“It can get complicated but the basic idea is that while the left brain is logical, linguistic, and literal, the right brain is emotional, nonverbal, experiential, and autobiographical… Your left brain loves and desires order. It is logical, literal, linguistic, and linear. The right brain on the other hand is holistic and non-verbal. Instead of details and order, our right brain cares about the big picture --- the meaning and feel of an experience --- and specializes in images, emotions, and personal memories. We get a ‘gut-feeling’ or ‘heart-felt sense’ from our right brain…”
“In terms of development, very young children are right-hemisphere dominant, especially during their first three years. They haven’t mastered the ability to use logic and words to express their feelings, and they live their lives completely in the moment... Logic, responsibilities, and time don’t exist for them yet… In order to live balanced, meaningful, and creative lives full of connected relationships, it’s crucial that our two hemispheres work together.”
These excerpts were taken from a book by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D. titled The Whole-Brain Child. This book is about how to teach children to integrate both sides of their brain to create a holistic and healthy brain. Although this book is marketed as a parenting book, I believe everyone benefits from the concepts it explores. As an adult myself, I have come to realize that my lack of understanding and valuing of my right-brain has led me into emotional distress and depression.
It is clear that our modern society favors the left-sided logical, literal, and linear thinking. This is what our school systems focus on developing. It’s what makes us good rational thinkers. But when it becomes our sole focus, our creative, intuitive, and emotional well-being begins to suffer.
“‘Do you think you’re creative?’
Ask this question to a group of second-graders, and about 95 percent of them will answer “Yes.” Three years later, when the kids are in fifth grade, that proportion will drop to 50 percent—and by the time they’re seniors in high school, it’s down to 5 percent.”
Albert Einstein is famously quoted as saying “education is what remains after one has forgotten what he has learned at school.” Einstein had a feverish focus on imagination, creativity, and intuition. School got in the way of that. Modern studies mirror this sentiment. Creativity is declining.
Albert Einstein was said to get more “child-like” as he grew older, continuously developing the right-sided aspects of his brain long after childhood. This provided him with a wondrous perspective through which he viewed the world, a perspective that allowed him to see the world very differently, and even more accurately (as he proved).
We often think that the more logical we get the more accurately we can view the world, but that is not true. Logic has obvious limits and can only take us so far. Logic can keep us trapped in a reality, that only imagination can free us from.
It is very hard in our current society to develop proficiency in right-brain processes. From a young age, we are conditioned to repress emotion, to not cry, to not get angry. In fact, emotionality is treated as a disorder, when people get “too emotional” we give them pharmaceuticals, intended to subdue the emotions. ADHD medication, anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, and hormone pills that make us more refined and rational. The intuition, emotion, and experiential development that the right-brain favors are left to fall to the recesses of our subconscious.
This does us a massive disservice and contributes to mental illness, depression, and addiction. The goal then is to develop our right-brain, learn to trust it more, and integrate it into our everyday psyche.
This is one thing that I gain out of the weekly ritual that I do. Spending extended periods in silence, looking into the eyes of others. Brings about feelings that words fail to explain. We create an experience that is truly ineffable. All of this contributes to the development of the right-brain aspects of my psyche. When I go back into daily life I can better trust my intuition, allow myself to be vulnerable, and express my emotions openly. Ultimately, I can connect with others on a deeper level than my left-brain allows me to. My left-brain logically worries about the risk associated with vulnerability, rejection, and so prevents me from being open and honest. It is trying to protect me, but has gone overboard and has become a barrier to growth and development.
This ritual practice has changed the way the hemispheres of my brain communicate with each other. It provides me with “memes” or images that contain the power to transform my reality. Terrence Mckenna discussed memes long before we had the internet and it’s memes. He described them as these symbolic images that we held in our psyche, that carried a great deal of weight and emotional attachment. Words fail to encapsulate the totality of what these symbols represent. Psychedelic experiences have the power to evoke these memes within us. But then it is up to us to utilize them in our lives. We can integrate them into life and use them to make transformative changes. Or we can repress or ignore them. Without proper right and left brain integration, we often fail to integrate these experiences in a healthy way. More often than not, they manifest in neurosis and mental illness. This is why I believe it is crucial to have a “right-brain practice” in which we can return to these images, symbols, and experiences, and continuously integrate them into our life. This ritual is my right-brain practice.