We usually think of New Year’s Day as the time for new beginnings, but the year has several entries for a new beginning. Easter week is one of these, as well as the new school year, which coincides closely with the time of Yom Kippur.
Many of the symbols or icons of Eastertime elicit thoughts of new starts, like baby chicks or Easter eggs. Springtime is a natural new beginning as all of nature rises from the dormancy of winter. I seem to have posted it everywhere, but when I found an article from the Harvard Business Review on “How I Became An Optimist” it started a revolutionary beginning of the year for me. I might have had resolutions at the beginning of 2011, but to have a practical set of actions that will create new neural pathways in my brain seems even better. In sum, the article steps to more optimism follows author Tony Schwartz ritual :
“to get out of bed when I awoke, go to my desk, and write down what I was worrying about — just the facts. Next, I wrote down the story I was telling myself about those facts. Finally, I worked to conceive a more realistically optimistic story I could tell myself, based on the same incontrovertible facts.”
Any of us with negative thought patterns and vague worries could follow that ritual ourselves. Which is why I posted it everywhere, Facebook, Twitter, and in my blog. It is simple, it is practical, and given some of the information I read and listened to from Dr. Amen, who wrote ‘Change Your Brain, Change Your Life: The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness, Anger, and Impulsiveness’, it is a good way to change my brain.
Spiritually New Thinking
Of course, in thinking about Easter, it isn’t the steps we take to improve our brains or lifestyle that most impacts us. It is what Christ has done for us that makes a completely new life, and not just turning over a new leaf. Think of the newness of that! What I love about adding in ideas of creating new thought patterns is the way we have overlooked that in our Christian theology, and how it brings it back into proper perspective. We have a new birth and become new creations through the resurrection of Christ, and nothing can imitate or replace that; but we also have a need to renew our minds. What, in our lives shows us how to renew our minds? It isn’t just a one step process. So much deconstruction goes on in Christian theology that old admonitions to “read and believe the Bible” can be lost under the pile of confusion of a complex modern world.
Some of these simple procedures and scientific trivia facts almost seem tailor made to resurrect them for us.
For Schwartz, it seems to have been almost effortless and surprising,
I did this every morning, dutifully, for several months, and it usually made me feel at least a little better. I also began to notice that the negative outcome I initially imagined rarely came to pass.
Finally one morning I woke up, and as usual, a challenging issue for that day came into my mind. This time, however, before any negative story could take its usual place, a more realistically optimistic one occurred to me, effortlessly.
Something profound had occurred. In the days ahead, it was if my whole center of gravity had shifted. I felt like the sun had finally broken through the clouds and it was there to stay. What happened, I believe, is that through my ritual, I ultimately created new neural paths in my brain.
We languish for years in thought patterns that defeat us, and become convinced that we are somehow “made this way”, when there are ways we can change ourselves and our thinking with taking what seems like “baby steps”. The “just do it” simplicity of placing one foot, or in this case “one thought” in front of the other to create new pathways to follow. I believe that if I retrace some of these steps advised, I will at the very least find some strength that comes from a new way of thinking and the optimism it can build to give a kickstart to change in the year of 2011.
More New Thoughts
And what about that brand new concept in the New Covenant of “resting” in the finished work of Christ? That is spoken of at Easter, and it is an idea that is so foreign to us that it maybe the greatest revelation involved in Martin Luther’s insight of Salvation being a matter of Faith. We start out with the concept of grace which works by faith…. but how often do we devolve back towards trying to work our way into the good graces of God? What steps can we take to form new rituals of thinking about that? And to create an understanding of the paradox that we do the works of God while resting from our own.
This is food for thought while we finish the fasting of Lent and begin the feast of Easter.