Thanks to multiple stroke experiences from a variety of individuals, we have been able to reveal some of the most profound secrets of consciousness and the importance of brain balance. Dr. Jill Tayor Ph. D. experienced a stroke in her left brain hemisphere and was able to document the profound reality of functioning with your right brain alone. Due to her story and others, we now have more clear knowledge of consciousness beyond our ‘reasoning mind.’
It is already well known that different hemispheres of the brain dictate different experiences. We even will refer to ourselves, or ‘personality types’ as being more left or right brained. A left brain-dominated person is said to be more logical, rational and linear, controlling -dealing with topics such as mathematics, science, economics and goal-oriented planning. A right brain-dominated person is often coined ‘the artist’, connecting more with spacial interpretations of reality, creativity, surrender and intuition. Healers, spiritually-oriented occupations, musicians and the like are all considered more ‘right-brained.’ But are we really wanting to be governed by one hemisphere alone? Is that the goal of existence? What would be the benefits from becoming more balanced – using both sides of the brain equally?
Stroke patients, such as Dr. Taylor and others have reported amazingly mystical experiences when left to function without the use of the left hemisphere. Functions such as memory, counting, time and reason all seemed to pale in importance to the grandeur of how things look, the light, for example, sounds, colors and spatial orientation. This is the same sort of description many mystics give of profoundly spiritual ‘peak’ moments, revelations and even the description of many on psychedelic substances. The hemisphere that interprets and applies meaning to objects, measures time and judges events is de-emphasized, while the beauty of the present moment in all of it’s sensual delight is over-emphasized. This is also the case with many near-death experiences and their descriptions of ‘beyond the Earth plane’, though not always to the same degree of intensity.
The point is to recognize how much we, in this society, tend to over-value rationality, logic and time. How we also belittle, a bit, the artistic, intuitive aspects and name then as unreliable and impractical. We think, somehow, in this society, that if we cannot prove it then it must not be true, or we banish it to the spiritual/religious corner holding little sway over any decision making process, law considerations or basic governmental function. So, what we are in essence saying is that the right brain interpretation of the world is less valid and less important than the left.
What Dr. Taylor addresses deeply in her book is the importance of having a balanced brain, one that functions from both perspectives, simultaneously. How does this occur? This is actually the subject of an ancient science known as Swara yoga, and simply yoga in general.
Swara yoga, in short, is the science of becoming aware of which nostril is actively breathing, then applying that knowledge in order to alter the breath, and thereby the activity of the brain. You see, Swara yoga recognizes that when the right nostril is dominant, the right brain hemisphere is active, and when the left side is, this correlates to activity in the left brain hemisphere. The breathing matches brain dominance. It is also part of the science to acknowledge that every 90 minutes, on average, people will switch from being dominant in one nostril breathing (thereby one side of the brain) and then it switches. At the switch, there is generally 90 seconds on average where both nostrils are active, indicating that both hemispheres are active at once. The practice of yoga is aimed at balancing the brain hemispheres so that both work in harmony, together, all the time.
Take a moment right now to notice which nostril is dominant and you can know which hemisphere of the brain you are dealing with. If you can begin to breath with both sides of the nose more regularly, as do yoga practitioners, you will begin to function at a higher level of consciousness.
You might know someone how has experienced a stroke that left them largely or somewhat debilitated, and depending on which side of the brain the stroke occurred on, you can see the reason behind the behavior that remains. If we can look at those who have experienced a stroke as revealing more to us about the nature of consciousness, and begin to value the information granted us by their behavior, perhaps it would be easier for us to live with them and assist them.
Simple yogic practices can help those who have suffered a stroke to regain both balance and confidence. Time magazine published an article last summer reporting on just this, saying “those in the yoga…groups had improved their balance on tests of standing, standing with their eyes closed, standing with their feet together and turning around 360 degrees, compared with patients in the control group. What’s more, the yoga participants also reported being less afraid of falling, feeling more independent and enjoying better quality of life.” It was also reported that those who practiced yoga had a more positive attitude, more confidence and a greater ratio of motivation to get back into their lives.
I think it is fascinating that life affords us seeming mishaps and ‘illnesses’ which ultimately help us to unravel the mysteries of the universe. More than any other ailment in the medical world, strokes help to reveal the nature of consciousness and the means by which we can learn to integrate both aspects of the self. Truly, none of us are solely right or left brained. We all have both brains, and are capable of drawing from both the intuitive and the rational simultaneously. In fact, it is those of us who can -who become leaders, who go the farthest and master the reality they have been placed in. We all have the potential to do the same. None of us are mediocre. None of us are less than grand.
Simple breathing techniques and postures done with awareness can sharpen the mind and balance the brain. If for nothing else, let’s do it for the evolution of our society and create a better world together by showing up with our whole brains – and thereby our whole selves.
Written by: Stasia Bliss