How you have underestimated your right brain.
The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. ~Albert Einstein
The answer to life’s greater questions involves engaging our right brain.
What’s my purpose?
Who do I love?
What brings me joy?
Am I on the right path?
Is this person a friend or foe?
Should I stay or should I go?
So why don’t we access our right brain when we need it? Well, it comes down to practice. In modern day life, we tend to favor the left over the right brain (because most societies reward it).
To overly simplify the brain anatomy, our left brain is in charge of our logical, rational and analytical thinking; our right brain is where intuition and creativity lives. Naturally, in a “big data” driven world, it’s easy to see how most schools and work environments will reward left-skewed brain thinking, problem solving and behavior. Now, there is nothing wrong with our left brain — in fact it can be genius when we use it to serve a bigger purpose (for instance, I need my left brain to write this blog).
The cost of favoring analytical reasoning over intuition to solve for life’s greater questions, is that we can miss out on insights to guide our inner-self toward our truth. Our truth does not always come with a list of facts and supporting data. However, the right answer will feel right in our bodies.
Our left brain identifies who we are, our ego and separates us from another being. It separates you from me. What’s fascinating is that when we disengage our left brain, we experience the world as a connected universe. I am you, and you are me, and we are both connected to the life source of the ocean and all lifeforms. This feeling and understanding of oneness can be experienced through our right brain at any time. We just need to tap into it. It is also by tuning ourselves into the frequency of the universe (like a radio station), where we can tap into our deepest intuition of knowing. This is where purpose, insights and innovation lives.
Dr. Tayler is a Harvard neuroscientist who at the age of 37 had a full-blown stroke in her home, which disabled her left brain temporarily. What would sound to most people a painful and tragic event, actually was a peaceful, joyful and beautiful experience where Dr. Tayler felt more connected to her joy and the universe than ever before. (she ultimately fully recovered, but still exercises how frequently she engages with certain pathways in her left brain). If you want to learn more about the mechanics of the brain and how it shapes our reality, I highly recommend reading “My Stroke of Insight” by Dr. Jill Bolte Tayler. The TedTalk video below will give you a preview to the book.
Here are three techniques to help you tap into your right brain and give your left brain a break (especially in moments when it’s not serving you):
1. Get out of your head and into your body– when confronted with a difficult decision (often times with a balanced pro / con list), feel it out. How does each scenario play out in your body? Does it make you feel good, excited or expansive, or does it feel limiting, icky and restrictive? (see techniques to get out of your head and into your body)
2. Check yourself before you wreck yourself — be aware and catch the negative narrative running through your mind (often comes in the form of “don’t do that, you’ll embarrass yourself,” “who do you think you are for wanting…,” “you’re not good enough to….” These common thoughts are constant and not constructive. We experience them every day — while driving, in meetings, during silent pauses between conversations, while getting dressed in the morning, etc. As long as you engage in the narrative, it will never stop. Thank them for their service (because they once served a purpose) and let them go, as you are running the show now.
3. Pay attention to your words — because your thoughts will affect what your body experiences. For example, think of biting into a juicy lemon. Really, imagine cutting a big wedge of lemon, then sticking the fleshy part into your mouth… then give the juicy pulp a nice squeeze with your mouth. As you’re thinking about this thought, your mouth is producing saliva and your muscles may be contracting and perhaps you may have even swallowed the imaginary juice. Our bodies are connected to our thoughts, but it does not know the difference between a thought shaped by your past experience, your parent’s and friends’ opinions, societal norms, media influences and your own personal truth. Once your thought is formed, it lives inside you and your body will react to it. How might labeling a task “painful” or “impossible” versus “a new experience” or “an opportunity” change the outcome?
What other techniques do you use to tap into your intuitive self? Share by commenting below.
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Originally published at medium.com