Reply To: Inhibitory neurons at play between L+R prefrontal cortex

  • Whit Blauvelt

    May 2, 2023 at 8:27 pm


    I’m in no way suggesting that inhibitory neurons are some simple explanation in themselves, just that they are part of one. My own approach to mindfulness has much to do with reading a lot of Krishnamurti as a teen — an emphasis on keeping consciously aware. The paradox is that maximizing awareness is not simply a matter of concentration, but also requires relaxing back into the awareness we already have. This, if McGilchrist’s ascription to the hemispheres is correct, is itself a leaning towards the RH perspective, as the RH is according to him more richly aware of our surroundings on an ongoing basis. The “absent minded professor,” on the other hand, lost in verbalized thoughts, should be more LH, obviously.

    Yet there’s also a state, epitomized by McGilchrist’s hero Wordsworth perhaps, where awareness is integrated — where we’re both intensely experiencing awareness of the our present scene, and are clearly engaged in abstract, verbalized thoughts which are consonant with, even informed by metaphors from, clear present awareness. That’s what some of us experience with great music, great landscapes — an awareness where, whatever the inhibition of one mode by another, the modes are active in mutually-supporting ways.

    It’s one thing to become skilled enough at mindfulness to ease suffering. Perhaps, for many Buddhists, this is enough. But it’s another to become skilled enough at mind tuning to achieve our positive creative potentials, across the range of arts and sciences, as well as personal and social relations.

    There are different modes of consciousness, appropriate to different circumstances. But there may be principles of tuning which apply for playing consciousness well in any of those modes. So we may be shifting between task mode and default mode, that is between tight focus and daydreaming (neither of which I find depressing); and we may be shifting between LH and RH led activities; but there’s something to handling those modal transitions well which goes beyond simply preferring one to another. In Western music we use “tempered” tuning, which enables switching between modes and keys while still sounding in tune. Is there then a mindfulness which is beyond simple preference for RH over LH orientation, or task mode to default mode, or visual over verbal thinking, but rather enables us to range across modes, and play in each of them relatively well?