Looking for what is Good
How do we train ourselves to look for the good? In neuroscience there is a concept called confirmation bias. It means what we believe is what we see. When we approach a situation with a preconceived notion of what it might, or should be, then we are blinded to the fullest potential and truth of what it really is.There is a classic line that says, ‘when a pickpocket sees a saint, all he sees are the pockets’. If we see others as a threat, that's how we will act and that’s what we will create for others. If we see others as inherently good, we will gravitate toward that. Our brains have different regions to address different purposes. The reptilian brain is designed to anticipate the worst. But when we start to train the brain to habituate itself to see the good in ourselves, as well as the good in others then incredible changes can happen. Much of our bonding often happens through negativity bias. It is the bonding that we create through a perceived threat. Looking at how different parts of the brain function may be helpful to understand why it may be challenging to see what is good. The reptilian brain is all about self-preservation and avoiding domination. Perhaps when we look at our own thoughts we may notice that they are indeed, mostly about self-preservation. For example, when walking down the street, we are probably scanning for potential threats. This is a very good thing. Being hit by a car could land us in very unpleasant circumstances and would be a huge threat to our survival. Above the reptilian brain sits the mammalian brain. This area of the brain is more about feelings and tribal relationships. It's about our tribe. Fundamentally everyone outside this tribe is perceived as the enemy. The tribe may be our family, our neighbourhood, our city, our country or our like-minded communities. There's an inherent threat that this part of the brain is continuously functioning from. If we lose the connection to any or all of the above, the mammalian brain will do all it can to regain some kind of feeling of connection to something. Addictions may be a desperate search for a tribe. We may seek out folks with similar addictions or strive to act in ways that help us feel that we are accepted by others, so that we have a sense of belonging and thereby calm our mammalian brain. Fear of not belonging is understood to be the driving force which fuels tribal consciousness. The western world society lives out of tribal consciousness. Perhaps our biggest symbol of these differences is the national flag that each country flies to identify its differences. Then there is the prefrontal cortex. It has to do with self-regulation and discriminating thought. It is here that wisdom is cultivated and nurtured. Aren't others just like us? What do we have in common? We may not speak the same language or have the same costumes, but are we not all human? Do not all have feelings, desires, wants and eventually get old and die? Self-awareness and reconciliation is what happens when we practice meditation. The more we become self-aware on our mediation cushion or yoga mat, the more aware we are able to become of others. The ultimate realization is the world is one family. Great mystics, philosophers, teachers and wise souls all remind us that the human journey is to evolve the brain and connect to Source (Spirit, God, Presence, Nature) so that we can move from the small tribe to the big Earth tribe. Know who you are and then know that you are a being with the primal need to survive, to belong, and to evolve and grow beyond the parameters of our primal wiring. In the practice of loving kindness meditation we begin by wishing ourselves well with statements such as, ‘May I feel safe, may I be at ease, may I feel free, may I be well, may I be free from suffering, may I be protected from inner and outer harm, may I be happy…’ Then, the same wishes we have for ourselves, we wish for others in our tribe. Finally, the same wishes are offered to the whole planet. It’s a large and significant task which takes time and consistent practice, but as we know, loving intention and prayer work to make us better human beings, to ultimately to make the world a better place. Is this not worth our time? So, can we commit to taking the time to be in this relationship of loving kindness? Can we train all the parts of our brain to be held and soothed so that they may function as they are meant to, as discriminating and loving members of the human tribe? Many blessings in your practice of loving kindness and in the celebration of all beings. Jai Bhagwan!