The neural networks in our brains are developed through repetitive experience. The grooves in a record analogy is simplistic but apt. If you grew up in an environment where you regularly felt unseen, unaccepted, or unsafe, your brain may have developed a particularly deep groove of shame- I call it the self loathing superhighway. It’s awful: full of comparison, judgement, rumination, and disdain. It can quickly become your default setting. Neuroscience has a saying: what fires together wires together. Every situation can reinforce this particular neural pathway, deepening the groove until you develop a world view and a self concept rooted in fear and insufficiency.

But inside each of us is the possibility for a different path. Inside each of our wirings there is a little deer trail of self compassion, equanimity, and ease just waiting to be blazed. Healing, via therapy, yoga, or other inner work starts to kindle that faint dusty path into a well traveled trail. That trail can evolve into a paved road, and that road into an alternative mental freeway. Experience can now be filtered through this pathway. Instead of the 405 you can take Pacific Coast Highway. You discover you have options in how you relate to yourself and others. Compassion can become your default setting. You may wander off the path, or take the wrong exit, but you can learn how,  again and again, to come back to a more spacious, more friendly, more beautiful way home. Sometimes its necessary to re-teach a thing it’s loveliness.

Saint Francis and the Sow
The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.
   – Galway Kinnel

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