A flytrap, and also some misconceptions

 

I have heard about Jill Bolte Taylor from a few different sources, but am not very familiar with her. Seems interesting enough, judging from this video.

What I write here is only based on what she said in that brief video, and it is likely that she addresses these things herself in her book.

The good thing about her is that it makes people interested. They get curious, and that may help them explore it more for themselves. Who or what am I? What happens when I engage in different practices to explore it?

But the way she seems talks about it in the brief video may also fuel some misconceptions.

For instance, there may be the idea that people only fall into it by accident, like Eckart Tolle, Byron Katie, and – it seems – JBT. It is true that when it happens, it is an accident. I comes out of the blue. But it is also true that we can set the stage for it through intention and practice.

There is also the idea that stories (mental activities) somehow are a problem in themselves. It is only when we take them as true that we create confusion and suffering for ourselves.

She may fuel misconceptions around the left/right brain metaphor. Even in a purely biological sense, it is not anything more than a catchy metaphor. The brain is not that simple. There is also the possible misconception that the left brain has to do with delusion and human life, and the right brain has to do with awakening. Both hemispheres are obviously essential for our functioning, and an awakening is reflected in changes throughout the whole brain and body.

There may also be the misconception that awakening is “based” in biology and the brain. It is more accurate to say that awakening is correlated to changes in the brain/body.  An awakening is reflected in changes in the brain/body, as is the case with any changes in the mind, including any thought, emotion, and shifts in states or recognitions.

She also said some funny things in the video, such as we are the life-force of the universe. Hm… It is more accurate to say that what we are is that which all content of awareness – including any life force – happens within, to and as. The word life-force makes it sound more nebulous or mysterious than it needs to be.

Initial draft…

I recently overheard a conversation about Jill Bolte Taylor who apparently had an awakening experience through a stroke. The conversation had several basic misconceptions baked into it.

The main misconception is that awakening somehow has to do with subduing or getting rid of those pesky thoughts, or of the intellect. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Awakening has to do with seeing thoughts as thoughts, and noticing what we really are. Thoughts, rather than going away, become a far more effective and useful tool within this context.

Another has to do with the pop-psychology use of the brain hemisphere analogy, seeing the left as logical, linear and reductionistic, and the right as artistic, non-linear and holistic. It is a catchy metaphor, but it is obviously not that simple, and does not necessary reflect a biological reality.

And a final one is that awakening has only to do with the brain – is only material in nature. Or even depends on a brain malfunction. There are of course corresponding shifts in how the brain works during and following an awakening, but that does not mean that it is all there is to it.

I haven’t read JBT’s book, or even seen her video, but I assume she avoids those pitfalls.

Of course, what does happen – and is not that uncommon – is that what we are sometimes notices itself when parts of our normal functioning is shut down. It can happen through illness, drugs, sex, nature, rituals, meditation/prayer and probably a lot more. It may be a glimpse, and if it stays, then our normal functioning usually returns although now within this new context.

I overheard a conversation about Jill Bolte Taylor who apparently had an awakening experience through a stroke. The conversation expressed an unfortunate anti-left brain pro-right brain attitude, which I assume is not what JBT is talking about.

Awakening is not about shutting down or subduing the intellect and stories, and shifting into some holistic or artistic la-la land. It is about seeing stories as stories, and noticing what we really are. And it is about using the tools of stories in a more effective way within that context.

There is also another misconception here, and that is the use of left vs right brain as an analogy for linear thinking vs non-linear, reductionistic vs holistic, logical vs artistic and so on. It is obviously not that simple, and although the metaphor is catchy, it doesn’t necessary reflect a biological reality.

Yet another possible misconception: That awakening is dependent on or caused by some malfunctioning of the brain. Or that it is all brain related in nature.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.