Recently, I watch an extremely interesting TED talk from 2008 by neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor who described her experience during a stroke. I’ve shared the link below and would recommend everyone give it watch.
Basically she she begins describing how the right and left side of the brain process differently. The left hemisphere uses linear processing where it draws on detail, information and associated the present with past experiences and future projections. The right hemisphere processes information in parallel, it focuses on the ‘now’. It thinks in pictures and movement and uses the senses to create an image of the present moment. Bolte Taylor describes the left hemisphere as giving us a sense of self, as a single entity whereas the right hemisphere provides a sense of unity with our surrounding.
Before continuing I would like to mention that I am not suggesting that left and right sides of the brain function independently; neuroscientists strongly argue the complexity of the cooperation between the two hemispheres for normal function. We are purely talking about consciousness and our sense of self. The possibility that there are two ways of perceiving ourselves in the world.
It has been theorized that the left hemisphere functions as an interpreter to information received from both hemispheres to give us a sense of conscious. Bolte Taylor described here experience of her brain hemorrhage, which occurred in her left side of the brain, as waning between two states of consciousness. She described ‘falling in and out’ of left hemisphere control, where she could think logically and was able to recognize that she needed help. As the stroke progressed she lost her command and comprehension of language and numbers. It was the times when she lost left hemisphere control that were particularly interesting. She says she became unable to perceive where her body ended and her surrounding. She described a feeling of oneness with everything, energy without any of the anxieties of her life. Without the left hemisphere interpreting, she was able to truly feel the beauty of the moment without analysis.
Could you imagine a world where we could spend more time in this state of consciousness. Of course without the left hemisphere we may have a great deal of difficulty getting anything done or communicating but wouldn’t it be nice to feel that sense of oneness? I think it would.
Realistically, for the majority of the time we need to stay in that lucid state of consciousness, but with awareness and meditative practice can help us to recognize the associations being made to explain the present and we can choose to ignore them or let them go, so we can experience the moment.
Here I go coming back to the benefits of meditation. Give yourself sometime today just to sit and breathe. Feel the sensations around you, touch, taste, sight and sound but try not to label them. Just experience. Maybe you will be able to experience, even just for moment, that right hemisphere state of consciousness.Jill Bolte Taylor