Several days ago I found Ellis Nelson’s latest post in my in-box. She doesn’t post very often, but when she does, it’s definitely worth reading. This one is no exception. It’s a review of My Stroke of Insight, a book by neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor. When she was thirty-seven she suffered a stroke to her left brain which crippled her ability to think in logical sequences, move, and perceive what we call reality. It left her suspended in nirvana, state of being one with everything (her words, not mine). I watched in awe as this amazing woman told her story in a recent TED lecture.
The right and left hemispheres of the brain look at the world differently. The left hemisphere uses linear logic. It reasons, explains, and acts. It’s what gets us from point A to point B by 3pm. The right hemisphere uses intuition, and it “thinks” in images and music. It doesn’t do words. It looks at the total picture while the left looks at its parts.
Take this simple test to find out if you’re a left brain thinker or a right brain thinker.
I am a definite right brain thinker, but my Gemini, geotechnical engineer husband could make the dancer twirl both ways.
I’m guessing that the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a measure of this dichotomy. Introvert (I), Intuitive (N), Feeling (F), and Perceptive (P) would be the right brain functions and Extrovert (E), Sensing (S), Thinking (T), and Judgement (J) would be the left brain functions. So if you are an INFP you would be a strong right brain thinker and if you are an ESTJ you would be a strong left brain thinker.
Alan Alda conducted a fascinating interview with a man who had his corpus callosum* surgically severed and the Dartmouth researcher who is studying his condition. It was obvious that even though the connection between Joe’s hemispheres was missing he could still function normally; but in laboratory testing it became quite clear which side of his brain controlled which functions.
So what does synchronicity have to do with all this?
Just a few days before reading Ellis Nelson’s blog I had posted my latest Judgement entry. The gist of the post is that the Judgement key should be read as spiritual awakening and this can only be accomplished by establishing a dialogue between the conscious and the unconscious. After listening to Jill Bolte Taylor’s powerful story I had my own stroke of insight. Actually, it was more of a “Well, duh!” moment.
I realized that we have a metaphor for this concept of dialogue between the conscious and unconscious hard-wired into our physical anatomy in the form of our bicameral brain. Our left brain corresponds to consciousness–the chatter of everyday life, problem solving, making a living, and stayin’ alive. The right brain is the realm of the unconscious–the awareness of beauty, emotion, universal connectedness, creative inspiration, and inner wisdom. I’m betting that this is the part of our brain that sees/perceives ghosts and fairies and angels and hears things that go bump in the night.
We exist in the material world and so we see our left brain functions as being more useful, trustworthy, and comfortable. Our society also tends to value these functions more. Jobs requiring strong left brain functions such as engineers, medical doctors, accountants, and lawyers pay quite well. But strong right brain users, such as writers, musicians, artists, social workers, and psychics, usually make very little money and frequently have a left brain day job to make ends meet.
Any esoteric study, including the tarot, is essentially a series of lessons in how to step out of the left brain and explore the right brain. Meditation, ritual design and performance, prayer, Tai chi, and magic all do this. In time, the seeker becomes comfortable and familiar enough with the right brain to be able to understand its cryptic messages and trust them enough to use them in tandem with the blatantly obvious left brain messages. Hunches are no longer hunches, and vague impressions of people and things that “shouldn’t” be there are no longer vague. They become vivid messages and images that help us navigate our complex lives with more skill and assurance than if we were only using our left brain. They expand our awareness out into realms that nourish our hearts and souls and add layers of richness and meaning to our physical existence. They make us better human beings.
As Jill Bolte Taylor says, the world would be a better place if we could all learn to cross over into the nirvana of our right minds. But wouldn’t it be even better to be able to listen to the stereophonic symphony of both sides of our brain singing to each other?
* The thick band of nerve fibers that connects the left and right hemispheres of the brain