Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Watching the Brain Work

Links to TED TALKs are sent to me by friends every so often. Most are interesting, only a few have disappointed. The most dynamic one I have ever heard was sent to me last week by a woman in my writing class which I call "Writing with the whole brain." I am interested in how the brain works and have read a great deal in neurology and psychology. Also I've read a lot about what science is learning from the advanced Tibetan lama meditators who are seeking to control their brains so that they can enter a state of bliss at will and remain there as long as they choose.

This TED TALK by a woman neurologist who watched her brain divide is functions as she was having a massive stroke, is the most dynamic and thought provoking of the TED talks I've heard so far. Perhaps the stroke itself prevented her from acting rationally and seeking immediate help when she had an unusual headache, or she simply did not realize she needed help. She actually spent about four hours watching the ways her right and left hemisphere's perceived what was happening. When the logical side was entirely blanked out, she entered states of bliss - "Nivana" was her word - that I believe meditators work long years to achieve. They learn to move into that state at will and stay there as long as they wish -- or so I understand from what I've read.

The woman's experience affirms that the state of bliss is not supernatural, not bestowed by reaching some godhood, but a state that exist in the normal human brain although it is not accessible under normal circumstances. Yet, I think many, if not most, people have had moments of that bliss -- powerful moments sometimes occasioned by specific circumstances [perhaps like the so called runner's high] when brain chemistry triggers a kind of concentration that is not usual in every day life. I have experienced this strongly and at length at least three times, and more fleetingly several times. I do not think I am unusual in this way, although I may have looked at the experience more questioningly and been less inclined to attribute it to spiritual practice than others might. I have never experimented with mind altering drugs -- that is another area of inquiry and discovery.

I think science has only begun to understand the human brain but I'm happy they are trying and beginning to have tools with which to measure. I am discouraged that so many who are inquiring into these phenomena seem blindered to others who are looking at the same phenomena from other disciplines. Although segmented into right and left, ancient and "modern" and physiologically distinct areas, the brain is a whole and should finally be seen as one organ with many parts that interact.


Bev Sykes said...

I have been fascinated by the workings of the human brain for a long time. I will look forward to watching the TED lecture when I am back on my desktop and have better volume control! Thanks.


Yes, June -- I did watch that fabulous video on Ted a while back. It certainly was intriguing. Yesterday on NPR there was a segment on the brain on the Diane Rehm Show. Her guests were co-authors Richard Davidson and Sharon Bagley. They wrote a book on the subject titled, "The Emotional Life of Your Brain." Here is the link in case you are interested:
-- barbara

June Calender said...

Thanks for your comment, Bev. And many thanks for the link Barbara. The subject totally fascinates me.