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Peace and Tranquility Found located in the Right Hemisphere of the Brain

Updated on January 22, 2012

Difference between Left and Right Brain Hemispheres

The left hemisphere of the brain is analytical, judgmental, thinks sequentially, knows the concept of past and future, and likes to play out "what-if" scenarios in the mind.

The right hemisphere is holistic, sees the big picture, and is not bound by time nor physical boundaries. The only moment that the right hemisphere knows about is the present moment.

The left hemisphere specializes in factual memory. The right brain specializes in emotional modulation, imagery, and references to self.

Daniel Siegel writes in The Mindful Brain that ...

"The L's of the left -- linear, logical, linguistic, literal thinking -- can not take in or connect directly to the holistic, imagery-based, nonverbal, emotional/social processing of the right." [page 301]

Insights from a Neuro-Scientist after Stroke Disables Left Hemisphere

What happens if the left hemisphere way of thinking was disabled and the right hemisphere thinking dominate our thoughts. This was what happened to brain scientist Dr. Jill Taylor who had a stroke 1996 that disabled her left-hemisphere of her brain. After a full recovery she describes her stroke event at the TED conference in a very powerful talk which you can view.

She writes in her book My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey:

"I think the Buddhists would say I entered the mode of existence they call Nirvana. In the absence of my left hemisphere's analytical judgment, I was completely entranced by the feelings of tranquility, safety, blessedness, euphoria, and omniscience." [p.49]

This suggests that feelings of peace and tranquility is generated by the right hemisphere of the brain.

She further writes on page 68:

"I had spent a lifetime of 37 years being enthusiastically committed to "do-do-doing" lots of stuff at a very fast pace. on this special day, I learned the meaning of simply "being". ... I shifted from the doing-consciousness of my left brain to the being-consciousness of my right brain."

The Ego Center

The left hemisphere is also the ego center. So on the morning of her stroke, she also lost any ego she had. She had mentioned this in one of her interviews with Ophra as well as on page 71.

Although she has regained her left hemisphere and is fully recovered now, Dr. Taylor says that she can slip back into that peaceful right-brain tranquility at any time. On page 111 of her book she writes,

"the experience of Nirvana exists in the consciousness of our right hemisphere, and that any moment, we can choose to hook into that part of our brain. ... My stroke of insight would be: peace is only a thought away, and all we have to do to access it is silence the voice of our dominating left mind."

She goes on to write on page 159 that "deep inneer peace is just a thought/feeling away." and that the

"feeling of deep inner peace is neurological circuitry located in our right brain. This circuitry is constantly running and always available for us to hook into. The feeling of peace is something that happens in the present moment."

More About Jill Taylor

Jill Bolte Taylor is an Harvard trained brain scientist, or neuro-anatomist. In an interview with Anne Strainchamps on Best of Our Knowledge radio program, Jill Taylor described her stroke experience and the insights gain. Taylor says that one analogy is to think of the peaceful state of being as being the background blue sky. And the intrusive thoughts in our brain as the clouds that comes in and out of our consciousness.

Taylor was chosen by Time Magazine as among the 100 Most Influential People of 2008 and spoke at the San Francisco 2008 Green Festival.

Mindfulness Awareness Practice Activates Right Hemisphere

Studies have seem to indicate that mindfulness practice may help activate more of the right hemisphere.

The Mindful Brain writes ...

"Shifting within mindful awareness to a focus on the body may involve a functional shift away from linguistic conceptual facts toward the nonverbal imagery and somatic sensations of the right hemisphere." [page 47]

If you are new to mindful awareness practice, an easy exercise is to focus on one's breath. Just mentally watch your breath and feel how your body breathes. Another technique is to try the meditative breath counting exercise.

Mindfulness practice have been found to reduce anxiety and cultivate a feeling of well-being. This makes sense because mindfulness practice activates the right hemisphere. And the right hemisphere is associated with peace, tranquility, and well-being.


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