to today, for an immediate tomorrow. More pressing than thinking about what of our comfort and lifestyle we are willing to sacrifice. More urgent than transitioning grass-grazing livestock to grain-only diets.More urgent than reducing food and clothing waste. More compelling than working out the logistics of reforesting massive regions to bring down the level of carbon dioxide in the air.
So, basically, whether we are talking about attempting to ultimately bypass dementia and heart attacks, controlling the planet’s temperature if only to ensure human survival or finding our emotional core, the window of opportunity for action is getting smaller with every passing day.
Sometimes, the notion of cause and effect is totally lost on us. The impetus for substantive practices keeps eluding us in exchange for the more immediate gratification of short-term strategies that often yield limited, long-term gains.
It is easier, at least in the short term, to shrug and say, ‘I’m human after all. There’s only so much I can do. There’s only so much I can take. There’s only so much effort I can invest in this thing.’
The best way, probably the only way, to raise our emotional responses and, therefore, our happiness quotient, is to forget all about doing it mind-over-matter which is akin to attempting to crush a rubber ball with a hammer. Unfailingly, it either bounces back or rolls away from under the hammer.
Instead, we can develop a practice of calm surrender – an exercise of faith in Soul. Leaning into her is an active process – truly one of mind over physical, 3-D matter. It means bypassing the default reflex to anticipate everyone’s next move – or the elusive future in general – through either a negative or positive bias. It means living in healthy, calculated, conscious detachment almost as per the old song, Que Sera, Sera/Whatever Will Be Will Be, the song of The Doris Day Show, the famous sitcom of the ’60s. Oh, to be a little puffy cloud unaware of itself, drifting weightlessly beneath a soft blue sky!
Mind-meandering back to the analogy made in the previous section and to my resolution to always show up as the best version of myself, most difficult when interacting with my mother, like a climber intent on summiting Mt Everest, I knew I had to be steadfast.
No – Thinking that, at some point, my ageing mother would be moved to become an active agent in the repairing of our relationship was never a likely option. Not then, not now.
If I was to succeed in my quest, I had to give up the childish expectation that, despite her entrenched narcissistic personality, she would, one day, be moved to demonstrate her motherly love through gentle words and caring actions.
Equally, I had to preserve my original intention to keep the door open between us – the first step towards rehabilitating us into a healthier closeness. And so, to use as a metaphor a strategy favoured by high altitude trekkers in anticipation of altitude-dry air causing the sort of violent coughing that leads to broken ribs, I strapped my chest as tightly as with a tourniquet and got back on the trail.
To make any progress, I had to manage the next step and the one after that through resilience – without looking back or down. Even without looking up the track at the risk of being distracted by ‘all’ the obstacles imagined along the way.
Bottom line: in the absence of siblings, of children and grandchildren, of relatives and [on my mother’s side] the lack of friends who might otherwise step in as moderators, she and I remained karmically isolated from any comforting, objective or realigning third-party opinions. Except, that is, for the selfless support provided by Myahr, my then new partner – now my partner of 22 years.
When I first bumped into Myahr in my new place of work, she had already been in charge of an extensive department for several years. At the time, I only thought in terms of a ‘lucky’ encounter. When we decided to move in together, I thought, sure why not. It is only later, much later that I understood that, in fact, the stars had aligned, as the expression goes, to put us together.
Of course, our ‘chance’ coming together had nothing to do with chance and everything to do with karmic destiny.
How to think otherwise, when I can’t begin to imagine how any other thoughtful and caring person, well-respected by colleagues and peers alike would, as an adult already in her forties, try to overlook my mother’s unwarranted, acerbic and ungrateful remarks, in order to support me in my quest.
Though not particularly interested in spirituality or conscious evolution, Myahr ‘got’ the importance I placed in reaching my objective – keeping afloat my daughter/mother relationship. Selflessly, she gave me unwavering support and solace – which meant going far beyond developing a thick skin, which she initially had to do, and in a hurry.
More importantly, her selflessness meant developing an expanded heart that would enable her to process healthily, with minimal resentment what came to pass again and again – and to always show up as the best version of the character she had been karmically enrolled to play in this lifetime.
Instead of trying to manage the overwhelming amount of stress by resisting it and by arguing about it, our chances for success improved drastically once we chose to clarify together the energy thrust upon us by the trauma.
If it is true that we cannot go back to change the beginning of any situation, it is equally true that, at any point, we can co-create the end differently, and Myarh has been my essential offsider in this process.