As spirituality and science continue to dance with each other, they’re uniting to help us better understand ourselves and the world. For example, research published in the Sage Journals tells us we have three brains: the intellectual brain, the heart-brain, and the gut-brain.
The Intellectual-Mind Brain (Cognition)
The mind-brain supports our cognition and perception. It’s what allows us to master language and communication. The neurons in the brain communicate with each other, storing valuable information that helps us make decisions.
God gifts us with our intellect to understand the world and make wise choices.
The Heart-Brain (Emotion)
The heart’s 40,000 neurons operate independently. The heart allows us to feel and process emotion. In the heart-brain, we can experience mystery and determine what we value in life. The heart sends messages to the brain through electrical impulses and chemicals.
Many say the heart is the location of our souls. It’s the umbilical cord that connects our human hearts with the Divine Heart. In the heart-space, our souls receive the wisdom and guidance we need.
The Gut-Brain (Intuition)
Our stomachs contain 100 million neurons that regulate our blood pressure, metabolism, and hormones. The gut-brain processes information while we sleep. It contains the majority of our body’s serotonin—the feel-good chemical. Like the heart brain, it sends messages to the intellectual center. It’s our intuitive brain—and where our “gut instincts” come from.
If we listen to them, we receive God-nudges in our stomachs that tell us where to go and what to do.
Putting On the Mind of Christ
I wonder if “having the mind of Christ” as Paul says us in 1 Corinthians 2:16, points to our three brains. Jesus used all three brains to negotiate his life.
Mind-Brain—Intellectually, Jesus invited the apostles to join him based upon each of their unique talents and abilities. He also realized the Pharisees had twisted the laws to suit their benefit and he called them out on it.
Heart-Brain—His heart overflowed with sorrow at the death of his friend Lazarus. Jesus grieved over Jerusalem’s failure to understand his message of love, and in the Garden of Gethsemane he processed his fear, brought it to the Father, and determined he was called to undergo the crucifixion. Jesus also experienced love and joy as he celebrated the wedding feast at Cana.
Gut-Brain—Jesus’ gut told him he needed to go peacefully when faced with arrest. It inspired him to keep quiet when confronted with Pilate. And it allowed him to say the words out loud, “Father forgive them. They know not what they do.”
Our Three-Headed Brains
Too often we get stuck in our intellectual mind-brains. The thoughts that ping-pong around our heads can overwhelm us when we fail to listen to and integrate our minds with our other two centers.
A wise teacher recently asked me, “What is the opposite of faith?”
My intellectual brain responded, “Doubt.”
My teacher corrected me. “The opposite of faith is certainty,” he said. “When we declare we are right or claim we know it all, we leave no room for mystery. We become our own gods. We get stuck in our intellect. The heart and gut create space for doubt. They let the mind rest and allow God to inspire and speak to us through the wisdom of our three brains working together.”
Creating space for our minds to rest in the quiet so we can tap into our other brain centers is what Christ teaches us. It’s what he modeled for us.
Alone at dawn, Jesus sought the Father’s insight and wisdom. He created space to live into the mystery of his life as he listened for God’s guidance and inspiration. He faced each day with the gut, heart, and mind centered in the Divine. And when the world overwhelmed him, Jesus went back into the wilderness of silence to let the voice of love speak to him. He then trusted that inner voice and followed it.
Like Christ, perhaps we can quiet our overactive intellects by practicing solitude each day. In the silence, we can check-in with our hearts and guts for inspiration and guidance. When we do, we allow the trinity of our brains to work together as they tap into God’s voice of love.
My teacher gave me a new perspective about what putting on the mind of Christ means. When we look to Jesus as the model and integrate that with what science is discovering, perhaps my teacher’s right: three heads are better than one.
Spiritual Practice: Checking-In with Your Three Brains
Take a few moments and pause throughout the day to connect with your three brains.
Mind-Brain. Check-in with your mind. What is it thinking? What is it saying to you? What is true?
Heart-Brain. Next, put your hand on your heart. What do you notice? What do you feel? Are there any whispers of love or wisdom your heart speaks to you? Are there any emotions you experience?
Gut-Brain. Finally, place your hand on your stomach. What does your gut feel like? Are there any inspirations or God-nudges you hear or notice? What does it feel like to rest in the mystery of yourself?
When we periodically check-in with each of our three minds, we allow ourselves to connect with the trinity of our whole self. We create an inner space to hear and integrate the wisdom God speaks to us through our three brains operating as One. We experience the life-giving flow of being in touch with ourselves and the Divine.
—brian j plachta