December and whole brain living

December and whole brain living

Recently I was watching a fly trying to escape through a closed window and thinking about glass and how of all the millions of species in the world, human beings are probably the only one that can make any sense of it (although we’ve all walked into a glass door so even for us, maybe only most of the time!)

All those innate instincts that guide the joyful lives of everything else must be totally and utterly baffled by what looks like normal fresh air but is in fact an invisible forcefield that is impossible to permeate. A good way to justify saving lives with dirty windows!

I think a lot about the roots of our conditioning and behaviours, how we pulled away from our place within the world’s ecosystem and began to step outside of it and manipulate it for our own ends. So many of our ‘inventions’ totally genius, but all with a cost. After thousands of years roaming the Earth, we introduced agriculture and could produce a more predicable harvest, which allowed us to settle in one place and build walls. This helped us meet our core survival needs of everyday safe shelter and nourishment. I think the roots of our departure from the ‘whole' came from an instinctive and expansive place but along the way it all went a bit wonky. 

As humans we adapt to our surroundings at a remarkable speed. This is both a good and bad thing.

I was rewatching the beautiful film Tawai made by Bruce Parry on the question of re-wilding ourselves. The tribe that sits at the heart of the film is one of the last true hunter gatherer tribes we know of. In a brutal decision that reflects ‘what is wrong with the human world’ they are losing any rights to their ancestral lands as they have left no trace they have ever lived there! If that logic wasn’t so utterly galling, it would be laughable. 

Within the filming they are moved into a longhouse as their lands get consumed by loggers and plundered for all the natural resources. Within months, you see them spraying the cockroaches to kill them- a species that they had happily lived alongside for thousands of years until the recent walls were built and I guess, a quiet sense of ownership began to infiltrate their thought processes. For me, it was the most poignant and affecting bit of the whole film.

The development of agriculture marked the beginnings of a shift from the ‘whole-brain’ approach to living that nature intended for us, where the interconnectivity and sentience of all things kept us alive and in tune. Our way of life switched into being in service to the ingenuity of our brilliant, analytical, focused, competitive striving left-brain….. and the path it offered was deliciously captivating because it was all about US.

There is a lot of research about why we have 2 brain hemispheres and the impact of no longer engaging in ‘whole-brain living’ has had on our current approach to life. Most of our understanding of the differences between the hemisphere perspectives comes from exploring people who have experienced a stroke. 

In a weirdly ironic but exceptionally helpful turn of events, a Harvard-trained neuroscientist called Jill Bolte-Taylor herself experienced a left-hemisphere stroke and as a brain enthusiast, was perfectly placed to explore its impact. She has written books if you are interested in the details but for now I just want to reference her emphasis on the need to call on both hemispheres equally. 

She explains that the right hemisphere is much more present, connected to the bigger picture, drawing connections from seemingly unrelated things. It streams all of our sensory systems into a collage of the here and now, helping us create meaningful relationships and establish genuine connection. Conversely, the left hemisphere works linearly and methodically and is all about the past and the future. The left is designed to take that right hemisphere’s collage of the present moment and start picking out, categorizing and organizing its details, grasping concepts and making a plan. She explains in loose terms that the left side of the brain is noisy, while the right side is peaceful and because we live in a society that is so left-brain dominant, we need to lean more heavily on the right-brain properties to re-cultivate whole-brain living. 

So at this busy festive time, remember to reach for those essential moments of stillness and engage in the right-brain peace that resides within you. Why do you think the Earth created Tea?! Do it for your sense of wellbeing but do it for the non-human world too. There is a great quote in the book by Richard Powers called the Overstory

“What is crazier- plants speaking or humans listening?”

Wishing you a wonderful December, full of spice and hygge and family and we look forward to talking to you again in 2024! OMG.

Anne and Ric x

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