Precepts: Miracle, Mornings & Photograph

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Articles, Spirituality

Photo Credit: Runga / Tammy Horton Photography

Welcome back to my Precepts series—inspired by meaningful thoughts, insights, and discoveries I have during each week, and intentionally designed to help make your life just a little bit better. Enjoy!

You can find the Precepts series in its entirety here.

Precept 82: You Are The Miracle

Remember when you were a child, when perhaps you did more dancing, singing, and dreaming? Remember how easy it was to believe in fanciful tales, such as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and perhaps your stuffed animals or toys or other imaginary friends coming to life and talking to you? Remember how easy it was to believe in miracles? To have that innocent and magical blind faith that the impossible or invisible could become possible or visible?

But as we grow older, so many of us begin to lose our ability to dream and believe in the invisible. Indeed, the idea of “miracles” becomes silly, illogical, and distant. Perhaps this has happened to you. If this is the case, you may be ignoring something vital and yet so easy to forget: that the biggest miracle is within yourself. That's right: you are the greatest and most unique wonder of Creation.

Take your blood vessels, for example. They are not just straight-through tubes, like water pipes. Instead, each of your blood vessels has a slight twist to them, meaning that they are helical. This gentle corkscrewing, also found in your heart, makes the blood flow more evenly compared to straight vessels. In helical vessels, damage from turbulent flow is much less likely, especially at T-junctions where blood vessels make tight turns. The subsequent smooth flow also encourages the production of health-promoting vascular protective substances, and if all these blood vessels in your body were laid end to end, they would extend to nearly 60,000 miles long! The heart forces blood through these thousands of miles of blood vessels to carry food and oxygen to every part of your body, contracting and pumping to allow for an average of 1.5 gallons of blood every minute, and in one day pumps enough blood to fill more than forty 50-gallon drums.

But of course, there are many other examples, such as your skeletal system. Your body contains a dynamic structural framework of bone and cartilage called the skeleton. This skeleton is flexible, with hinges and joints that were designed to move. But to cut down harmful frictions, these moving parts must be lubricated. Of course, human-made machines such as pistons and motorcycles and cars and lawnmowers and door frames are lubricated only by outside sources such as oil. But the body lubricates itself by manufacturing a jelly-like substance in precisely the right amount at every place that lubrication is needed.

Your body also contains a chemical plant far more intricate than any plant or factory that humankind has ever built. This internal chemical plant – your mitochondrial network – changes the food you eat into living tissue. It allows for the growth of flesh, blood, bones, and teeth. It even automatically repairs the cells when parts are damaged by poisoning or accident or disease. Approximately 50-70 billion of these new cells are born every day in your body.

In addition to engaging in automated lubrication and containing its own chemical plant, your body has its own robust heat-dissipation and temperature-regulation mechanisms. For example, in inclement weather, your body will sometimes overheat, at which point your body’s robust cooling system then takes over. Drops of perspiration pour from millions of tiny sweat glands in the skin, blood flow shifts dramatically to areas that need additional heating or cooling, and your brain's automatic thermostat kicks in to keep your body temperature at a precise 98.6°F.

This same brain-based biological computer system that regulates body temperature also distributes throughout the body billions of bits of information that control every minuscule action in your body, right down to the flicker of an eyelid. In a human-designed computer system, information is carried by wires and electronic parts, but in the body, nerves serve as the intricate wires that carry the information back and forth from the central nervous system. In just one human brain there is a great degree of wiring and electrical circuitry than in all the computer systems of the world put together. Without a doubt, the most complex information-processing system in existence is the human body. If we take all human information processes together, including the conscious activities (e.g. language, information-controlled, deliberate voluntary movements), and unconscious activities (e.g. information-controlled functions of the organs and the endocrine system), it requires an astronomically large figure – a million times greater than the total human knowledge of 1018 bits stored in all the world’s libraries.

As a matter of fact, while reading this very sentence, you are actually seeing with your brain. The message is carried to your brain from another miraculous structure: the human eye. Modern cameras operate on the same basic principle as your eyes, via a focus and aperture that is adjusted automatically. Similarly, the sound you hear is being played on a perfect, tiny musical instrument inside your ear. Invisible sound waves travel through the auditory canal and are carried by the bones of the middle ear to the cochlea, a complex structure rolled up like a tiny sea shell. The cochlea is filled with liquid, and while transferring sound waves from air to liquid is one of the most difficult problems known to science, your body achieves this quite efficiently, via three tiny bones called ossicles that enable you to hear properly. Our Creator’s attention to detail is quite extraordinary, isn't it? As Psalm 139 says: “I will praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful…”.

Yes, you and I are literally God’s miraculous masterpieces – the crown of creation, created in the very image of the greatest deity of all. Yet we often look around us in our external environment for proof of miracles, and don’t realize that the greatest miracle of all is right underneath our own noses! So I encourage you to wake up tomorrow, take a deep breath, smile to yourself, and remember: every day you wake, that very waking is a miracle. Every breath you take is a miracle. Every invisible heartbeat is a miracle. Every electrical thought propagation is a miracle. Every pumping cell is a miracle. Every child conceived is a miracle. You are the miracle.

Precept 83: Mornings

If you listened to my podcast with Joseph Anew about why you should meditate first thing in the morning, then you may already know that each morning, when you wake, you are in a unique state of theta brainwave production. Here's how this works: when you first wake up in the morning your brain switches from the sleeping delta waves that occur in a deep rest state to a new frequency of theta waves, which can create a sort of creative, flowing, meditative, daydreamy state. Within the first hour or so of waking, your brain then eventually shifts from theta to produce more alert but relaxed alpha brain waves, and then – especially if you flip on your phone or check e-mails or chug a giant cup of coffee – your brain switches into the more stressed, productive, highly alert beta wave production (which is exactly why articles like this warn you to stop checking your phone first thing in the morning, and what you should do instead).

So why am I telling you all this? Because you have a perfect opportunity each time waking to take advantage of this unique, waking theta brain wave state. Problem is, many of us are accustomed to ripping ourselves out of bed and jumping right into a beta state while squandering the potential of the theta state. Theta-beta, phone-on, theta-beta, work-out, theta-beta, commute – often without a thought. Eventually, the entire day has passed without you ever having an opportunity to take advantage of or to re-enter that theta state, and because of this, you may find that you simply can't ever find the time or motivation to engage in theta-specific activities, like art, music, creation, meditation, deep prayer, introspection, etc. Even if you do have time at the end of the day (after all your “serious” duties are done) to engage in creative or meditative acts, you have probably experienced the post-work-day, post-dinner malaise, sluggishness, and dip in creativity that leaves you really just wanting to watch TV, drink some wine, curl up with a good book, or simply “chillax,” no matter your best intentions to do things like write music, meditate, work on a story, or spend time with God.

And what's the solution? Seize the morning, of course! Take advantage of that theta state. Do you have aspirations to play music but simply can't find the time? Despite it being somewhat out of the ordinary to do so, you should consider picking up your guitar or plunking on a piano at 5 am (they do make headphone attachments for such activities, so as not to disrupt sleeping others). Don a pair of blue light-blocking glasses to keep the bright lights from shifting you into beta waves, and then open a computer that you've dedicated to writing fiction. Sit on a meditation cushion and put on some good soaking worship music and just pray. Or hold a journal and pen while you ponder problems that you need to tackle with a different or more creative outlook.

Think of it like this: your morning state is a bit like that of a newborn theta-bathed baby: curious, intuitive, and open-minded. Or think of it like this: the theta state makes it like you're a bit half-dead and half-alive at the same time, with half a foot in the sacred, spiritual world and half a foot in earthly existence, and when those two existences mash up, that's where a human can make magic, create, and become a being that's hard to become at other times of the day. So shift some of your creative and introspective acts into the morning time, and when I say morning I mean morning, like before the sun rises. Now let me ask you: what are you going to change in your schedule to seize advantage of that waking theta state?

Precept 84: Photographs

We often analyze how much we like photographs by making sure we look really, really good. How often, when viewing a group photograph, do your eyes first fall upon you in that photo, comparing your face to other people's faces, making certain your eyes are open, checking to ensure you aren't flashing that goofy smile, and questioning whether the body parts you aren't very fond of are or are not showing? How often do you take a selfie or see an individual photograph of yourself and decide it's definitely not going to be the one for social media because it's far from perfect? How often do you cringe when you notice someone has tagged you in an image that portrays your face or your body in a way that you really don't like? If you're like most people, the answer is…often.

I like this one, but I don't like that one. Like, unlike, thumbs up, thumbs down, save, delete. Rinse, wash, repeat.

But have you ever considered acceptance? Acceptance on Facebook, acceptance on Instagram, and acceptance over that pile of Polaroids you're thumbing through? Acceptance of the old you. Acceptance of the young you. Acceptance of the closed eyes and the goofy smile and the bad hair and the skinny arms and the big butt. Maybe even a giggle or a smile over the you that is just the ordinary, average, everyday you, that, if you were paying attention earlier, is a pure miracle designed in the image of God.

So the next time you look at a photograph of you (or anyone else), try not to judge or condemn or change or delete or alter or filter or anything else. Instead, accept all the imperfections and also realize that you're probably going to look worse and worse in subsequent photographs over the years as you get older and your flesh fades. But if you see the you in that photo as a being of light, an eternal soul and a sacred entity made in the image of God, that crooked haircut or toothy smile suddenly matters far, far less. After all, you're in this for the long game, right?

Make sense? So now, if you're convinced that you could use just a bit more intuition in your life, you can click here to learn more about how to do it.

That's it for this week! If you have questions, comments, or feedback below, please leave your thoughts. I read them all!

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3 thoughts on “Precepts: Miracle, Mornings & Photograph

  1. peter metcalf says:

    I like the shirt with beads you’re wearing. The skeleton looks like s/he is having a good time on a swing!

    PS. I read the article because I thought you were saying the real miracle is our soul. But I liked your comprehensive description of the physical miracle.

    1. Ben Greenfield says:

      Thanks Pete. It’s from Mind Pump: mindpumpstore.com/collections/mens-t-shirts

  2. Ruth Hill says:

    I really like what you had to say about mornings. I had fallen into the habit of not prioritizing my time with God first thing in the morning. I started working & it led to disastrous consequences this past week. I now spend 30-45 mins with God in the morning & suddenly my entire day is better even with the challenges. Thank you for truly describing in great detail why we should prioritize our mornings & our meditation time.

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