Why don’t we use both sides of our brains equally? When did we decide the left side was better than the right? Many of us have heard something about the difference between our left and right brain and how they work and what they are useful for. While the reality is that we use both sides of our brain, our tendency is to value and focus on left brain functions and so we tend to filter the meaning of what is happening in our immediate experience through that same lens. That means we are focused on the physical, logical, rational, and reasonable aspects of what has happened, or what may happen based on past reference and future potential. That is helpful in getting things done, yet it doesn’t do much with the other half of the information that is available for us to use.
While the left brain is comparing the past to give us a rational projection of the future, our right brain is working to let us know what is actually happening in the moment around us and within us. Both pieces of information are critical to integrating all the relevant information that informs our reactions, decisions, and choices.
If we are so focused on what happened before, or what we think will happen in the future, we miss what is actually happening right in front of us. Often our left brain is so full of what we are going to say next, that we miss the emotions or sensations happening within us or from others. We are often so focused on what others do or how they react to what we want or don’t want, that we tend to turn away from what is going on inside of ourselves. We hear our ego telling its story about the past and the future, so we miss the intuitive flash that comes through our quiet or resting mind.
When we always need to stay in the known world of duality, right wrong, black and white, good and bad, we are unconsciously looking for some control over what is happening to us.
As a result, we tend to miss the pause and the incubation of new ideas that happen when we can rest for a moment in the grey area of not knowing or ‘no-thought’. Our left brain is constantly looking for evidence that matches how we already see the world. This has us miss the symbolic information that is around us in each moment. This might look like walking into the meeting seeking out the person with the tie and missing that everyone is barefoot to acknowledge our shared humble roots.
Some simple ways to exercise our right brain include spending more time in the present moment where we can become aware of and even merge with our non-linear, subjective experiences within us and around us. Another is to allow yourself to draw with your non-dominant hand and keep going even when it feels weird. If you can, spend some time with an artist or musician and let them share their process of creation and expression. Just listen and allow yourself to feel what happens for them inside. When you can take a few moments to be focused on your insides, allow yourself to feel what your body is experiencing in the moment without moving to fix or change it. Simply let it be without judgment and let it give you its message so you can respond with self-care. Take a few hours to just ‘play’ by doing without a goal. Release yourself from the outcome and just enjoy the experience of flowing with each moment.
How can you integrate the use of your right brain today?