The Brain Huddle & Fast Downhill Biking

For clarity: this blog is linked to an earlier one in our series, “Whole Brain Adventures”, which discusses the work of Jill Bolte Taylor.

After recovering from a massive stroke at the age of 37 years old, she discovered that she could recognize when she was functioning from the left or the right sides of her brain.

Recognizing the advantages of having this knowledge, she wrote “Whole Brain Adventures” to teach other people how to toggle between their four “characters”, which together run our lives: a thinking and and an emotional character on each side of our brains; characters 1 and 2 on the left, and characters 3 and 4 on the right.

  • Character 1 is our organizer, the one we take to work
  • Character 2 is our caretaker, the one that wants to make sure we’re safe
  • Character 3 takes us out to play in the sun; and
  • Character 4 comes out when we feel grateful and connected to others.

On the third day of our cycling adventure, we began pedaling down the southern slopes of the Croatian mountain called Velebit.  The ride was replete with dramatic views of the canyon and its vertical cliffs below (this was a challenge for me as I have a moderate fear of heights and I was biking in a country that doesn’t seem to value roadside guardrails). However, I digress.  The road itself has been named one of the most beautiful coastal roads in the world in the world, and it offers amazing views of its neighboring island and Velebit mountain.

As I happily rode along, and bravely picked up more speed, I found myself captivated by  the view, and the breeze against my face made me feel as though I was one with the world (my character 4). I was jubilant, as the little girl inside of me felt like I was sailing without abandon, gleeful and free as a bird (my character 3).  But suddenly, a bug flew into my ear. Immediately, I became distracted and fearful that it would sting me and I would go flying off of my bike, over the hillside never to be heard from again. (my fear,what JBT names as the left brain character 2). Having read her book, I reminded myself that neurologically, the fear I felt would loop in my brain for 90 seconds and I could then either allow that thought to re-loop or decide to shift my thinking to another “character”. Consequently, I conducted “a brain huddle”, JBT’s description of taking a pause and a pulse before pressing on; brain training to consciously navigate between characters to safely soothe fears, grow, continue to reach out to others, and live one’s best life.

Clearly my character 1, the part of me always looking to fix a problem, needed to step in and step it up.  Running a quick huddle, I ran my fingers around my helmet and realized that the bug that had flown in, had also flown out. Problem averted.  I then shifted my attention back to my character 4 and the view of the Adriatic Sea took hold. Within seconds, my focus shifted from the bug to the beauty around me. My consciousness had shifted to the ride downhill and the fact that it was an experience that would probably last less than fifteen minutes. I became transfixed, certain I didn’t want to miss the glory all around me and the thrill of the moment.

Whether focused on the bug or the majestic descent, I was of course the same person. However, my lived experience would be vastly different depending upon what part of my brain was engaged.

We all “live in the moment”, but the moments we live in can be greatly altered and enhanced depending upon where we deliberately place our focus and perspective.

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