Friday, February 09, 2007

Be Transformed by the Renewing of your Mind

Paul of Tarsus wrote "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind....." (Romans 12:2 NIV)

Science has recently learned that renewal of our minds really can transform us. It really is true that what we think determines what we are. Prevailing dogma among neuroscientists until recently had been that brains were hardwired upon reaching adulthood, and that little change was possible. Recent investigation has demonstrated considerably more possibility for change, or neuroplasticity.

In the January 29, 2007 issue of Time magazine, in an article entitled "How the Brain Rewires Itself", Sharon Begley wrote "Mental practice resulted in a similar reorganization" of the brain, Pascual-Leone later wrote. If his results hold for other forms of movement (and there is no reason to think they don't), then mentally practicing a golf swing or a forward pass or a swimming turn could lead to mastery with less physical practice. Even more profound, the discovery showed that mental training had the power to change the physical structure of the brain.

In other words, the brain can actually be transformed, and not just through external stimuli or activity, the transformation can occur through our own mental training, or "renewing of your mind," as Paul put it.

Begley again: "The brain can change as a result of the thoughts we think, as with Pascual-Leone's virtual piano players. This has important implications for health: something as seemingly insubstantial as a thought can affect the very stuff of the brain, altering neuronal connections in a way that can treat mental illness or, perhaps, lead to a greater capacity for empathy and compassion. It may even dial up the supposedly immovable happiness set point."

Here's the take home message: we can train our minds far more than we have thought. If our minds are caught in negative patterns that are self-destructive or that diminish our potential, we can change those patterns by thinking new thoughts. If our desire is to be more like Jesus, we really can be, by training our thinking to be like His.

How do we do this? It has been possible all along, as Paul wrote: "by renewing our minds."

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