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"WHOLE BRAIN LIVING", Part 2 of 3 by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D.
Article by Dr. David G. Schwartz, M.D.

Whole Brain Living

n the previous article, we explored characters 1 and 2 of the left brain, that have awareness of how the character 1’s careful logical planning or character 2’s worry about the future. Character 3, the right brained feeling character, is lost in the present moment, assessing our level of safety in the overall picture on the basis of whether what we are experiencing feels familiar. Character 3 is sensually experiential. If we get experiential with fun and laughter, we can’t help being open and relaxed. It is often a collective experience, shared with others, being caught up in the excitement of what’s happening now. An example may be spectators at a ball game, when we are leaping to our feet together, screaming, maybe doing a “wave” as a fused group. “Gosh that game flew right by, I can’t believe how late it is.” Time well spent in character 3. This can be said about playing or listening to music, dancing, or listening to poetry. Behind our left brain thinking and feeling, the character 3 is in the background, always in the flow of the universe, maybe conscious of Nature or God. The experience may not be amenable to being put into words, as we may be moved by something that we experience as beautiful, that can be shared by others, or something magical as the feeling of being “at home” in a hug.

If we perform music, our left brain is the master of study and practice, but it is the right brain that makes magic happen during the performance. “When our character 3 comes out and is dominant, we become uninhibited from the paralyzing fear of out left-brain judgment.” We tend to lose our boundaries of individuality and feel the experience, as one with others. The left brain’s logic may discount synchronicity as coincidental. The existence of life itself is not explainable by the left brain. Because the left brain has an opinion about something does not make it true. The character 3 loves to do stuff in the body and be physically active, especially if it is fun.

The character 3 sees possibilities instead of limitations, and that gives the motivation to practice and practice until it feels right. It is witty and hilarious. The character 3 can also get us into trouble if we act too impulsively, just dive in and go-go-go, not bothering to read the instructions. In the words of Mark Twain, that you can learn many things by carrying a cat by the tail that you could learn in no other way.

Character 3 at work does well with collaborative, creative projects, does not like deadlines, schedules, or budgets, and would not do well being put in charge of an agenda, but is happy working with people.

At the beach, prominent character 3 people are so excited and joyful, they forget to bring sunscreen, grab clothes that may not match, thrilled to see people they know. They relish the mess of the grit, the sun, and the wind, play games and make up new ones. “Come sun or come rain, any sensual time in nature without a schedule is an awesome day. Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, that was the BEST time ever. Can we do it again tomorrow?”

In a snapshot, character 3 is forgiving, awe-inspired, playful, empathetic, creative, joyful, curious, hopeful, and experiential.

As with the other characters, the author suggests the readers ask questions of themselves, like, Do you recognize your character 3? What does it feel like in your body? Do you like how it expresses itself? Who are some people with prominent character 3’s that have influenced you? Who does or does not get along with your character 3? How does your character 3 relate to your other characters?

Our character 4 is probably the most difficult to explain in words, because it has our spiritual connection. The author says it is the cosmic force, our connection with our Higher Power, that is who we most genuinely are, the all-knowing intelligence from which we came, how we incarnate the consciousness of the universe. “We never left it, we are never without it, and it is the river of peace that flows through our veins.”

In order to expand the consciousness of our character 4, we have to quiet the thoughts of character 1, the emotional volatility of character 2, and the experiential sensations of character 3.

Our left brain character 1 wants to study everything linearly, and it defines science in that way, but science has to use other methods to study non-linear existences. Yet it seems to want to deny the reality of anything non-linear or to devalue its existence. So this requires a “leap of faith” to build a bridge between the dogma of science and the experience of spirituality.

Dr. Taylor mentions the book, Why God Won’t Go Away, by Andrew Neuberg and Eugene d’Aquili, in which they studied Franciscan monks and nuns with SPECT (single-photon emission computerized tomography scans) during meditation and prayer. They found that the left brain centers became quiet. (Not unlike the author’s own experience with the left brain hemorrhage). The author doesn’t address this issue here, but I notice that die-hard atheists and empiricists would likely have a hard time accepting all this about character 4, and that orthodox and fundamentalist religionists will not likely want to look at this, because, in my opinion, religious dogma thinks it has a monopoly on spirituality and would see this as a challenge to its belief system, and would be reluctant to look at this phenomenon that is not directed by a religion. Every religion has its mystic adherents (the Christian mystics, the Cabalists in Judaism, the sufis in Islam, etc, and these would not likely be offended by these explanations, and in fact would feel validated in their pursuits, by these findings.) The same issue is probably at play with the near death experiences, discussed in the previous article on After.

What is character 4 like in the world? Science has found that there is an electromagnetic field that surrounds us. Our left brain is unaware of this because the parietal region of the brain defines the boundaries of the body, suggesting a separation. What if we understood that we have the power through our thoughts and emotions to influence this field of energy? As with intention and prayer, we can consciously change the flow of energy and affect the world around us.

Shifting our focus into character 4’s consciousness by awareness of the breath, awareness of the present moment, we can shift out of the left brain’s boundaries and into the bliss of knowing our oneness with the world around us, the energy that moves a leaf that lifts the wing of a bird, the love that radiates from the purr of a kitten, we empathize with the call of an owl or the squawk of a heron. We celebrate the wonder of life, knowing that we are love, and are loved, and no judgment can exist in that moment. Character 4 is grateful for the gift of life, and is incapable of lovelessness because of the love woven into the consciousness of everything.

Character 4 on the job sees the big picture, how it it all fits together, and flows collectively and whether it works our not. It can size up a situation with many details and assess whether a strategy will work or not. With business, character 1 wants to make a profit. Character 2 will work on the details, character 3 wants to make it fun, and character 4 wants to serve the greater good.

Character 4 at the beach: Our hearts are filled with gratitude as we connect with the vast expansiveness of the ocean. There is a sense of total abundance and total surrender to an all-knowing awareness. We may be alone but never lonely, being completely present with all that is. We watch birds for longer than we realize. The essence of being ebbs and flows with the waves, and it soars with birds and exudes contentment. We know that at our deepest core, that we are perfect, whole and beautiful, just the way we are. We are grateful that we have life, that we are life, and can share life with others. We smile easily and share direct eye contact with passersby.


In a snapshot: Awareness – connected with all that is. Expansiveness, open to possibilities and valuing the big picture. Accepting - I can accept life on its own terms. Embracing change. Authentic - I own my own power and step forward as my best self. Generous of Spirit, a part of a whole . Our number one job is to love one another. Intention – I trust the flow when I use the power of my heart to manifest something. Vulnerability – I step into the nakedness of my character 4 and stand strong. When I let you see who I am, I empower you to do the same.

The author asks questions of the reader, as with the previous characters, such as, do you recognize your character 4, what does it feel like, how do you express it, how much time do you spend in it? Who are character 4’s that have influenced you, who wants to hang out with your character 4, who does not get along with your 4? How does your 4 relate to your other characters?

Probably the most challenging of the questions is, “What if you don’t recognize this character within you?” It is easier to identify our characters 1 and 2, as our society supports them. We have to work on letting our character 4’s come to the fore, by quieting characters 1 and 2, through meditation, prayer, music, singing, etc. This may be the most challenging character to express for many people. The author does address some of the issues I mentioned earlier about empiricism, atheism, and religious fundamentalism. She recognizes that few issues stir up as much fear, antagonism, and argument as religion, spirituality, and other intangible forms of belief. Challenges to what we already believe is often felt as personal endangerment. I think a person has to take it gradually, using the techniques previously mentioned to open up character 4. She mentions starting with remembering times in your life when you felt your heart expand or open, like sighting a rainbow, fireflies, a sunset, etc., or music, and then expanding that feeling.

The brain huddle is where the 4 characters share their perspectives, and we collectively choose how to express ourselves, instead of automatically letting the characters do as they please. The author says that if our “character 4 is engaged in the conversation, we are pretty much guaranteed a loving outcome.”

If we practice the brain huddle during benign times, the more we practice that, the stronger it gets, and eventually, it can become an automatic habit that can occur spontaneously when needed. For example, when character 2 is feeling sad, hopeless, alone, as soon as the brain huddle is called, any isolation or despair dissipates. She says that if she feels overwhelmed or panicky, just knowing that the other 4 characters are there is a real comfort. If she feels character 2’s anxiety tugging at her, learning to observe rather than engage it allows the energy of the emotional circuit that is stimulated begin to dissipate. Then the other 3 characters can come back on line. Character 1 checks to see that we are physically safe in this moment, character 3 creatively imagines how to strategize for the best action, and character 4 holds the space, reassuring that whatever happens, we are OK.

Dr. Taylor says having the faith in the power of our 50 trillion cells’ geniuses, sharing the consciousness of character 4, we heal.

Benefit Of The Brain Huddle

One benefit of the brain huddle right away when we are upset, is pushing the pause button, giving 90 seconds to allow the chemicals of emotion to flush out of the system. Then, feeling more clear minded, the 4 characters can be brought in together to make better decisions. When each character has a chance to speak and to listen to the others, with each having an equal vote, they can come to a consensus with a unanimous decision. Then we can be confident of a good choice, having the support of all 4 characters. The brain huddle can help in understanding and communication with other people, seeing that there are 8 characters in any relationship. We can use the acronym B-R-A-I-N to activate the brain huddle. Breathe, Recognize, Appreciate, Inquire, and Navigate.

When we focus on the breath, we can pause to push the reset button and interrupt the left brain stress circuitry. As life, we can feel life breathing us, and connect with the cosmic consciousness of character 4 that can comfort us, and our consciousness can expand with gratitude for the miraculous beings of life that we are.

Then we can Recognize which of the 4 characters are activated. We can recognize the get on with it and get it done circuitry of character 1. We can recognize the feelings about injustice in the past or the anxiety about the future, feeling hurt, lonely, manifestation of character 2, with heaviness, tension, achiness in the physical body. This is especially when the 90 second rule can hit the reset button. This allows the word B-R-A-I-N into consciousness and character 2 recognizes it is not alone.

Recognizing the adrenaline surge of the fight or flight response to perception of danger tells us character 3 is prominent. Our prisons are filled with first-time offenders whose character 3 had a momentary full blown aggressive attack.

Then recognizing contentment, a deep sense of gratitude for everything just as it is, a calm mind, it is easy to Recognize character 4.

Recognizing the value of each of the 4 characters, we can know that we are enough and complete. When we Recognize which character is prominent in other people, we can understand how to respond to them. If sensing the pain of character 2, we may respond with the compassion of character 4, or if we sense anxiety, we may respond with character 1’s actions to protect them.

When we Appreciate the innate value of every character in us, we are honoring and respecting our whole selves, and we empower our ability to engage with them. Appreciating that they are there reassures us that we are fine. We can appreciate character 2 for trying to protect us by sounding an alarm. We can appreciate character 1 for being the master of managing events, people, and schedules. We can appreciate character 3 for savoring every fleeting moment, for its open heart and for playfully connecting with people genuinely. We can Appreciate character 4 for resting in the grace of all that is without judgment as the 50 trillion molecular geniuses that make it up.

Inquiry is being curious about what is going on and asking each of the 4 characters its perspective and about what should be the next choice for action. It is actively inviting them all into the huddle.

To Navigate is to make a decision for action, a conscious choice, based on the input of the 4 characters, not just acting automatically, or doing it the way we have done before. It would manifest flexibility, depending on which of the other people’s 4 characters are evident or prominent in their interactions with us.

So using the brain huddle is a great way to pause and reset when we are in a charged interaction with another person. We may choose to take actual physical distance from the other person momentarily. Using the brain huddle when we are not in a crisis situation gives us practice so it can kick into motion if suddenly needed. If one person is manifesting character 2, and if the other person can step out of character 2, there is possibility for satisfactory resolution. If two character 2’s are in an interaction, there is no possibility for resolution, unless one person steps out of character 2. I think of certain political situations when 2 sides cannot compromise, as with Congressional gridlock, the Northern Ireland conflict a few years ago, and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, it is probably character 2 that is prominent in the constituents of each party, and they are deadlocked.

By using these methods, we discover that we can behave in new, better ways than we automatically may have acted before. This gives us the power to choose. We have more power inside our brains than we were taught that we have. History is filled with remarkable people who have endured horrible events and came out emotionally and cognitively empowered, and not with PTSD.

Part III is about how the 4 characters behave in the world, how they relate to the physical body, how they act in romantic relationships, disconnecting and reconnecting in addiction and recovery, the influence of technology, and putting it all together, how we can see ourselves as perfect, whole, and beautiful.

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Wishing you all a long, healthy and happy life!

Dr. David G. Schwartz, M.D.

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