The Right Hemisphere of the brain attempts to understand what it experiences through overall intuitive impressions. It is the side of the brain we use if we do something without thinking about it first. However, the right brain cannot analyse the way details fit together to form a whole. This hemisphere is more involved in gaining a broad understanding than it is in examining the details. It sees the big picture and responds by reflex. It takes a top-down approach from an orbiting perspective.
The Left Hemisphere, by comparison, understands what it experiences by measuring, analyzing and categorizing each detail. It tries to use conscious control and repetition to learn. It learns about the forest by examining each tree and, over time, it builds an understanding from the bottom up. If we try too hard, we are using only our left brain, shutting down our reflex brain. For this reason, the left hemisphere lends itself to a more technical exploration of Tai Chi than does the right hemisphere.
When individuals use their whole mind to understand and interact with the world around them, they are, in a sense using two distinct minds. Their worldly mind, or left hemisphere, allows them to formulate logical reactions to the physical reality in their environment, while their universal mind, or right hemisphere, collects and responds to impressions of both physical and non-physical reality. All of us experience reality and accumulate information with both minds simultaneously, but not all of us take full advantage of this expanded awareness.
The worldly mind focuses on the plane of physical reality. Physical reality is a body of information that is experienced through the physical senses: sight, sound and touch. This information is processed by the mind in a contained, analytical fashion, using primarily language of words and numbers to achieve the stability of logic. Some individuals live their entire lives and base all their experiences on information found on this plane, but it is really a world more suited to machines than people.
The universal mind works on the plane of physical reality but focuses, also, on non-physical reality. Non-physical reality is a body of information that is experienced with a second set of senses that includes instinct and intuition. This information is processed by the mind in a universal, open-ended fashion, using language to express this insight.
The goal of Taoist philosophy is to combine these two minds into a working perspective. This is clearly a timely contribution to West, where we are predisposed to information that comes solely from physical plane. Indeed, the physical plane can be touched, heard and seen – therefore, it is real. When we act on it, it changes. Herein lies a principle paradox in Taoist philosophy.
If individuals do all their thinking on the physical plane and make little effort on the non-physical plane – cultivating intuition, gaining instinctive knowledge of the workings of the universe and developing the insight to evolve both themselves and their society – then those lives have no real meaning or significance regarding physical reality. This is so because work done on the non-physical plane is more aligned with the purpose of the universe and, therefore, it has a more powerful effect upon our physical reality. Our inner work influences and evolves the universe which, in turn, evolves our reality. So the deeper we work, the more striking the changes on the physical plane and the more rapid the evolution of the species as a whole. By comparison, our efforts on the physical surface of this remote piece of earth stranded in the farthest edge of the universe are not only insignificant, but also hopelessly entangled in cause and effect, in action and reaction.
If we extend the Taoist ideal of a cooperative work-consciousness to universal dimensions, then the universe has but one purpose and evolution moves in one direction toward the development of a vast network of a nervous system that will bring into existence a conscious mind for the entire universe. We, as individuals, and even as a world society, are then merely neurons in the growth of what now is a very primitive, universal brain. We can see the embedded pattern of this growth reflected in the evolution of our species – from the simplest brain stem of the lower life forms to the complex – from the primitive computer that can calculate numbers to the interconnected network of an informed and discerning data structure.
Each of us knows far more about reality – past, present and future – than we are able to understand and express rationally. Whether or not we work on our inner development, we all experience, with our intuitive minds, the most profound truths about our world and our destiny. What we must do, then, is use our analytical, logical mind to bring this potentially vital information to the surface, where we can use it.
(Reproduced in part, with permission, from an article written by Leia Watford-Lowther)