Reply To: Exploring somatic influences in our experience

  • Don Salmon

    March 31, 2023 at 3:01 pm

    Hi Whit:

    For practical purposes, though I’ve been familiar with Iain’s work for 13 years, I don’t find it of much use. Les Fehmi, a psychophysiologist who studied the practical implications of hemispheric differences, taught a method of using attention for more than 40 years that had astonishing results with chronic pain, depression, couples’ relationships, anxiety and even with Olympic athletes.

    He talked about 4 kinds of attention –

    wide detached and narrow detached – both primarily meditated by LH

    wide immersed and narrow immersed – both RH.

    And he talked about Open Focus, which is a blended, integrated attention which incorporates both LH and RH styles, i n a way that McGilchrist’s tendency to bifurcate attentional styles (a surprisingly LH tendency!) simply doesn’t capture.

    it’s not just two hemispheres but an astonishing array of whole brain functions, cortical (the hemispheres) and subcortical – AND the heart brain (40,000 nerve cells) gut brain (100 million) and really, the intelligence of every cell in the body.

    But there’s more, though it gets into occult, paranormal regions I won’t touch on.

    But I taught mindfulness and chronic pain for several years and did successful research on it.

    I saw many times that initially, when people attended to pain sensations, they increased. This is because they were attending with a subcortical, fight or flight response. Through a combination of relaxing, breathing, music and more, I would teach them to attend to the sensations from a place of inner calm and openness.

    When they could do this a number of remarkable things would happen:

    They could SEE – in a way most neuroscientists only theorize- how “pain” is made up of a complex web of instinctive, emotional and cognitive impulses and habits, and JUST THIS SEEING ALONE – discerning the different contributing factors, was sometimes enough to reduce the pain.

    Further, they would observe that the thingness of “pain” would start to shift radically, and suddenly there’s this undulating pattern of shifting energy, and just seeing this too would be enough to reduce the pain.

    More advanced, they could see, directly, experiencing it, the non-dual relationship between awareness of pain and “pain” itself.

    Which leads me to mention – what you wrote about awareness the other day was I think, about mental or cognitive awareness.

    The awareness that contemplatives speak about remains as is even with the death of the body/brain. That’s quite something else! That, they say, is what we are now. “Tat Tvam Asi:” That Thou Art.

    Above the door to the entrance of William James Hall (the philosophy building at Harvard) was once written the Biblical phrase: “What art man that that art mindful of him?”

    Someone crossed over all but 3 words, leaving: “That thou art.”

    Something to ponder rather deeply:>))