Change Your Brain

Sunday, June 26, 2022
Featuring: Rev. Richard Maraj
Week #2 of the 3-Week Series, "Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess"

Click HERE to download this transcript.

Click HERE to see Rev. Richard Maraj’s guided meditation during the service.

So this guy, Bill, goes to the store. He’s only in there for five minutes, and when he gets out, a motorcycle cop is writing a ticket. And so Bill says to him, “Come on, buddy; give a guy a break!”

And the officer continues writing the ticket. And then Bill says, “You know, you could have been nice, but instead you decided to be a jerk!”

So the officer glared and him, and wrote him another ticket. And then Bill insulted him, and the officer just kept writing another ticket; writing another ticket. Just getting mad and writing. And after 10 tickets, Bill walks down the street; he just starts walking away.

And the officer said, “Hey, your car is going to be towed and impounded.”

And Bill smiled and said, “Oh, that’s not my car; I parked around the corner.” [Congregation laughs]

So how many people have ever had someone say to you or text you something critical and unkind or judgmental? Or tried to make you wrong for some action or word? Anybody ever have something like that?

And how many people — when it happened — you just got upset really quick; you got defensive and you fired back something less than loving in some comment? And how many people have ever stewed on that exchange later? And then tried to go back later to make it better … or at least prove you were right? [Congregation laughs] And you made a bigger mess? Anybody ever go back and make a bigger mess of a situation than the one you started with?

So we’re in Week #2 of a three-week series called “Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess.” Why? Because we make messes! We make messes in our relationship; in our lives; our career; our finances. I mean, we make a lot of messes. And the thing about the messes we make in our lives: every single one originates in our thinking. Originates once in our mind and what we hold in our mind.

You know, we think a better life starts with good time management. No! It’s all centered on good mind management. How well would you say you are managing your mind? And how much better do you think you could manage your mind? Because the truth is: when we don’t manage our minds, our minds run wild. They stew; they worry; the freak out; the stress out. We live anxiously; we live fearfully. Sometimes we overreact on things.

You know, poor mind management actually robs us of happiness and peace and joy and creativity and levels of closeness and intimacy. It stops us from building our dreams. It stops us from living purposefully and creating our best life.

Dr. Caroline Leaf said, “If your mind isn’t right, nothing is right, because our mind is behind everything.”

Our happiness is in our mind. How kind we are is in our mind. How loving we are is in our mind. How forgiving we are … everything in our lives; it really revolves on our thinking and what’s going on in our minds.

You know, the greatest gift we’ve been given is our mind; it really is! It is powerful and it is the thing that shapes the quality and the experiences of our lives. However, our minds can either be our best friend or our worst enemy. It could be our best friend because it’s brilliant; it’s powerful; it’s creative; has an incredible imagination that sees possibilities. And it is an attracting force; it can attract great things, the power of our mind.

And our mind also can get distracted and jump around. It can focus on negativity. It can regurgitate and keep rethinking things over again and create some unhealthy thought patterns that end up pulling us down and holding us back from happiness and success.

You know, we need to learn how to manage our minds, because there’s a lot of things we can do with our minds! You know, you can open your mind; you can close your mind; you can change your mind; you can speak your mind; you can be in your right mind; you can be out of your mind … [Congregation laughs]

You can lose your mind; boggle your mind; blow your mind. You can even give someone a piece of your mind! [Congregation laughs] Now I hope you don’t mind my frame of mind, but I am of sound mind. And I’ve made up my mind that life is mind over matter. And that a mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Now I know I should mind my own business, and some people think my mind is like a steel trap. But I’m just trying to create a meeting of the minds. Now please bear in mind that I can’t read your mind, but I want to know what’s on your mind. [Congregation laughs] Because you are always on my mind!

Now thanks for letting me share that bit; that’s a 15-year-old bit! And I’ve got to tell you: just saying it is a load off my mind. [Congregation laughs and applauds]

So we have these minds that are amazing and powerful, but sometimes we don’t know how to use them as effectively as we can to help us and to support us in creating the kind of life and experiences and relationships that we want to have. So we have this human mind, but we also have a spiritual mind. A God mind. A Christ mind. A divine mind. A spiritual mind out of which we can tap into insights and intelligence and wisdom and possibilities. We can use it for guidance and inspiration … all sorts of things!

The Apostle Paul said this. He said, “Let the same mind that was in Christ Jesus be in you.”

And so here’s our work. So we’ve got a human mind and a spiritual mind. And the human mind can get a little funky and focused negatively. And we need to work with our human mind in a way to help it open up to allow our spiritual mind to come through. And it’s easy. But it takes skill and practice and work and awareness. But we have that ability! We have that power! The Apostle Paul also said, “Do not conform to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

No matter how negative your mind has been — no matter how things have been messed up — we can clean it up. We can improve, change and transform our minds, which means we can provide change can transform our lives.

Last week — in Week #1 — we looked at some of the things to manage our minds better, and how to help it, as a tool, be more effective for us.

The first one is a simple, but important, one. And that’s to understand and accept you’ve got a human mind. You know, Buddhists say that we all have what is called a “monkey mind.” It kind of jumps around; bounces around; and wanders a bit. I mean, the universal thing is: Anybody ever meditate, and your mind wanders and you have a hard time keeping your mind focused? That’s the part of having a human mind.

And it’s important to not get upset about it; just accept it! And take on the challenge that, “I get to work with this human mind to bring out my spiritual mind.” And it is a challenge! And it’s an opportunity. And it’s just how life works.

The second one is to be aware of our thoughts. You know, if we want to improve our lives, we’ve got to know where we are! You know, if there’s some beliefs or mindset that we’re thinking, or a negative focus, we’ve got to know what that is.

So the assignment last week was to journal all of the things that you think negatively about yourself, and about your life. Sometimes we think things like, “Life is unfair” or, “Things will never work out”; “I always get taken advantage of.” And it’s not to feel bad about it; it’s just to know where you are.


Eckhart Tolle said that the first thing for liberation and transformation of your life, and improving it, is just being aware. Just being aware of the negative words or thoughts that we think about ourselves and our world actually is the beginning of being liberated from them. Being able to change and transform them.

An important practice that I think — the third thing — is the most important practice to improve the function of your mind and make the most of the potential of the mind is to regularly quiet the mind. Consistently quieting your mind not only calms and brings peace, but when you immerse your mind in the Mind of God — in that quiet place — things that are not of God, things that are not of good, just begin to fall away. And then your mind opens; you open it to the wisdom and the insight and the creativity of God. It moves through us, because our minds are more open.

And the fourth thing we looked at was the power of intention. I always believe that, when your intention … when you’re doing an action, that’s good. But when you do an action with intention, it is absolutely transformational.

So having an intention to improve your mind, and to manage your mind better, is a powerful and important thing. An intention to heal and transform your thoughts — an intention to have a more positive mind, a more creative and peaceful mind — is powerful.

I believe every one of us should wake up every day and do an exercise of quieting our mind and setting an intention to manage and use our mind in the most positive way possible.

And so here are the things that we are going to look at today as we continue learning how to manage our mind. This one is how to change our brain. Because when you change your brain, you change your thinking, and you change your life.

So the first one is … Anybody watch Seth Myers? That little thing — that little segment — where he says, “And now, time for a closer look?

So you remember those things we wrote about, “Life is unfair,” or whatever things? We need to have a closer look. But why do we think that life is unfair? Why do we think we’re not good enough? Smart enough? Why do we think that we’re not capable or there’s not enough love or there’s not enough whatever?

And so sometimes just asking ourselves a question: So what’s really behind that thought? What is the emotion behind it? What is the belief that is behind it? In what way is that idea or feeling holding me back or keeping me stuck? What is a way that I could free myself or improve this?

And you know, just writing those things — asking those questions and writing them down for ourselves — you’ll be surprised how much truth is already in us. That when we really look into it, it will actually tell us all the things that we know. All the wisdom is in us; it’s just: are we giving it the avenue to come forth and to really know what the truth is?

I don’t like journaling, but I find it very helpful. Because it does two things: it releases and it reveals. And the first one — it releases — is because sometimes I notice when things are in my head they’re a whole lot scarier. But when I write them down, they’re not as bad as I thought! Anybody ever have that experience? I mean, it is absolutely … Apparently only me! But still … [Congregation laughs] It is a powerful thing!

And the second thing writing does: it reveals to us. Just like I was mentioning: the truth comes out if you ask yourself the question honestly. Sometimes we’re not even aware of what we’re thinking, but when we ask ourselves and write, we notice patterns show up.

I noticed a couple of things this week I did not like. However, it was good for my own understanding of myself, and good for, along that path, of being able to heal it and transform it and remove it. But you have to be willing to have a closer look.

It isn’t fun; it isn’t comfortable. But some of these thoughts and mindsets in us — from abuse or neglect or whatever else — it’s been in us for decades. So it’s going to take a little bit of time and work to be liberated from it.

You ever have a closet that’s just filled with stuff? And you’re thinking about cleaning it one day, but the thought of the mess it was going to be made you not clean it? That’s what it’s like sometimes in here [points to chest] It’s like, “Oh, man; I don’t want to go there.” But you know what? When you “go there,” you feel lighter; you feel brighter. It improves your health and your well-being. And it saves you from all that anxiety and worry and stress we often bury because we’re not willing to face some of these things.

So the first thing — if we really, really want to transform our minds and our brains and our lives is to be willing to TAKE A CLOSER LOOK. And doing it in writing is powerful and important, and very helpful.

The second thing is to DO NEUROPLASTICITY PRACTICES. As I mentioned before, neuroplasticity means — and the actual definition of it is — that your brain at any age, no matter what it has been through, can be trained to function more efficiently and effectively. It means our brains can change. Our thinking can change. Our minds can change. And here are three neuroplasticity practices that help us proactively change and transform our minds and our thinking.

The first one is called self-regulation. It’s being aware of our thoughts and adjusting our thoughts accordingly to be more positive and more purposely. We do it and we don’t even realize it. Like, have you ever said to yourself something like, “God, things seriously just suck; they’re horrible and it’s probably going to get worse. My life is just falling apart!” And then you say, “Cancel; cancel; cancel!” [Congregation laughs] Anybody ever do something like that? You catch yourself; that’s self-regulating! It’s like a self-correcting mechanism, except we don’t always do it consistently. You know, we don’t always do it consciously. And it’s important.

Why? Because we don’t always say the most positive or loving things! We don’t say the most affirming and prosperous things. So it’s important to use the power of self-regulation. We can catch yourself. Ever say something that was unkind? So a good self-regulation thing is, “I apologize. That wasn’t kind; that is not what I meant.” See, because something in us knows what is for our best. Something in us knows what’s loving; what’s kind’ what’s the kind of person that we want to be; the kind of life that we want to have. So this self-regulation helps us if we’ve gone off the road. Helps us come back a little bit. That every time you say something or think something that isn’t as healthy, you do a little correction right there. You bring it back right there. It is a powerful and important thing.

You know, even when we say things like, “Well, don’t think of it as an obstacle; think of it as an opportunity.” It might sound hokey, but that perspective, and more positive thoughts and words, absolutely make a difference. We have the ability to shift our perspective — our mindset — in our words; in our thoughts; in our choices. Self-regulation: number one.

The second one is to do the 30- to 90-second pause rule. And so, here’s what it is. In the brain, whenever you get a new stimuli, it takes 30 to 90 seconds to process it. But sometimes we are a little impatient, and we don’t wait. And so sometimes it’s really not the best time to react during the first 30 to 90 seconds.

So if somebody says something insulting to you, you ever just fire back something right back at them? Just like in the beginning what I asked you about? It’s like, “Oh yeah? Well, I didn’t really like you anyway!” [Congregation laughs] “How dare you?” We just fight your stuff off. You know, we just go off the top.

 And then, if you’re not able to pause in those 30 to 90 seconds, we fire off something. And after we fire off something, you ever think, like, “Oh, God; why did I say that?” It’s like, “Oh, I could have been much kinder; I could have handled that better.” They call that — if you respond in the first 30 to 90 — they call that “the regret zone.” [Congregation laughs] Because it means more than likely you either made a mess worse or created a new one!

You ever heard people say, like, before you say anything when you get mad you should count to 10? You ever hear people say that? Because it’s true. There is something about letting your mind run that circuit. Because a circuit’s going to get triggered anyway. Just stay calm during that. Find a way to just breathe and relax, and just observe yourself. Observe that your heart is starting to pound. Observe that there’s a knot in your stomach. But hold yourself back from reacting, because after that circuit runs, you’re more than likely to make a better choice. A wiser decision.

But for most human beings, we want to react fast. And we need to just fight that, and just stay calm. Stay centered. Even if you feel yourself boiling over inside, just be aware.

One of the great gifts that we’ve been given is the “observer mind.” Like, we have this ability to think and to be observing, you know, kind of at the same time. So we’re getting mad, and you say, “Hey, I notice that I’m getting mad.” Or your palms are sweating, and you say, “Hey, I notice that my palms are sweating.” And that ability to remove and step aside allows us — even in tense situations — to have a level of calm and peaceful awareness. We can still — in a calm and peaceful way — notice ourselves when we’re getting triggered in those 30 to 90 seconds. And by not reacting immediately, we give ourselves a better chance of handling it well.

Here’s the other side: If we get triggered in the 30 to 90, and expand it beyond 90, we more engrain that reaction. We more engrain that negative, unhealthy mental thought pattern. So it sounds simple, but it’s hard. But it’s important to pause in those 30 seconds. Think, breathe, focus on your breath. See them in their underwear; it doesn’t matter what it is! [Congregation laughs]

I heard people say that, like, when you’re speaking. I don’t ever do that! Anyway … [Congregation laughs] You’re probably all relieved that I don’t do that! But … [Congregation laughs] Anyway …

So the first one with neuroplasticity: self-regulation. And the second one is pause within those 30 to 90 seconds. It really makes a difference

The third one is to increase your positive thought ratio. You know, we all know that thoughts attract more like itself. We all know that what put your focus on will expand and grow. Well here’s what the thing is: In our culture, we have a lot of negative messages watching the news, watching life. And so Dr. Barbara Frederickson says to bring more balance to our mind — for it to be more effective — we need a 3-to-1 ratio of positive to negative.

And here’s home you do it. Any time you think a negative thought, immediately follow and make yourself think three positive thoughts. So you think a negative thought, think of three things that you’re grateful for. Like grateful for air conditioning. Grateful for living in Arizona. Grateful for the smell of coffee. Whatever it is. Just think of positive … Every time something negative, counter it with three things that are going well in your life; three things that make you smile; three things that you’re grateful for; three things that you’re proud of.

And what I think you should do is make a list in advance. Because in those moments when you’re negative, sometimes it’s hard to switch over and think. So have them prepared. You know, it can be things that you like, like a bubble bath. Or the smell of those laundry sheets. Oh, God; they smell so good! I love them! [Congregation laughs] Anyway … Or being on the beach or looking at a sunset or a sunrise. Or if you love reading, or if you love a bouquet of flowers. Or if you love playing pickleball. I mean, whatever the heck it is! Whether it is playing with your dog or your cat or your child; or your grandchild’s smile; a family vacation memory, like when you’re on a cruise together with them. I mean, there are all kinds of things you can think of; just make a list of positive things.


And what you’re really doing is using a negative thought to trigger a positive. That every time you think a negative thought, think, “Oh, I’m grateful for this” or, “I’m grateful for that.” Or, “I love going to the Botanical Gardens.” I mean, for whatever it is, anything that will raise your vibration again will absolutely help transform your mind and your brain. It will build a more positive brain.

And the last one we’re going to look at for the mind is to RENEW WHAT YOUR VISION IS.

In Proverbs it says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish, but happy is he who keepeth the law.” And let’s talk about the “happy is he that keepeth the law.”

See, we’re creators! We’ve been created in the image and likeness of the Creator. Our work is to create. And that’s what vision and goals do; it gives us an avenue to create. And we’re happy — a vision makes us happy — because we fulfill the law of creating. Of working toward something better. Something more positive; more loving; more joyful; more successful. That’s what visions do: they channel and call forth our energy and our words and our thoughts to something greater and something better. Having a vision is powerful.

And when it says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” … Well, what perishes? Our passion! Our motivation! Our creativity!

They did this study of people who were 100 years old. There were four things they said that helped them live that long. And one of them was having something to look forward to. Having something meaningful, even if it was a birthday or a whatever. That any time you have something to look forward to! That’s why setting goals and having a vision is so important.

Lewis Carol said, “Any road will get you there if you don’t know where you are going.”

So where are you going? Where do you want to go? What is the kind of life you want to create? What is something that would be so cool if it could just happen? Something you think’s impossible that would be fun? Explore all these things! How would you like to spend your money? And what would life be like if you had your more ideal, prosperous life? What would the picture of that look like? Where would you like to travel to? What are the things you’d like to create? What’s the kind of person you want to become? I mean, the list is endless! The question is: What do you want? And are you willing to do it?

Here’s an assignment: In writing, write a vision in these areas:

1) About the person you want to be (your attitudes and attributes);

2) Is about your health and energy and vitality;

3) Is your career and finances; and

4) Is about your spiritual and leisure life.

Studies show that people who write down goals for some reason are more likely to achieve them … in fact, they say 42% more likely to do it when they are written down. I think maybe because it gives clarity and focus and intention. But whatever way, let’s take advantage of that wonderful gift and tool.

Our minds are amazing! They really, really are! But they can be our best friend or our worst enemy depending on how well we manage our mind! How well we utilize them! And so the thing we need to do is practice good mind management, and to utilize those practices to help us be more efficient and more positive and effective in our thinking.

So this week, take a closer look. Whatever negative thoughts you have, ask yourself some questions, and let yourself write. I guarantee you some wonderful insights and truth to liberate you from that will come forth.

The next one is practice the neuroplasticity: the self-regulation; the pausing for the 30 seconds and just observing yourself; and then the third one is the ratio. Use your negatives to trigger three positives. And the final one is just to renew your vision.

If you want to better your life, do the mind management practices. Because it will change your brain, and it will change your mind, which means it will change your life.

God bless you all! [Congregation applauds]

Copyright 2022 Unity of Phoenix Spiritual Center/Rev. Richard Maraj

Location and Contact Information

Unity of Phoenix Spiritual Center

1500 E Greenway Pkwy
Phoenix, AZ 85022
Phone: (602) 978-3200

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