Brain Stems and Plant Parts

Every day I sweep up plant parts.  That’s not true.  Some days I let them lie there, scattered and blowing across my wide-tiled floor. Little grains of seed settle into the grouted rows that criss-cross my home.  I feel them on the bottom of my bare feet when I pace, searching the air for words.

Sometimes when a whole petal is intact, I touch it with my toes, hoping, but it has lost the velvet feel the live ones have. Retrieving the broom makes me sad: sweeping floral debris a small funeral, dumping dustpan into trash an unceremonious burial.

But, to feel love instead of loss, I only need look up to the vibrant bunches of blooms still hanging in front of my open sliding doors, the branches a frame for the sea.  It’s easy to forget the staggering abundance of the opportunity to look at this…or that.

In literally our every moment we decide (aka interpret) what to see.  Our brains, developed over some six million years, have three main parts.  Take a look:


It is often our reptilian (old/survival) brain and/or ego doing the deciding/interpreting, which means we waste a lot of energy busying our new thinking brain to justify and defend what we think we “see”.  Let me explain.

I was just on vacation with friends I’ve known for years, friends I love.  I made a careless comment, a friend called me on it, and we all quickly entangled in debate.  Before I knew it, I was coming off as judgmental and maybe even a bit cruel and our feelings got hurt.  Ughh.

It’s times like those that being human feels exhausting and loving being one seems impossible.  If I could have “seen” a differing opinion or maybe even constructive feedback instead of an attack, I could have built love instead of loss.

It was a “small” event, we moved on, and there are certainly worse tragedies–except that what was at the root of that minor conflict is the root of all conflict, no matter how large.  When we “see” attack our old brain literally kicks our thinking brain out of the driver’s seat.  We are reduced to ancient patterns of instinct coded for two very limited choices:  fight or flight. This is a very helpful response when there is a tiger coming at you!  The problem is, our old brain doesn’t really discern levels of threat.  So a comment from a disagreeing friend is interpreted as “You’re going to die, defend yourself or run!”

And this is not only ridiculous, it’s actually amusing and key to transforming ourselves.  I believe that “who we are” is really “who we are being” moment after moment.  I try not to say “I am” and instead say “I am committed to being”.  The very best we humans can do is look at those moments in which our actions don’t line up to our commitments…and grow from them. So that maybe next time we can hold on to our capacity to think and choose from our commitments rather than from our archaic programming.

For me, a bit of comic relief is the perfect tool.  Next time, when my friend makes a comment maybe I’ll remember I’m not going to DIE (maybe even laugh at the concept of it) and choose a next action based in love.  Because the only way I’m committed to being is loving.  And just imagine a world if we stopped defending and started loving.

Anyone can slay a dragon.  Try waking up every morning and loving the world all over again.  That’s what takes a real hero.   –Brian Andreas

Tonight, I close my eyes against another late island night with forgiveness.  For my race, for my friend, for myself.  I’ll not waste this precious life in regret.  I take comfort knowing they’ll soon be morning sun on my face.  I’ll rise with it and use its brilliant light to see my world with love.

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