I think therefore I think. I think too much. Egad! I can’t stop thinking.
The right/left brain model as its commonly discussed these days is not entirely accurate, but there are parts of it that are more or less true.
You have two streams of consciousness going on all the time. The bottom up or sensory to thought path, and the top down or thought to bodily action path. This is why you can do things on automatic. Your brain is accustomed to the pattern of behaviour that is involved in driving a car so you won’t automatically wreck even if your attention wanders some.
I’m amazed at the senses I have in my dreams, even scents are strong. That’s the top down stream, and it’s constantly streaming. Your thought processes are constantly directing your eyes to look at things in a particular pattern, or to isolate some sounds over others and give them greater importance. This is rational thought or normal cognition, embodied cognition, and yes that is the primary way the mind works. But most everyone is unaware of that. All the thinking you do in a day does generate memory traces. The more you think, the more practised that way of thinking becomes, and it can come in time to seem like the only reality, the one true factual reality. This is error. Your senses are also constantly operating even when you aren’t conscious of them.
While you sleep, you still feel the bed sheets around you. You aren’t really conscious of them, but this awareness can creep into your dreams anyway. It usually comes up as feeling like you are clothed, but it also surfaces in dreaming of being in bed, and you can wind up dreaming you are naked if you kicked the covers off in your sleep. This process also is going on while you are awake, but most people take no note of it.
Why I bring it up is that this constant stream of sensation is registering just as much as your habitual thought, and it also forms its own set of memories but these tend to remain unconscious. Over time, all this sensory information being funnelled into the literal minded right brain begins to form patterns, and from time to time, especially in moments where we have relaxed our normal thought, a pattern recognition event occurs. Maybe because we were looking at a familiar picture, or smell a comforting scent, or even listen to a favourite song, and for no reason we can determine, we just suddenly understand something that has been going on in our life.
The ‘aha’ moment? Exactly.
Now this process actually gets even more complex than that. The behaviour of the body and brain weren’t and ultimately aren’t engineered by human beings, and for myself I an incredibly grateful for that. The sensory stream and its pattern based memories? They are rooted in information hard coded into our DNA, our biology, cells, hormones. The whole works are evolved to recognize the information coming from the sensory stream primarily. So if the brain was a democracy, the rational part of the mind is outvoted two to one. The rational mind is sort of tacked on, almost like a virus that has infected the other two parts, and it is very adaptable. That is why it “rationalizes”, to adapt itself to the environment being created by the body and intuitive mind, but it doesn’t do this in a way that is very helpful unfortunately. It instead takes the information it receives second hand and generates a distorting filter so you can “think clearly.” It censors or edits any information so its body of habitual thought can remain consistent, like the rational mind is trying to preserve itself.
Koans are designed to break the rational mind? In a sense. Break as in tame, yes, not eliminate.
Your thoughts are welcome. Be well friends.