cognitive overload;, overstimulation, overwhelmed, Thich Nhat Hanh

Mark Ramsey delivered another thought provoking sermon this past Sunday using Isaiah 43:1-8 and Ephesians 3:14-21.  I say “delivered” because when I read it today, I had a different impression.  Sermons really need to heard and not read.  After I heard it, I felt he was speaking directly to me since I often feel overwhelmed.  However, some of the stories contained a different meaning when I read them later.  I had to wade through my emotions a bit to write this but it was good for me.  Wading through emotions often is.

Being overwhelmed happens to me often. It happens when I don’t pace myself and I try to do too much. It’s often coupled with over stimulation and cognitive overload which is not what Mark was talking about.  I try very hard to avoid this and mostly I’m successful. I also know my limits now are not what they used to be prior to my injury.  I cannot do as much and I try to remember that this is okay. Sometimes though I compare myself to someone else who has a brain injury who is doing better than I am and then I feel bad.  I must remind myself that every brain injury is different and comparisons are impossible.  All I can do is what God is calling ME to do and no one else.

In his sermon, Mark shared a story about something that occurred during a commencement service at Emory University several years ago  Many notable folks spoke to the graduates who were more interested in celebrating the day then listening to the speakers.  Then there was a moment when everyone grew still as a man named Hugh Thompson was given an honorary degree.

He was, by far, the least educated person on the platform.  He had started college, but his family was too poor to be able to put him all the way through.  So he dropped out of college and joined the army and became a helicopter pilot.  In 1968 on a routine patrol he flew over the village of My Lai in Vietnam. He looked down out of his helicopter and saw United States troops, having lost their moral bearing and in a frenzy were massacring people in the village.

Many pilots would simply have kept on flying but he set his helicopter down in the line of fire, between the troops and the villagers.  He got out of the helicopter and confronted Lt. William Calley in the name of decency.  He went over to the ditch where they had thrown the bodies and combed thorough them –seeking anyone who might still be alive.  He found a little boy – who is in his 50’s today – alive because he was pulled out of that ditch by Hugh Thompson.   He then radioed other ‘coptors to come in a rescue the remaining villagers.

When he stood on the platform, he said to the students, ‘I have no wisdom or eloquence to give you today.  I can only tell you what my parents taught me a long time ago  It was the words of Jesus: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ ” And the students, for one breathless moment, were stilled by a vision of faith and humanity that had some size…They were overwhelmed.”

The picture above is the one printed in the bulletin and I like it immensely.  I often stretch my hands or lift up my voice to God asking and hoping, for guidance.  I do hope to be overwhelmed by God’s creativity in my life but sometimes I have on blinders and I’m not able to see.

Earlier Mark said that “Paul in Ephesians says that when we are overwhelmed, to the contrary, God opens up the floodgates and inundates us all the more.   But NOT with the floods of pressures and demands and brokenness and vulnerability- but with the great flood tide of the kindness and mercy and grace and love and generosity and joy and hope of God.”

In addition to overdoing it, being overwhelmed has another meaning for me today.  Now for me it is being overwhelmed by the creativity and the goodness of God.  Thich Nhat Hanh reminds me to “change the channels” and focus on how God is working in me.  I like Mark’s last statement in the sermon. “And you can TRUST that God will OVERWHELM us – in all the ways we most urgently need.” 

This is my hope.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh

.One of my Facebook friends posted this picture with the following quote of Thich Nhat Hanh’s: “Recently, one friend asked me, ‘How can I force myself to smile when I am filled with sorrow.’ A human being is like a television set with millions of channels.  If we turn the Buddha on, we are still Buddha.  If we turn sorrow on then we are sorrow.  If we turn a smile on, we really are the smile.

“We can not let just one channel dominate us.  We have the seed of everything in us, and we have to seize the situation in our hand, to recover our own sovereignty.”

I don’t know where he wrote this but it doesn’t really matter to me because  it contains important truths.  At first reading, it may appear as if he’s saying we need to just “suck it up” and take what life gives us but this isn’t it at all.  He is known for his work on being mindful in all situations and I think this is an example of this.

This quotation reminds me of something I have forgotten.  I never have liked behaviorism for I believe one needs to look at the core of one’s feelings in order to deal with them.  However I learned years ago that some behaviorism works when one has a brain injury.  Sometimes one becomes incapacitated if one thinks too hard about all the challenges a traumatic brain injury introduces into one’s life.  This is what happens to me all the time.  Sometimes I let one channel dominate me and it is not helpful at all.

All of us have many channels: happy-go-lucky, serious, sad, and many, many others.  Sure it is important to acknowledge all these channels but it is also important to change these channels, even if you do not feel like it.  I really like the picture above because it reminds me that water, like  God’s Spirit, can wash through and around me.

 Come Holy Spirit come!

If you have a brain injury, is it hard for you to sometimes do things even though you know you’ll feel better if you do?  How do you see God’s Spirit – which I experience a little like the rush of water – working in your life?  Feel free to comment here or write me directly at puffer61@gmail.com.