For years now, countless studies have shown that those who meditate have greater control over the right side of their brain. In other words, people who meditate tend to be more right-brained overall. But what about those of us who have very balanced left-right brained personalities or those of us who live more in the realm of logic on a daily basis?
First, let me give you a quick explanation for those who are not well acquainted with the left brain vs right brain theorem. This turn-of-phrase comes from a centuries-old theory discussing which side of the brain is more dominant on a person based on their personality traits. Those who tend to be more creative and artistic are usually called “right brained” while those who are more logical and analytical are referred to as “left brained”.
What does this have to do with meditation?
I find that I’m a pretty balanced person when it comes to my left brain vs right brain personalities. In the proper situation I can be extremely creative and artistic (I was an art student, after all) while there are many instances where I still find myself operating almost completely left-brained and logically. Since I find myself pretty balanced here, I tend to notice my left brain getting in the way of my meditation practice from time to time. In my experiences, meditation is best when you are left to be creative, free, experimental, and playful. And many of those things tend to clash with the left side of the brain. Those of us who utilize more of our left brain find ourselves questioning the reality of our meditation and what we are experiencing.
Do you find yourself second guessing your meditative experiences or even saying, “Well, that was just my imagination!” Guess what? That train of thought is courtesy of your left brain! Personally, while meditating, I try to put myself in situations that will help me push aside my left brain. I find that allows me to reach deeper into my meditation practice without questioning my experiences. Believe it or not, I’ve found that there are ways to help access more of your right brain while meditating, silencing that pesky left brain when you need to. These are the best ways I’ve found to do this in my experiences.
Believe it or not, getting your body slightly out of its comfort zone by heating it up just a bit can help you quiet your left brain. Now, I’m absolutely not suggesting that you put yourself in dangerous temperatures or do anything of that nature. But meditating in a warm bath while you soak is actually a lovely way to push aside that pesky left brain and, in turn, to allow yourself to have more sincere meditations with your right brain. In fact, in a study conducted at Harvard, researchers found that warmer temperatures can actually slow the left side of the brain, making it harder to do analytical problems. In these conditions, they found people to be more successfully creative than logically analytical. I’ve found this to be true, myself. And thanks to this, a warm tub is one of my favorites places to meditate.
Conducting daily or weekly mindfulness sessions can actually activate right brain activity, according to various studies. Mindfulness has surged in popularity over the last five years or so, and it’s a great way to step out and experience the world rather than overthinking. For those who don’t know, mindfulness is the act of being present at any moment, fully aware of what’s happening around you. People practice mindfulness both by sitting and paying attention to every sensation that happens around them or by walking outside and staying fully present throughout your walk. While it can be difficult at first, mindfulness gets easier with practice and, as mentioned above, has been known to active the right side of the brain. The more I’ve practiced mindfulness as a part of my meditation journey, the easier it has become for me to push aside my analytical left brain in each and every meditation I conduct.
While there is a time and a place for your left brain (of course, it is a HUGE asset to everyday life), I do find that it can be a detriment to meditation, an activity that thrives on utilizing the right side of your brain. If you’re having trouble keeping your left brain out of your meditations or if you find yourself questioning a lot of your experiences, think about adding mindfulness to your practice and/or putting your body in different situations to allow it to push out that pesky left brain. It worked for me, and I hope it can help you in your practice.