What Jill Bolte Taylor Might be Telling Us about Samadhi, An Account of 2 Right-Brain Gurus, and a Call for Research.

Via on Apr 5, 2011

by Matthew Remski, with staying-on-message help from Scott Petrie

(Thanks to Carol Horton for her insightful introduction to right and left-brain themes in her excellent post of last week. If you’re unfamiliar with the territory, her piece breaks excellent ground for the following notes.)

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No one who has practiced yoga and reads Jill Bolte Taylor’s extraordinary account of her massive left-brain hemorrhage will miss the verbatim similarity between her experience of the morning of her stroke and the various narratives of mystical revelation that yogis have described for millennia.

As her congenital AVM ruptures one morning, flooding her left brain with blood that is toxic to the neurons, she feels the gradual but dramatic loss of time, storyline, spatial distinction, strategic faculty, and compulsion. It begins with bodily dissociation that proceeds from noticing her most granular autonomic functions as sensations in breathtaking detail. She sees every iota of sensory potential with painful acuity, and zero filtering. The world becomes blinding. Her body is suddenly unfamiliar. She describes complete alienation from her hands: they look like primitive claws.

Finally, her consciousness resounds with the blessed silence of cognitive shutdown. She is in euphoria, wonderment, oneness-with-things, and she doesn’t want to come back. Her consciousness is running on one cylinder: the right-brain palette of presence, sensory exuberance, absence of will, the consciousness of being, rather than doing.

Jill Bolte Taylor

Years later, as she gradually regained left-brain function, she often regretted coming back. She experienced pangs of misanthropy towards critical human faculties, and often considered returning to her isolated ocean of bliss. It’s very hard to blame her. But there was something about her need to understand and communicate her experience that resisted a permanent retreat. There was something about the extraordinary tenderness that she felt pouring through her right brain that forced her to return. She became an exemplar of what the Buddhists call a bodhisattva, someone torn between the path of solitary revelation and the love of connecting with others.

Her story may have wonderful implications for yoga.  Through contemporary neuroscience, Taylor’s extraordinary circumstance, and her perseverance during her recovery, there is now the opportunity to see that what we call spiritual experience may not be the product of metaphysical conviction or the blessing of unseen forces or beings. Taylor’s stroke might be showing us that samadhi might be a natural experience that occurs when simple changes in brain circulation and attention are invoked by the will of the practitioner. No longer does samadhi need to be wrapped up in dogma. The mechanism might be very natural, owned by no one, and accessible to all who are willing to explore right/left brain dynamism.

____

For a total of six years, I sat at the feet of two spiritual teachers who described something arrestingly congruent with Taylor’s experience. Their crises of awakening happened early in their seeking, and they both went on to find blueprints to overlay it, explain it, and make it teachable. One found his explanation in Tantric Buddhism. The other found his explanation in A Course in Miracles. For many years, I thought that their dogmas had provoked their insights. But now I wonder if it was the other way around: if a naturally-occuring experience had prompted them to find mystical descriptions to communicate it. I wonder if I was sitting with two accidental explorers of the right brain, teachers who captivated students with their gorgeous reveries, but also tortured us with a mixture of apocalyptic anxiety, hatred for conventional thought, and their desperate need to escape from the world. I wonder if they both suffered from (or enjoyed) decreased left-brain function. I wonder if their spiritual practices encouraged this.

____

Michael Roach

I met Michael Roach (aka Geshe-la, and more recently Reverend) in November of 1997. He shook me out of a depression with a direct pitch: “You’re going to die. Do you realize that?  Now what are you going to do about that problem? Buddhism wants you to fix it.” (How ironic that my existential despair was consoled by someone claiming that I could reverse my mortality! But this is for another post.)

I remember several details about my first personal meeting with Michael. Firstly, his brilliant blue eyes seemed to stream with light, but also seemed vacant. He never met my gaze, nor did it seem that he had any pupillary action. He held his robes closed with his left hand and offered me his right hand to shake. It was limp and cold. I remember also that he often held his right arm crooked at his side, with his fingers pinched together, in what appeared to be esoteric mudras. I took his stoop and shuffling gait as signs of humility and deference, the habitual gestures of a man who felt an exquisite pressure of grace pouring down upon him. Now I am wondering if his right side carries the neurological echo of trained right-brain emphasis.

I followed Michael for the next three years – across the U.S., and twice to India. I was initially inspired by the charisma with which he communicated one particular claim: there was an experience to be had of absolute communion, and it happens in a very particular way. Almost every time he spoke, he proposed a hypothetical scene in which it might play out. We hung on his every word, because we knew the story wasn’t hypothetical at all: it was a thinly-veiled autobiographical anecdote, which the tradition couldn’t allow him to declare openly.

He told the story in the second person, which preserved his veneer of anonymity, but also functioned to possess many of us with the captivating suggestion: this could happen to me.

The story went like this:

You’ve been studying for months with your Lama, staying up all night to memorize texts, working all day to raise money for his temple. You make his food, and give him his medicine. One morning, you are standing at the stove, stirring his pot of butter tea as it begins to boil. Suddenly, you look down at the saucepan, and realize you’re not looking at a “saucepan”, but rather a collection of parts: a bit of silver, a glint of shininess, a curve, a black thing connected to your hand, a surface you would have called tea but is now just ripples and swirls. The object becomes blinding in its sensual detail and utterly absent in its definition…

…and you take the tea which is now not-tea off the stove which is not the stove and make your disoriented way to the temple, and sit down and perceive emptiness directly. There are no words to describe it. You know you’re in it because all of your words stop. After 20 minutes, you begin to come “down” out of “everywhere”, and you realize the Four Noble Truths, not like you’re reading them in book, but as experiences you can name for yourself, as the first words begin to come back to you. You realize that life is suffering, and that there is an answer, and you’ve just seen it. And then you come down even further, back into normal life. But you are forever changed. You will never see things as being real again. Or if you do, you know that you are insane. For the rest of your life, you walk around knowing that you’re insane. Everyone else is crazy too, but at least you know it.

Let’s scan this against Taylor’s experience. They see the identity of objects lose their definition and meaning. (She has marvellous description of trying to discern the shape, meaning, and function of her telephone, as her left brain slowly starves.) They feel dissociated from their bodies. They understand that the very fabric of reality is a tenuous fiction of perceptions that can be undone at any moment. They watch time stop. They hear the internal monologue go blissfully silent.

Upon returning, they both have the overwhelming sense that life has changed irrevocably, and that they cannot return to previous perceptions and prior obligations, and that the world as they see it return is hollow, cheap, mean, illusory, and anxiety-ridden. The world is at best a place to leave. Unless you are scientist, and are deeply convinced you have nowhere else to go, and no greater calling than to make ecstasy intelligible.

Michael basically had two teachings. First: do whatever you can to have this experience, using whatever conventional and non-conventional Buddhist methods I can teach you – and spare no expense, because your life depends on it. Second – teach others how to have it. It will save lives because it will eliminate the perception of time and the anxiety of death. It will save your life because it will erase the facts of your condition.

This now sounds to me a lot like someone with a very contentious relationship with the left-brain world of identities and stories, time and details, objects and tasks. He would openly weep through twitching eyes and small spasms of what seemed to be pain whenever he spoke about the existential realities that he found so abhorrent: people dying, global inequality, his students in ignorant sorrow. His left brain seemed to be a minefield of terror and disgust.

The day came when I was done with Michael. There were many reasons, but the main one was that I realized that whatever his experience had been, it seemed to have closed him off to every other perspective, every other desire. Any interest he might have had in the consideration of other points of view seemed amputated. I sat with him one day and realized that his 1000-yard stare wasn’t seeing through me. It simply wasn’t seeing me. I realized he could only see me if I reflected his own desires perfectly. I realized that that wasn’t a relationship. So I went looking for guru #2.

___

Charles Buell Anderson, 1936 - 2008

Charles Buell Anderson, the late founder of Endeavor Academy, introduced himself to me by getting right in my face and yelling “Buddhists are full of shit!” His eyes seemed to flash, and I started to laugh uncontrollably, and felt a spike of kundalini jag upwards from my sacrum. The back of my neck got very hot, my eyes became light-sensitive. My spine began to quiver and my breath shortened. He watched me jitterbug with his shaktipat for a bit, and then said: “Study that, smart-ass!”

He was a piece of work, for sure. He taught me an enormous amount about freedom, responsibility, and spontaneous, terrible joy. He did this while perched on the edge of total madness. Once, he literally beat me over the head with his socks, which he used to peel off during teaching sessions. In the moment I remembered that Marpa had initiated Milarepa by beating him over the head with his sandals. Charles seemed to read my mind.  He yelled: “If you give up on Buddhism, you’ll finally give up on yourself – and then you can go home to God!  Don’t worry – He’ll still take you!”

I felt what he meant deeply, especially when I couldn’t understand it. He was speaking from another place. We used to imagine he had some wireless connection to god. But it seems he had a fire-wire between his mouth and his right brain. He made great emotional and even kinetic sense by actively destroying left-brain logic and grammar.

He died almost three years ago. Of a massive stroke.

___

Charles spoke in jazz riffs, quoting at will and loosely the Heart Sutra, the Course, the New Testament, Broadway tunes, Jesus, and his own raging dreams. His grammar was circular, his sentences were like Jackson Pollock paintings, and his paragraphs were epic. He often abandoned words altogether and simply scatted. We went into ecstasy as he jabbered and literally foamed at the mouth. Our mirror neurons picked up on his vocal patterns: in any given minute, one of the surrounding bliss-ninnies would speak in tongues. His left-brain speech centres governing syntax and linear meaning were either suppressed, ignored, or damaged.

There was a lot of mirroring going on. One of the most distinctive gestures of a Charles devotee was the head-shake-and-bobble of burbling kundalini. The Old Man himself did this constantly, as though his head were the cap on a pressure-steamer. Through the crowd, heads were always bobbing, sometimes violently.  Or shaking side to side as if in some improvised kriya. There was constant and spontaneous huffing and puffing – the whole room sometimes breaking out into wild, undisciplined kapalabhati or rebirthing-type breathing. Everybody complained of pressure in their heads. Charles did as well, and would often massage his own temples or rub the top of his head to release steam, laughing as he did, very pleased to be fully possessed, yet clearly laboring under the burden of continual and intense upward circulatory flow. (Big-time udana imbalance, for Ayurveda fans.)

There was also a lot of bodily dissociation. Almost all of us spoke of the sensation of being “not here”, or “out of the body”, or “gone”. Often, we spoke of feeling “fried”, which was probably an accurate description of what we were doing to our neurology. But the “gone” feeling also merged with a feeling of “everywhere-ness”, as though our bodies were continually melding with space, becoming fluid, pouring outwards, pouring upwards. Sometimes it produced tactile numbness, and at others, acute tactile sensitivity. What was consistent was that the principle of bodily differentiation in space – a key left-brain function – was in total disarray. Like a drug, it felt wonderful, until it didn’t.

The last year that I spent with Charles and the group, his ecstasies seemed to break him apart. Sometimes he would fall catatonic in the middle of a sentence. At times his speech would elide from scat into literal slur. (We’d known he’d been an alcoholic, and some of us speculated on whether he was relapsing, but we ruled it out, because the slurring would happen one or two hours into any given talk, and we only saw him drink Coke from a can we watched him open.) Sometimes his right hand would seem to flop aimlessly. He would often drool a little from the right corner of his mouth. Evidently, there wasn’t a single trained medical professional amongst us – or if there was, they were too invested in his shamanism to see and act on what might well have been happening: the man was having minor left-brain strokes regularly, perhaps hourly. It is a morbid memory for me: we watched it, and we loved it. We wanted to feel our own cognitive function self-destruct, because we thought it held our bliss for ransom. We were watching his brain fry, and we thought we longed for the same.

And it happened to some of us. I watched one woman collapse in front of me. We all kept dancing with our arms in the air, celebrating our right-brain vision. Some of us even began to dance ritually around her twitching body, rejoicing in her “breakthrough”.  She had a breakthrough, all right. She died of a stroke. I wonder if the rupture was in her left brain.

___

Two personal anecdotes about crazy wisdom gurus do not a theory make. I’m not diagnosing either of these men, and I don’t intend to neuropathologize my former ashram mates. And I’m not claiming that that a woman died because of a kundalini meditation — there are obviously countless factors. But I’m pretty sure there’s something here – a fruitful set of leads that others can follow, especially neurobiologists and other specialists in the emerging contemplative sciences – that might bring us closer to cracking the mystical nut.

How might this research impact our entire view of yoga and the spiritual aspiration? What if many physical and meditative practices are revealed to specifically limit left-brain blood flow, oxygenation, and activity? What if, ironically, the cognitive meltdown of a peak experience is not about communion, but about the willed obstruction of the corpus callosum – the neuronal spindles that bind the left and right together? What if samadhi is not union at all, but a rupture in the balanced polarity of consciousness? A rupture that removes time, narrative, grammar, linearity, and the strategic internal monologue, granting unmediated access to sensual richness, timelessness, and the silence of contentment?

Is it balanced for us as practitioners that we wish upon wish to trade the former for the latter? Isn’t it strange that we seem to want so desperately to inhabit one phase of our existence only? Isn’t it strange that that phase is coincident with every social value that we’ve come to associate with disciplined practice – internality, anti-social behavior, detachment from action in the bliss-bubble?

I’m not suggesting that meditative peaks are undiagnosed strokes, but what if the conscious manipulation of blood circulation in the brain through breathing patterns or visualizations (we know this is possible through fMRI readings) bring practitioners into similar but non-damaging conditions? What if daily meditation practice is actually “daily feed-the-right-brain-exclusively” practice? And what if some practitioners, through zeal or genetic predisposition, develop highly attuned faculties for left-brain avoidance or even stunting, and through their right-brain concentrations inspire the rest of us with such poetry as we ourselves contain, but almost always suppress, in favour of the prose of survival?

What if the rankings of spiritual practitioners could be positioned along a scale of how much left-brain function was still active, with less function giving a higher ranking? Ramakrishna would top the charts. What if some of our most radiant saints are fully-functional minor-stroke survivors, hobbling through their miraculous recoveries, and naming their experience with the only language available to them – the metaphysical?

___

Evidence is needed. And it has started to come in. Taylor quotes from the work of Drs. Andrew Newburg and Eugene d’Aquili, who used single photon emission computed tomography to map the spiritual experience.  I quote:

Tibetan meditators and Franciscan nuns were invited to meditate or pay inside the SPECT machine. They were instructed to tug on a cotton twine when they reached either their meditative climax or felt united with God. These experiments identified shifts in neurological activity in very specific regions in the brains. First, there was a decrease in the activity of the left hemisphere language centers resulting in a silencing of their brain chatter. Second, there was a decrease in activity in the orientation association area, located in the posterior parietal gyrus of the left hemisphere. This region of our left brain helps us identify our personal physical boundaries. When this area is inhibited or displays decreased input from our sensory systems, we lose sight of where we begin and where we end relative to the space around us.

If this research is corroborated over time, perhaps we’ll better understand what we’re seeking on the mat and on the cushion. We’ll understand the mechanism available to us. We’ll understand it with the same openness and democracy and no-big-deal-ness as we’ve begun to understand cardio fitness or proper diet.

___

A positive overtone of this possibility is that it may soothe the primary complaint that religious traditions have had against what they view as the materialist reductionism of states of grace. To reduce ecstatic realization-states to the whim of brain chemistry, they intone, is to collapse heaven into a petri dish, to make human will and the soul’s progress unnecessary. But what do the esoterics want? Do they not want to prove that the ingredients of enlightenment are universal? That everyone contains Buddha-nature, or atman? Would they not jump at the opportunity to share the demystification of these ideas? They would only resist if they were worried about giving power away through the democratization of insight.

Everybody has a right brain. And what if we simply choose to see heaven in a petri dish, as Blake did, in his grain of sand?

What is more reductionist: the material, or the metaphysical? They are both just languages. The question is: which one is an open system that invites dialogue and shared research?

Materialists have insulted the religiously-minded in another key way: Freud claimed that the samadhi experience was a powerful infantile regression-fantasy that sought to recapture body-coherence with the mother. This was intolerable in the view of some, because it pathologized an intensely meaningful event. Freud essentially said that the mystic was intensely neurotic.

The right-brain-emphasis theory I’m dreaming about offers the reverse. It proposes that the practitioner can develop such extraordinary intelligence and dexterity as to be able to manipulate left-hemisphere blood flow to the point of uninhibited right-brain insight. The mystic isn’t crazy – she is a neurological ninja. Now – if she could only come back to her meditation cushion and utilize a reasonable vocabulary for what she experienced, she wouldn’t have to reach for stories about other planes or divine visitations. With good research, we might find something that is actually shareable, something not dependent upon faith statements or the surrender of intellectual honesty. We might have, for the first time in the history of yoga, a freely open, non-proprietary understanding of a recognized natural occurrence.

____

If there was ever a field for wiki-type collaboration, exploring the relationship between hemispheric polarity and spiritual realization is it. The neurobiologists can provide a left-brain map, the tantrics a right-brain map. Taylor and the mystics can describe what they see. The psychologists and literary theorists can compare their statements. With a good interdisciplinary team that abandons the reactivity of prior beliefs, we might derive something quite healing: an experiential and practicable view of our baffling oscillation between time and the timeless.

photo by scott petrie

Matthew Remski is an authoryoga and ayurvedic therapist and educator, and co-founder of Yoga Community Toronto. With Scott Petrie he is co-creator of yoga 2.0, a project in writing (one book done, eight more in the sushumna-chute) and the embodiment of all things post-dogmatic.

yoga 2.0: shamanic echoesis now available for kindle and other e-readers.

About yoga 2.0 lab

Matthew Remski is an Ayurvedic practitioner and Yoga Teacher Trainer in Toronto. His latest book, Threads of Yoga, is gathering international acclaim. He's teaching this online course starting 1/7/14. It's currently full, but there is a reduced-tuition option for auditing. The 12 weekly lessons will be available online for six months following the course. Participants receive a 130-page manual of notes.

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32 Responses to “What Jill Bolte Taylor Might be Telling Us about Samadhi, An Account of 2 Right-Brain Gurus, and a Call for Research.”

  1. Yyogini says:

    I have been pondering about the issue of spirituality and whether or not it's just a by-product of the brain . Thank you so much for this insightful article. This is when I wish I were a neurobiologist so I can participate in this fascinating potential research topic.

    • matthew says:

      I know what you mean. But I think the best research will incorporate the best poetry of our various languages, scientific, yogic, and anything else… The yogis definitely have an important place on the panel…

      • Yyogini says:

        I came across this article that talked more about some research findings of "side effects" of meditation, along with anecdotal stories: http://www.thehumanist.org/humanist/MaryGarden.ht

        In particular the article mentioned Dr. Michael Persinger was able to induce mystical experiences in individuals by fitting volunteers with a helmet containing magnets that generated weak electromagnetic signals (the God Helmet) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_helmet

        A Swedish group tried to replicate Dr. Persinger's findings but failed to do so. Sounds like somebody else needs to take up the task of experimental replication before we can be more certain about his findings. I probably wouldn't volunteer to be one of the experimental subjects though. But then again, how much safer is it to practice prolonged meditations, given the findings so far and the anecdotal scary stories?

  2. Wow. The problem with all your brilliant essays is that I want to spend the next day writing about all my reactions. But I just don't have the time, what with this Yoga Editor job and all.

    I know you were characterizing Roach in the following sentence, but I couldn't disagree more with:

    They world is at best a place to leave. Unless you are scientist, and are deeply convinced you have nowhere else to go, and no greater calling than to make ecstasy intelligible.

    If everything is inherently mind-boggling, just as it is, if we see it objectively, then there is absolutely not the slightest reason to escape (which happens to be pretty much the main point of the Gita.)

    Not only that, all the nuances of the left-side of the human brain become sources for further wonderment, even the aspects that sometimes get in the way, like the ego.

    The most sublime human experiences embrace both the the right-side and left-side of the brain together. This is most obvious in something like music. But in the highest Yoga that I admire, every other experience is also subject to the same sort of music-like, both sides of the brain wonderment.

    Isn't your head just going to explode someday from the sheer accumulated pressure of all these highly provocative and controversial topics ricocheting around in your brain all the time? I worry about you.

    Bob W. Yoga Editor
    Elephant Yoga on Facebook
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    • matthew says:

      Thanks Bob. I'm with you on hemispheric conjunction: that the neuro-meaning of yoga, it seems. And I think we agree on the general mental-health questions of the ascetic drive. And music is key: I probably never learned as much about anything as when I was a church organist: both hands, both brains, weddings, and funerals. Thank you for your concern — I have a yoga-alert bracelet, so I'm all set…

  3. TamingAuthor says:

    Matthew, the research has been done. It exists. And it can be replicated. It shows that consciousness is not an emergent property of brain activity. Consciousness is not an epiphenomenon of neurochemicals.

    While Jill gives an emotional presentation that appeals to many people, it is extremely poor when it comes to science. She blows past the differences between causality and correlation. She blows past alternative explanations and shoe horns the experience into the speculative assumptions of neuroscience — assumptions that lack a solid basis in evidence.

    When we approach the situation with a priori assumptions that brain = mind and all experience is the product of brain function, we risk getting cause and effect reversed.

    Jill experienced the same results that others experience without her symptoms. One must ask what is the common factor? It is obviously not the specific pathology, as that varies. What one finds is that when the brain/body is threatened with death, whether real or simply anticipated, consciousness separates from the body. Drugs, injury, anticipated trauma, oxygen deprivation, all create the same result — consciousness separates in anticipation of harm to the organism.

    One can go further and accomplish the same result without the pathology through various spiritual practices. They all bring about a detachment of consciousness from the body. As one researches this area, one finds ample evidence that the concepts the Buddha taught, that Patanjali taught, that Christ taught, that Plato taught are accurate — our essence is that of a spiritual being that exists separate from the body, and which continues beyond the death of the body.

    The most complete attempt (and failure) to justify a naturalistic explanation of these factors was Dying to Live by Susan Blackmore. In the end, it was all speculation based on bias … and does not hold up. In my critique of her book, I explain the contrary evidence… http://www.nderf.org/Dying%20To%20Live%20Critique

    • matthew says:

      Thank you for your feedback, Taming.

      Can you direct me and the readers to a peer-reviewed neuroscience study (not authored or quoted by you) published in a major scientific or medical journal that shows consciousness is not an emergent property of nervous function? I'm curious about the research you cite, and what language and method it uses.

      • TamingAuthor says:

        Matthew, there are many resources you can consult.

        Go to the link above and then to their home page. Jeffrey Long has done a lot of good work.

        Also go to the University of Virginia NDE study group. It is the group that also studied past life recall.

        You can go to the literature in Buddhism. Or the Yoga Sutras.

        You can look at the work that Blackmore cites and my response.

        You can go to consciousness studies programs such as the one out of Tucson run by Hammeroff. Chalmers is one source to check—there are others in the consciousness studies area that have begun to recognize the problem.

        Also the Mind & Life Institute provides a number of good sources.

        Once you open those resources, you will find many others and pull the strings. (And you could become proficient in the practice and engage in your own observation and research.)

        You will not find this topic in the neuroscience field because they only deal with neuroscience. In other words, they work only on the brain. If it does not have to do with the brain, it is not within their area of expertise. (This is part of the problem when one heads into the neuroscience area. They have a set of a priori assumptions that color their work. They speak "as if" mind brain equivalency is a proven fact when that is not the case.)

        You will, however, find article after article, some more candid than others, that admit that there is no evidence consciousness emerges from the brain. One of the best articles, which I do not have right at hand, was by Erhard when he was at San Diego. It spoke of the possibility that there never will be a naturalistic explanation of consciousness.

        Perhaps the most famous attempt (and failure) to establish consciousness within the framework of naturalism was Dennett in Consciousness Explained. He demonstrated, inadvertently, that one could not even present a cogent philosophy of naturalistic consciousness. Hameroff, together with Penrose, made a similar failed attempt.

        Anyway, if you are a serious and diligent student there is a wealth of material out there that can give you a start. Happy researching.

      • TamingAuthor says:

        Worth sorting through Chalmers work as a start, as an orientation… http://consc.net/chalmers/

        Alan Wallace is another good starting point… http://www.alanwallace.org/writings.htm

        • matthew says:

          Taming – thank you for the resources – I will add them happily to my list. Although I do have to say I’m as suspicious of your bias as you are of materialism. I see that you’ve thrown Patanjali into your list. This is an interesting choice for a conversation about the findings of neuroscience.

          The Yoga Sutras tell us it is proper to be disgusted with our bodies (2:40). They tell us that the highest meditation destroys the material world (2:22), except for those who are not meditating. The book gives instructions on body-snatching (3:38), levitation (3:39), and space-flight without a ship (3:42). If this text is one that you feel can speak authoritatively to new discoveries in cognitive science, then 1) I doubt the transparency of your reading list, and 2) I have bridge to sell you.

          My article makes no truth claims within neuroscience: that is beyond my learning, even if it's not beyond yours. I'm simply fascinated in the overlap of experiential reports recorded in languages that traditionally have excluded each other.

          I don’t think duelling evidences will resolve our main issue, which is not about where consciousness comes from, but why this question matters.

          What exactly is lost by the inference that consciousness is an emergent property of matter? What is lost by earnest people using their frame of reference and expertise to describe a human experience?

  4. Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter, and to "Featured Today" on the new Elephant Yoga homepage.

    Bob W.
    Yoga Editor

  5. Thought-provoking ideas and interesting support for them. Consider other abrupt physiological changes that result in experiences described similarly, though…for example, listen to the man in the Testosterone episode of This American Life who suddenly stops producing testosterone. Before he begins having it artificially pumped back in, he experiences a dispassionate and equally-distributed wonder at everything in the world, as his desires and aversions recede.

  6. Linda Buzogany linda buzogany says:

    Hi guys, yes, the synchronicity of our articles is pretty wild. I'm going to re read yours…a lot of work to absorb. Thanks!
    Linda

  7. Ramesh says:

    Matthew, Carol, the interconnectivity of it all is what fascinates me–it's just not all brain, not just all mind, not just all spirit, but all of the above, right left center, below as above.. I am seeing all of that in your thought provoking work Matthew, yet you seem to, at the end, want to reduce it to the brain. That would be easy, if Ramakrishna just had a minor stroke. But that's a reductionist path… I am thinking of a piece, a longer response, Carol, my brain is working on it, and hopefully I will have time.

  8. Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the new Elephant Yoga homepage.

  9. [...] linking to an article published in Elephant Journal that has an interesting discussion about the right brain and mystical [...]

  10. Sophia says:

    mathew — You bring on few interesting points. Yet, formost I am amused by your arrogance:-) And you are the co-founder of Yoga Community Toronto?!!! And an ayurvedic and yoga therapist? How do you bring compassion into your work as a therapist if you attribute it to a brain malfunction?!!! Is your essay mere ly a sort of rage? A temper tantrum?

    "What is more reductionist: the material, or the metaphysical? They are both just languages. The question is: which one is an open system that invites dialogue and shared research?"

    "What makes materialism more reductionist than metaphysics? "

    Either materialism or metaphysics can be reductionist. Each of these are mere methods. Methods with which we attempt to explain and make sense of the universe. Now it depends on how and by whom each method is used.

    • matthew says:

      Dear Sophia — thank you for your comment. I agree that it is the usage of methods that determines their reductionism in feeling. But in structure, materialist research claims no ultimacy: as an open system, it literally cannot reduce.

      I'm very interested to know what triggered you. What did you find arrogant, uncompassionate, or enraged? Thanks.

  11. [...] What Jill Bolte Taylor Might be Telling Us about Samadhi, An Account of 2 Right-Brain Gurus, and a C… [...]

  12. Sarah says:

    I read Jill Bolte Taylor's book twice and enjoyed her account immensely. And ACIMiracles is my "desert island" choice.

    Since the brain and any parts of it are impermanent, it seems that the right brain experiences too are part of the impermanent human experience. Maybe the right brain can experience a drop in the bucket of the Absolute or God experience.

    • Philip Urso Philip Urso says:

      I agree. ACIM would say that all is illusion (dream) and, being our dream, it is exactly what we want, believe, value. The dream world we experience is determined exclusively by our choice of fear and love. From ACIM point of view, all science including physics, is just the dreamer examining the fabric of a dream and can only show us what we've wanted, believed, and valued. Nothing beyond that. ACIM: "There is no [material] world! This is the central lesson of the Course." So right brain, left brain equals a dream metaphor for love/fear and our struggle to chose what we want.

      But the "drop in the bucket" can be experienced here too, according to ACIM and tell us what we really are.

      Kabbalah describes the 1 percent world and the 99 percent world. Supports the drop in the bucket idea.

  13. Matthew, brilliant once again. I'm sharing this with a group at HDS on Thursday.

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  15. [...] is, our brains are not the smartest (nor the only) part of us. The brain’s job is, in part, to make shit up. For example, There is a little gap in our vision where the optic nerve runs out from the eye. This [...]

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  17. Love the fact that other people are picking up on Waylon and my habit of copying over Facebook discussions like this. It really helps to collect everything here in one place. Keep doing this, and I encourage others to do so as well on their blogs.

  18. matthew says:

    i look forward to it!

  19. Sarah says:

    Just reading this is blowing my mind! Ha.

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