The point of Lent was to sharpen the tools we need to cut through the fog of life for the sake of love. Now is the time to use these tools to cultivate a serious harvest of love. Here’s a simple plan to use brain science to pull it all together!
First, prune complaining and plant gratitude. Gratitude rewires the brain’s natural default focus on what is scary and wrong with life. Cultivated gratitude reverses this tendency and is THE key to happiness. How do we see what is good? Slow down. Franz Kafka promises ecstasy when we stay awake to the present moment:
“It is not necessary that you leave the house. Remain at your table and listen. Do not even listen, only wait. Do not even wait, be wholly still and alone. The world will present itself to you for its unmasking, it can do no other, in ecstasy it will writhe at your feet.”
Once we see the good things of life, then we can commit our gratitude to writing and action. For example, pick one item per day from your gratitude list and send a text or email to say “thank you”. Most of all, keep learning about how to make gratitude the healthy center of your spiritual life.
Second, prune criticism and plant compassion. What has always been a foundation of Jesus’ teaching is now accepted by brain scientists. How? Brain science and Jesus agree: Praying for our enemies grows compassion and is good for our hearts. Research affirms we should keep it simple. Think of those we struggle with and simply pray: “May they be filled with loving kindness. May they be free from suffering. May they have joy and ease.”
Third, prune empty religious attachments and plant seeds of kindness and love. (Remember, if our religious practices make us harder to be around, we are doing it wrong!) Robust spirituality requires relentless renewal. Because our brains constantly automate tasks, religious rituals trend towards empty compulsions that leave us feeling burdened rather than motivated to love. In my favorite Easter story Peter is wallowing in shame and Jesus asks him three times if he still loves Jesus. All three times Jesus simply says, THEN LOVE!—i.e., “feed my sheep” (John 21:15-19). The “North Star” of our religious quest is always a harvest of love!
Let’s celebrate our Lenten journey, and let’s keep pruning and planting so that our lives bear the fruit of love! Happy Easter Season!