Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have been studying extensively with Dr. Bonnie Badenoch, a psychotherapist, author, mentor and speaker. She leans heavily into Ian McGilchrist’s work of the divided brain, which I have found increasingly fascinating. It is proposed that the left side of the brain attempts to create certainty through categorisation. New information is dismembered and sorted according to familiar classifications. The left side is about plans and goals; it continually asks the question: How will this benefit me? Protocols, interventions and task-orientation is coming out of this side of the brain. There is an “either/or” perspective and a tendency towards judgement. The cortical columns of neurons in the left side of the brain are relatively isolated and there are far fewer interconnections. It could be said that the information becomes somewhat dead.
On the other hand, the right side of the brain orients us to the space between, the “relational space” and how it is unfolding from one moment to the next. Everything is held in context and becomes a unique experience that is unrepeatable. Whereas the left side of the brain is concerned with either/or, the right side of the brain can accept the paradox and a both/and perspective. There is an awareness that there is uncertainty and with that a potential for both suffering and meaning. The cortical columns of neurons in that side of the brain are “richly interconnected”, which makes it a well-wired network.
It is not about vilifying the left side of the brain; it’s about understanding that both hemispheres are important with their relationship to each other being vital. However, it is crucial the right side takes the lead and the left supports. Both McGilchrist and Badenoch postulate that a significant shift in society towards “left dominance” has happened, which essentially prevents us from being fully present and in our bodies. We’re unable to process stress and trauma and derive meaning from life, which can only happen when we inhabit and lead from the right side of the brain.
Whilst spending time in South Africa in April, I was reminded about the importance of being seen. When I walked, drove and rode my bike through the streets of a small village, I was greeted and waved at, which not only made me feel very welcomed, but I also started to experience myself differently.
Although it’s hard to put in words, the best way to describe it is: I felt more human again. I was seen and greeted as me vs. as someone I might represent or a role I might take on.
This in turn reminded me of the Zulu greeting of “Sawubona”, which means “I see you.”. This greeting implies that I exist, because I’m seen. Bonnie Badenoch in her book “The heart of trauma” cites this greeting in order to illustrate the importance of "warm interdependence", which is a natural state in our lives. Even though our culture, which is very left brain hemisphere dominant, encourages and celebrates self-reliance, self-regulation and self-care, we need the other in order to exist and thrive.
Yoga, well-being and mindfulness... always walk in beauty.