The day goes by
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.
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Sean O'Connor Singer/Songwriter