I was talking with a friend the other day and he was telling me about how he can feel alone at times and that he believes we are all, ultimately, alone.
I know the wisdom in that. And, at the same time, there was something disquieting about that.
The idea stayed with me until I could get home and feel into it. I realized it triggered in me something old and primitive. So I lay there on my bed, hand on my heart, and felt into that statement.
We are all alone.
Is that true?
Well, as I felt myself in that moment, I could feel the air coming in and out of my nostrils. Interesting.
Watching and feeling the air, I then realized well, maybe I’m alone in this room with no other human being in the room with me, but air is coming in and out of my nostrils.
The more I stayed with that, the more I could feel – well, wait a minute! Not only is the air coming in and out of my nostrils, that oxygen is going somewhere. It’s coming into my body and my trillion of cells and organs and microbes and the whole universe of a system that makes up me.
So, I started to ask:
“Who is this ‘me’ that is alone?”
I could not locate just one me… I am so intertwined with it all. My breath alone and the oxygen I bring in is expelled by the tree I’m looking at. We are all so connected.
Then I remembered something Jill Bolte Taylor said. She is a neuroanatomist who had a stroke in 1996 that knocked out much of her left hemisphere.
The left hemisphere supplies us with the illusion of our separateness. It’s the place in the brain that stores our identities and memories and helps us operate in the world as a separate person.
It’s where Julia exists. It’s where you exist as the individual reading this newsletter.
Jill’s identity went off line – it disappeared completely. Can you imagine? No you anymore?
When she had her stroke, it bled into that place in our left hemispheres that stores who we “are” – our sense of aloneness and separateness.
What remained for Jill was not Jill herself but the identitie that are located in our right hemisphere. This Jill became her dominant identity. In that part of the brain, we are not separate in any way.
We are completely connected to the all.
She was so completely connected to the all that she could not even distinguish her arm from the all of her hospital bed.
That’s a lot of all and awe.
For a summary of the four selves she discovered since in her work as a neuroanatomist – check out my previous blog post on our 4 Selves.
Her experiences have really shaped me and challenged me.
Which me do I want to be? Which me do I want to dominant?
Here is her description of the right hemisphere identity – from the closing moments of her 2008 Ted Talk called My Stroke of Insight:
“Who are we? We are the life force power of the universe… I can step into the consciousness of my right hemisphere where I am the life force power of the universe… the 50 trillion molecular geniuses that make up my form, at one with all that is… or I can choose to step into the consciousness of my left hemisphere where I become a single individual, a solid separate from the flow, separate from you. These are the ‘we’ inside of me. Which would you choose? Which do you choose? And when? I believe that the more time we spend choosing to run the deep inner peace circuitry of our right hemispheres, the more peace we will project into the world and the more peaceful our planet will be.”
So, in a way, the question of whether we are alone or not is a paradox. We are alone and we are not alone. Then again, if there is always a larger truth out there that is always mediated by our senses and limited by how our brains shape perception, then, perhaps we are truly…
“Human beings are not meant to live alone. There is a fundamental biological imperative that propels you and every organism on this planet to be in a community, to be in relationship with other organisms.” … Bruce Lipton