Back in April, Tom Culham, our Program Director of the School of Management, participated in the Comparative International Education Society (CIES) conference in San Francisco! There he presented with Neha Shivhare on the topic of “Connection to the Source of Life through Contemplative Practices”.
Neha and Tom pictured above.
Summary of the Presentation:
“The left and right hemispheres (of the brain) have differing insights, values and priorities. Each has a distinct ‘take’ on the world – most strikingly, the right hemisphere sees itself as connected to the world, whereas the left hemisphere stands aloof from it… the left has become so far dominant that we’re in deep danger of forgetting everything that makes us human… the left hemisphere has grabbed more than its fair share of power, resulting in a society where a rigid and bureaucratic obsession with structure, narrow self-interest and a mechanistic view of the world hold sway, at an enormous cost to human happiness and the world around us” Society needs to reduce the dominance of the left brain and give more weight to right brain consciousness. (McGilchrist, 2009).
Jill Bolte Taylor (2006), a neuroscientist who suffered a stroke to her left brain provides a sense of the nature of right hemisphere consciousness when her left was shut down. She said: “My entire self-concept shifted as I no longer perceived myself as a single, a solid, an entity with boundaries that separated me from the entities around me… My left hemisphere no longer inhibited my innate awareness that I was the miraculous power of life (p.67). My right hemisphere consciousness is a character that is directly connected to my feeling of deep inner peace… It is completely committed to the expression of peace, love, joy, and compassion in the world… “(p. 133).
A stroke is not needed to experience right hemisphere consciousness. Meditation quiets the left brain enabling the emergence of the right hemisphere nondual awareness (Goleman, & Davidson, 2017). Vokey (2001), an educator and Buddhist described unconditioned awareness: “It is unconditioned in the sense that it is not created or manufactured, but is always already there, primordial. It is unconditioned also in the sense that it is prior to and so free from all reference points, including the basic duality of self and other…Unconditioned awareness naturally manifests as inseparable insight and compassion, and it is only our habit of imposing the reference points of self and other that obscures the boundless clarity and warmth of ‘our’ basic nature” (p. 257).
We argue that meditation provides access to this kind of awareness experienced by Bolte Tayor and described by (Vokey, 2001) In addition to meditation, exercises designed to surface emotions also appear to provide momentary access to right hemisphere awareness (Culham, Shivhare in preparation), as emotions are primarily processed in the right hemisphere (McGilchrist, 2009). Since 2010 a range of business classes have included meditation (Culham, Shivhare, accepted for publication) and practicing emotional intelligence skills, and Informing, Listening or Conflict Management (Culham & Shivhare in preparation; Lombardo, & Eichinger, 2004).
The presentation provided results of research to determine the impact of the contemplative interventions on student’s ethics. In general student’s self-awareness of their thoughts and emotions was enhanced. Self-awareness is one of the foundations of ethics. In principle, ethics are about relationships with others. Students reported they were more open, became better listeners, and became more aware of their and other’s emotions. We now know that emotions and relationships are fundamental to survival and flourish.
For those interested in learning more, read the full abstract here.