Thursday, October 7, 2010

Where Nobody Knows Your Name

The wisdom traditions talk of a state that is beyond time. A state in which there is so suffering and no possibility of suffering. In which our personal boundaries and concepts, and the accompanying mental chatter, simply fall away. And neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor gives an amazing  TED talk in which she discusses the same kind of experience happening to her during, of all things, a massive stroke.

In her powerful presentation, she talks of an experience outside of time, and outside of the physical limitations of the body. She feels at one with the universe, blissful, far larger than the limits of her body, beyond suffering. And she feels this during a stroke in which the left hemisphere of her brain essentially shuts down.

The left hemisphere of our brain (which Jill calls a "serial processor") is about separation, logic, causation, planning, and past and future. The right hemisphere (which she calls a "parallel processor") is about expansion, unity, intuition, compassion, completeness in the present moment.

Jill Bolte Taylor's experience of timelessness is completely consistent with our understanding of how the right hemisphere of the brain works. While her right hemisphere was temporarily and completely unfiltered by the laws and logic of the left hemisphere, it is possible that some elements of this experience are accessible to everyone, not just sages who have had a profound enlightenment, or scientists who have had a massive stroke.

This kind of happiness, then, is not only available, but it is actually wired into how our brains operate.

Our first insight was that our experience is totally an internal one. Our world is exactly as we expect it to be.

Our second insight is that we were born happy, and that we can return to that original state at any time.

Our third insight is that we can actually find this happiness in how our brains interpret the world.
We'll talk about a fourth insight tomorrow.


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