A PICTURE OF HEALTH: Remembering the Limbic System
Can you recall a time in school when the teacher asked the class a question and you either raised your hand eagerly or reluctantly hid behind the kid in front of you? Just because you raised your hand didn’t mean you had the correct answer; just as hiding didn’t indicate you didn’t know the answer. More than anything, what you probably remember the most is the feeling you had at the moment of truth. It could have been excitement, shyness, discouragement, pride, surprise, embarrassment or any combination of those and more. Most likely, it also was accompanied by some physical sensation: a pounding heart, sweaty palms, butterflies in the stomach or an uncontrollable grin on your face.
I have a strong memory of one such time at the university level. It was a psychology class and the professor asked which part of the brain was responsible for emotions. The answer immediately came to me because I remembered being intrigued upon learning from the text book the neurological origins of emotions. Although I was in college, I was still struggling with adolescent angst and I figured maybe this new information could help me deal with some emotional issues. [Sidebar: it was also at this time I learned that in human development, adolescence can extend far into a person’s 20s; so I didn’t feel so bad. Resume:] I didn’t raise my hand because I wasn’t completely certain my thought was right. Plus, I figured one of my more studious classmates would answer. Much to my chagrin, however, no one raised their hand. No one shouted out the answer. The entire class sat in silence. So I inched my arm up slowly and responded, “the Limbic System.” “Correct!” He said. And we moved on with the lecture. I remember having this feeling of soundness like I was “solid.” I was not giddy nor was I boasting inside. I was sure of myself and unmovable. It felt good.
Fast forward some years (and I’m not saying how many) to the here and now. The Limbic System is loosely defined as a ring of interconnected structures in the midline of the brain involved with emotion, memory and homeostatic regulatory systems. In my words, it is the place in the brain where your feelings, your life story and your health all intersect. I like to say it more poetically like this: it is the well-being of the love child of your soul and nervous system. It is the home of the long-sought-after “mind, body, spirit” connection. It is this place within you that I hope the articles in this health column will address.
A Picture Of Health is our way of “mediating your meditation.” We believe that by offering statements of faith specifically for your physical wellbeing, we will speak encouragement not only to your heart, but also to every cell of your body. It’s no breaking news that our psychological wholeness plays a major role in our physiological wellness, but some believe the Limbic System is an outdated concept and should become an obsolete term in modern science. For me, it still has meaning. Not just because the thought of it takes me back to a significant moment in my personal history, but because it reminds me that with or without the “right answers” we can take an active role in the healing process of every part of our lives.
I would like to finish this article yet begin this column’s first meditation for the Limbic System from the Mediator of All Meditations. It is The Message Bible’s version of Philippians 4:8-9:
“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”
Remember to Journey Above Your Expectations
Yeah, nowadays, if you speak to someone about ‘The Limbic System’ you get a “Huh? The what?”… because the information is not mainstream. We think we’ve got a hold of our mind, body and soul and that they work efficiently when called upon.
This article reminds me that I have to practice emotional fitness daily. I used to think meditation was an exercise meant for serious people who have the time to ‘sit there and do nothing’… but now I know better. It’s not nothing. Icall it a meeting of the minds. Before I would stifle my ego, my feminine voice, my pain, my joy, my intimacy, my ideas and creativity into quietness. They never got a chance to speak up and participate in my life. I was left with a lot of internal anger that wouldn’t leave me even in a relaxed state. Physically, this manifested in me as chronic high blood pressure.
Now, I consciously make an effort to mediate between all of my emotions and meditate on how we all can work better together for the greater good of my health and heart. As I result, my emotions are more controlled and I experience healing as well as see life from a new perspective. Bad days aren’t so quick to become worse and the good days aren’t so few and far between.
Thank you for naming this internal congress that needs to meet often to regulate the quality of our lives.
Thank you, Andi. I’m glad there is still an appreciation for the Limbic System.