Being in the Moment
by Charles Stone
God created us with incredible minds that allow us to solve intricate problems. But sometimes our problem-solving mode does not serve us well. When we face emotional pain and stressful thoughts, we try to solve these problems. Why do I feel this way? Where did these thoughts and feelings come from? What can I do to make them go away?
This problem-solving mode is called the doing mode. And modern society (and original sin) has conditioned us to default to the doing mode. The doing mode tricks us to believe that productivity, speed, and efficiency are ultimate goals in life. When we stay in our doing mode, it is like being on autopilot all the time. We act with little clear thinking.
We often try to fix these difficult thoughts and emotions by overthinking and brooding (a form of being in the doing mode). And when we expend mental resources on worry and fear in the doing mode, we leave fewer mental resources to simply “be” in the present moment.
Emotions aren’t things to be fixed. They simply reflect our feeling and physical states. They are not meant to be solved but to be felt, notwithstanding that they can point to sin in our lives or sometimes can be sin themselves, requiring confession. Holy noticing helps us switch from our problem-solving doing mode to the more reflective being mode by strengthening the areas in the brain that help us more easily shift from a doing mode to a being mode.
Our biggest interior problems lie not in our emotions or thoughts but in our response to them. We can’t push a reset button to make our difficult emotions instantly go away. We can, however, respond to them in a different way. Practicing holy noticing can help rezone our neural networks toward healthier thinking and feeling patterns.
The apostle Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that we may not be able to stop a temptation to ruminate over unhappy memories or dwell on negative self-talk. But we can stop what happens next. We can refuse to act upon that temptation. He writes, “When you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
Our being mode gives us a new perspective that frees us from overthinking, mentally reacting, and allowing afflictive emotions or thoughts to snowball. In the being mode we actually stay closer to truth, which in turn frees us. Jesus said in John 8:32 that when we know the truth, it sets us free. Knowing the truth in Jesus and knowing the truth about the present moment does indeed set us free.
As some researchers have stated, “While in the ‘being mode,’ negative cognitive and emotion patterns may still occur, but they are experienced from a decentered perspective—as objects of awareness that rise and pass naturally, rather than as problems to be solved.” Holy noticing helps us step outside our experience rather than getting caught up in it. It gives us a different perspective through observing and perceiving our thoughts and emotions. We don’t necessarily change them (of course sometimes we most certainly must if they are sinful), but we change how we relate to them.
The story of Mary and Martha best illustrates the difference between a doing mode and a being mode. Martha illustrates our culture’s entrapment with performance, what we might call a human doing. Mary illustrates God’s desire for us to be present in the moment as human beings. Mary sat at the feet of Jesus, while Martha was in the kitchen, fretting about preparing a meal for Jesus and fuming about Mary’s lack of support. I’m not implying that we should become passive and lazy people caught up in our inner world with no drive to achieve. We all need some of Martha’s qualities. She was goal-oriented and persistent, and she followed through on her plans. She simply failed to switch gears. A lifestyle of holy noticing helps us switch gears from a problem-solving doing mode to a presence being mode when we need to switch. And of course, as we submit to the Holy Spirit, He is always at work, no matter which mode we may be in.
Excerpted from Holy Noticing: The Bible, Your Brain, and the Mindful Space Between Moments by Charles Stone (©2019). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.
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