The Mystery and Power of the Human Brain | Amy Grant (Part 2/2)
Amy Grant shares insight into her life’s journey with music as well as how God has worked in various ways in her life. In the first part, we discussed the impact God has on our lives and those around us and where we can identify the work of God in everyday life experiences. Here, in part two, Amy and I share stories about education, the mystery and power of the brain, and Amy shares her insight into a new technology that is helping people reset brain functions called Cereset.
Sister John Dominic: This week, I’m taking you back to my roots where my education and vocation began in an unlikely place and during an unlikely time. I’m taking you to Music City: to Nashville, Tennessee. Throughout this four-part series, I will introduce you to some special people that use their gifts and talents to promote goodness and virtue: Grammy award-winning artist, Amy Grant; Hall of Fame golfer, Joe Taggart; and award-winning architect Dick Miller. The first two of these episodes I will sit down with a longtime friend of mine and fellow Tennessean, singer-songwriter, Amy Grant.
Amy, We’re both from Nashville. Did you go to White Gloves and Party Manners where they taught us etiquette?
Amy Grant: I did not but only because I’m the fourth daughter. My older siblings did. I think my mother was tired by the time I came along. I was a dirt dauber, always outside.
Sister John Dominic Rasmussen: That’s why they sent me. I think my mom was afraid. “There’s the tomboy. Now, we need to make a little bit of a southern lady out of her.” Actually, what really happened was that Tandy Rice’s daughter was going, and I think they needed a companion because my mom was working for Tandy at the time. That’s how I got to learn how to set tables and do those things. I did win the Ladylike Award. I know that’s shocking. They gave me a little doll, but it didn’t take the love for sports and everything else out of me. What about Fortnightly? What’s your memory from that one?
Amy Grant: That was fun. Fortnightly happened for us every other Friday night. I think it was this entire school year of sixth or seventh grade. We learned how to dance, and it was so much fun to be in an environment with boys, but nobody’s on the line. You weren’t risking anything. Everybody could go, “Ugh, I can’t believe we have to do this,” but, you’re sort of also thrilled. They would come up and ask you to dance and sign a card. It’s funny because even now, if somebody asks me to do something, I’ll go, “My dance card’s full.” Not that it was ever full when I was a child doing
Sister John Dominic Rasmussen: I remember when you were starting out, some of my friends’ older sisters were at Harpeth Hall, and you were playing in churches, and so I feel like I grew up with the beginning of your music. One of your gifts is you’re a great storyteller. If you think about your life and put your music together in a storyline, would you say your music reflects your journey in life?
Amy Grant: It’s sort of strange because I’ll go back and sing a song I wrote as a teenager, or I’ll sing a song from my twenties, thirties, or my forties and I have always been a melody singer; I’ll joke sometimes before I sing a song, especially if it’s really rangy, that singing these old songs would be as if somebody came up and said, “Let’s throw on these jeans from high school. Take them out for a spin.” Those songs, at least for me, are snapshots of things, not the full story.
Sister John Dominic Rasmussen: Different times that reflect different periods. It’s almost like journaling or something. It’s a way you can release something or tell a story. It’s amazing how journaling is coming back. That’s what I’ve done working with young people and trying to teach people with writing and reading – let’s bring you to the Word of God and then write out this experience because you use a totally different part of your brain when you’re writing. The feedback that I get from different people that use that is that it’s life-changing for some.
Amy Grant: I always think writing, especially cursive, is a form of creativity because you’re shaping something that is uniquely yours. Where in the world can you actually express your deepest thoughts? Your greatest fears? First off, who really cares? If you give yourself the freedom to actually write it.
“When I got so mad at so and so, really what I was feeling was guilt over X, Y, Z. Will I ever learn?” I’m telling you, if you will write and keep writing, not for somebody else to read, but for yourself, I don’t know that there is a more immediate way for God to speak to us. All of a sudden you’re writing something that feels so different than the line that you were on. The line that you were on was emotional self-mutilation, and then suddenly you write “I am free. I am free to change.” We want to connect with the Divine. We want to be led by the Spirit, but you go, “We’ve got to find some communication thread here.” I believe so strongly that when you’re writing, you’re already engaged and something can come through you and find its way on the page. I actually have felt that way about song lyrics before.
Sister John Dominic Rasmussen:If you’re trying to get something concise, you have to think of all these different ways you want to say it. I would imagine if you’re writing a song, it would have to take up to a year?
Amy Grant:You can have an idea that floats around just waiting. That’s like somebody who’s really funny. They can have a joke that they’re waiting for the right place to land that joke. For years, just waiting. I have found the portal is creativity and openness because all those things to me reflect God. That’s how we’re different than all the rest of creation – we reflect His creativity. In a song or a poem, you might be thinking, “Okay, this is an AB rhyme. What are words that rhyme with that? Where am I going?” Then looking back on it you felt like it was just an exercise, but maybe years later you’ll see there’s a truth embedded in there that was so far beyond my years.
Sister John Dominic Rasmussen: I’ve journaled for years, and when I go back and pick up something, I’ll think, “Did I write that?” It’s amazing. God is present in the moment.
When I’ve been giving talks to people, I encourage them to begin their prayer with an “I love you too.” Because He first loved me and there is a relationship. My prayer is, “I love You, too.” I’m acknowledging that He is a loving Father, Who sent His Son, Who sends His Spirit to be with us, and I have to be who He wants me to be, and there’s a great freedom in that.
I’m sure you know from my personal family, what brought me to that point of letting go and letting God in situations. I know you always had a prayer that you mentioned to me in the past, how does that prayer go?
Amy Grant: Giving full credit: my mother-in-law, Mary Chapman, for those seventeen years I was married to Gary Chapman, came in one morning. I was at the coffee pot. I had two small children and was exhausted. I’d been doing overseas interviews which happened in the middle of the night. I said, “I don’t even think I’ve prayed just a succinct prayer in weeks.” I was so exhausted all the time.
Her life could have been a movie. She grew up in extreme poverty and heard the Gospel as a fourth-grader when her teacher invited her to come help her clean her house. She was probably a thirteen-year-old fourth-grader. She started school late because her mother worked in a carnival. She was joyful about everything.
She said, “Oh, it just takes one good prayer.” I’m like, “No, there’s a balance there at the point of death.” I said, “One good prayer?” She said, “Every day, pray, ‘Lord, lead me today to those I need and those that need me and let something I do have eternal significance.’ And that part, you’re never going to know but just ask it.” It almost felt backward because even in prayer, we have felt like the appropriate prayer was in service to other people.
It is kind of like your life in service to God. You realized that shift was in you. “All along, I was just responding. Now, I’m going to say it out loud.” This is a totally different awareness that came in the back half of my life. It was one night on a family trip. Most of my children were grown, and I was heartsick about something. They had all gone out, and I picked up my guitar, and I was playing songs. I remembered a song from one time in my life, and it was the craziest shift because I went, “Oh, God. These were for me.” This gift was for me in order to make it through life.
I think as a child and growing up in church, it was like God gives us gifts so that we can serve other people. And I think that is true. However the thing is to understand the gift and then we, in turn, share it. It’s changed everything. Sometimes I’ll meet someone and they will say, “God’s given me a gift and I feel like I’m supposed to have a platform.” And I will say, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, maybe He knows you so well that He knows in order for you to live the life that He has designed for you, that gift is essential for you so receive it. Let it be a part of your life and then it will naturally find its way out to other people.”
Sister John Dominic Rasmussen: That’s the responsibility and that’s really beautiful. As you were saying that, I remembered something I read, and it was another one of these moments where I thought, “Wow. I never looked at the Gospels that way.”
You read the gospels, and everything Christ did, He wanted to do the Father’s will. He would go away to pray, to listen, and to find out what, Father, what is it? He said that in John. “Everything I’ve told you is what the Father has told me to reveal.” He didn’t cure everybody. It was those who had the faith, but who the Father showed Him. Sometimes we have to believe that we can’t do everything. We have to trust that the significance is in that person that we may meet in the moment.
It’s really simple. Oftentimes I think, “We make it too complicated.” Keep it simple. Nowadays, where are people? A lot of times the people that are lonely or lost are out there searching for something, and it could be on the internet; And our mission here is if we can be a light in the darkness, to happen upon a conversation, you never know how God can use that moment. I think that is really the mission, we need to be like John the Baptist and to let God increase while we decrease. You probably don’t ever look on social media or anything?
Amy Grant: Not much. It’s a rabbit hole for me. I feel protective of my mental space. The nights when I will think, “I wonder what my kids are doing? I wonder if they posted anything?” I’ll blink, and suddenly it’s forty-five minutes later, and I’ve got sucked into some infomercial. Nothing about this was good. I go days at a time without any kind of social media, but then you can’t be up to speed on everything.
Sister John Dominic Rasmussen: There’s no way. There’s too much. We’ve had conversations about neuro-interpersonal, neurobiology, which is a new neuroplasticity. That’s an interest that I’ve had on the education side of things. Why don’t you share where you are at with that?
Amy Grant: In a nutshell, ten years ago, my niece was living with us, and she didn’t remember her twenties due to multiple overdose attempts. At the time, her behavior was so outlandish, and someone I knew peripherally saw her in public, the way she was dressed, the way she was acting.
They said, “There is a technology coming out of Scottsdale, Arizona. Investigate it, and trust the process.” I was thinking, “Okay. Anything, help.” I met a man that had a license for this technology. She went through ten, two-hour sessions and was radically changed, and I was so taken with it. It was expensive, but I found myself going, “Who else needs this?”
I went to the head of the Yellow Ribbon program. It was a school for veterans that were high-risk or PTSD or wounded. I said, “Can I put you through this technology? It really helped my niece.” He looked at me like, “Do you think I’m crazy?” I said, “It’s not going to tell you you’re crazy, but it will help your brain balance itself in the present moment instead of being traumatized by the past.”
Ten years ago, I probably put twenty people through the technology. Then the license disappeared in Nashville. All that time, this inventor was working on that technology. This past February, I was in Phoenix, Arizona, and I was seeing a friend of mine. We were driving around, and she said, “Ah, you’ve got to look out the other window. The snow on the hills of Scottsdale is amazing. You don’t ever see that.” It was like somebody had said, “Will you pass the salt?” I went, “I think I’m supposed to make a phone call.”
I called the inventor of this technology. I had a years-old email. The company had changed names. I said, “I’m calling to thank you, and do you want to come to my show tonight?” He said, “I was hoping you were a bolt out of heaven.”
That night I had a dream on the tour bus, and it was the craziest thing. I went back to him and said, “I know this technology works. I know it does. You have lived with your cast of engineers like in a mole run. They’ve never done any advertising.” I believed that I was divinely led to this man to use my connections to bring this technology first to the underserved and then to the world at large. Every day, more dots are connecting. I have so little to do with it. Unlike any other [approach], it’s non-invasive, and it allows the brain to heal itself.
Sister John Dominic Rasmussen: My interest in this has come with education and watching how technology impacts the children because we would notice a lot of these things in the classroom before it would happen. Everything in moderation is fine. The overuse of technology was impactful, and if parents can see it that way first, then they’re going to be more open to having a limit to it. We can now finally understand the brain and the mind that God has created us to be.
Amy Grant: I want to stress I don’t know of anything else that does this because everything that has to do with the brain that I have heard of, whether it’s magnets or tones or EMDR, is taking an external force and trying to impose change in the way the brain responds.
Everything is an outside force going in, but this technology came about because the inventor was attacked by a gang. He was hit in the head with a baseball bat. He was already a scientist. In his attempt to find healing for himself, everyone kept saying, “You’re fine.” He said, “I’m not okay. Nothing helps.” Every doctor and counselor said, “It’s all in your head.” He said, “Yes, it is. If the brain is nearly infinite, how can anything be imposed on it and expect a lasting change? What if like our skin that heals itself, what if a brain could see itself, could balance itself?”
An imbalanced brain is one that reacts from the past. Everything is a trigger. If a brain actually had the chance to balance itself, it allows a person to respond in the present moment instead of being triggered from the past. There’s something deeply spiritual about that. God said, “I Am.” You can’t get more present than that. It doesn’t mean there’s not trauma from the past, but that trauma should not be the loudest voice today. That is what this technology is doing.
I feel like I stepped into the picture of this research company when they were on the two-yard line. “Let me get my cheerleader outfit on and my pom-poms.” I’ve had so many contacts with people from all walks of life in my experience in philanthropy, and I’m a storyteller. I’ll go, “Can I show you a picture of this person who was in sex trafficking and they did four sessions and now they look like this?” The furrowed brow is gone. You don’t have to buy a pill. People want to be a part of that. It is completely non-invasive.
Sister John Dominic Rasmussen: Do they have other clinics?
Amy Grant: If you think of the word, reset. The name of the company is Cereset, so C-E, like cerebellum, and then the word reset. They have three different platforms. One is the franchise model for anybody that does the technology. It used to take a year to be trained how to do this. Now, anyone can be trained. It takes about three weeks. They’re cookie-cutter sessions that allow the brain an opportunity to see itself. I’ve been through the training. I’ve worked on veterans, teenagers, and older people. It’s so interesting how we react to patterns in our brain that we’re not even aware of. You give a chance for those patterns to dissolve or to recede and new patterns to be established.
Sister John Dominic Rasmussen: Is there a certain number of treatments?
Amy Grant: Four days. It takes four hour and a half to two-hour sessions. Wake Forest did a study on this ten years ago, then Nevada State Prison did a study with this technology eleven years ago. The Department of Defense is doing a study right now at Fort Bragg and at Walter Reed, all based around sleep. Last week, we signed a contract with the state of Montana and First Nation to provide sessions for their adolescents because of the high suicide rate.
Sister John Dominic Rasmussen: Can you imagine if you could bring that percentage down? You were saying that the only thing you knew how to do is music. As you’re talking, I think about the beginnings of this. I couldn’t help but think about your father and his work in oncology. A lot that he did here in Nashville with Vanderbilt was bringing that forward. This is going to be life-changing for people.
Amy Grant: It will be. Brain health is like every other part of emotional and physical health. Our health is an ongoing practice. It’s interesting to me how scripture plays into this. The verse from Philippians, I’m going to get it all patchworked here, but “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is of good repute, think on these things.” That is a good brain practice. Every time you have a thought, every time you re-live an argument, you’re deepening a tract in your brain.
For instance, we’ll do four sessions with somebody, and then we’ll say, “It’s important for you to protect your sleep. Don’t drink a coke at 11:00 PM and get on a screen. Wind down because only you can close your eyes and give yourself a chance to rest, and resting is important. Look at the stressors in your life because when somebody’s coming from a place of balance, they look at things differently.” Someone walks in, and a marriage is full of trauma. We do the sessions on the husband and the wife, and it feels different. They might have walked 500 yards away from each other, with choices and who did what, both of them with broken limbs. These sessions feel like setting the bones and putting on a hard cast that’s got a walking sole. You are still 500 yards away from each other, but you have the ability to walk toward each other. So much of life is a choice.
Sister John Dominic Rasmussen: It has to be so fulfilling because there’s a way to help people heal. Has there been anything with addiction?
Amy Grant: A lot of times, it’s a preexisting imbalance that makes someone [act that way]. This morning, I was looking at the graphs of a young woman that’s battling depression. Her family’s so worried about her. It’s interesting because when I was looking at the stress sensors, which are your temporals, everything looked fairly balanced until the very lowest frequency. It was all the way to the right. I said, “Can you get a message to this woman’s mother, and ask if there’s anything that happened to her in birth or the first year of her life because of how the brain stores information and where the brain stores information?” I got a text with a list that long. It was, “This, this, this, this, this, this, this.” I thought, “What if this woman’s life is playing out the way it is because some of her reactivity has to do with something she can’t even remember, but her brain remembers it?”
Sister John Dominic Rasmussen: You talked about different things they can do to help release things.
Amy Grant: All any of us that do for this Cereset technology is a client comes and sits in the chair, and there’s a pattern of where you place the sensors on your hand. We usually do three sets of placements and then start the exercise. The sensor takes that brain activity and runs it through this proprietary algorithm, and then plays back for them a pattern of notes. It’s not technically music the brain is making, but it’s a reflection of the brain’s activity.
The brain has two jobs: to keep you alive and to normalize your experience, whatever that is. The brain is always on guard. That sound that the brain is hearing is, “What is that?” It doesn’t take very long, and the brain realizes that that combination of tones is actually a reflection of itself. Then it relaxes deeply. As it relaxes, every brain, in its own time, starts balancing itself. It’s not something we’re doing; we’re providing an acoustic mirror.
I said if you had to get dressed for a black-tie function in a dark closet, you would go, “I know myself. Okay. I know this dress.” You’d put it all on. Then if you stepped into the light and looked in the mirror, “I have three chin hairs, a booger in my nose, my hair’s a mess, and a run in my stockings.” You would go, “Give me ten minutes.” It’s the same thing. Seeing makes you aware of all the adjustments.
Sister John Dominic Rasmussen: For me, it’s fascinating because I’m looking at it with the children. What I’m reading is they talk about how with different parts of your brain, you begin developing this as they’re going through the empathy and the resilience and the balance and the insight. All of that is connected to all the virtues that we try to teach and show the children. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it. That’s kind of what you’re doing. Hopefully, we can begin to teach people to react. That’s one thing that they do stress, even from a human natural level, that you can teach young people empathy and resilience, and that the brain takes all that in and begins to create those patterns. These pathways were different and starting to bring healing.
Amy Grant: That is good!
Sister John Dominic Rasmussen: God is good all the time. Thank you Amy!