Left Brain/Right Brain/Everybody’s Got Both

January 25, 2010

by Phil Porter

For the longest time, I wasn’t big on that left/right brain thing. Seemed a bit simplistic to me and besides, I could never remember which side did what! I had heard people debunk it and people support it, so I wasn’t sure which way to turn.

two eggs sunny-side up

This is your left brain and your right brain…sunny side up!

But recently I have recognized it as a simple way to talk about how we need to use all parts of ourselves in order to be effective both individually and in groups. We need lefty sorts of stuff—facts and data and numbers and spreadsheets and logic and plans and evaluations and PROOF! But we also need righty sorts of stuff too—intuition, connection, affirmation, vision, creativity, emotions, dreams, hope, mystery, and a bit of knowing about what to do when it seems like it is getting very, very dark.

Now maybe those functions are isolated on one side of the brain or the other, and maybe they aren’t. I don’t need neurology or physiology or psychology to know that I know something about the elements on both the left-brain and right-brain lists above.

In our schools and organizations and corporations, we seem to be just a bit obsessed with the first list—the quantifying stuff. (Some might even call it the “tyranny of the left-brainers.” Not me, of course, but some.) We’re much less sure what to do about those “qualitative” experiences. But in your group or staff, wouldn’t you want people to know how to deal with fear or disappointment or jealousy or just being stuck in ways that work better than just sweeping those uncomfortable experiences under the rug?

Where do we learn those sorts of skills—the right-brainy stuff? Turns out this training often happens in the realms of the arts and the spirit and the physical. We learn it in faith communities and through spiritual practices. We learn it by playing with the building blocks of creation: color, light, space, movement, sound, energy. We learn it by challenging our bodies through exercise or sports or other physical engagement.

Does your workplace teach you how to fully use the right side of your brain in the same way that it would commonly expect to utilize the left side? Does it call out and affirm the right-side skills that already exist in its members? Do organizations recognize the artists and spirit people amongst them that bring these gifts to the work of the whole—the person who creates ease in the group, the one who knows how to turn adversity into new directions, the ones who know how to “work well with others,” those who are appreciative or grateful and bring out the best in others, the ones who can imagine Plan E when A, B, C and D have failed?

No one living in today’s complex world can afford to ignore the importance of all parts of our experience.


January 9, 2010

by Phil Porter

an excerpt from his book The Slightly Mad Rantings of a Body Intellectual Part One

a hug

…this goes better with a hug

I’m needy, needy, needy. Now that I’ve got that all out in the open, maybe I can accept that at a basic body level, at a basic skin-to-warm-skin level, I need to be calmed and collected.

And I’m not the only one.

Touch is the best way to get it, but we are in a touch-suspicious time. We are starved for touch, the kind that lets us know that we are here and we are OK, or just that someone else notices us.

Too bad we don’t have the cat’s practice of licking itself all over. I’ve heard that that is more of a reassuring action than it is for grooming. In all my cat-having years, I never figured out how he kept track of which spots he had done and which needed doing and how he could reach EVERYWHERE. My cat rarely had cowlicks (if that isn’t too interspecies an expression) until he got old and couldn’t quite bend in all the weird ways he could before.

Anyway, I’m getting off the subject.

It is going to be alright.
It is going to be alright
It is going to be alright.
(This goes better with a hug, but…)
It is going to be alright.

Webs of Connections

January 6, 2010

by Phil Porter

We simply do better—physically, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually—when we are connected to each other. We are healthier, happier and feel more secure. Work and play go better, relationships are smoother, and creativity flows more easily.

relationships as spokes in a wheel with us in the center.

We could see our relationships as spokes in a wheel.

And it is best if the connections work more like a web, rather than like the spokes of a wheel. I am connected to others, but those in my circle are also connected to each other. In a village, proximity would allow the slow buildup of the web of connections. But we don’t necessarily have those opportunities in our fast-paced, spread-out lives. We may work with others for years and never really get to know them very well on any other level. We are connected but the ties are wimpy and slack, too weak to really hold us up.

A web of relationships

A web of connections provides more support and security (and we still get to be the center of our own universe!)

InterPlay creates connections quickly and deeply, because it uses “sneaky deep” physical practices—simple things really, but done in a way that allows us to know each other in different ways. Each InterPlay event is a web-builder. I am always delightfully surprised when InterPlayers from different cities or even different countries know each other. I certainly can’t keep track of how and when they met! Additionally, I know that the fact that I am part of a circle that includes their connection is good for me as well.

Look around your life. What is the web of connections that will catch you when you fall? What connections could you strengthen with a little attention or intention? How might those connections make your life richer? Use the “comment” function below to share a connection that is particular powerful or important for you. That action in and of itself can help build the web.