Mastering Your Thoughts October 11, 2011Posted by nrhatch in Meditation, Mindfulness, Music & Dance, People.
Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D., is a neuron-anatomist affiliated with the Indiana University School of Medicine.
She is the national spokesperson at the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center (Brain Bank), and one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World, 2008.
Now, I’ve read the book, My Stroke of Insight, and recommend it to anyone who wants to understand more about our amazing brain. Thanks, Julie . . . for bringing the book, the talk, and Jill Taylor to my attention.
The initial chapters address who she was before, during, and after the stroke as she regained the use of her left brain. It’s a quick and interesting read, despite the heady nature of the topic under discussion. These chapters will be of particular interest if you’ve ever known someone who suffered from the aftermath of a stroke or other brain injury.
For me, the really fascinating information is reached in Chapter 15, My Stroke of Insight, as she addresses the differences between the left analytical brain and right experiential brain and how they help us interpret the world.
The right brain is present moment oriented. It’s creative and happy and curious. It accepts things as they are without judgment. It’s alive and aware. It tastes, and touches, and smells, and enjoys each sensation as it arises. It communicates with us in pictures and images ~ beautiful sunsets and fragrant flowers and tantalizing tastes.
Picture a young child playing, caught up in the moment, fully engaged in the flow of life, happy and laughing. Picture yourself when you are so immersed in an enjoyable activity that time ceases to exist and the rest of the world falls away.
In contrast, the left brain is analytical and linear. It doesn’t experience and enjoy all that life has to offer because it is too busy processing information. It analyzes it, labels it, and judges it by referring back to previous experiences.
As it gathers relevant information, it chatters constantly pulling us away from the moment at hand . . . and pushing us forward or backward in time:
That sunset is not as pretty as the one last night. It’s probably going to rain tomorrow. That’s going to spoil everything. That’s what happened the last time we planned a picnic. Why do we even bother to make plans? It always rains. Don’t forget to buy milk on the way home. I hope I can find a parking spot. What are we going to do if it rains? These pants are too tight. I need to lose weight. I shouldn’t have eaten that . . . I can’t believe that guy just stole my parking spot. People are so rude these days. Now I’m going to be late. And it’s all his fault. Him and his lousy parents. What a jerk.
The left brain tells us stories to help us make sense of experiences. If pieces of a puzzle are missing, it makes stuff up. It’s critical of us and others, as it judges people, places, and things by comparing and contrasting. It rarely accepts things as they are. It hates to be wrong, and never wants to admit it made a mistake. It values consistency and fears change.
Picture a perfectionist, full of fear and guilt and angst and self-importance, who takes life seriously . . . all of the time . . . and never remembers to laugh.
If we want more balance and less stress in our lives, we need to flow between the two hemispheres.
We need to use the right brain to see and enjoy this moment and the left brain to help us learn from the past and share our thoughts with others through language.
Even though balance is what we’re after, we don’t flow easily from left to right brain because we develop a preference for using one over the other. Gaining proficiency with one sphere (usually the left) causes us to lose proficiency with the other (usually the right).
For example, throughout our school years, we are trained to listen to the left brain to learn and memorize and communicate. There is less focus on helping children to develop the creative world of the right brain ~ through art and music appreciation.
Instead of appreciating art and music “as is,” we put them under a microscope by dissecting and labeling the notes, the brush strokes, the meter, the colors, the clef, the composer, and/or the artist.
Although the spheres exist side by side and are intrinsically equal, we are urged to flex the muscles of the left while the right brain atrophies.
As we age, the monkey chatter of the left brain with its constant labeling and worrying and judging often drowns out the right brain.
If we allow the left brain to operate on auto-pilot, it dominates our thoughts and reinforces that dominance by firing its synapses constantly.
It doesn’t care about what it’s saying ~ it just wants to hear itself think. Out loud. All the time. Even if what it’s saying isn’t true. If we stay tuned to this Chatty Cathy, we miss the moment and all it offers. We are too busy worrying about whether it’s going to rain tomorrow to see the glorious sunset today.
As we become more mindful of the moment, we quiet the manic chatter of the left brain and learn to just be.
We hear the rain tapping at the window. We smell the fragrance of flowers. We focus on the sunsets and sunrises.
Through mindful awareness, we strengthen our connection with the universe, our world expands, and we are no longer relegated to one myopic corner.
Instead of spending our time sorting through dusty filing cabinets and stale memories, we seize the day.
Aah . . . that’s better!
While you’re pondering right brain processes, check out Pocket Perspective’s latest post ~ The Six Perfections . . . a gorgeous reminder of ideals to perfect.
Related post: Ever Wonder What Babies Think About? (Creating Reciprocity)