I wake up about 6am, feel momentarily present, tabula rasa. Then my left brain kicks in and I am instantly connected to years of emotional baggage, the habituated emotional imprints of habitual stressful thoughts. Eckhart Tolle might call it my “pain body”, and its complement, or antidote, presence. I go back to sleep to try to escape. I wake again at 7. It’s still all there. I engage in mental rituals of presence: a contemplative, imaginative “prayer”. But that is another story and will be told another time, as they say. For now: I recently watched a TED talk by a brain scientist, Jill Bolte Taylor (JBT), who had a massive blood clot and resulting brain haemorrhage in her left hemisphere. Her “stroke of insight” (as the talk is titled) gave her, as the name suggests, a very personal insight into the nature of the left/right brain divide, or complementarity thereof, perhaps.
So, Tolle teaches “presence”, a deep attention to the the present moment, if I may offer a layperson’s paraphrase. JBT describes her direct experience, informed by her professional knowledge, of the immediate aftermath of her haemorrhage, which was later confirmed as essentially shutting down her left brain hemisphere, as euphoric and expansive. She describes her “self” as merged with everything else, having no boundaries. She describes the atoms and molecules of her arm as she leans on the wall as indistinguishable from those of the wall. She describes a kind of unfiltered direct experience of the “energy” of all things, and uses the word “nirvana” to characterise her experience. She describes the pure peace and compassion of this experience.
By contrast, she describes the left brain as being responsible for a sense of identity, for knowing where the body begins and ends, for orientating to measured time and space, for having emotional baggage, for having stories about “who I am” and for having expectations and ideas about the future. She descibes the left brain as thinking in language, and the right brain as thinking in pictures, and the left brain being the conductor of continual inner dialogue.
To draw out the threads a little further, does this mean the left brain (cf ego/sense of self) is basically responsible for violence, separation, lack of compassion and the apparently much bemoaned addiction to inner dialogue which is not “real” and concomitant lack of presence in the ground of being/magnificence of reality? Small self vs big Self. Ego vs Divine/Evolutionary self. Hell vs Heaven.
Well, this topic threatens to become a book or life’s work perhaps. So, flippantly, long story short ... no. The short answer is that we are presented with the challenge and opportunity of becoming “conscious”. When we are unconscioiusly left-brained, we suffer. We suffer the illusion of separation, the self-centredness of the ego, the appropriation of consciousness to the self, the disparity between thought and reality. When we are unconsciously right-brained we have no freedom to choose – we may be in Nirvana and at one with all being and feeling peaceful and compassionate – but on its own it is a dead end – I didn’t say this before, but EBT could only function when her left brain came briefly and intermittently “online”. She would have died in euphoria, unable to walk, talk, recognize numbers, plan, remember and possess an identity.
So, it seems to me that we are in birthing pains – the possible human is being born. The possible human who consciously navigates his/her/(insert androgynous pronoun) left-brain capacities without being sucked in by them and becoming them. He/she/ze is aware of belonging to pure energy, knows that all is one and one is all, and, consciously at first, and perhaps clumsily, but with ever greater ease until reaching mastery where the skill becomes unconscious because it is both embodied and embedded in the environment, the all, uses their “self” to express the universal energy in its glorious euphoric dance of being, its orgasmic delight of be-coming. No wonder sexuality occupies this pivotal position at the core of the corpus callosum debate: it is the process by which this possibility is created, over and over again as the evolutionary impulse, some say, seeks to express itself through us in the way I have just described.
And in this birthing process, we struggle ... we go left, we go right, and the middle way, the narrow path is the only way through. The strictures of the boundaries of our experience form us. I want to say more including more about my personal experiences in relation to all of this, but this is all for now.
Hello there Donald Trump from one earthling to another
It’s not much of a jump, we can claim the same mother
You already built your wall, and it’s a great defence
Against the madness of it all from which none of us are exempt
Your ego stretches coast to gulf, the boundary of your self
Higher stronger, sexier, richer, than everybody else
Now that you are president of the world’s greatest nation
You can try to protect “her” from all abomination
Foreigners, Muslims, layabouts, sexual deviancy
Close the borders, keep them out, show no leniency
And I notice something in me to which your style appeals
That part of me that division, separation and fear reveals
The part of me that wants to be safe in a world beyond control
If I keep my world small enough, maybe I can make it whole
Yes it’s a grand illusion, but oh so satisfying
An ego stunt, pun intended, it’s even death defying!
Cos ego death lets it all in, there is no buffering
Between the world and all our sin, all our suffering
And so the question must come up: what then shall we do?
When the ego run amok is the place we’ve all come to?
When the monster threatens liberty and freedom of expression
When it strangles our humanity and reaches for repression
Must we fight back like the Allies in World War Two?
How ironic if that is all there’s left to do
America fought for freedom and look where we’ve arrived
The enemy of freedom has not survived but thrived
It’s thrived in our own hearts, or should I say our minds
In the factions within us, and in the world outside
What if we had just let the holocaust unfold?
Let the Nazis win, let the master race take hold?
Would we be an Aryan race that conquered all the world?
A world of blonde and blue-eyed perfect boys and girls?
And so I say instead, yes, we must fight back
To fight with arms outspread, let love be our attack
A wave upon the world, no greater wave than this
Take the sting from the tale with our heart’s openness
Maybe we’ll be called to fight with the steel variety
To defend our human right to a free society
I think you think that’s what you’re doing, and I just separated
You from me, us from them, in the split I just created
And this is the great split, the schism of all ages
Instinct and intellect, the bars of all our cages
For we are conscious beings and by this we stand apart
From others, from the world, but always in our heart
There is the longing and sadness, and the deepest of all pain:
The moment of giving up on being whole again
We all walk with this shadow, this wound at our core
So let us walk the path, that we all came here for:
To remember compassion and great courageous kindness
If we shine a light in the dark, in our hearts we will find this:
Hate cannot end hate, only love can open those bars
And bring light to a night, already devoid of stars 2
Quotes: Sting (1) and Martin Luther King (2)