I’ve found yet another solution to my waking up a ray of sunshine: mow the lawn before getting to my desk. I want my old bouncy morning self back, the one that, for decades, was pretty consistently more annoying to others first thing in the morning than it was annoyed, and I should never have taken that perky optimistic morning self for granted.
But I’ve found a cure for the less perky one. Not one that works for most of the year, granted (I will hopefully have outgrown this stage by next winter), but seriously, mowing, with my good ol’ reel mower in the fresh morning breeze and sunshine works well to break out of that left brain chatter and into right brain awareness and calm.
It’s one of many tools we have to shift our brain activity from the logical left side to the more intuitive and creative right side for a while, the side that facilitates hope and the healing of our bruised selves. Music, meditation, yoga, art, sex, massage, acupuncture, Qi Gong are all effective too. But my new favorite, simply because it’s been a very, very long winter, is mowing the lawn.
Being present in the right brain is important not just for our own pleasure and our own healing, but for being human. Our world values technology and productivity above art, but art and creativity are actually the prerequisite to technology. Creativity is the essence of life, and more primary than technology. It is the engine that drives the rest.
As blogger Kristin Lamb reminds us, here, Mary Shelley intuited the human body as bioelectric long before scientists did. George Eliot knew of the brain’s power to regenerate long before Dr. Elizabeth Gould understood and explained it scientifically. Much as stating clearly our personal goals moves us in the direction of realizing them, our imaginations expressed as art moves us as a society in the direction of the possible.
When I was undergoing cancer treatment last year, a friend sent me a TED talk by Jill Bolte Taylor. By some miracle, given my despair at the time, her eloquent and passionate words captured my attention. We humans are the light-force power of the universe with manual dexterity, she said. The potential in this thought was staggering to me. I longed to escape the chatter of my left brain to expand my consciousness again, to feel connected to the energy of the universe, to be creative and productive, to feel empathy, to be compassionate and understanding and hopeful.
Being stuck in our left brains restricts our ability to be those things, both with others and ourselves, the latter kind of being a prerequisite for the former. It also makes us more defensive in the face of critical feedback—that wonderful but sometimes uncomfortable thing that helps us grow—as left brain logic is too loud to permit us to remain present and mine the good in the words of others. Our left brains, as essential and valuable as they are, are not the whole story, and sometimes simply get in the way of our being better human beings and building a better world.
Teaching is one of our society’s many undervalued arts, and so is healing. By healing, I don’t mean medicine, which is essential and facilitates healing but is highly valued and rewarded. The healing I mean here are the other kinds, the kinds that are viewed as non-essential, even flakey and dreamy, the kind done by the world’s intuitives and artists, those who listen closely and empathize, those who do energy body work and acupuncture and other holistic and complementary kinds of healing.
The visual arts, song, dance, theatre, the healing arts, writing—all of these, though often undervalued, are utterly essential to the health and progress of a society. They are what express our essence, our soul; they nourish our collective hope.