Deepen into the Heart by Rev. Anthony Makar

The silent snow comes down
white and weightless;
snowfall makes no noise,
falls as forgetting falls,
flake after flake.

These words of Miguel de Unamuno help me to understand my experience this past Friday when the snow fell.

I felt divided in two.

One part understood instinctively that it was a time to get out of my head and into my senses and the present moment. Get outside and roll around in the white sticky stuff, have a snowball fight, make a snowman, PLAY!

Or play in a different sense: let the snow fall do what it does to the poet: evoke imagination. Snow as “skyflowers,” snow as “pale lilies from the clouds.”

Or let the snow do this: let it trigger Buddha nature or Christ consciousness. Let it invoke silence and holiness and peace….

This was one part of me. But the other part: THAT part was all head stuff. The present moment was abandoned and I was launched into loops of mental chatter. Worry that we were going to see Snowpocalypse part deux. Resentment towards the hour it took to travel just three miles and the insane things that other drivers were doing. All the judgy things coming out of my mouth. No playfulness at all. And definitely no forgetting but remembering, vividly, that Friday night was the Moravian Love Feast and what was going to happen with that? What are the plans in view of the inclement weather?

What are you going to do, Rev. Makar?

The snow fall triggered struggle in me. Like the poet, my heart wanted something deeply, even as my head was caught in its endless wordy loops of worry and judgmentalism and strategizing:

Snow, delicate snow,
that falls with such lightness
on the head,
on the feelings,
come and cover over the sadness
that lies always in my reason.

Miguel de Unamuno’s poem is called “The Snowfall is So Silent,” and it evokes the doubleness in my life and in yours. The capacity to be fully in the present moment—whether that evokes literal play or a play of the spirit—vs. “the sadness that lies always in my reason.”

Potentials for both are in us. Sometimes we deepen into the head. And sometimes, we deepen into the heart.

Actually, what many people would argue and what I would argue is that things can become terribly imbalanced in favor of the head, simply by virtue of what it means to grow up. Growing up means that you learn how to be function as an independent and responsible person in society. Growing up means that your time and energy are increasingly tied up in duties of one kind or another. This is just how it is.

And it changes you, in favor of the head.

Listen to how the rock group Supertramp describes this:

When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful, a miracle, it was beautiful, magical
And all the birds in the trees, well they’d be singing so happily, joyfully, playfully, watching me
But then they sent me away to teach me how to be sensible, logical, responsible, practical
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable, clinical, intellectual, cynical
There are times when all the world’s asleep
The questions run too deep for such a simple man
Won’t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned
I know it sounds absurd but please tell me who I am

How many of you, feeling the crush of trying to make enough money to survive, trying to find enough time to do everything that needs to be done, have ever said something similar?

I know it sounds absurd but please tell me who I am

Because head and heart have grown estranged.

Reason grows sad because it has lost touch with the heart.

In some people, the loss is so great that they don’t even know about it. Or they just don’t care.

“The real dirty little secret of religiosity in America is that there are so many people for whom spiritual interest, thinking about ultimate questions, is minimal,” says Mark Silk, professor of religion and public life at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.

Perhaps you have heard of the “Nones,” the people who checked “no religious identity” on the American Religious Identification Survey. In 1990, they were 8 percent of the population; in 2008 they increased to 15 percent; and in 2014 they comprise a whopping 22.8 percent. But what you most need to know is about a subset of the “Nones,” which is called the “So What’s.” These are the folks who said they believed “nothing in particular” and just don’t care about matters of spirit and soul.

I pray for myself and for all of us

Snow, delicate snow,
come and cover over the sadness
that lies always in my reason.

At least help create a better balance in our lives, so we never forget the playfulness and peace that is also a potential.

For some people, that prayer comes true in a way that’s more blizzard than gentle snow fall.

Here’s how it happened for Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor. New York Times writer Leslie Kaufman does a great job summarizing the basic story:

Jill Bolte Taylor was a neuroscientist working at Harvard’s brain research center when she experienced nirvana.
But she did it by having a stroke.
On Dec. 10, 1996, Dr. Taylor, then 37, woke up in her apartment near Boston with a piercing pain behind her eye. A blood vessel in her brain had popped. Within minutes, her left lobe — the source of ego, analysis, judgment and context — began to fail her. Oddly, it felt great.
The incessant chatter that normally filled her mind disappeared. Her everyday worries — about a brother with schizophrenia and her high-powered job — untethered themselves from her and slid away.
Her perceptions changed, too. She could see that the atoms and molecules making up her body blended with the space around her; the whole world and the creatures in it were all part of the same magnificent field of shimmering energy.
“My perception of physical boundaries was no longer limited to where my skin met air,” she has written in her memoir, “My Stroke of Insight,” which was […] published by Viking.
After experiencing intense pain, she said, her body disconnected from her mind. “I felt like a genie liberated from its bottle,” she wrote in her book. “The energy of my spirit seemed to flow like a great whale gliding through a sea of silent euphoria.”
While her spirit soared, her body struggled to live. She had a clot the size of a golf ball in her head, and without the use of her left hemisphere she lost basic analytical functions like her ability to speak, to understand numbers or letters, and even, at first, to recognize her mother. A friend took her to the hospital. Surgery and eight years of recovery followed.
Today, she says, she is a new person, one who “can step into the consciousness of my right hemisphere” on command and be “one with all that is.”
To her it is not faith, but science. She brings a deep personal understanding to something she long studied: that the two lobes of the brain have very different personalities. Generally, the left brain gives us context, ego, time, logic. The right brain gives us creativity and empathy. For most English-speakers, the left brain, which processes language, is dominant. Dr. Taylor’s insight is that it doesn’t have to be so.
Her message, that people can choose to live a more peaceful, spiritual life by sidestepping their left brain, has resonated widely.

And that’s Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s story. It’s just fascinating. The irony of being a neuroscientist having a direct personal experience of the kind of phenomena she had previously studied in others. Her vivid experience of the different personalities of the two lobes of the brain—not just as some theory, but as lived reality. Her right-brain experience of being a genie liberated from its bottle. The before and after. Before, she was completely in her head and was hard core adulting, focused on care for her schizophrenic brother and climbing the Harvard ladder. After, she became all heart. Compassion. Vision. An evangelist for right brain consciousness, to boot.

It wasn’t snow fall, but a stroke, that did it.

And we can learn from it. Let her stroke help us recognize what’s happening when things like snow fall comes, and a part of us feels like it wants to curl up in a corner like a cat, purring, and be One With The Universe. Because we can! The right lobe of the brain is ready to make that experience happen!

So let it. Learn from Jill Bolte Taylor’s stroke. Receive more graciously into our lives the things that come like snow fall. Like poetry. Or music. Or playing with a pet. Or laughter. Or making art. Or walking.

Or coming to the Moravian Love Feast next Friday.

Allow all such things to put us in right brain consciousness. Choose that, more often.

And not to allow the Left-brain to dominate, which is the judgmental and critical voice within us. “Dependable, clinical, intellectual, cynical.”

Let the Left-brain thought happen, feel it for 90 seconds, then let it go. And get back to Right-brain bliss.

What Supertramp sings about is not inevitable. It doesn’t have to be that way.

The estrangement of head and heart that characterizes the “So What’s” in this world is something that can be healed.

Yes, life is busy and time is rare. We have to dwell in left-brain consciousness to be functional adults. But we are not healthy if we dwell there totally.

There will always be a doubleness to our lives, because it is literally structured into our brains.

But we can choose a better balance.

“There’s nothing more beautiful, says Dr. Taylor, “then walking in the rain. There’s nothing more beautiful than walking in a fresh snow. There’s nothing more beautiful than slipping on the ice and falling on your butt.  It’s like whoa and you are laying there with the air knocked out of you, and you think that is so cool, if I were dead I wouldn’t have been able to have the experience! It’s all good!”

That’s what she says.

And it is all good.

It is.