Introduction: “Naming more” as it relates to strengthening our awareness of God’s presence has to do with how much more easily we can recognize the importance of what is coming into our awareness when we share it out loud to another person. If our goal is to notice more of God’s ongoing presence and activity, then including the practice of sharing out loud what we are noticing is very important. When we say out loud what is coming into our awareness it seems that it pulls the information through parts of our brain that help us more easily to recognize its importance and how it fits into the big picture of our lives.
Dr Karl Lehman likes to summarize this phenomenon with the line, “our brain works better in community.” He lays out a lot of his theory about why the simple practice of sharing our thoughts out loud with someone else is so effective in his book The Immanuel Approach for Emotional Healing and for Life. He also has a draft version of this chapter available that I give a link to below that I will suggest as the bulk of the pre-reading for this workshop. In the chapter, Dr Lehman explains why he thinks the practice of sharing what comes out loud is so helpful and effective in the context of Immanuel Approach prayer ministry sessions. However, he and I and others have also found the same practice of naming what comes to awareness out loud to other people to be helpful in any large or small group setting where people are wanting to sense God’s presence and guidance. I should mention that it dramatically helps if the other people are interested and care about what we are sharing. Other loving and mature people can also help us recognize if it seems like what we are sharing may likely not be from the Lord but may be from our own inner critic or some other source.
Reading from Dr Lehman: Here is the link for the reading from the draft chapter of Dr Karl’s book http://www.immanuelapproach.com/pdf/Chapters13-18%28Draft%29ImmanuelBook.pdf. Once you open the link scroll down to Chapter 17 “Describe Whatever Comes Into Your Awareness (Our Brains Work Better In Community)” which is about halfway through the document. Here is the link to the full draft of the book as well. https://www.immanuelapproach.com/book/
Final thoughts from Andy:
Perhaps one of many reasons many Western churches tend to be fairly anemic when it comes to experiential awareness of God’s presence and guidance is that in general we haven’t created a lot of spaces where we can simply connect, relax together, ask what God wants us to know, and name out loud what is coming into our awareness. I hope that this workshop and other workshops we do will provide a simple example of how this practice might be brought into more of our church, small group, and prayer ministry settings to increase our awareness of God’s presence and guidance.
Last workshop I suggested that two of the many important aspects of “Noticing More” are:
1) How much we are capable of noticing and
2) How little we tend to consciously notice at one time.
Regarding the first point of how much we are capable of noticing, I am referring to both how many different kinds of things in the physical and spiritual world our brain/body-mind-spirit system is capable of noticing and how much of that information our brain and body actually do notice at a pre-conscious level or subconscious levels. However, to the second point, very little of what our brain is noticing at a pre-conscious or subconscious level actually makes it all the way up to conscious awareness. You might think of it as a target, only the little red circle of the bulls eye in the middle is the amount of information we are consciously aware of. All of the rest of the target is all stuff that is at varying deeper levels of pre-conscious awareness. Or you could think of it like the islands of Hawaii. What we think of as Hawaii are only the islands we see at the surface of the ocean. However, the islands of Hawaii are only the tip top of huge mountainous volcanoes that go all the way down to the bottom of the sea floor. If they were fully above water they would be among the tallest mountains in the world.
So, the question is how do the right things move from subconscious/pre-conscious awareness into conscious awareness. There is a lot to be said about this and our brain has built in ways of doing this, and God also I believe can help with this, but for now I will highlight our topic of Naming more as one helpful way this works. I believe that one of the important ways that our brain works when it is operating as it should is that important things move gradually closer into the edges or background of our conscious awareness and become very close to our full on conscious awareness. When we are able to name out loud to another person what is niggling at the edges of our awareness, be it a thought, a feeling, a song, a verse, a memory, an image, or even, a physical sensation, or even an image of Jesus or a transcendent sense of God with us, we suddenly start to realize how important it is. One of the ways God interacts with us, I believe, is by helping our brain-mind-spirit to bring right up to the edges of our awareness those things that are important for us to notice important. For example, I often find myself humming a song. When I stop and sing the words out loud to myself, I suddenly start to realize how well they fit with what I am going through in my life. When I share this with another person even more pieces fit into place. The same often happens when a particular verse starts coming to mind. This workshop we will have the opportunity to try out a little bit more of this important practice of naming what comes.
Finally, I want to say a few more words about the importance community can play in helping us recognize the significance of stuff God and our brain are teaming up to bring into our conscious awareness. It seems that things can be in the background or foreground of our conscious awareness. The things in the background we are kind of noticing but they just don’t feel important enough to focus much on. When we say these things out loud to a caring person, we often suddenly realize that they are more important than they felt. Thus, they move into the foreground where we are both consciously aware of them and they feel subjectively important. We can often recognize the import of what God is saying or doing or showing us to some extent alone but it seems that God has created our brains to really need other people to get the full benefit of recognizing the importance of what had felt like a quiet, small thought in the background.