Archive for September, 2011

(mid-sagittal brain fibers that connect the two hemispheres through the corpus callosum, photographed by Thomas Schultz–2006)

In my last post, which you can read here, I noted that it is important for me to take some quiet moments to listen to what my emotional body is telling me. If I’m able to do that I can make proactive choices about things that I’m feeling yucky about and make them better, thusly living a happier and more authentic life. Here’s an example:

I have a weird and possibly obsessive hatred of dry things touching other dry things. As a school teacher, this is an unfortunate hatred, because chalk and chalk boards are both very, very dry. Very dry. I’ve managed to survive by using this particular type of “dust free” chalk that comes in a green box. It’s denser than most chalk. I tell myself that it’s denser because it has more water in it, which allows me to use it without all of my teeth falling out. But that’s just an aside. The real story/pain comes in wiping the chalk off the board. All that bone dry power wafting into the air, dusty eraser fibers scratching along the slated board…I feel faint just thinking about it.  I try to have the students do it most of the time (even then sometimes I have to stand at the back of the room and not watch) and in the winter time, when it’s raining outside, I can handle it. But in August, hot and dry, sun burning down outside the window…oops! My bicuspid fell out! Dang.

Anyway, I’ve been cleaning my room in preparation for the first day. The boards have been on my list for days. I kept avoiding them, ignoring them, doing other jobs that don’t need to be done, without ever noticing or questioning why. Yesterday I stopped myself and said, Self, why are you avoiding the chalkboards? Then I answered Because the dryness is too much. If I have to, I will, but only with hatred in my heart. So then I asked myself, How can I make the job better for you/me? and then I answered Go and buy a giant sponge and fill up a bucket of water and use the giant sponge and the wet water on the dry, dry board.

So then that’s what I did. Well, actually I found a giant sponge and used that instead of buying one, but it came to the same end. The boards are clean and ready and I enjoyed the task.

I could have ignored myself. I could have powered through and wiped the boards with the dusty eraser and rubbed them black with the cloth that I keep for the job. But I would have had hatred in my heart, and now all I have is love. Love, moistened with the 98% water that’s in my body.

The point of this little story is to illuminate the dual nature of individual humans. How can there be a part of me that I ignore unless I have parts to me? How can I talk to myself and answer myself unless there are multiple sides to my nature? There are loads and loads of informative websites and books and research projects that have proven that the left and right hemispheres of the brain serve different functions. The left brain hemisphere controls literal language (grammar and vocabulary) while the right brain hemisphere controls the understanding of non-literal language (reading between the lines, intonation, sarcasm, contextual meanings). The left brain deals in facts–decoding the rational, linear, and objective–while the right brain deals in intuition–focusing on patterns, connections between experiences and things, and with a subjective understanding of the world. In other words, the right brain is all about feelings and the left brain is all about facts. The two hemispheres are connected by a band of nerve fibers called the corpus callosum, which allows the two sides to communicate with each other.

While we use both sides of our brain constantly throughout the day, most people tend to show a preference for one type of thinking over the other. (Here’s a fun test to see what your brain preference is.) Don’t worry, my point is still coming. Most people are left brain dominant, meaning that most people will believe facts coming from an external authority above their own feelings and intuitions, even when the facts are at odds with their own experiences. Over time, we begin to lose touch with our own feelings, choosing instead to focus on what is happening outside our actual experience. This leads to, at best, a superficial and un-authentic  life littered with depression and prescription drugs. At worst, it leads to illness and violence. Feelings that are pushed aside and ignored do not go away, they find alternate paths to the surface.

Fortunately, with a little conscious action, I can cut through that big bossy mouthed left hemisphere that always wants the facts. I can kneel down and put my ear on the track of that gentle, soft spoken feely, feely right hemisphere and give a good listen. It’s not that hard, once I remember to do it, and wow, I’m so much happier (and whole-er and more balanced) when I do.


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