January 18, 2013
Getting Back Into Our Right Brains

The following is by Val Vadeboncoeur, Idea Champions' Director of Training.

"May God us keep from single vision & Newton's sleep." - William Blake

The prolific Chris Hedges has written a powerful, new piece for Truthdig entitled "We Need Free Thinkers or Society Will Shrivel Up and Die".

I'd like to expand on it.

We need prophets and, as my good friend Roberta, a devoted student of the Torah, remarked the other day -- a "prophet" is not someone who foretells the future -- a prophet is someone who speaks the Truth right here in the moment, saying what needs to be said, whether it's popular or not (and it usually isn't).

We have had some prophets in recent times: comedian George Carlin was a prophet, for example, and so was Bill Hicks.

They told us what needed to be said, but they made us laugh about it so we didn't stone them to death when they did. Maybe Chris Hedges is a prophet.

But, today, we lack people who can see the bigger picture and help us make sense of things because, in great part, we have cut ourselves off from an essential part of ourselves.

We have neglected half of our human inheritance. In fact, we have dismissed it, made it an orphan, and cast it into exile.

The human being is a creature of balance. That's why we get so elated when our child takes his/her first steps.

After being born, this is the most significant event in a human life. It means we are learning about the fundamental reality of being human. We are mastering balance.

With every step we take in our lives, there is a moment where we have to find our balance or fall down. Once mastered, we do this so elegantly that we don't even notice this remarkable skill, much like a cheetah doesn't know how breathtakingly fast it runs, or a bird doesn't know how beautifully it flies. It just does it.

Physical balance is only one small part of it.

We are always balancing some kind of duality -- a duality of left/right, good/bad, up/down, wet/dry, smooth/rough, fast/slow, rich/poor, light/dark, hot/cold, positive/negative, me/you, us/them, etc.

We are always dealing with the reality of opposites. We also have two arms, two legs, two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, two vocal cords, and two brains -- and that's what I want to talk about here.

We don't have one brain. We have two. And they're supposed to work in tandem, like a team of horses.

But our society has lost a critical balance between our two brains. We are overworking one horse and ignoring the other, so it starves to death.

Or to put it another way, instead of using our hammer to do what it is designed to do and our screwdriver to do what it's designed to do, we are trying to do everything with the hammer alone.

It is not the hammer's fault that it can't deal with the application and removal of screws. It is ours for expecting the hammer to be able to do this at all.

In terms of our two brains, commonly referred to as the left brain and the right brain, we are a left-brained biased culture -- and that bias is, in the final analysis, killing us and everything else on the planet.

When our body gets out of balance in some way, that's commonly referred to as "illness". When our minds are out of balance, that should be understood as "mental illness". Our culture, being out of balance in the use of our brains, is, in some sense, mentally ill.

Our left brain is the brain that sees the individual, detects differences, categorizes, measures, experiences time, and follows a single line of thought.

It's the brain that tells us when to cross the street safely, which product is the better buy, and which clothes we should wear that will best suit the day's weather.

It's the brain that's created Science, Mathematics, Logic, Reason, and all manner of technology. It sees "things" and can count, measure, divide, multiply and categorize those things.

It's specialty is isolation and singularity. It's useful and convincing. So useful and convincing, that we have completely identified with it.

When you ask people who they are, they usually respond in a way that indicates that the sum collection of the workings of their left brain is their identity.

The left brain, however, cannot prophesy because it cannot see beyond the material, physical realm. It doesn't even know that anything else but the material realm exists.

It cannot see how the individual things it can see might be connected in unexpected, non-logical, non-spatial, non-temporal ways.

It can't even imagine such things. The left brain cannot empathize, since it sees others as separate entities -- as objects "out there". It cannot have hunches. It cannot create a metaphor. It cannot see the whole, just the parts.

If it wants to know more about a cat, it kills the cat, dissects the cat, takes out and measures all the parts of the cat, and then feels as if it understands what a cat is. It doesn't even entertain the idea that a better way to know what a cat is might be to live with a cat, watch the cat, and empathize with the cat -- an approach that has the additional benefit of still having a cat when all is said and done.

Those qualities of connectivity and wholeness and warmth all belong to the kingdom of the right brain.

The right brain has insights and can imagine what is not yet manifest. It can be inspired. It can connect with the heart so it can feel and experience joy or sadness and the entire range of emotion.

It can put this experience of connectivity and emotion into the language of music and form and movement. It can see possibility and the road not taken. It is somewhat magical, it is now (not burdened by a past or worried about a future), and it is what we often refer to as "love".

As a society, we have rejected the genius of the right brain and we are suffering this imbalance every single day in a myriad of ways.

We suffer with psychological isolation and drug addiction. We suffer when quantity trumps quality in our food, our sex lives, and our education. We suffer when we create extremes of wealth, health, and value that cause tensions in our society that explode into violence.

We suffer when we scapegoat people, and create fear-inducing enemies and bogeymen that we try to destroy -- creating war, injustice and chaos. We suffer when we exploit our planet, and our fellow living creatures, for profit, without realizing that we are destroying our own lifeline -- that we are cutting off the very branch we are sitting on.

It's way past the time when we have to recognize our full humanity and start paying a whole lot more attention to our ignored and belittled magical right brain.

We are suffering unnecessarily because we are not in balance with our own true nature.

We are the "thinking creature" only using half of our thinking ability, and it's not even the better half, in my opinion.

We are like the cheetah using only two of its four legs to run, or a bird trying to fly by flapping only one wing.

Is this prophecy? I don't know, but what I do know is that we need to find our balance in our thinking -- and soon -- or we will all fall down.

That's the bad news.

The good news is that we are designed to do exactly that.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at January 18, 2013 10:11 PM

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