Tuesday, June 25, 9946

Right Brain Left Brain

The left side of the brain is very good at focusing on one thing at a time. It sees reality as a collection of little bits, and can analyze those bits quite well using logic and reason. It can distinguish individual notes in a song or individual beams in a structure. It is what enables us to excel at mathematics, engineering, physics, mechanics, chemistry, and so forth. It helped our ancestors stalk prey and build dwellings.

The right side of the brain is the master controller that directs us, not by logic or reason, but by feeling (intuition). It is not good at technical matters, but it tells us where and when to apply our technical skills. It hears a song or sees a structure as a single, continuous entity. It helped our ancestors be aware of their surroundings so that while they were stalking prey they didn’t themselves become prey.

The right brain directs our lives, and the left brain handles all the logistics. The right brain says, “It would be nice to vacation in Bermuda.” The left brain says, “I have two weeks of leave to burn, and I have nothing planned January 21-29, so I’ll fly out there on the 21st and return on the 29th. I’ll book a hotel for the nights of the 21st to the 28th. I’ll arrange some time on the beach, a snorkeling excursion, and some parasailing.”

In school we are taught how to use our left brains. We learn math, science, social studies, language, etc. This helps us later on as we perform various tasks at our jobs, balance our checkbooks, run errands, and fix things around the house. Our right brains get little attention so they remain largely underdeveloped. As a result we often make mistakes in deciding how to direct our lives, for example, who to become romantically involved with or which investments to make.

The left brain sees a dual world of distinct, separate entities: people, animals, objects, mountains, oceans, units of distance, and blocks of time. The right brain takes the overview, seeing everything as a unified whole – a nondual world. Which way we view things at any particular time depends on whether our right or left brain is more active. Sometimes we see a lonely, harsh world in which we are separate from everything and everyone else; and other times we feel as though we belong here because we are one with everything and everyone.

Many of us favor one side of our brain over the other, and we see the effects all the time: the engineer who can’t pick up on human nuances, the artist who can’t balance a checkbook, the man with a great career but awkward social skills, the woman who can simultaneously manage household chores and children but can’t do math, the goal-oriented businessman, the romantic poet. Thus we have strengths in some areas and weaknesses in others.

Both brain hemispheres are important for being able to function in life, so if we find ourselves decidedly in favor of one, it might behoove us to practice using the other. The left brain can be exercised via puzzles and math problems. The right brain can be exercised by doing what we “feel” like doing and not allowing thoughts to take over.